Citizens' project releases music video marking 60th anniversary of 'Majulah Singapura'

Teng Yong Ping
Lifestyle Editor

SINGAPORE — If you’re a fan of Ramli Sarip’s soulful rendition of the national anthem at this year’s National Day Parade (NDP), you’re in for a treat.

A music video featuring the local rock icon singing Majulah Singapura was released on Tuesday (3 December) to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the song’s adoption as the state anthem.

A citizen-led initiative conceived by events creative director Benjamin Tan, this music video project is independent of the government’s new recording of the national anthem. The project was, however, partly funded by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth through the Our SG Fund, which funds non-government community initiatives.

The video features Singaporeans who are trailblazers in diverse fields such as HIV/Aids activists Iris Verghese Sim and Calvin Tan; Singapore’s first female Olympic athlete Tang Pui Wah; and Eisner Award-winning comic artist Sonny Liew.

The version of Majulah Singapura performed by Ramli in the video was arranged by music producer Dr Sydney Tan.

Ramli Sarip (third from left) and the musicians. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Separately, a new official recording of the national anthem, featuring a choir and music performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, was played on local radio stations at 11.20am – the exact time that the anthem, national flag and state crest were unveiled 60 years ago.

Majulah Singapura, which is Malay for “onward Singapore”, was composed by Zubir Said in 1958. It was first used as the official city council song, and was later announced as the national anthem on 3 December 1959 after Singapore attained self-governance under the British colonial government.

(Foreground, left to right) The project's creative producer Benjamin Tan, creative director Royston Tan and film director Alvin Lee. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

A ‘prayer from each Singaporean’

To produce the video, Benjamin roped in producer Dr Sydney Tan as music director, filmmaker Royston Tan as creative director, filmmaker Alvin Lee as film director, and playwright Jean Tay as creative consultant.

Benjamin, who was the show producer of this year’s NDP, was inspired to start this project after being moved by Ramli’s performance of Majulah Singapura during the NDP show.

He told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, “I was told by a friend that Majulah has a poetic connotation of ‘claiming your path’. This led me to gather a group of inspiring Singaporeans who have found their own paths or are in the process of doing so. Despite the challenges that they’ve faced, they pursued their beliefs and continue to build the Singapore that they hope to see. The individuals featured in the MV represent different notions of progress.”

Describing the song and video, Ramli said, “Our national anthem is a prayer from each Singaporean to our country to continue to do well globally, now and forever.”

Asked for his thoughts about being one of the trailblazers in the video, Liew said, “I think most of us would agree that Singapore does a lot of things right. But there's always room for improvement.

“There are areas where there might be ideological blindspots. I think that's where the so-called critics come from. There will always be disagreements, but being genuinely open to ideas and viewpoints can help make Singapore a better place for more people.”

Read on about all the special Singaporeans featured in the music video:

Ramli Sarip, pioneer rock musician in Singapore and Malaysia. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Ramli Sarip, 67
Pioneer of Singapore’s Rock Scene

He was the front man and lead singer of Singapore-based heavy metal-rock group Sweet Charity that kickstarted the rock scene in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1970s and 1980s. Often known as “Papa Rock”, he has established himself as one of Singapore’s most famous rockers in the region.

Dr Sydney Tan, veteran music director.

Dr Sydney Tan, 59
Music Director

Dr Sydney is a practising doctor and music director. Despite the taxing hours required of him in the early stages of his career in medicine, he stayed determined to pursue his passion in music. Through music, he shares his love and patriotism and galvanises the next generation of local musicians. Sydney’s work in music has inspired generations of Singaporeans and he continues to do so.

Calvin Tan, the youngest person in Singapore openly out about HIV positive status, and Iris Verghese, a pioneer HIV caregiver. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Iris Verghese Sim, 73
Pioneer HIV Activist

At the height of the international AIDS scare in the 1980s, there was a lot of irrational behaviour and discrimination towards AIDS patients. Iris saw these patients who needed care and concern, and stepped forward and embraced them, to the shock of those around her. She continues her work in supporting HIV patients and their family. She hopes that no one is left behind as we unite in a new spirit.

Calvin Tan, 23
Youngest Person in Singapore Openly Out About HIV Positive Status

Calvin was diagnosed in 2015 and has since had the virus reduced to an undetectable load. Despite the discrimination that he has faced, he took up the courage to become a voice for the community. He is a programme coordinator with Action for Aids to reach out to more people living with HIV and remove the negative perceptions people have about HIV.

Zaini Tahir, dance educator. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Zaini Tahir, 44
Dance Educator

Zaini is one of Singapore’s most critically acclaimed choreographers who has held positions in numerous educational institutions. He is the artistic director of the NUS Dance Ensemble that was founded in 1992 and was the artistic director of Republic Polytechnic’s The Republic Cultural Centre from 2007-2017. He is currently heading the Arts Development Team at the Institute of Technical Education, shaping the future of our students through dance and the arts.

Cai Yinzhou, social entrepreneur. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Cai Yinzhou, 29
Social Entrepreneur

Yinzhou is the founder of Geylang Adventures and Back Alley Barbers, initiatives aimed at bridging gaps and building empathy. Geylang Adventure helps to break down social barriers by creating opportunities for interaction with the migrant worker community. Back Alley Barbers provides free haircuts for low income elderly and foreign workers. Yinzhou hopes that we can be more respectful of the migrant community who are contributors to the Singapore society.

Josephus Tan, criminal lawyer. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Josephus Tan, 40
Criminal Lawyer

Josephus is a prominent criminal lawyer well known for his pro-bono work. Despite his turbulent journey in life, he held on to his beliefs and continued to fight for people who have fallen through the cracks.

