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Light To Night Festival
Photograph: Singapore Art Week/Light To Night Festival

The best things to do in Singapore this January

Start the new year with a major arts-travaganza, a star-studded virtual music festival, and Chinese New Year celebrations

By Cam Khalid

Stuck in the New Year-Chrimbo limbo? Don't sweat. It's out with the old and in with the new this January – like, let's leave 2020 behind and start afresh in 2021. And thanks to Phase 3, you can gather in bigger groups (of up to eight!), catch live performance on-stage IRL, and more. 

The new year kicks off with the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival featuring thought-provoking theatrics from around the world. Singapore Art Week also returns this month with a plethora of attention-grabbing hues and art installations. Then paint the town mandarin red as the city gets an early start on ushering the Year of the Ox this Lunar New Year. Mark your January calendar for all the best online and offline events in town.

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As the Winds Blow
Photograph: Singapore Symphony Orchestra

As the Winds Blow

Music Classical and opera Esplanade Concert Hall (see Esplanade Theatres on the Bay), City Hall

Let the woodwind and brass ensemble of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) soothe you into a better 2021 (hopefully) with a live, all-wind performance at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Whet your classical music appetites with songs from across the ages, from Byrd to Bruckner. Expect witty Hindemith, magical Mozart, seafaring shanties with Arnold, all-trombone Brucknerian solemnity, and the brass sextet by underrated German trumpeter-composer Oskar Böhme to fill the Esplanade Concert Hall along with the Renaissance splendour of Gabrieli and Byrd.


M1 Singapore Fringe Festival
Photograph: M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

Theatre Fringe Singapore City, Raffles Place

Based on the theme of Quiet Riot, M1 Singapore Fringe Festival makes its anticipated return with nine multi-genre events by local and international artists. This year's edition gives the audience the choice to catch the productions in person at the theatre or online. Under the helm of The Necessary Stage's Alvin Tan, the socially engaged fringe spotlights an exciting line-up of thought-provoking works including four fringe commissions, seven world premieres, and one Asian premiere. 

Singapore Art Week 2021
Photograph: Singapore Art Week 2021

Singapore Art Week 2021

Art Outdoor art Singapore City, Raffles Place

Singapore's visual arts calendar pinnacle – aka Singapore Art Week (SAW) – is back to bring some colour to the physical and digital realms. Staying true to SAW's theme of Art Takes Over, SAW 2021 offers over 100 programmes that allow art lovers from around the world to discover and experience Southeast Asian art. This year's edition showcases the largest number of commissioned works to date, with over 40 Singapore-based projects across various mediums and venues – even bus stops. For a taster, you can check out the SAW Digital page, where you can enjoy a myriad of digital offerings that supplement the upcoming physical programmes.

Light to Night Festival 2020
Photograph: National Gallery Singapore

Light To Night Festival

Art Digital and interactive Singapore City, Raffles Place

See the Civic District come to life with a slew of vivid artworks and engaging activities once again – this time, as a redefined, hybrid experience. A marquee event for Singapore Art Week, the Light to Night Festival offers art workshops and live-streamed talks that can be enjoyed at home, as well as an adventure of discovery around the District, and showcases at surprising places outside the historic precinct. Art in the Civic District also extends on the walls of iconic institutions and transforms sites such as the Asian Civilisations Museum, The Arts House, Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall, and Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay into works of art.

Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition
Photograph: Lucasfilm Ltd

Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition

Things to do Exhibitions ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay

You don't have to wait until May the Fourth to be the ultimate Fanboy. This January, get to know the characters of Star Wars on a whole new level as The Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition finally lands on our shores, making Singapore the final stop of its global tour. The Force is strong with close to 200 original props, costumes, models and artwork from the film franchise occupying the ArtScience Museum. It's not your typical movie exhibition either – it takes you on a customised, interactive identity quest to gain new insights into how the characters were developed, and gives you the opportunity to discover your own personal identities in the Star Wars galaxy.

Rita Ora, Hydeout
Photograph: Rita Ora

Hydeout: The Prelude

Music Singapore City, Raffles Place

The answer to Singapore's growing appetite for new music experiences, Hydeout is the region's first multi-genre music festival to shake up the scene by packing as much uncurbed fun, global sounds, and eye-catching art in one massive space. While its 2020 debut at Gardens by the Bay was cut short by the circuit breaker, it’s taking a digital spin with an immersive online experience featuring performances set against stunning backdrops that encompass both the virtual and physical realms. The star-studded lineup includes beach-blonde pop starlet Rita Ora, R&B darling Tinashe, EDM’s poster boy Martin Garrix, progressive house star Nicky Romero, and even Singapore’s very own DJ and producer Myrne.

Dick Lee
Photograph: Dick Lee

The More Further Adventures of Dick Lee

Theatre KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT, Raffles Place

As part of a fundraising concert series in aid of SRT, Dick Lee takes the stage for an intimate performance of storytelling and song. Where his earlier productions have taken us from his humble beginnings as a teen talent in the 1970s (Wonder Boy) to his road to Japan in the 1980s (The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman), we now go headlong into his Asian experience in the 1990s. Witness untold stories along with unreleased songs from his private songbook in this special 90-minute solo recital. 

