Hub promotes coming together of artistes, music lovers

Musicians trying out guitars at Swee Lee Local.

MORE than just a music instrument retailer, a store in Sungai Ara, Bayan Lepas in Penang, is looking to serve as a hub for music-related activities.

These include fan meet-and-greets, product showcases and events featuring local music labels and talent to be held at Swee Lee Local, which opened at Golden Triangle 2 last October.

Owner Kuok Meng Ru, 36, who is also founder and chief executive officer of Singapore-based Caldecott Music Group (CMG), said the group’s expansion to Penang reflected its commitment to the music community in the northern region.

Kuok: My intention is to support and champion musicians in their journey.Kuok: My intention is to support and champion musicians in their journey.“Swee Lee offers a shared space for artistes and music enthusiasts to come together and further their craft.

“It is a versatile venue dedicated to hosting partner and artiste events, underscoring Swee Lee’s commitment to supporting local artistes and fostering a vibrant community of music lovers and fans,” he said.

The store’s launch featured a showcase of Taylor Guitars alongside performances of Penang’s esteemed musicians such as Wendy Tan & Jay Lim, Bowie Ong and Kelvyn Yeang.

In 2012, at the age of 23 and shortly after graduating from Cambridge University, Kuok acquired Swee Lee, a Singaporean music entity established in 1946.

Today, it has become a booming omni-channel, multi-brand retailer.

“From day one, my intention was to shape the future of music by supporting and championing musicians worldwide at every stage of their journey.

“That is the reason I co-founded BandLab Technologies, which operates a social music creation platform, with Steve Skillings.

“The BandLab app, which now has over 100 million users worldwide, lets musicians record, mix and collaborate on music projects seamlessly from inception to completion.

“They can also livestream their performances.

“I anticipate there will be more than a billion music creators by 2030, possibly even earlier,” he said.

More than 10 years down the line, Kuok, who plays the guitar and piano to relax, has grown Swee Lee into a prominent music instrument retailer with an online store and 11 stores across Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

During this time, he also acquired numerous entities in the music industry like Heritage Guitars, Harmony and Teisco in addition to music publication NME.

In 2021, Kuok, the third child of Kuok Khoon Hong, co-founder and chief executive officer of palm oil and agribusiness giant Wilmar International, led a rebranding effort, bringing these enterprises together under the CMG umbrella.

“We do not have a retail footprint in the US, which is our biggest market, but we work closely with many music retailers to market our Harmony and Heritage guitars which are made in a century-old factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan.”

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