THE COMPLAINTS CHOIR OF SINGAPORE
The Singapore Complaints Choir - organized by Fringe Festival / The Necessary Stage - started off like any of the other choirs. People came, complained, and enjoyed the transformation of their complaints into a cheerful choir song under the inspiring guidance of composer and choir conductor Wai Lun Chong. Choir members were actively involved shaping the song, even a rap commitee was organized trying to come up with an Acronym Rap, since the use of acronyms such as HDB, BGR, MDA etc. is very popular in Singapore. The Media Development Authority (MDA) - famed for their own senior management rap video (a must see!) - approved the lyrics and Fringe festival got permission from the locations for the planned public performances including a foodcourt at Eunos and the City Plaza Complex.
One day prior to the planned performances authorities (from our understanding decisions came directly from the Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA)) told that they would only issue a license for the public performances if 6 choir members that were not citizens of Singapore would step out of the choir. The argument was that only Singapore citizens are allowed to complain about Singapore, because foreigners might not know why things are done in a certain way in Singapore. This conditional license was a de facto ban of the choir performances, since conductor Wai Lun was a Malysian citizen studying in Singapore, and one just can wonder how the Ministry imagined that a choir performs in a reasonable fashion without its conductor.
The decision seemed also absurd in another way: why can't even PM's (permanent residents) - people living and working in Singapore for many years - voice any complaints in public? Last not least the decision of the authorities was very disrespectful for us as artists and founders of the complaints choir idea. We were invited to come to Singapore to do the Complaints Choir project the same way we had done it in many other cities around the world. MDA and MICA had all necessary informations at hand to evaluate the project. It would have been very easy for them to tell their objections to foreigners in the choir beforehand. Under these circumstances we would not even have bothered to come all the way to Singapore, since it is the guiding principle of complaints choir: anybody can take part.
Emotions run high, especially when REUTERS send out a short piece on the case. This brought world wide publicity for the Singapore Choir - from India to Aserbaijan. In the end Fringe festival organized private viewings for "friends" of the complaints choir at the Old Parliament House. It was the great irony of the whole story, that the choir performed in the exact same location in which many of the legislations were made that helped to effectively ban the choir from performing.
The whole case was discussed for a long time in newspapers and internet forums. Please see our press section for coverage. The issue was finally debated in parliament. The Ministry defended it's decision and even found a positive outcome of the international bewilderment that the story had created. Mica Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan: 'Part of our branding is the law and order we have. [...] This is part of our reputation and it's not a bad part of our brand value.' (Straits Times, March 1, 2008)
Composed and Conducted by Chong Wai Lun
Lyrics and performance by the participants Candy Lim Pei Ying, Chan Rho Szu Jessica, Cheong Kah Keh, Kathy, Chen Weijie (AJ), Chia Weiying Carol, Chua Jiakai Jeremy, Chuang Shujun Christabel, Diana Ng, Gavin Lee Choon Ping, Gerald Tan Yung Boon, Goh Kok Yong, Grace Goh Ker Kheng, Helen Ng Kim Neo, Jacqueline Kuek Soh Hoon , Jeffrey Soh Jun Hong, Jeremy Lee Png Hui, Joel Ong Yu-zhi, Joshua Abraham, Kang Yi Han, Joel, Katherine Loo, Katrina Tan Poh Choo, Kevin Pang Kwok Hin, Kho Huey Ling Sylvia, Koh Jo-Lin, Li Ru, Lindsay Lim Hua Li, Lu Heng, Lu Yin, Marc Ha, Naomi Ho Pei Ying, Ng Chui Nee, Ngew Xinyi, Nisha Rahmanti, Nita Chan Kah Yee, Nur Shafiza Shafie, Nurul Aziah Hussin, Rita Herbert, Ros Ho Sok Choo, Sum Kok Fai, Lance, Tan Shin Bin, Tina Kong, Tracey Maurine d/o Ronald Joe, Vera Celine Ong , Wai Jin Hui Zyndie, Wee Kim Lian, Mabel, Wong Po Fong (Baofeng), Yang Ruochun Vicki, Chong Wai Lun, Wong Yun Qi, Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, Tellervo Kalleinen.
Piano by Wong Yun Qi, Caleb Lee
Video by IDP Media Crew www.idpmedia.com
Audio recording Patrick Chng & Clement Neil / Music for Good
Produced by M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2008
Organised by The Necessary Stage
Title Sponsor M1, co-presented by The Arts House, supported by Embassy of Finland / Singapore, FRAME, Music for Good, InFocus
Thank you Layla El-deeb, Tuula Kalleinen, Nimrta Kaur, Caleb Lee, Frank Mauceri, Sheri Ramli, Wu Yanrui, Kevin Zhang
THE COMPLAINTS CHOIR OF SINGAPORE - LYRICS
We get fined for almost everything
Drivers won’t ‘give chance’ when you want to ‘change lane’
The indoors are cold, the outdoors are hot;
And the humid air, it wrecks my hair
Those answering machines always make you hold
Only to hang up on you
When a pregnant lady gets on the train
Everyone pretends to be asleep
I’m stuck with my parents till I’m 35
Cause I can’t apply for HDB
We don’t recycle any plastic bags
But we purify our pee
What’s wrong with Singapore?
Losing always makes me feel so sore
Cause if you’re not the best
Then you’re just one of the rest
My oh my Singapore
What exactly are we voting for?
What’s not expressly permitted
When I’m hungry at the food court, I see
People ‘chope’ seats with their tissue paper
To the aunty staying upstairs:
Your laundry’s dripping on my bed sheets
Please don’t squat on the toilet seats
And don’t clip your nails on MRT
Stray cats get into noisy affairs
At night my neighbor makes weird animal sounds
People put on fake accents to sound posh
And queue up 3 hours for donuts
Will I ever live till eighty five
to collect my CPF?
Singaporeans too kiasu! (so scared to lose)
Singaporeans too kiasi! (so scared o die)
Singaporeans too kiabor!(scared of their wives)
Maybe we’re just too stressed out! (even the kids)
Old National Library was replaced by an ugly tunnel
Singaporean men can’t take independent women
People blow their nose into the swimming pool
And fall asleep on my shoulder in the train
Singapore’s national bird is the crane (the one with yellow steel girders)
Real estate agents’ leaflets clogging up my mailbox (en bloc, en bloc; en bloc, en bloc)
Why can’t we be buried when we die?
No one wants to climb Bukit Timah with me
There are not enough public holidays
My neighbor sings KTV all night
Wedding dinners never start on time
My hair is always cut shorter than I want
Channel 5 commercials are way too long
Why do men turn bad?
*At first it was to speak more mandarin
Then it was to speak proper English
What’s wrong with my powderful Singlish?
People sit down during rock concerts
We have to pay for tap water at restaurants
ERP gantries are everywhere
But I can still see traffic jams on the road
All the bus stops have tilted benches to keep you off balance