Singapore offers an excellent range of cultural events in all genres, drawing on both Asian and Western traditions, and even on a brief visit it’s hard not to notice how much money has been invested in the arts. Prime downtown property has been turned over to arts organizations in areas like Waterloo Street and Little India, and prestige venues like Theatres on the Bay bring in world-class performers – at top-dollar prices. This isn’t to say that all is hunky-dory: questions remain over whether creativity is truly valued when censorship lingers, if not as overtly as in the 1970s and 1980s, then in terms of there being well-established red lines concerning party politics, ethnicity and religion which no one dare cross. More cynically, some say that support for the arts is a way to keep Singapore attractive to expats and its own sometimes restive middle class.Read More
Walk around Singapore long enough and you’re likely to stumble upon some sort of streetside cultural event, most usually a wayang – a Malay word used in Singapore to denote Chinese opera. Played out on outdoor stages next to temples and markets, or in open spaces in the new towns, wayangs are highly dramatic and stylized affairs, in which garishly made-up characters enact popular Chinese legends to the accompaniment of the crashes of cymbals and gongs. They’re staged throughout the year, but the best time to catch one is during the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, when they are held to entertain passing spooks. Another fascinating traditional performance, lion-dancing, takes to the streets during Chinese New Year, and puppet theatres may appear around then, too. Chinatown and the Bugis/Waterloo Street area are places where you might stumble upon performances.