The metamorphosis of Daphne Khoo to Haneri
Former Singapore Idol contestant Daphne Khoo changes her stage name to Haneri for a fresh new start.
You may recognise singer-songwriter Daphne Khoo from the first season of Singapore Idol. But today, Daphne prefers to be identified as ‘Haneri’.
In May this year, Daphne surprised her fans on social media by changing her name to ‘Haneri’.
A month later, Haneri released a single ‘Burning Up’, which talks about abusive relationships – a topic that ‘Daphne Khoo’ the artiste might not have sung about.
So who exactly is Haneri? We visited Daphne – or Haneri – at her parents’ home for a chat last Thursday to find out.
“[Haneri is] a good alter ego for me, to press a reset button and actually start writing very honest music within the pop genre,” she said, explaining that Haneri is actually adapted from the Hawaiian translation of her Chinese name.
“I think a big part of [the name change] is I want to be a little more brutally honest with my music,” added the bubbly artiste, who has been based in Los Angeles (LA) since November last year.
Explaining the dark theme of ‘Burning Up’, Haneri said: “People think that only girls get abused in relationships, or that abusive relationships are not very common. But I think almost everyone has gone through a toxic or an abusive relationship. And girls are not the only victims; boys go through it too.
“It’s a very dark topic to begin with, but it was something that was very close [to me],” she added.
Besides exploring deeper issues with her music, Haneri is also now more focused on writing and producing music.
When Youth.SG last spoke to the singer-songwriter in 2015, she was a radio DJ at Power 98FM. The former cancer survivor, who was also an active volunteer with the Singapore Cancer Society, left the radio station in 2016.
She relocated to LA in November last year and started working at a recording studio to focus on her passion – songwriting.
“I’m writing a ton of music for a ton of artistes, including myself, with the rebranding of Haneri,” said the local artiste, who has been pitching her songs in Japan and Korea.
She even wrote a song with Amber and Luna from f(x), a popular Korean girl group.
Comparing her career now with her career as ‘Daphne Khoo’, Haneri said she now takes a more hands-on approach while producing her music.
“I feel like I have more authority to co-produce with [the different producers]…The people I’m working with are different, and I’m more focused on the sound that I want,” she explained.
How have her fans reacted to her new stage name?
“On Instagram, I noticed a drastic drop in my followers,” she said, laughing animatedly.
Her friends, too, were confused. They only realised later that she adopted ‘Haneri’ as an alias.
“I make and play music for the people who listen to it, so it means a lot to me that the people who didn’t unfollow me, didn’t unfollow me.”
Despite losing some followers on social media, Haneri has no qualms starting afresh.
“I have a whole new YouTube channel, and a whole new Spotify channel. I’m really starting from the ground as a new artiste. I needed it for me to start writing again in a totally different way.”
“With ‘Daphne Khoo’, I just did every genre because I love music in general… I don’t think you could put me in one genre box,” she recalled.
“Now, it’s more like just pop, electronic, 80s vibe…It’s a completely different sound from what I had before as ‘Daphne Khoo’,” added Haneri, the second child among three siblings.
Haneri plans to explore personal topics through her new music.
“All my songs are close to my heart, but there are certain things that I’ve been through in life that I don’t talk about,” said Haneri, while referring to ‘Burning Up’.
Despite the name change and the deliberate shift in her music, we might not have seen the last of Daphne Khoo the artiste. She hinted that she might revisit her older, acoustic songs once in a while.
Haneri said: “That’s always been very important to me – to bring my music back to just my guitar and my vocals. That’s the singer-songwriter in me [who] loved that aspect of being able to strip myself down to just the lyrics and the simple instrument.”
Now that she is spending most of her time working overseas, Haneri hopes to bridge the gap between the music scene in LA and in Singapore.
“I hope to collaborate with a bunch of people in the States, and in Singapore as well. That’s something that is very close to my heart – being able to bring together collaborations between LA and Singapore,” she said.
If you’re curious about Haneri’s new music, you can catch her performing under her new identity for the first time in Singapore at SHINE Festival, a three-day youth festival happening this weekend.
To celebrate her debut, Haneri has also prepared an exclusive setlist for her performance this Friday.
“You won’t be able to find [the songs] anywhere else, except for ‘Burning Up’. So, all exclusive songs,” shared Haneri.