Whether it’s singing along to musicals or visiting historic sites, Haikal Tan has always had a love for arts and culture. They’re areas of interest that he has been lucky enough to pursue during his nine years with Singapore Airlines (SIA) as a member of the cabin crew.
The 33-year-old Singaporean lists Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera as two of the most memorable musicals he has had the opportunity to watch while overseas, and he still vividly remembers his first trip to London with SIA.
Besides catching shows at the West End, he visited museums – he considers the Natural History Museum and the British Museum among the highlights. “It was such an incredible experience,” he shares. “They have things from ancient Egyptian and Roman eras.”
Haikal was also part of the Discover Singapore journey alongside fellow cabin crew Karin Choo and award-winning playwright Haresh Sharma. Haikal welcomed the chance it gave him to reconnect with his creative side as he was tasked with putting together a final performance inspired by what he had experienced on his journey.
“I was actually excited to take up the challenge,” he says. “Yes, I was a little stressed at first, but I was confident I would be able to pull it off.” Haikal attributed that confidence to his time working as a cabin crew.
“Whenever I am at work and in my uniform it’s like being on stage,” he explains, while flashing his trademark grin. “I have to put on my professional persona in the way I speak and carry myself.”
Having taken part in the same experiences alongside Karin, including improv workshops with theatre group The Necessary Stage, an opportunity to chat with community-focused artist Alecia Neo, the entire journey was an eye-opening – and even life-changing – adventure for him.
“I never knew I would be so comfortable acting and performing and that I would enjoy the process so much,” he shares. He was also deeply moved by Safuan Johari and Rizman Putra of NADA, who blend contemporary dance, striking vocals and Southeast Asian music from bygone decades with electronic sampling.
“Meeting NADA is something I will remember for life,” Haikal admits. “I have always been into music but this really exposed me to a brand new dimension of artistry that I hadn’t come across before.”
Celebrating diversity ended up as the theme of his final performance, which took place at The Necessary Stage’s black box. It incorporated snatches of traditional Malay music, found sounds, movement and both singing and spoken word elements.
The inspiration behind his compelling performance was clear: “Coming from a multiracial background, I would like our next generation to be more involved in getting to know and understand the many cultures and religions around the world.”
Presented in front of friends and family, including his two-year-old daughter, the performance made for a fitting end to his time with Haresh and Karin.
Click here to watch the video which follows playwright Haresh Sharma, as well as cabin crew members Haikal and Karin, as they journey around Singapore discovering the island’s art and culture scene.
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