The Girl Who Made NUS Happier with a Ukelele

“Music can change the world because it can change people.”  – Bono

It is not everyday that we meet people who are deeply passionate about music. It is even more uncommon that you meet someone whom with the love of music,  spreads it to her community so others can likewise immerse in the experience and be uplifted. Today, I had the rare opportunity of interviewing Teng Yen Lin, a 4th year Literature student from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Meet Yen Lin

She came into “fame” (but she gladly refutes it) after her spontaneous act of performing ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz on a NUS shuttle bus. In the video, you’ll see how Yen Lin tried to get people to sing along and make NUS, a different NUS.

Ben: You are now known as the ‘Girl Sings on NUS Shuttle Bus to make it a happier place!’ (well, at least on Youtube). So share with us a bit about yourself and what gone on in your mind when you decided to sing on the bus?

Yen Lin: I had my ukulele with me on the bus that day, and I decided I wanted to play something as a means of reaching out, and connecting with people on the bus. NUS is really huge and it is rare to really get to know everyone, or have the place feel like “home.”  I thought me doing that will go some way in creating that kind of atmosphere I want.

Ben: You said, “We don’t do enough strange things”. How did you come to that conclusion?

 Yen Lin: “Strange” just means things out of the ordinary. I think that is the area where life is. When we break out of old patterns, no matter how slightly, our view shifts and new things open up. I ask myself a lot of questions that start with, “I wonder what would happen if….” and sometimes the ideas are so captivating I can’t rest until I try them.

Also all of our dreams lie in the realm of “strange” (i.e. things we haven’t done before, things that don’t make sense.) So I think “strange” is really to be respected.

For example, I have a dream to perform on Broadway. And be as good as Lea Salonga (my idol). I could think, “Oh that’s really strange” and ignore it, or acknowledge it and respect that that is the way I want to grow, even if nothing in my reality suggests it right now.

Ben: And how can we forget, you “specialize in strange” and “strange” is your middle name! Tell us, what is the “strangest” thing you’ve ever done and what made you do it?

Yen Lin: Haha…. It might be inappropriate to say! But I will tell you something I’m doing today. I’m taking a hand-held mirror and walking backwards from Somerset to Raffles Place on the mrt (sidenote: on the way to meeting you at TCC!). Again, the question I have is: “What would happen if I walk backwards in a public space……?” I am genuinely curious to know.

Ben: How has your life changed, if at all, after your courageous act and having your video attracting over 20,000 views on YouTube? Have there been any interesting encounters for you after the video has been viewed and shared widely?

 Yen Lin: Not that much, really! Nothing that consciously strikes me as being huge. But on some level… the amazingly encouraging response I have received gives me faith and confidence that I’m onto something, and that Singaporeans really are a heart-felt bunch. I have been hearing from NUS-mates I’ve never met before, and passing people who just give me the thumbs up along the corridors. RazorTV dropped by NUS to shoot a video, and Ivan who shot the original video came by to join us too. I have friends who willingly join me to sing made-up songs to strangers on the spot (Abishek and Fadhly) in the deck (NUS Arts Canteen)… so been heartwarming seeing all these things open up when I didn’t think they were possible before.

Ben: What have you planned as an “encore” or “sequel” to your first act on the NUS Shuttle Bus? How can we get involved, if we like to?

Yen Lin: Haha. To be honest the NUS Shuttle Bus singing was hardly my “first act”! I’d done similar things before on the MRT and buses. I was fortunate that particular evening the “viral” video was shot, and thankful for all my NUS-mates on the bus who gave me such a positive reception.

To get involved, join my movement – SING JUST BECAUSE. It’s really easy. No membership fees, you don’t even have to tell anyone you’re joining. Just take an instrument (or go a capella) and sing for someone. 🙂 You can do it on the streets, in the house, along Cathay,

For all those of you with flash mob ideas/experience, I’m great with ideas but not so great an organizer yet so help with getting people involved and organized is greatly appreciated. I need someone who believes in the movement to help me get organized. Get back to me by leaving a comment on the site!

Ben: Last but not least, a song that truly represents you is…

Yen Lin: Live High by Jason Mraz

She didn’t bring her ukelele this time round though!

Interview afterthoughts: We chatted at lengths about how sometimes, all it takes is for someone to be that “spark” to ignite a movement or cause. But, we cut ourselves short because we fear how others will judge us. Oftentimes, their judgments are but unconscious projections and it’s not our job to handle them. Maybe, all it takes is for us to have that little bit of faith in ourselves for things may just turn out well and for the better… like it did for Yen Lin.

Question: What inspires you most about Yen Lin? Would you attempt an act of courage like hers? Share with us your thoughts!