Ask any Singaporean on the street about this country and they’ll probably tell you all the standard, non-edgy answers:
“CPF so late then can get, what the hell man.”
“If HDB prices increase any further, I’m gonna be 70 before I can afford one.”
“Singapore girls expectations so high, how to get married like that?”
Yep, sounds about right to me.
But here’s the thing; while the majority of Singaporeans would undoubtedly voice out such concerns, a minority looks at other aspects of life that might be just as significant as the aforementioned issues…
Yet are somehow neglected.
And a prime example of that notion?
The migrant workers in Singapore who slog day and night for our country’s future, and yet are treated in a rather controversial way.
Utopia’, A National Day Song Created By A Singapore Rapper & Migrant Workers
As part of a new CNA documentary series titled Roar!, four Singaporean musicians have been allocated the task of writing new music for National Day, with themes that will challenge the stereotypical vibe of standard NDP songs.
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🦁 Thank you @shahulhameed and the @channelnewsasia team for believing in us and sticking through the process. Big kudos to all of us for pushing the envelope in the Singapore music scene. We had our struggles and creative differences along the way for sure but I believe the journey made us all grow in ways we never could script. I’m so thankful for the friendships we have forged and we will always stay in the process ✊🏽 ‘ROAR’ Documentary 9pm August 3rd & 4th on CNA
While the likes of Benjamin Kheng, Aisyah Aziz and Wang Weiliang have opted to write about their personal struggles growing up in Singapore, such as PSLE pressure and seeking acceptance, the last member of the Roar Task Force chose to write about a sector that’s relatively neglected:
The migrant workers in Singapore.
According to CNA, Rapper Subhas Nair, who’s known simply as Subhas, decided on the topic because there are several issues regarding migrant workers in Singapore that he feels strongly about.
“These people don’t come here as just numbers. They are human; they have interests and passions,” he said. “And human rights includes, to me, a minimum wage in a country that you’ve built.”
The song he wrote, titled Utopia, is performed in collaboration with Migrants Band Singapore, a group of instrumentalists and singers who work full-time in industries such as construction, plumbing and security.
Instead of having them perform a song he wrote, however, Subhas chose to adopt it in a more natural way. This is because even though he “related to them so much because of diaspora and thinking of myself as South Asian”, Subhas knew the migrant workers’ story would not ring the truest if it were told through his voice.
“I don’t understand their instruments; I don’t play them. I also didn’t want them to speak in English or say anything that I wrote.”
As a result, Subhas went to one of the band’s performances in Nee Soon and made a recording of them performing a ghazal titled Aar Kichu Chai Na Mone Gaan Chara, which stands for “I have everything I need because of this song” in Bengali.
That recording is now part of the track.
“We just capture what’s there. We are the vehicles. We are not the most important. The most important are the teachers, the firemen, the mothers feeding children and waking up early in the morning, the hawker aunties with the varicose veins on their feet from standing for so long. Those are the people whose stories we must amplify. Our job is to be authentic about those stories; to tell our Singaporean stories,” he said.
Also, he hopes that the song will open a door to freedom for Migrants Band Singapore, though he’s well aware that it can’t do everything for them.
“As (band leader) Nil Sagar told me, ‘Our migrant histories cannot be told in one song.’”
But then again, I would say that…
One song is potentially all it takes to get everything started as well. 🙂
You can listen to the song here.
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