They are Singapore’s most popular sibling musicians. Their names pop up immediately at the mention of indie-pop quartet The Sam Willows, which Narelle Kheng and Benjamin Kheng started in 2012 with friends Sandra Riley Tang and Jonathan Chua.
This year, siblings Narelle and Benjamin are in the news again, making it to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list. While The Sam Willows has gone on hiatus in May, the duo have been keeping busy with their solo projects.
Narelle, the band’s bass guitarist and vocalist, released her first single Some They Lie in 2016, which marked the beginning of her solo music career. (The track has since amassed over 800,000 streams on Spotify.) Now, she’s just put out her highly anticipated EP Part 2 in October.
On her music, Narelle, 25, tells Her World: “I was struggling with anxiety and stress. All the industry expectations and rules I had to follow suffocated me. Then, I found out that I was able to articulate my feelings through my songs. It helped me cope with my emotions.”
The younger of the siblings explains that her latest music project depicts her self-discovery journey, allowing her to express her anger, sadness, and catharsis upon getting back up on her feet.
Guitarist-vocalist Benjamin, who’s also working on new music, is dedicating much of his time to his latest endeavour The Benzi Project – a web series of parodies filled with sardonic yet introspective views on middle-class privilege and racial stereotypes.
Here, the 29-year-old wears multiple hats: He directs, scripts and performs the show with his good friend, social media influencer Hirzi Zulkiflie, who’s a familiar face on local Youtube shows.
Benjamin says: “I’ve always wanted to talk about social issues, but I wanted to do something light-hearted yet educational. The comedic element makes it easier for the audience to enjoy our content.”
The musician-actor, who snagged the lead role in Dick Lee’s 2017 coming-of-age musical film, Wonder Boy, adds: “Many of us (the current younger generation) don’t care about societal problems that don’t directly affect us. But that’s just ignorant, and it narrows our view of the world.”
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