ShiLi & Adi is easily one of the most recognisable duos in Singapore’s local music scene.
For the group, what started out as a regular gig in a bar between friends led to bigger stages and more opportunities, and they’ve never looked back since.
This month, we’re teaming up with ShiLi & Adi and Huawei for a duet to inspire others during the circuit breaker. We also took the opportunity to chat with the duo about the success and struggles of being musicians and how technology has changed the way the industry operates.
LSA: Tell us about yourselves and how you came about to form a band.
ShiLi: We were actually friends in from junior college in Victoria JC, and then we were part of the VJ Choir. I was actually the section leader and the student conductor and Adi was my fellow section leader.
ShiLi: We also studied the same course in university and performed together under the NUS Jazz Band. In our third year in the NUS right after Adi came back from his exchange in Switzerland, we decided to audition for a bar called the Red Dot. They were looking for a two-piece band to perform regularly every Saturday so I asked Adi to join me in auditioning for the slot.
LSA: What are some of your most memorable stages throughout your careers as performers?
ShiLi: Performing at the Red Dot over the course of six years really opened a lot of doors for us. That is also how we were invited to play at the Istana for President SR Nathan of Singapore and Sultan Azlan Shah of Malaysia.
Adi: I think F1 was quite memorable as well — F1 doesn’t really repeat their acts year on year, so we were grateful that they let us play for four consecutive years on the the same stage as other international artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry.
ShiLi: The biggest gig we had was playing at the National Stadium for an audience of 20 to 25 thousand people. This was an opening for Wakin Chau’s concert and it was really quite an honour because for a long time we were in the English circuit. Apart from covers, we also got to perform one original song that we rewrote in Mandarin just for the concert, which was very kind of concert organisers.
Adi: Yes, there was a big sense of accomplishment and also disbelief.
Success in Singapore’s music industry isn’t easy — could you share with us some of the struggles being a professional musician?
Adi: Familial expectations is a big one. We were brought up in traditional Asian households with traditional values: you go to university, you get your degree and your start your nine to five job. The value of music as a career in Singapore is not widely accepted.
Adi: Other struggles include preconceived judgements amongst others outside the industry. Hence it is important to show them that musicians can not only survive in this industry but also prosper in it.
Where and who do you get your music inspiration from?
ShiLi: My first CDs came in a three pack actually. One was Whitney Houston’s Bodyguard, The other was the Disney soundtrack for Pocahontas and the other was a CD by Scorpions. So those were the three CDs that I listened to almost every week on repeat, so yeah, that was my inspiration.
Adi: For me, Stevie Wonder and Brian McKnight are huge influencers. I’m a big diva, by the way, so Mariah Carey is a big influence.
Music has evolved over the years — how do you think technology has enabled musicians to create music and reach out to a bigger crowd?
Adi: I think for me, technology via the internet has really made music a lot more accessible. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s good in the sense that our reach is wider and anyone can discover us anywhere. However, this means that there are so many choices out there for listeners. So its a challenge for musicians to differentiate ourselves and stand out.
ShiLi: I have been very busy during these few weeks trying different ways to transform the way we operate. Instead of thinking about all the things we’ve lost, I keep thinking about how we are going transform moving forward. Livestreaming will definitely be one of those things that will stay for a while. I also think working remotely from wherever we are is also something that will change the way the world works. So I have been making videos. Crazy amount of videos.
After having a go with the Huawei P40, which is the feature you enjoy using the most?
Both: The camera and the video functions.
ShiLi: It’s amazing. It is so small and lightweight! When we did the video shoot, I was so amazed by the settings and the quality.
Adi: It’s actually a professional camera setup on the phone.