Subhas Nair: A Singaporean Musician’s Journey of Resilience and Social Commentary
Subhas Nair Biography
Subhas Nair is not your typical musician. Born in 1992 in Singapore, he has made a name for himself as a musician and activist, using hip hop music as a powerful tool for social commentary.
In this biography, we will delve into the life and career of Subhas Nair, exploring his early years, his music, and his impact on Singaporean society.
Early Life and Education
Subhas Nair’s journey began in challenging circumstances. He faced financial struggles during his childhood due to his father’s gambling habits.
This difficult situation forced the family to frequently move residences, plagued by relentless harassment from loan sharks. However, these hardships would later become a source of inspiration for Subhas’s music.
Despite the challenges, Subhas found solace in two passions: playing basketball and immersing himself in the music of artists like 50 Cent, Nelly, and Eminem. These interests would play a pivotal role in shaping his life and career.
Subhas’s educational journey took him to New Town Secondary School, where he distinguished himself as a member of the school’s basketball team. His dedication to self-improvement and his love for the game eventually led him to Hwa Chong Junior College.
Here, he not only excelled academically but also served as the captain of the school’s male basketball team, despite initially being one of the last players selected in his first year.
Subhas’s commitment to excellence extended beyond the basketball court. He diligently studied the techniques of NBA idols, a testament to his determination to excel in everything he pursued.
His achievements earned him the prestigious SINDA Excellence Award during his junior college years, marking a significant milestone in his educational journey.
After graduating from Hwa Chong Junior College in 2010, Subhas continued his education at Yale-NUS College, thanks to the Georgette Chen Study Award, which provided essential financial support.
At Yale-NUS, he continued to excel, winning accolades in the 2016 National Climate Change Competition and serving as the co-captain of the college’s basketball team. It was during his college years that Subhas discovered his passion for songwriting.
Subhas’s music career is a testament to his commitment to artistic expression and social commentary. He began writing music during his spare time at Yale-NUS, often balancing his creative pursuits with work as a basketball coach and research assistant.
In May 2018, Subhas released his debut album, “Not A Public Assembly,” a compelling work that drew inspiration from his childhood experiences and addressed socio-political issues in Singapore. The album’s title, coined by his friend Natalie Christian Tan, encapsulated the essence of his music.
Notably, Subhas staunchly defended his artistic freedom by refusing to submit his lyrics to Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for approval.
This decision meant that he did not possess a license to host a public launch party for his album. Nevertheless, a closed-door event was held at The Substation on Armenian Street, attracting around 250 attendees.
Subhas’s dedication to his craft has resulted in the creation of nine singles and one Extended Play (EP) album as of March 2020, garnering him approximately 8,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Activism and Controversy
In 2019, Subhas and his sister responded to NETS’ promotional campaign for E-pay with a satirical rap video that addressed issues of Chinese privilege and racial discrimination in Singapore, particularly towards minority groups.
The video, laden with expletives, sparked both support and controversy. While some members of the public took offense and filed police reports, an investigation followed, leading Subhas to the police station to explain the song’s lyrics.
Before the controversy surrounding the rap video, Subhas was one of four local musicians selected for Channel News Asia’s musical documentary titled “Roar,” which documented their songwriting journeys for National Day. Subhas had chosen to co-produce a song with Migrants Band Singapore.
However, he was subsequently removed from the show following the rap video incident, despite efforts by arts magazine Sand to petition for his inclusion. This decision also affected the foreign workers who had collaborated with Subhas on the project.
As of September 5, 2023, Subhas Nair faced a six-week jail sentence for his involvement in attempting to promote ill will among racial and religious groups through online posts, underscoring the complexities of his journey as both an artist and an activist.
Subhas Nair’s life journey is one of resilience, determination, and a deep commitment to social commentary through music. From his challenging upbringing to his dedication to basketball and his passion for music, Subhas’s story is an inspiring one.
His willingness to address sensitive issues through his art has earned him both acclaim and controversy, making him a significant figure in Singaporean music and activism.
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