In the ongoing copyright saga of ‘Count on Me Singapore’, Joseph Mendoza, accused of copying the Singapore national song, is now saying that it could all be “coincidental” but continues to maintain that he wrote the Indian version of the song in 1983, three years before the Singapore’s version was released in 1986.
According to a statement he released to the media yesterday (17 Mar), Mendoza recognized there are similarities between both songs except for the words “India” or “Mother India” in place of “Singapore”. But he thought that it could be a coincidence since there was no internet back in the 80s.
“There was no way I or the other composer could know that things would look so similar. (And no INTERNET ACCESS) With due respect to the other composer there are so many phrases that musically were connected and it could be all coincidental,” Mendoza said.
He also said that he only found out about ‘Count On Me Singapore’ a few days ago.
He further claimed that 250 orphans had performed the song in 1983 after he had written it while teaching music at the Bal Bhavan orphanage in Mumbai and that the original tapes of his composition were swept away in the 2005 Mumbai floods.
“The only living proof I can offer you are the 250 orphans who first learnt it in 1983 and all the orphans at Bal Bhavan in the successive years too,” Mendoza claimed. The Bal Bhavan orphanage has yet to respond to inquiries.
In an earlier statement, he also said that his song “has been used in different schools, colleges and B’Ed institutes (in India), in different variants and has been used widely and well”. He said, “It’s a very popular song here and loved by all.”
Hugh Harrison demands Mendoza to rescind his ownership claim
‘Count on Me Singapore’ was composed by Hugh Harrison, arranged by Jeremy Monteiro and performed by Clement Chow. The song was commissioned by the then Ministry of Culture in the 80s. It is now owned by the Singapore government.
Meanwhile, Mr Harrison also informed everyone on his YouTube channel yesterday that he has written to both Mendoza and the executive of Pauline Communications in Mumbai requesting that “certain actions be taken to address Mr Mendoza’s false claims to be the original creator of this song” (‘Ex-PR exec demands man in India to rescind ownership claim while MCCY says imitation of song “best form of flattery”‘).
“I will let you know if and when I get a reply and how I intend to respond should corrective action not be forthcoming,” he told everyone. “Thank you all for your kind words and support.”
Mr Harrison deemed Mendoza has “illegally” repackaged the Singapore national song. He also added that Pauline Communications clearly has the right to sue Mendoza for “selling them a song to which he had no rights”.
“The fact that he is claiming now in 2021 that he is the original creator of the song implying I copied the song from him is a direct attack on my integrity and professionalism and for that he could be sued for slander and/or libel,” Mr Harrison further noted.
“As it stands now, I have written him and given him the opportunity to rescind his claim and am awaiting his response.”
But Mendoza continues to maintain that he is the original composer and even attributed the whole incident as “coincidental”.
MCCY “surrenders”, later asks Mendoza to substantiate his claim
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) had originally said last week it was investigating potential copyright infringement before backing off.
MCCY said last Fri (12 Mar), “We are happy that it (the song) seems to have struck a chord with people in India as well.”
“We thank Singaporeans for coming forward to express your sense of pride in our national song. It may be a copy of our song, but sometimes, imitation is the best form of flattery!”
With that statement, it appears that MCCY has closed the case and decided not to do anything further on the matter. MCCY is headed by Minister Edwin Tong, who used to defend Kong Hee fervently in the City Harvest trial before Tong became a minister.
Now, however, the Ministry has come forward (18 March) to asked Mr Mendoza to “substantiate” his claim that he wrote the song “We Can Achieve” in 1983, before “Count on Me, Singapore” was created in 1986.
In its Facebook post, MCCY said: “Given that the two songs, and their lyrics, are practically identical, and that we hold the copyright to “Count on Me, Singapore”, we are puzzled by this claim.”
MCCY reiterated in its post that the Government of Singapore holds the copyright to the music and lyrics of “Count on Me, Singapore”.