Grandmother Tongue
Photograph: Wild Rice

Grandmother Tongue

Theatre The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre @ W!LD RICE, Rochor

It's a scene all too familiar – a young man struggling to connect with his 84-year-old Teochew-speaking grandmother. In Singapore, dialects have been losing relevance for generations. After premiering to rave reviews at the Singapore Theatre Festival 2016, the humorous yet heartbreaking Grandmother Tongue is back by popular demand. It highlights the social costs of our mother-tongue language policy, the erasure of dialects in today's Singapore, and how our identities are bound by the languages we use and the ones that we lose.

Moo Moo PARK
Photograph: Mithra

Moo Moo Park

Art Digital and interactive Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC), Tanjong Pagar

Accelerate for the very first drive-through art exhibition in Asia. Say what? The Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre is ushering in the Year of the Ox with an immersive outdoor experience that brings together art and technology to spotlight the Chinese culture in Singapore as well as the importance of sustainability. At the comfort of your four-wheeler, you can learn about the ox's cultural significance through the digital masterpieces of eight local artists including Almostasthma, André Wee, Antz, Puffingmuffin, and Mithra which have been transformed into 3D installation art, selfie filters, and augmented reality murals. Don't have a car? Walk-throughs are also allowed.

Wan Qing Festival of Spring 2020
Photography: Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

Wan Qing Festival of Spring

Things to do Festivals Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Novena

Gather the fam and usher in the Year of the Ox at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall with lion dance and festive drum workshops, heritage walking trails, and craft activities for the kids. Capture this memorable day out with a family photo by the memorial hall's outdoor installation Double Prosperity which features two large 'Foo Dou' Guardian Lions. The celebrations continue online where you can learn the ways on how to huat your home to usher in the new year, the dos and don’ts when watching a lion dance performance, and the recipe for fried nian gao, a sweet rice cake. The little ones can also cosy up for the story of the Ox and the characteristics of the Chinese zodiac.

Home, Truly
Photograph: National Museum of Singapore

Home, Truly: Growing Up with Singapore, 1950s to the Present

Things to do National Museum of Singapore, City Hall

Sing Kit Chan's Home all you want but do you really know what makes Singapore home? Showcased across five key themes, the National Museum of Singapore's latest exhibition features artefacts and photographs from the National Collection and members of the public, as well as audio-visual footage, sounds, scents and special digital features that reveal the personal stories of over 100 Singaporeans. Like a time capsule, Home, Truly chronicles the past and present, expressing our identity and collective memory as Singaporeans. You can also check out the digital companion @ Home, Truly from your humble abode too. Just get ready for a heavy dose of nostalgia.

Kampong Glam, Sultan Mosque
Photograph: Ronnie Chua/Shutterstock

Aliwal Tracks

Things to do Singapore City, Raffles Place

Once reigned by Malay Sultans, Kampong Glam is a historical precinct rich with vibrant sights, scents and sounds. And with Aliwal Tracks, you can rediscover this cultural enclave through the lens of some of the city's leading street, urban and traditional artists and creatives. The 13-part web series features digital performances, behind-the-scenes footage and virtual exhibitions centered around the everyday sounds of the neighbourhood. Get ready to explore hidden street art, age-old stories from residents as well as sounds and beats of Kampong Glam from the comfort of your couch.

RE•MIX 2k21
Photograph: Big Night Photography Pte Ltd

Re•Mix 2k21

Things to do Festivals Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC), Tanjong Pagar

Get a fresh perspective of the Chinese-Singaporean culture with the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s annual festival for youths, Re•Mix 2k21. Over two weekends, it returns with its very first hybrid edition featuring visually-stunning installations, fashion shows, silent music parties, escape games, craft workshops and performances that show how Chinese-Singaporean culture is reflected in popular contemporary expressions. Available online and onsite, the youth fest also makes an alternative group activity for you to check out with your seven pals while playing tourist in the city.

running, singapore, marina bay
Photograph: Shutterstock

NKF: Run Inspired

Sport and fitness Running Singapore City, Raffles Place

Do good, feel good – sweat it out for a good cause with the National Kidney Foundation's (NKF) inaugural three-week virtual charity run. Run, jog, or walk at your own pace and space to contribute in achieve a collective distance of 55,000-kilometre and raise $200,000 which will go towards providing Artificial Kidneys (AKs). These AKs are crucial in patients’ dialysis treatment to filter out waste and excess fluids. With every race entry ticket and T-shirt purchased, you are also donating part of the sales proceeds towards the AKs.

The Wizard's Den
Photograph: The Wizard's Den

The Wizard's Den

Things to do Food and drink events Singapore City, Raffles Place

Calling all witches and wizards – grab your wand as Australia's unique wizard-themed pop-up bar experience is landing on our sunny shores. It's one of the few places in the Muggle World (ie. earth) where you can channel the powers of your favourite coven icon, from Harry Potter to Sabrina, and create 'riddikulus' cocktail concoctions with a twist. Participants have to take part in challenges – think tricky riddles and mind-boggling puzzles – to unlock the ingredients for their concoctions. With the help of a trusty potion master, things get boozier with a swish and a flick from there.

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