Rainbow, a song by Taiwanese singer, Zhang Hui Mei – or Ah Mei, as the singer is popularly known – was not included in her repertoire in a recent concert in Singapore because the organiser had “decided not to include the song in the line-up.”
This was according to a statement by the Media Development Authority (MDA) on 1 July 2014.
Ah Mei’s Spring Wave Singapore concert was held at Gardens by the Bay on 7 June, as part of the annual Spring Wave series of concerts in Taiwan.
The omission of the song in the Singapore concert gave rise to controversy as it is a popular song for fans of the singer.
The organiser, Leap Integrated Marketing Solutions, the marketing and PR consultancy outfit for the event, had revealed just days before the event itself that Ah Mei would not be singing the song at the concert.
The song, called 彩虹 in Chinese, is apparently about a relationship between a couple. Some of the words in the song have been interpreted to refer to homosexuality, or gay people or relationship.
The title of the song itself, Rainbow, is seen by some as alluding to the rainbow-coloured flag, which is used to symbolise gay rights or the gay community.
According to one English translation of the lyrics of the Chinese song:
The closet isn't consider that wide to store your paradise
Still, you've invited me to share it (with you)
Our love is alike
We've all been hurt by men
However, (we) still continue to be hurt
However, what seems to have gotten the goat of the MDA is not the lyrics of the song but the venue where the song would be performed – at the outdoor area of the Gardens, accessible to the general public – and what had happened during an earlier concert by Ah Mei here in Singapore when the song was being sung.
In an earlier statement, the MDA had apparently taken issue with the fact that the concert would be held in an open area of the Gardens by the Bay.
It said that “the nature of outdoor performances at public spaces, such as Spring Wave which was held at Gardens by the Bay, makes it difficult” for the authorities to issue “consumer advisories” which would “allow consumers to make more informed media choices for themselves and their children.”
“Hence,” the MDA said, “organisers of these events should ensure that their performances are suitable for general audiences.”
Subsequently, the MDA said it “advised the organiser that an outdoor concert would typically allow only for content that is ‘General’ in rating.”
The MDA also took issue with what Ah Mei had done during the performance of the song at a concert last year.
“The authority also noted that when the artiste Zhang Hui Mei performed the song ‘Rainbow’ at her indoor concert in Singapore in January last year, she encouraged her fans to openly show affection for their same-sex partners and the camera had focused on the audience doing so.”
It was “due to this prior incident” that the MDA told the organiser that if the artiste performed the song this year the rating for the outdoor concert would have to be raised above ‘General’.
“The organiser then decided not to include the song in the line-up,” according to the MDA.
The MDA’s explanation, however, has been met with criticism, derision and disbelief.
Some have pointed out that Ah Mei’s song was innocuous, similar to thousands of similar love songs out there, about relationships between couples.
Others wanted the MDA to leave them to decide for themselves and make their own choices about such things, instead of having the authorities decide for them arbitrarily.
Han Ming Guang, commenting on a news report about the incident, pointed out that a video of the 2013 performance of Rainbow showed that it was “a large majority of heterosexual couples” who kissed during the song, which was picked up by the cameras and shown on the big screen on stage.
“If you think the song is questionable, then ban the song,” Mr Han said.
Others have asked why a single song is being effectively banned while an annual event – Pink Dot - celebrating the “freedom to love”, promoting gay relationships, is allowed at Hong Lim Park.
The MDA’s decision is the latest in a recent series of incidents on the topic of homosexuality, leading up to the Pink Dot event last weekend.
Muslim and Christian groups had, for the first time, expressed their opposition to the event publicly this year, which included a “Wear White” campaign by some Muslims as a sign of opposition to Pink Dot.
The Singapore government’s position on the issue is to urge both sides to “agree to disagree”.
Singapore society is not likely to come to a conclusion on gay rights, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in January last year.
"These are not issues that we can settle one way or the other, and it's really best for us to leave them be, and just agree to disagree. I think that's the way Singapore will be for a long time," he said.
Here’s MDA’s statement in full:
We refer to the recent feedback on the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) advice to the organiser of the Spring Wave Singapore concert, on the song “Rainbow”.
In licensing arts entertainment events such as pop concerts, the MDA’s objective is to provide classification ratings that will enable the public to make informed decisions on attending such events, in particular, whether the contents are appropriate for the young, while providing a diversity of media choices to adults.
For this concert, the MDA received the organiser’s arts entertainment licence application only a few days before the event.
The MDA advised the organiser that an outdoor concert would typically allow only for content that is “General” in rating. The authority also noted that when the artiste Zhang Hui Mei performed the song “Rainbow” at her indoor concert in Singapore in January last year, she encouraged her fans to openly show affection for their same-sex partners and the camera had focused on the audience doing so.
Due to this prior incident, the MDA told the organiser that if the artiste performed the song, the rating for the outdoor concert would have to be raised above “General”. The organiser then decided not to include the song in the line-up.
Director, Content and Standards
(Films, video games and Arts)
Media Development Authority