(From left) Theresa Goh, Paralympics swimmer; Tang Pui Wah, Singapore's first female Olympics athlete; Annabelle Kwok, technopreneur; Mary Klass, pioneer female Olympics athlete; and Dhaniah Suhana, interfaith relations champion. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Tang Pui Wah, 86
Singapore’s First Female Olympian

She was a trailblazer in the local athletic scene, taking the gold medals for 100 yard, 220 yard and 80-metre hurdles at the 1951 Malayan Amateur Athletic Association sports meet. This eventually qualified her for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics which made her the first female to represent Singapore at the Olympics.

Mary Beatrice Klass, 84
Pioneer Female Olympian

Mary represented Singapore at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics at a time when it was challenging for females in competitive sports. She says the national anthem had bonded her generation of Singaporeans as it rallied the people.

Theresa Goh, 32
Singapore’s First Paralympian Swimmer

Theresa was the first Paralympian swimmer to represent Singapore in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. She then went on to win a gold medal at the 2006 para-swimming world championships and has clinched an outstanding 30 gold medals at the ASEAN Para Games since 2001. She won her first Paralympic medal in 2016 where she clinched a bronze for the women’s 100m breaststroke SB4. Theresa came out publicly as lesbian in 2017 and hopes for a more inclusive society where people are free to choose who they love.

Dhaniah Suhana, 32
Interfaith Relations Champion

Dhaniah is the co-founder of Interfaith Youth Circle, a group that explores high-quality engagements amongst faith and non-faith communities. She believes that for peace-building initiatives to succeed, it is no longer enough to depend on being tolerant of each other’s religions. It is important for us to dive deep into one another’s religions, traditions and history in order to strengthen our relationships with Singaporeans of different faiths.

Annabelle Kwok, 26

Annabelle proved herself through her sheer ability in a male-dominated tech field and founded her own company NeuralBay in 2017. The company seeks to close the growing technological gap between SMEs and large corporations by offering small business owners in Singapore access to easy-to-use and affordable artificial intelligence solutions. While a lot of discussion now are focused on financial disparity, she believes that a huge technological divide between businesses in the future will give rise to a range of social problems. She hopes to be able to give the SMEs, the backbone of our local economy, a fighting chance to stay relevant in the world moving forward.

Kuik Shiao-Yin, entrepreneur and ex-NMP. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Kuik Shiao-Yin, 42
Entrepreneur & Ex-NMP

Shiao-Yin is the co-founder of social business group, The Thought Collective, and is fondly remembered as the NMP who resonated with the public through her speeches in Parliament. She said, “If Kit Chan’s Home is our country’s heart song, then Ramli Sarip’s National Anthem is its soul song for a new era.” She hopes that the “rakyat of Singapura” will stay united, helping each other to move forward despite our differences, to experience the joys we deserve.

Veera Sekaran, green tech entrepreneur, and Oliver Chua, environmental activist. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Veera Sekaran, 57
Green Tech Entrepreneur

Veera is the founder of Greenology, which develops ideas for green walls and urban farms and offers horticultural consultancy services. He grew up in poverty and was fortunate to be given opportunities to break out from it. He now pays it forward by hiring former convicts, buying food for elderly people and helping people with special needs.

Oliver Chua, 11
Environmental Activist

Oliver is the youngest speaker at the Singapore Climate Rally held on 21 September 2019. He believes that the public, especially the young, should take urgent action to mitigate the impact of climate change. When asked in an interview how young activists like himself should handle criticism, Oliver said, “Young activists shouldn’t worry about criticism because they are doing what they think is right, and following their beliefs.”

Sonny Liew, comic writer and artist. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Sonny Liew, 45
Comic Artist & Writer

Sonny’s perseverance and determination to pursue his passion in comics and to stay true to his beliefs has made him one of Singapore’s most successful cartoonists. He is the first Singaporean to win at the Eisner Awards and had his works appear on international bestseller lists.

Jean Loo (left), inclusive arts educator, and Timothy Lee, actor-dancer with Down's Syndrome. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Timothy Lee, 20
Actor & Dancer

Timothy is an actor and dancer with Down’s Syndrome. However, this has never stopped him from pursuing his passion in performing arts. From a young age, Timothy has been attending classes to hone his abilities as a performer. He is the first actor with Down’s Syndrome to land a lead role on local television.

Jean Loo, 35
Inclusive Arts Educator

Jean is the co-founder of inclusive arts movement, Superhero Me, aimed at empowering children from less privileged and special needs communities. She envisions a Singapore with a much more inclusive society, where all children will eventually experience an inclusive childhood, attending school with friends in wheelchairs or those who behave very differently from them.

Dr Sydney Tan (left) and Wheelsmith (Danial Bawthan), rapper and music producer. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Wheelsmith (Danial Bawthan), 25
Rapper & Music Producer

Danial, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was four years old, is an accomplished rapper, beatboxer, songwriter and producer. Growing up, he used music as a comfort against the pain of discrimination and disappointment. He hopes to set an example for the next generation and shift the focus from disability to ability. He wants to be living proof that the disabled in society can follow their dreams.

Mashruddin Saharuddin (left) and Nizaruddin Saharuddin, a father-and-son busking duo. (PHOTO: SidexSide Photography)

Mashruddin Saharuddin, 65 and Nizaruddin Saharuddin, 28
Father-and-son Busking Duo

Mashruddin is a passionate musician who learnt to play the piano at the age of five, and also plays the guitar and harmonica, among other instruments. His son, Nizaruddin, started to busk with him from the age of 13. Over the years, they stayed true to their passion for music and have become well-loved performers in Tampines where they usually play throughout the week.