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Learning from national day songs

Posted on: August 9, 2014

Singapore celebrates its 49th birthday today.

I wonder how many governments in other countries have songs for their independence, national, or constitution days. That might be like asking for a new birthday song every year instead of being happy with the Happy Birthday song.

Singapore seemed to hit the sweet spot in the 80s (and maybe the early 90s) when songs which were penned then not only rhymed, they also persist to this day. They are so much better that they are remixed and updated today. But like some Hollywood rehashes of older movies, the songs end up sounding awful or their music videos look like soulless monsters.

We do not have a unique national day song this year. We have a “chimera” of two songs that is part human and part crippled horse. When you listen to it, you can tell which part is which.

Our national day songs are meant to bring people together and/or to mark some achievement. But I think we use an outdated approach.

The old approach was to keep going back to the same small pool of talent to churn out those songs. These days we have a wider range of talent and they have different perspectives and agendas. There is nothing wrong with that; that is just how the world is now. I say we take advantage of that diversity.

Video source

This year, mrbrown decided to focus on food, something that is close to the heart (and stomach) of true blue (red and white) Singaporeans. His music video is affectionately titled Jiak Simi (translated: What Are You Eating).

Video source

In 2011, a group shot Run Through Singapore. It was not done by one of the usual suspects with the usual strategy. It featured a runner going past some popular spots in Singapore, and not just the usual tourist hangouts but the heartlands as well.

Video source

That same year we laughed at ourselves with this video. It was not conceived as a national day video, but it was based on one of our most revered national songs. We are turning 49 as a country and we still take ourselves too seriously.

I would like to see the day where we really celebrate what it means to be older and wiser. This means accepting and getting the best from our differences. We already have the economic success story drilled into our heads (small fishing village to thriving metropolis). We do not need to be reminded of that during our birthday.

There are so many things to celebrate. A louder voice, a greater choice. Our own way of struggling with diversity in a VUCA world. These are things that are fuzzy and best left to creative people and a decentralized approach.

Perhaps we will start to see this when we turn 50…

1 Response to "Learning from national day songs"

Interesting point about us having so much different birthday songs. It reflects the stages of our nation building


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