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About Us

About Us

Siong Leng Musical Association (SLMA) is the recipient of the National Arts Council Major Grant (2019 – 2022).

SLMA was established in 1941 and owes much of its success to its late chairman, Mr Teng Mah Seng. Under his guidance, SLMA has become an arts company that preserves and promotes Nanyin. Mr Teng received the Cultural Medallion in 1987 due to his passion and love for Nanyin. As SLMA’s chairman, he continuously worked to reform and revive Nanyin. One of the main and biggest initiative is revitalizing Nanyin by writing new lyrics and music pieces that were livelier and more relatable to the people then. Thanks to his hard work and perseverance, Nanyin was able to survive and was given new life. 

In 1983, SLMA participated in the 37th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and won third prize in the folk solo category with Mr Teng’s work “Reminiscence”, and fourth prize in the folk ensemble category with the traditional Nanyin piece “Trotting Horse”.  In 2010, SLMA again took part in the same competition and won the first prize in the folk solo category with Mr Teng’s work “Facets of Life”.

Although Mr Teng has passed, he has left the company with his precious works and fighting spirit, and it has been the driving force that inspires the company. SLMA has kept true to her mission and has cultivated a group of Nanyin professionals over the years. This group of artists have become the backbone of Nanyin and shoulders the responsibility of nurturing the next generation of Nanyin practitioners. Coming from different educational majors, they give their all to preserve, promote and develop Nanyin and SLMA. They have helped to enhance the management team and introduced new ways to develop the artform and company, laying a solid foundation for the next generation of professionals, steadily and surely. SLMA aims to attain an international reputation and create more exposure through performances of traditional and contemporary Nanyin, quality education and outreach programmes, the provision of information and resources, and international cultural exchanges.

SLMA has organised the inaugural Southeast Asia Nanyin Conference in 1977, the International Nanyin Concert & Symposium in 2000, International Youth Nanyin Concert and Symposium in 2015, as well as the International Youth Nanyin Festival in 2018. To ensure that the musicians maintain close relations other Nanyin musicians over the World, keep up with the development of Nanyin and to share the work that SLMA does, the company also participates regularly in the International Nanyin Symposiums held around Asia, to contribute to the efforts in promoting and developing the ancient art form. SLMA has also toured and performed in major cities and countries in Europe, Asia, and the United States of America.

In 2017, SLMA was the recipient of the inaugural “Singapore Chinese Cultural Contribution Award”, awarded by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.

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.