The man knows his way with an anthem.
“'Stand Up For Singapore’, ‘Count On Me Singapore’ and ‘We Are Singapore’ have gone through time and history,” says Clement Chow, the man who sang them at National Day Parades in 1984, 1986 and 1987, and has been in the music business for 32 years.
“They’ve collected stories and people’s memories…," he told Yahoo! Singapore in an exclusive interview at the National Environment Agency’s Eco-Music Challenge 2012 Showcase last 31 May at Merry Men on Robertson Quay. “They have to reflect the brief and bring a certain emotion. It’s got to be rousing. Straight away it’s anthem-ish.”
Now in its third year, the NEA Eco-Music Challenge promotes environmental awareness through music that hopes to make similar impact with an important message.
“This generation has so many talented songwriters. I’m pleasantly surprised,” says Clement, who is the competition’s mentor and judge.
“We had to turn away songs, but by no means were they bad songs. There were too many good ones. I am very encouraged.”
Songwriting – whether you’ve just started or been doing it for quite a while – is a tough but rewarding process. Even with Clement’s many years in the music business, he says you always have to practice and hone your skills to be good at it.
"If within the first 20 minutes of writing you can’t get anything, then leave it and come back for it the next day," shared Clement on the process. "You never know. Sometimes you can get the first and fourth day of writing, and find that it makes sense. Then you rewrite.”
Such exposure and feedback of your creative work to not just a veteran like Clement, but to a wider audience like the Eco-Music Challenge is a valuable way to develop yourself as a better songwriter. You get the experience and training you need; receive valuable feedback from Clement and other local renowned music gurus such as Jack Ho of Jack and Rai, composer Jack Lim, Peng Chi Seng from Intune Music School; and expose your talent.
Even after the competition, you may also get yourself more musical opportunities. “We’re involved in a musical produced by the NEA featuring past Eco-Music Challenge talents. There is life after the Eco-Music Challenge. We think about how to continue to keep this message alive,” says Clement. “These songs are not restricted to Singapore. Keeping our world clean and beautiful is a worldwide and universal theme.”
What is Clement be looking for in the winning entries?
Songs with a twist
“Does it fit? Is it memorable? Can I sing back the tune to myself? The lyrics and the message must be clear; you don’t have to second-guess their meaning. There can be a twist, but make sure the twist is clear to people.”
A way with words
“In a love song, you don’t want to say obvious words like ‘hug’, ‘love’ and ‘kiss’. You find different ways to express them. And for the environment, it’s not always [the words] ‘clean and green’.”
“I like things that say something but mean another thing,” admits Clement, who cites artists like Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon as his favourite lyricists.
It fits the brief
In the case of the Eco-Music Challenge, it’s about caring for the environment. Clement’s own personal passion? “ Environmental responsibility. The problem is situational binners. If no one’s looking, some people can’t be bothered to walk to the bin and throw things away.”
The winners of the NEA Eco-Music Challenge will be announced at the finals on 25 August. Submission of entries and voting ends on 7 July… There’s still time to make that first step in getting people to hear your music, plus a chance to win cash, fans and gigs.
Click here to go to the Eco-Music Challenge 2012 site to sign up and join!