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Meet generation N

THINK live performance must always be "live"? Think poetry is only something you read off a page? Sunday Plus tracked down five people who have come out of nowhere to blast away all your preconceptions about the arts and entertainment.

Some are young. Some are not-so-young, but took time out to explore what the new technologies could do.

None of them play by the rules. Hotel 81 morphed itself from a seedy-sounding budget chain to an arts sponsor. "" band Mnemonic had a cover version of a U2 single on the Net before the Irish group could put it there themselves. Armed with truckloads of passion (one of them quit his bank job to start a short-films website), they are individuals who are offering other individuals direct access to their work.

As CLARISSA OON, ONG SOR FERN, ARTI MULCHAND and HELMI YUSOF discover, they are the Generation N of the new economy.

Geylang hotel goes from tarts to arts

NEW KID: Hotel 81, the five-year-old budget hotel chain which made everyone sit up with its glossy ads and arts sponsorship to the tune of nearly $60,000.

Its director is Mr Chu Poh Yong, 32, nephew of the boss of property-holding company, Greensea Estates.

NOTICE ME: Yes, the chain owns the most number of hotels -- eight -- in an area better known for its red-light district.

But Mr Chu worked out that "if we did not change, by 1999, we'd be stagnating". It had to stay one step ahead of "the crowd that is looking for something different".

So, he tripled the advertising and promotions budget. The aim was to create a more "happening" image for the hotel and, if possible, Geylang. For example, it sponsored a production by The Necessary Stage last year at the Gay World Stadium.

Now, Mr Chu says the hotel gets "more interesting" clients. "Tourists, young couples, groups who use the rooms to watch football matches.

"People come here to throw parties -- the next day, you find whipped cream on the wall. We just want this to be a place where people can let themselves go."

With its successful image overhaul, it can now afford to be ironic.

Slick banner ads in front of every hotel say, "Get Lucky At Hotel 81", advertising a monthly lucky draw for customers, with $8,100 in prize money.

NEXT: It will continue with its advertising and sponsorship.

Management agreements with other hotels "not in our location" may be on the cards. But Geylang will be its base for the long haul.

She writes hypertext poetry

NEW KID: Synnette Ng, 22, final-year student in the National University of Singapore, majoring in Psychology and Economics

NOTICE ME: Watch, Singapore's first creative hypertext site. And the creator does everything, from writing poetry and prose to HTML codes for the snazzy interface.

The site's graphics-oriented design and fluid interface can be complex: Move a cursor around and a little dialogue box pops up. A discreet series of boxes leads you off on little sidetrips.

Yet Ng says: "HTML coding per se doesn't attract me. Not that DHTML, Shockwave or Flash ain't fascinating but I'm a lover of minimalist design. The multiple links/pages on a site provide easy access to information."

NEXT: The site will continue to grow organically, she says: "No planning is involved. The development in the content are usually spontanteously inspired."

But she has plans in other Web-related directions: "A group of friends and I bought a domain recently as a collaborative project by Singaporeans for Singaporeans.

"It will provide Internet services like e-mail, Webspace and tutorials on HTML. It will include general issues on entertainment, poetry and prose. It's called Littledot: Big Enough For Everyone, due to launch soon."

Visit Singapore's first creative hypertext site at

Bass meets bytes for S'pore band

NEW KIDS: Singapore's "" band, Mnemonic, now based in London. Its music goes online on its website as it is made and is free for download in MP3 format. Its debut album, Non-verbal Signs Of Listening, and an "album-in-progress", are already available.

NOTICE US: Making music available at the click of a button is what it's about -- it goes from the band members' heads and to fans' ears, says Mnemonic frontman Richard Das, 21. No messy recording deals or middlemen.

Mnemonic even beat U2 to releasing its single, Ground Beneath Her Feet. When the Irish rock group's song was put on air in mid-February, Mnemonic already had a cover version out on the Net.

To those who believe that "music is a product that can be packaged and sold in... little plastic wrappers like salted durians", guitarist Jonathan Skipp says: "Your old road is rapidly agin'. Please get out of the new one/If you can't lend a hand. For the times they are a-changin'." (Quoting Bob Dylan)

NEXT: "Music on demand" is what people want, and what Mnemonic offers. Tracks from Climbing Up The Giants, its album-in-production, go up as they are finished.

"We are free to do remixes and re-releases as often as we like, and as often as fans like," says drummer Kiron Chahel. It is like software -- release it when it's ready and issue upgrades later.

Copyright 2000 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

All Right reserved to Singapore Strait Times Newspaper published on 5/4/2000.
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