Impressions of Impresario

Nationwide talent competition caters to Mandarin-speaking crowd


By Grace Yeoh, Photos by NTU Cultural Activities Club Publications

Passion might be the name of the game – but Mandarin was the language. At least that was how Impresario 2013 was portrayed.

Held on March 17, 2013, and organised by Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Cultural Activities Club, the finals of the nationwide talent-search competition showcased the best of Singapore’s youth through singing, composing and dance categories.

It was an inspiring display of passion and talent, but with 20 finalists, it took a rare few to hit the mark. One such finalist was dance group, E-merged Crew, whose perfect harmony of sharp movements, story and style won them top prize in the Dance category.

Another standout was Firdhouse Yeoh and Faridzuan Faris Bin Noordin, whose upbeat composition titled “The Night Is Ours” had the audience grooving along. The duo eventually took home top prize in the Original Composition category, after showing solid potential in creating a power-packed dance hit.

However, it was the choice of language used largely throughout the four hours that left a lasting impression. In this case, the overwhelming Mandarin usage meant there were only a handful of moments when English was spoken – an act which subconsciously isolated the non-Mandarin speaking crowd.

A quick check on the Impresario website showed no explicit mention of the competition being catered to the Chinese. Yet, the emcees often dropped English entirely, the judges gave their critiques in Mandarin more than half the time, and more than 70% of the singing acts used Mandarin songs.

There is nothing wrong with being proud of one’s mother tongue, but when there is no clear acknowledgment of the visible bias, it’s easy to wonder if the obvious slant towards a racial majority could have hindered the search for true talent.