Monday, July 27, 2009

On British patriotism and Singapore National Day theme songs

I wrote about the lack of patriotism among Britons, which is the result of a deliberate policy in UK's education, sometime back. The rationale being that Britain's history is 'morally ambiguous' and educating its children otherwise would be nothing short of sheer hypocrisy. In fact, Britain's history hardly features in the classroom so much so a significant portion of Britons surveyed think that Winston Churchill is a myth.

Though I applaud Britons' educators for taking this enlightened stand and not go down the path of other countries such as Japan where the official textbooks still refer the country's aggression during the Second World War as a liberation of sorts, I can't help but feel sorry for the British children who missed out on having a certain warm and fuzzy feeling for the land they are born to.

Why the sudden talk about national pride? Well, I was reading news from back home on Straits Times Interactive (online portal of Singapore news) the other day and came across an article on the choice of theme song for Singapore's National Day Parade. Apparently, the officially commissioned song for this year, "What do you see?" didn't come across as popular as an non commissioned piece entitled, "Things so Singaporean".

After searching on YouTube for the video clips, I can see why. "What do you see?" is a solemn piece that seeks to emphasize that the island state and its people will pull through the current economic crisis while "Things so Singaporean" is a lighthearted number that reminds us about the quirkiness of the tiny island we call home.

However, the my favorite remains "Home". First sang by a Singaporean singer Kit Chan in Singapore's National Day of 1998, it captured the hearts of an entire generation of Singaporeans with its simple lyrics and soulful music. A decade later, it still brings about that warm and fuzzy feeling in me even though I am halfway round the world.

I am not naive. I understand that good money have been spent on commissioning and marketing new National Day songs year after year for the sole purpose of promoting patriotism among Singaporeans. But for now, let's cast cynicism aside and I invite you to take some time and enjoy the three clips below.

What do you see? (2009)

Things so Singaporean (2009)

Home (1998)

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Reeta said...

I can't view the videos at work but I have to say...I totally agree with the choice "HOME" by Kit Chan.

It was a true gem of a song as every other song that they kept coming up with after that didn't quite make it for me.

I remember singing that song during assembly in secondary school during our national day concert and till this day, still remember the lyrics. Makes me feel all nostalgic when I do...

Emm said...

I couldn't disagree with that policy more. We were taught a biased, slanted history in schools in South Africa. But any intelligent person can look back at historical facts (for example that World War II took place) and come to understand that there were two sides to the battle and that both side may have committed atrocities. Not teaching children about the events that took place (or about the obvious heroes and leaders) is just irreponsible.

Nice post. I like that you still feel patriotism so far from home and I hope it continues to burn within you.

Dutchie said...

Each clip brings out a different mood in me. I like the 2nd one most bec it's very upbeat n the lyrics embodies things typically Singaporean. The scenes transports me back - just like that :-)

Sorry for the silence. Been thru a major surgery. Not out of the woods yet. Next biopsy in 6mths time. Keeping fingers crossed.

SheR. said...

I know all my NDP songs by heart! I love SG! Yeah! :D
I beg to differ on the lack of British patriotism part. Maybe not for the second generation of migrants but my true blue Brit friends LOVE their land to bits and would challenge you if you question the great British empire. :P

Dutchie!!! What happened??
Hope you are recovering well. Take care.. sayang!

Reeta said...


Im really sorry to hear that. Hope everything works out and u get better soon.

C K said...

Hey, watching it if you have the time. I bet you'll start laughing when you have heard "Things so Singaporean".

Ah... bet many of us can still recall the lyrics to "Home", can't we? Anyway, any plans to celebrate S'pore National Day next week?

Thanks! I think it's a thin line to thread. The syllabus must really include both sides of the story else unsuspecting children will end up believing only in one. It's not that difficult to brainwash a person if you started at it real early.

Hey, great to have you back! Really sorry to hear what happened. Hope that it will turn out fine.

So I take it that the 2nd's your favorite then? Just curious, was there any equivalent when you were in S'pore back then?

Yep! What's your favorite? Mine's this little known piece entitled "Heritage". Not sure whether you've heard of that one.

I just hope that the Britons would take more pride in the land of their birth. I mean, regardless of its past, the nation has accomplished much.

Dutchie said...

Reeta n SheR - tks for ur kind words n concern. I wont be able to populate this earth in this life time - haha.

CK - actually I didnt even noticed that special songs were written for the occasion. My niece taped the event n sent it to me. U know how it is with Live telecast - they r too long. Terrible to say this but I speed viewed the tape n unknowingly missed some essential part of the event !

SheR. said...

Eh.. CK.
Don't laugh at me.. you know even "silly" songs like "We are Singapore" brings tears to my eyes. Can you imagine me at SG day? Fighting back the tears I tell you! :P
My favourite goes like this:" Singapura, Oh Singapura... Pretty island set in the sea..." :)

C K said...

I could never sit through the 3hrs long celebrations. There was once I got a pair of tickets for NDP. I remembered it was held in the Padang for that year. It was, on many counts, a letdown. I didn't realise that the military band music was actually pre-recorded until I was watching it live.

As far as NDP is concerned, I prefer watching it on tv.

Really? Haha, lucky for you that we didn't get to meet up during SG Day as I probably couldn't resist teasing you about that. lol.

Come to think of it, I wonder whether those people who came up with the songs actually thought that these tunes would have such a huge impact.

::karinuslai:: said...

i actually find our need to keep having new national day songs rather irritating. we've got quite a few classics already - why keep coming up with inane rubbish year after year that no one even wants to learn to sing?

contrast that with the brits who only have a few songs but they get played without fail every year at the proms and EVERYONE sings along with most of it.