A Singapore song

I was just sharing this story with a Singaporean who’s starting a local songwriter’s circle. I’ve decided to share it with the rest of you, too.
Several years ago, my mum and I went on a tour of Spain. One night we were on a cruise ship and there was a dinner party. The band played music from every country that we tourists came from. Every time one country’s ‘famous’ song was played, the tourists from that country were invited to go to the stage and dance.
They had songs for all the European countries and the US. As expected, they had catchy songs for the Latin American tourists too. You’d be able to recognise a few of the tunes.
However when it came to Singapore, the other Singaporeans ducked behind their seats, leaving me and my mum in the spotlight. So we went up on stage. The band looked confused, as they had no idea what type of music to play for Singapore. There was a bit of awkward silence.
In the end, the band made up some ching-chong tune that sounded pseudo oriental. I actually felt a bit ashamed – not so much because we were the only ones on stage, but because the rest of the world did not know what Singaporean music sounded like. They did not know of a classic ‘Singapore song’ they could play at this party.
Frankly, I myself couldn’t think of any famous or catchy Singaporean song that could be played, apart from some traditional Malay songs. The rest of the world wouldn’t even have heard of Dick Lee, outside of Asia.
That memory alone spurs me to keep on writing and producing music whenever a tune pops into my head.
[More info: This happened in the late 1990s. I know the Asian region may be familiar with some of our local artistes who sing in Mandarin, but our music has yet to touch the rest of the world. I’m hoping that bands like Electrico and the Observatory, who are my current favourites, can change things. However what I’m aiming at, are songs that can become world classics and embed themselves into other people’s memories.
Am I hoping for too much? With music, I am forever optimistic and will patiently await the day that one catchy Singaporean song will make it to the international entertainment scene, and that people will know its tune and its origin.]
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  1. QuaChee

    Actually, it’s not just Singapore songs that are not global. It’s all of Asia’s… even the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese (Taiwan) songs are not recognised out of Asia much…
    The ang mohs taste for music is different from Asians. And unlike the Asians who are very open to the Western culture, they are different.
    But, as least now there is some initiative in S-POP.. at least this is the start. And I am behind you in promoting Asian songs worldwide… which I believe can happen when Shanghai be the next Hollywood 🙂

  2. L Hirata

    Sorry for adding a comment to an old entry.
    I just stumbled upon this homepage when I was searching for ‘Singapore Songs’.
    Firstly, I want to say that I can totally understand what Van wrote.
    Just last Monday, I was invited by some Japanese (I’m a Singaporean in Japan) to join in a choir. I was asked to sing a Singapore Song…’What’s a famous Singapore song?’ they (well..some old ladies) all asked.
    Hm..I can fondly remember all the songs I sang on National Day but..I doubt that’s what they wanted.
    They’re expecting a song like ‘Arirang’ for Korea and of course ‘Sakura’ for Japan. (Note that these are Asian countries but they all have a soung that most people will know.)
    So I was kinda embarrassed too. They must be thinking like..don’t you even know your own country’s song? (I even thought of singing the national anthem!!!!) or they make think..hm..strange country with no songs?
    But the point is Singapore’s still pretty young, isn’t she? So, Van, you are a song-writer? Just to cheer you on in Japanese..Gambattene!

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