No more live music at Blu Jaz Cafe – is the jazz scene in Singapore dying?

Blu Jaz Cafe (Image by Blu Jaz Cafe / Facebook)

Singapore’s beloved Blu Jaz Cafe has had its public entertainment license revoked on 10th October meaning that they will no longer be able to hold any live performances or jam sessions.

Described as the last remaining pillar in Singapore for the music scene, Blu Jaz has been a lively gathering space for musicians and music lovers around Singapore for the past 12 years.

In a passionate post on reddit, one user lamented the revocation of the license of “one of the last standing venues for jazz, poetry slam, stand-up and amateur music community development”. The user spoke about how Blu Jaz has been an integral part of the jazz community in Singapore, a place where novice musicians could perform, try new things and learn from each other and other more well-established musicians who also frequent the cafe.

According to owner Aileen Tan, Blu Jaz’s license was revoked due to several violations. In June 2016 and 2017, there was a ‘noise issue’ and a ‘failure to ensure windows and doors remained closed’ while in April and May 2018, there were two offences of overcrowding by 20% beyond capacity.

As if in confirmation of overcrowding, the reddit post indicated that “every jam session is so crowded that the jammers have to all stand and squeeze, sometimes even moving in and out of the room to let others have their turn”.

However, the owner of Blu Jaz submitted an appeal to the police after receiving notice that their license was set to be revoked in which she stressed that steps had been taken to address the issue of overcrowding and noise.

The appeal was nonetheless rejected and the police are forging ahead with their decision.

Blu Jaz has start an online petition in an effort to help retain their public entertainment license. The petition has over 4,000 signatures.

Now, Blu Jaz will still remain open but everyone agrees that live music was and is the ‘soul’ of the venue and without that it becomes just another bar. In the past two years, several other jazz bars have shut down in quick successions including places like B28, Artistry Cafe, and Sing Jazz Club, as pointed out on reddit.

It seems the jazz scene in Singapore is gradually disappearing into the abyss.

Rightly so, many Blu Jaz frequent patrons have pointed out that the arts scene in Singapore is not conducive to building local talent, especially now that the last live jazz bar is no longer holding live performances.

Sure, venues like Esplanade are available for anyone to use as a performance venue but it’s still too expensive for small bands and amateur performers to rent out. Blu Jaz and other places like it provided a fertile ground for a booming arts scene that encouraged growth and exploration – something that a massive, highly administrated venue can never provide.

One response on reddit read “Not Singaporean but lived there for work for the best part of a year. It’s a lovely place, but even though I’m not particularly cultured I couldn’t shake the feeling it was just too sterile. One of the stories I still tell people to explain this feeling is how in the same month the government announced a plan to foster the arts AND jailed an artist who did some street art to protest the demolition her granddads house to build a highway. Would rather live there than anywhere else in Asia, but was always saddened by how close the city flirted with greatness but still missed it.”

That story hits the nail on the head when it comes to Singapore’s approach to the arts. The world-class city with world-class facilities attracting world-class artists and performers are all great for Singapore’s image as a cultural and creative hub but it doesn’t provide any common space where local talent can learn, grow, and flourish.

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