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About Us

About Us

Established in 1941, Siong Leng Musical Association (SLMA) owes much of its success to its late Chairman, Mr Teng Mah Seng, recipient of the 1987 Cultural Medallion. Mr Teng’s spirit in expanding and revolutionising the expressive range of this ancient musical art form has kept Nanyin’s presence and practise alive in Singapore.

Today, although Mr Teng has passed on, his legacy and spirit remains with SLMA.

With a mission to preserve, promote and develop Nanyin and Liyuan Opera, SLMA aims to reach out to as wide an audience as it can through performances of traditional and contemporary Nanyin and Liyuan Opera, quantity education and outreach programmes, the provision of information and resources, and international cultural exchanges.

SLMA has to date organised the inaugural Southeast Asia Nanyin Conference in 1977, the International Nanyin Concert & Symposium in 2000, and the International Nanyin Youth Concert & Symposium in 2015. To ensure that it keeps in touch with Nanyin musicians and development in different parts of the world and to share the work it does, SLMA participates regularly in the International Nanyin Symposiums held in Quanzhuo and Xiamen in China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Macau and Indonesia.

As part of its efforts to continually hone its skills and ensure international performance standards, SLMA has participated and won third prize in the folk solo category at the

37th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod with the specially composed work “Reminiscence” in 1983. The instrument ensemble also took fourth prize in the folk ensemble category with the piece “Trotting Horse”. In 2010, SLMA again took part in the same competition and won the first prize with a song composed by Teng Mah Seng titled “Facts of Life”. Competing in this International platform has allowed Nanyin to be seen and profiled in the international music scene.

As an advocate for Nanyin and Liyuan Opera, SLMA publicly supports a cause - the need and importance for the continued existence and relevance of these two traditional art forms in the world today.

SLMA has to date toured and performed in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Wales, Monaco, Spain and Paris.

Siong Leng Musical Association is a recipient of the National Arts Council’s Major Grant 2016 – 2019.

Recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in 2009, Nanyin, which literally means “Music of the South”, is one of the most ancient musical art forms in China and is regarded as a “living fossil”.

Serene and elegant, Nanyin music has soothed and uplifted kings and common folk alike through centuries. Also known as Xianguan or Nanguan, Nanyin has its roots in China’s imperial courts and later flourished in Fujian’s Quanzhou region. Over the years, it spread to Taiwan, Hong Kong and further to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and beyond.

The chief musical instruments used in Nanyin ensembles are the Pipa (a pear shaped four-string lute), Sanxian (a long necked three-string instrument, whose sound box is covered with python skin), Dongxiao (a vertically-held six hole bamboo flute) and Erxian (a two-string fiddle). The music is also performed with a full array of percussion instruments. Nanyin is sung in the Minnan dialect and is closely tied with the poetic, rhythmic and dramatic tunes of Central China. The melodies of Nanyin are all noted in gongchepu, a form of traditional Chinese score notation, and researchers have found more than 2,000 pieces of Nanyin music, which included Buddhist music, court music and music for processions.