Photo credit: SHABIR

The TENG Ensemble creates music videos to appreciate the migrant community in Singapore

Together with local Tamil artiste Shabir Tabare Alam, the ensemble hopes to encourage Singaporeans to value our unsung heroes from the past and present.

Wan Munirah

Published: 28 May 2020, 12:59 AM

Homegrown arts ensemble, The TENG Ensemble, has created a three-part music video series that highlights the crucial role of the migrant community in Singapore.

The Triptych Series, created in support of the #SGUnited movement, also aims to encourage Singaporeans to spread positivity and to continue showing their support for the migrant community during these challenging times.

39-year-old Yang Jiwei, executive director from The TENG Ensemble, shared with Youth.SG: “The migrant community in Singapore has become one of the hardest-hit groups in our battle against COVID-19.

“As musicians, we believe in the power of music to empower people and spread positivity. We wanted to show our support through our craft by recognising the contributions and the pivotal roles that the migrant community has played in building Singapore.”

The video series will feature three original musical compositions, starting with a collaboration with one of Singapore’s popular Tamil music artistes, Mohamed Shabir Tabare Alam.

Titled ‘Thedichoru: Shabir X The TENG Ensemble‘, the first music video aims to bring some cheer to the lives of Indian and Bangladeshi migrants through messages of strength, resilience and faith, inspired by popular Tamil poet Mahakavi Bharathiyar.

Shabir, 35, had an idea to present one of Bharathiyar’s poems with a “symbolic” message for the migrant community.

“I reached out to The TENG Ensemble as I felt that their musical direction will work well with what I was trying to create; something evocative.

“For this particular project, everyone came in pro bono because we just want to do something good at this time. With Singaporean musicians and the Chinese ensemble coming on board, it shows that everyone, not just the Indian or Tamil community in Singapore, is here to make sure that you guys [from the migrant community] are okay.

“I thought that kind of visual metaphor is important and adds on to the entire effort,” shared Shabir.

Despite being unable to meet physically during the circuit breaker, Shabir managed to get in touch with Jiwei, through local composer Wang Chenwei, to collaborate on ‘Thedichor’.


The first music video is also part of Shabir’s LETTERS musical webisodes.


“We were approached by Shabir at the end of April. This is also the first time we are working with an Indian singer, and we were unsure of what to expect.

“Shabir’s smooth vocals blended with The TENG Ensemble’s music, resulting in a special composition that is earnest and multicultural.

“It has been an exciting and eye-opening journey for the both of us, and it has been our honour to work with Shabir for this common cause,” shared Jiwei.

Besides hoping to uplift our spirits as we reach the end of the long circuit breaker, Jiwei and Shabir hope that Singaporeans will be able to appreciate the history behind our rich heritage through these music videos.

The second video in the series, ‘Xin Zao Beh 《新走马》’ celebrates migrants in Singapore’s past and present, while the final video, ‘Childhood’, will feature interviews that document the stories of migrants working in Singapore, revealing their unspoken hopes and dreams.

These will be released subsequently on May 31 and Jun 4.


A sneak peek of the second video, ‘Xin Zao Beh’.


Jiwei shared: “The Triptych Series draws a common thread to our own ancestors, many of whom were migrants who came to Singapore during its founding years.

“This is demonstrated in ‘Xin Zao Beh’, where it is believed that Singapore’s oldest Hokkien temple, Thian Hock Keng, was built with the help of the local Indian community.

“By sharing stories of migrants in our society, we also want to remember our forefathers who have made similar contributions and toiled for Singapore’s success,” added Jiwei.


Check out The TENG Ensemble on Facebook for more updates about the Triptych Series. PHOTO CREDIT: THE TENG ENSEMBLE


Similarly, Shabir hopes that the Triptych Series will help young Singaporeans rediscover their roots through music.

“All three music videos are related to migrants, our history, and our roots. By approaching the subject of migrants, we are also presented with the opportunity to explore our cultural heritage.

“From the time they came into this world, young Singaporeans see a nation that is very well established and they may think that it’s been like that for a long time.

“Exploring our roots, which is very related to us being descendants of migrants, creates a lot of sensitivity and mutual respect, and helps us appreciate the role of migrant workers in our country today,” said Shabir.


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