Wednesday, 31 July 2013

What's so 'maju' about this 'Majulah Singapura'?

Just back from three weeks in Singapore where Google refused to let me log in because I refused to give them my (brother's) mobile phone number.

Putting the new National Day song aside, I sent this to Straits Times, but they were not interested:


Dear Editor

As soon as I heard the first words of ‘Majulah Singapura’ I instinctively stood to attention, as I was taught to do in school.

Funny, I thought, I missed hearing the distinctive drum roll and the fanfare introduction.

I had stumbled upon what appeared to be technical run-through of the NDP while on the roof of the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay.

Less than half-way through, I could take it no longer and started ranting at my companions.

I was appalled by this dirge-like rendition of ‘Majulah Singapura’ which was aspiring to be ‘God Save the Queen’.

Mr Zubir Said wrote a rousing national anthem that expresses vigour, vision and vitality.

 It admonishes singers and listeners to move forward, aspire, reach for new collective goals.

If the original ‘Majulah Singapura’ represents a purposeful march towards a prosperous future, the rendition I heard was a slow, aimless amble, much like the young Singaporeans around me who drag their feet as they propel their flip-flops forward*.

I thought lowering the key of the original composition to make the high note more reachable – thus showing a poverty of aspiration – was bad enough.

The plea from this proud Singaporean: Would the NDP organizers please, please revert to the original tempo?

National Day is the time to rally Singaporeans together. We need an anthem that helps drive a vision, not a folk tune to slow-dance to.
I wonder if the rendition I heard was merely an accident. Do you know of anyone who attended rehearsals and might be able to tell you about the slow-burn Majulah Singapura?

*Is it the heat or just a lack of general purpose? But we were struck by the way many people, particularly the younger ones, appear to amble about, oblivious to other pedestrians who need to be somewhere else fast.