Similar to the global F&B scene, the music industry was also heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and St. Petersburg-based Singaporean conductor Chiya Amos saw his life savings drying up after more than a year of unemployment and cancelled engagements. Thus, he moved back to Singapore in December of last year and applied for more than 40 temporary positions to get by until he could return to Europe. “I got rejected and ghosted by all of them,” he recalls, until he got an offer as a Foodpanda delivery rider which offered a flexible work schedule and put him in charge of his own earnings. As he puts it: “The more I worked, the more I earned.”
While working as a delivery rider until mid-April, he's thankful that he was able to continue doing music when he and his friends organised the first virtual Opera and Ballet Conducting Workshop in February, which was a "success and well-received". He also continued to give seminars and masterclasses on piano performance.
He has since returned to St. Petersburg, although he admits that the situation is still difficult as Russia has been hit with the third wave of coronavirus and performances have been halted again. "It's extremely difficult to thrive as an Asian, conductor in Russia during these difficult times, as orchestras are actively working with home-grown talents instead of foreign artists," he shares, but he is still clinging on to a glimmer of hope that things would be better and he could return to the stage.
Asked what the soundtrack of his life would after everything he has gone through in the past year, he says it's Requiem in D minor by Mozart. "It’s a reflection of my life in the last 12 months, starting out turbulent, with vivid and terrifying imagery...but there's some respite from the fear and trepidation, and I've confidence that salvation will come to all."
As he continues to hunker down in Russia, we check up on him on the foods and drinks that bring him back to Singapore.
What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from Singapore or haven’t been back for a while?
Chiya Amos (CA) I miss quite a few of the usual Singaporean dishes and drinks—mainly chicken rice, BBQ sambal stingray, fried Hokkien mee and sugar cane juice. While I can cook most of these, it's difficult to replicate them in Russia as we don’t have the same exact ingredients, and it will always taste a little different from those at home.
If you have visitors/guests with you, where do you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of home?
CA When my wife, who is Russian, first visited Singapore in 2016, I brought her to 85 Fengshan Market & Food Centre (where I used to live just minutes away) for a taste of some of Singapore’s most popular foods. It has everything from bak chor mee to satay, and is an important part of our UNESCO hawker culture.
What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?
CA I can’t remember what’s the first dish I eat whenever I return to Singapore, but the first meal I have is always at home with my family. I usually arrive in the early evening and would head home to have dinner prepared by my mother with my entire family. My mother’s Teochew, so we would have dishes like steamed pomfret.