He’s still a fresh-faced crooner at age 28, but this Singapore-based performer and songwriter has actually been performing onstage for half of his life. When Hartono was 14, he impressed his parents (resort consultant Thomas Hartono and Tung Lok Group senior vice president Joycelyn Tjioe) so much with his singing during a karaoke session that they encouraged him to enter a teen magazine talent contest.
Hartono won that prize and just a year later became the youngest performer to headline a show in Esplanade’s Late Nite series. That gig, at the national performing arts centre’s Recital Studio, “was my first proper ticketed show and I remember being extremely nervous that we wouldn’t sell any tickets,” he says. Hartono has gone on to record three jazz-inflected English albums, an EP and several singles. He’s also an actor, most notably playing the lead in a 2012 staging of the musical Spring Awakening. In 2016, Hartono vaulted into the regional spotlight as a contestant in the popular Chinese TV singing competition Sing! China. He became the first Singaporean finalist and ended the season as the runner-up. Since then, he started his own company so that he could retain creative control over his music, released a debut Mandarin EP in 2018 and two Mandarin singles in 2019, and is currently working on more releases in both Mandarin and English. Hartono says the New Asia is about possibility: “It is a new generation of unapologetic, fearless Asians taking over their respective industries, especially ones that weren’t previously ‘Asian-friendly,’ like arts and entertainment.”