About two months before National Day, Mr Alvin Oon made a simple open call on Facebook for family and friends to be a part of a music video to celebrate Singapore’s 52th birthday.
The 49-year-old had written an original song, titled ‘One Nation Together’ in keeping with the theme of this year’s National Day Parade (NDP), and wanted to rally Singaporeans to be a part of it.
He asked Singaporeans to shoot a video of themselves cheering, waving the Singapore flag or dancing in a group. All they had to do was keep the video under 15 seconds.
Within three weeks, some 350 Singaporeans at home and abroad - in Hong Kong, Mongolia and Abu Dhabi - signed up and sent in their video contributions. They posed in front of famous landmarks in the countries they were in, from the Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok to the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong and Botanic Gardens in Singapore.
“The idea was to do something that was easy to sing, appealed to the masses, simple, fun and catchy enough,” says Alvin, who is a director of an arts and entertainment events company.
His open call was shared with friends of friends and strangers. “In the end, I don’t know more than half of them in the video,” he said.
The youngest participating Singaporean is eight months old, and the oldest is 84.
Alvin, who is also part of Peranakan Sayang, a five-person music group, composed and arranged the song. His family helped record the song. His two sons, Darius and Doran, who are 18 and 15, played the electric guitar and keyboard on the song. His wife, Madam Delia Ho, was the video assistant.
The four-minute song begins with an upbeat, emphatic cheer, “One nation, together / One people, united”, before a rousing melody, “The fire deep inside us, burns bright for all to see / Shining bright together, for each other, we are family”.
When he uploaded the video in July, it garnered 10,000 views within 24 hours.
The song, he admits, is not perfect but he is happy with the result, as it shows how Singaporeans from all walks of life have a deep love for their country.
“It is far from being a professional, polished product, but there was a lot of effort, fun, heart, pride, celebration, passion and patriotism in the production, which is what it is all about as we celebrate Singapore’s National Day,” he admits.
His music video was not the only one making rounds on social media.
MICappella, a six-member Singaporean a cappella group, also created a mash-up of NDP songs, from 1967’s ‘Singapore Town’ to 2016’s ‘Tomorrow’s Here Today’.
“We wanted to walk Singaporeans down memory lane. We thought it will be great to make it both entertaining and educational,” says Ms Tay Kexin, a member of MICappella.
To date, the mashup has garnered more than 700,000 views, and close to 12,000 shares on Facebook.
“To be honest we were taken aback by how much it struck a chord with everyone. We had many people saying how patriotic they felt after listening to the songs. We even received clips of the video being played to students in schools,” Kexin shares.
MICapella decided to bypass the debate over which National Day song was best – by combining all of them into one song.
It is the group’s third NDP song cover. They took a week to choose the songs, link them together, and arrange the vocals.
Mr Peter Huang, another MICappella member, was heartened by the huge reception. “Singaporeans are indeed a patriotic bunch,” he says.
Inspired by the success, Peter, who does vocal percussions in MICappella, also uploaded an original song , titled ‘My Little Red Dot’, which he composed with two of his childhood friends, Mr Bryan Tan and Mr Timothy Kua.
Long-time friends Peter, Timothy and Bryan teamed up to serenade Singapore.
The sentimental ballad evokes feelings of nostalgia and longing, as the three friends have lived, studied and worked overseas separately in the past years.
Bryan, who is the song’s lyricist, says: “This was always meant to be an intensely personal piece, but it seems to have resonated deeply with all Singaporeans. Everybody can relate to their favorite hawker stalls and the nostalgia of their childhood playgrounds.”
These song tributes have proven to be a hit with many online, but Kexin says that it should not take away the credit of the annual official NDP song, which deserves recognition still.
“We have so much respect for the writers of National Day songs,” says Kexin. “It is hard to write a song to suit everyone’s taste and preference. We feel that all who have taken up the task of writing our National Day songs deserve a badge of bravery and a pat on the back.”