It was reported earlier that Indian public relation firm, Pauline Communications, came forward on Sunday (14 Mar) pointing out that it had bought the rights to the music and lyrics of Singapore’s national song ‘Count on Me Singapore’ from a man who claimed to own it (‘‘Count on Me S’pore’ plagiarism fiasco: Indian PR company says it bought rights to lyrics and music‘).
This is in reference to the recent plagiarism fiasco surrounding the song, which has shown up in multiple videos online with the lyrics being almost identical to the 1986 Singaporean version. The Indian version, titled “We Can Achieve”, simply changed all mentions of “Singapore” to “India” or “Mother India”.
Multiple plagiarized versions of the song had been uploaded online sometime between July last year and January this year. On YouTube, one version was uploaded in August last year.
In the credits, the song was attributed to an individual named Joey Mendoza. Pauline Communications at India said that it had bought the rights to the song in question from Mendoza. “We would like to inform you that we had produced this song with the help of Mr. Joey Mendoza who sold the copyright of the lyrics and music to us, claiming he owned it,” Pauline India said.
It added that it was not aware that the song has been a Singapore’s national song since 1986.
Joey Mendoza responds
Not long after Pauline India posted its official response on its Facebook page, Mendoza, who claimed to have originally owned it posted a follow-up response on Pauline India’s Facebook page.
Mendoza said that the original version of the song ‘We Can Achieve’ was first written at Bal Bhavan, Mumbai, in 1983, and thereafter performed publicly on 1 May, 1983. The National Bal Bhawan (NBB) is an autonomous institute, run by the Indian government for the purpose to provide opportunities for the creative pursuits to children in India.
“Thereafter it has been used in different schools, colleges and B’Ed institutes, in different variants and has been used widely and well. It’s a very popular song here and loved by all,” Mendoza continued.
“In 1999 Pauline (India) decided to produce the original version since there were many variants going across. Singapore released its national song ‘Count on Me Singapore’ in 1986… With due honour to Singapore, I was not aware of this song until two days ago.”
“With no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, I want to lay the fact clear that I’ve written the ‘We Can Achieve’ song,” Mendoza insisted.
On Mendoza’s Facebook page, he wrote that he is a former composer and producer at Paisley Creative Studios and studied at Musicians Institute (MI) located at Hollywood, California. MI was founded in 1977 and is a College of Contemporary Music built on the idea that musicians should teach and learn from other musicians in a creative, supportive environment
Hugh Harrison responds and singles out error from Indian version of song
Most Singaporeans, of course, would know that ‘Count on Me Singapore’ is a national song sung since the 80s.
According to a news report, it was written and composed by Canadian Hugh Harrison. At the time, Mr Harrison was working for the McCann-Erickson advertising agency when the then Ministry of Culture asked a number of big-name advertising agencies to come up with a campaign for the 25th anniversary of self-governance in 1984. Mr Harrison’s agency won the tender.
Mr Harrison told the media in 2013 that after he wrote the first song, ‘Stand Up For Singapore’, which was a hit among Singaporeans, he left for a job in Hong Kong. While there, he got word that the Singapore government wanted a new song “that was directed at the country’s youth”.
He said, “On the plane from Hong Kong to Singapore, I had a vision of young people standing together resolutely shouting to their leaders ‘You can count on us!'” And so ‘Count On Me Singapore’ was then written over a weekend, he recalled. He went on to write his third Singapore national song, ‘We Are Singapore’.
Mr Harrison now in his early 70s has his own YouTube channel.
When news broke that Mendoza claimed he wrote the song in question, Mr Harrison went to investigate and responded on his YouTube channel yesterday (15 Mar):
Mr Harrison immediately spotted an error in the Indian version of the song. “Unfortunately he (Mendoza) didn’t do a very good job of copying the song. I noticed that the line ‘We are told no dream’s too bold they we can’t try for’ had been transcribed as ‘We are told no dreams to hold they we can try for’ whatever that might mean. Maybe Joey can explain,” Mr Harrison noted.
Mr Harrison later posted again, “From what I saw, Joey messed up when he transcribed the lyrics and wrote We are told no dreams to hold that we can try for. What does that mean? I guess you would have to ask Joey.”
“The fact is, the song evolved both lyrically and melodically over several months with input from both the (Singapore) government, the agency and the musical production team. All these stages of development are well-documented. It would certainly be a wild coincidence after all the changes that took place that we happened to land exactly on Joey Mendoza’s version,” Mr Harrison added.
“I think he would have a hard time producing any evidence of creation, performance or production of the song in 1983. In fact, it would be impossible since Count on me Singapore did not exist prior to 1986 and was composed specifically for Singapore with input from Richard Tan of MCI, Brian Watson from McCann-Erickson, Jeremy Monteiro and numerous others.”
So, who do you believe, Joey Mendoza or Hugh Harrison? Whose account of the event is more plausible?