Songs of the Sea – Part 1 (Behind-The-Scenes Tour)

There was a rare opportunity for Sentosa Islander members to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Songs of the Sea multimedia show at Sentosa so I jumped at the chance and registered for the event.

We were each handed a copy of the programme at the meet-up point. Oh gosh…they weren’t joking when they said that we were supposed to learn the dance from the show! I have 2 left feet so I’ll probably look silly later. (^o^)

As the shows are held in the evenings (7.40pm and 8.40pm daily), one rarely gets to see the set during daylight hours.

The open-air venue has a seating capacity of 2800 and there are 2 categories of tickets at different pricing (Premium Seats: S$15, Standard Seats: S$12). Regardless of category, it’s free seating so most people tend to arrive early to secure the best seats.

We started off with a briefing…

Next, we were introduced to the 7 cast members from the show and were taught the dances to 3 of the songs performed during the show.

Munnaeru Vaalibaa (evergreen Tamil song often sung at Singapore’s National Day events) – it starts with some Indian dance pose and the steps to this song were rather simple but you’ll need to remember whether it was supposed to be right hand up, left down or the other way around.

I don’t have photos for the dances from the next 2 songs as I was too busy feeling ridiculous whilst trying out the steps and at the same time laughing my head off! But anyway, here’s what we did…

It’s Me – this was a bit strange as we were told to imagine that our left leg was possessed and an invisible source was pulling it forward, but your hands are free to do any random movements (yes, those are the dance moves!). This was then followed by some Egyptian-like dance steps.

We Did It! – a freestyle dance, followed by pointing at Li, then shrugging and throwing your arms upwards (asking “who did it?”), pointing back at Li again (“he did it”), followed by a jump with your right fist in the air. The sequence was somewhat manageable until the music came on and it was really fast and so we ended up with a whole bunch of confused people. *smirk*

I really must applaud this group of energetic young people for their dedication to the show as rain or shine, the show still goes on! Guess the rain doesn’t dampen their spirits…

Posing with the cast (in case you’re wondering – the guy on my left portrays Li in the show):

The next item on the agenda was a visit to the control room and we discovered the crew here work in air-conditioned comfort. Now, this is the nerve centre for controlling all the visual effects, pyrotechnics, water jets, etc. and it’s housed in the little building located at 12 o’clock in the picture below.

Entance leading to the control room:

We were introduced to Shaun (on the right), a member of the crew who ensures that the shows run smoothly.

Checked out the extreme corner of the room – lots of manuals in the bookcase (and prickly heat powder in an air-conditioned room??).

Found a map of the show venue, which was attached to the whiteboard.

There were several gadgets and various buttons and switches which looked rather complicated and I was beginning to imagine an octopus seated at the desk, manipulating all the controls. We were told that the control panel is simple and intuitive, thus it’s easy to troubleshoot if there are any issues.

Zooming in…I spotted what looked like a cue sheet!

Two sets of each of the important control gadgets used for the show are found in the room, so that there is a backup of the equipment in the event of technical failure.

This blue board controls the lighting control and is nicknamed “the flying pig” (don’t ask me why!), but this is the only piece of equipment which doesn’t have a secondary set. Not to worry, there are backup controls on the PC for the lights. Did you know that there are 180 lights in total at the performance venue?

Lasers are used in the show and the lowest is 2.5 watts which is still 100-200 times brighter than a laser pointer. However, we were told it is still safe if the laser points to your eyes as continuous lasers are not used in the show. There was no demonstration of the lasers as it was bright daylight outside and we wouldn’t be able to see the laser beams anyway.

Four mist machines are used in the show and these operate with fresh water to prevent the equipment from being corroded.

There are also controls which check on the temperature, humidity levels and voltage.

Next, we moved on to the geysers and were shown the control panel which activates them.

Here is one of the five water geysers, which each have an atmospheric pressure of 10 bar.

There are also 69 water cannons, which weigh between 250 kg to half a ton and are operated with sea water. The big ones need about 4-5 men to winch up and checks are done every morning as these water cannons need regular maintenance due to the salt water.

Water screens are also used in the show and these need two 2.5m high water pumps to run, together with several water jets. A Christie® 20K projector, which has a light output of 20,000 lumens, is used for projections onto the water screen. Here’s how the water screen looks during the day, minus the projection.

The crew frequently need to keep track of the tides, as a high tide may cause the equipment to malfunction and a low tide could mean that the water jets may not have enough water to operate.

Now onto the more “dangerous” stuff…

There are 17 flame machines (12 on the kelong and 5 on the beach) which inject some excitement into the show. These are the buttons and switches which control them.

We were then given a brief demonstration of the flame machines.

Last but not least, this is the control panel for the fireworks but there was no demonstration of it as due to our country’s regulations, fireworks can only be discharged by approved companies, thus there are two pyrotechnicians from an outsourced company who are responsible for this segment of the show.

This gadget seems to be a detonator related to the fireworks but I can’t remember how it’s being used. Haha…

The Songs of the Sea show started in 2007 and when ECA2 (the company who created the show) handed over to them, they only guaranteed 90% of the time it should run fine. To-date, the show has only been closed for 3 days due to technical fault. If you do the math, 2 shows daily x 6 years x 365 days… that’s quite a good track record considering that it was only closed for 3 days!

On one occasion, the kelong caught fire due to strong wind conditions. Thus, they have 2 wind sensors to monitor the winds as during monsoon seasons, the wind speed is about 50km/hr and there was one morning when it reached 67km/hr, so thankfully it didn’t happen during the show! Anyway, in the event of fire, the water cannons and water jets can double up as fire extinguishers! ^_^

By this time, it was about 7pm and this segment of the programme had overrun, so we quickly headed over to Tastes of Asia for dinner.

We were given a choice of Laksa or Chicken Rice and I chose the latter. The chicken could have been smoother but overall it tasted quite nice and I especially liked the achar (i.e. pickles).

After dinner, we were ushered to watch the 7:40pm show. For more details about the show, check out my other post on Songs of the Sea – Part 2 (The Show).

It was an eye-opener with regards what goes on behind-the-scenes of this show and it was also nice to be able to take some daytime shots of the kelong and the cast. Many thanks to Sentosa for organising this!

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