Music and cultural politics: ideology and resistance in Singapore

10 August, 2017

Photo Credits: “National Pride” from SRN’s SG Photobank

Do you remember the lyrics to “Count on me Singapore”? What about the National Day favourite – “Home”?

Every year, a new National Day song is launched to commemorate 9 August, the day of the nation’s independence. Leading up to this date, radio and television stations broadcast the new National Day song while students learn the songs in school. Prof. Lily Kong (Dept of Geography) deconstructs the National Day songs featured in the Sing Singapore song book, published in 1988 by the Ministry of Communications and Information. The lyrics, written in all four languages, comprise a variety of emotive words used to encourage Singaporeans to express their love and pride for the country. Virtues such as hard work and unity are exalted and often validated by incorporating Singapore’s past achievements and images of present built and natural environments into their music videos.

Prof. Kong contends that such songs serve as crucial weapons for social and psychological defence as they can unify Singaporeans and instill in them a sense of patriotism towards their nation and their ruling government. Such a form of defence is necessary before civil and military defences can be effectively enforced. In addition, Prof. Kong explains that music is an effective way for the state to preserve ideologies and construct a national identity. Amidst globalizing forces today, the role of National Day songs remains ever more pertinent in strengthening one’s sense of belonging to a country with an increasingly diverse populace.

The article, titled Music and cultural politics: ideology and resistance in Singapore, was published in 1995 in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and can be found here.

Last but not least, Happy National Day, Singapore! 🇸🇬😊