In the latest twist to the ongoing copyright saga of ‘Count on Me Singapore’, Joseph Mendoza who is accused of copying the Singapore national song, has produced video testimonies of two former orphans from the Bal Bhavan Orphanage saying that they remember singing the Indian version of the song that Mendoza composed back in 1983 (‘Man in India produces video testimonies of 2 ex-orphans saying they sang his song in 1983‘).
After the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) asked Mendoza to produce proof of his ownership claim, Mr Mendoza, who emailed a copy of his reply to TODAY, told MCCY that he can send recently taken videos of people who were children at the orphanage singing it in 1983, “testifying that they’ve learnt the song”, 3 years before the release of the Singapore’s version.
He further sent TODAY the videos of 2 women on Thu (18 Mar), one who said that she was in the Bal Bhavan Orphanage from 1976 to 1989 and another who said that she was in the orphanage in 1983. Both said that they remember learning the song that he composed.
When asked for providing physical evidence, he replied they were destroyed in a flood, “All proof such as cassettes and sheets, that were proof of the performance, conception and originality of the work got washed away in the deluge of July 26, 2005 as the ground floor was completely submerged throughout Mumbai.” He added that the hall where the performance was held burnt down in 1990 and there is therefore, no record of it.
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.”
Jeremy Monteiro: “As Hugh Harrison was writing the song, I was sitting right next to him”
Singapore released the song ‘Count on Me Singapore’ during the National Day celebrations in 1986. It 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 mid-80s and is owned by the Singapore government. The 2 songs are almost the same except for the words “India” or “Mother India” replacing the word “Singapore”.
Earlier, Mr Harrison wrote on his YouTube Channel saying that Mendoza has “illegally” repackaged the Singapore national song. Mr Harrison also wrote to Mendoza asking him to rescind his ownership claim.
Straits Times (ST) later interviewed Jeremy Monteiro who recalled how he and Hugh Harrison had worked together to come up with the song. Mr Monteiro is a Singaporean musician and a recipient of the Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s pinnacle arts award, in 2002.
He vividly recalled how the song was written. He told ST that Mr Harrison and himself first started working on the song in late 1985 at the then B&J Recording Studios near Ayer Rajah. “As Hugh Harrison was writing the song, I was sitting right next to him,” said Mr Monteiro. “He is a lyricist and melodicist, and so I was there attaching the harmonies, almost in real time, to everything he composed in terms of lyrics and melody.”
“The sound engineer was there as well, and he saw the both of us sitting at the piano for hours on end… there was a four-hour period during one of those sessions when the entire song was written,” Mr Monteiro added.
Then there was also input from Mr Harrison’s boss Brian Watson, the managing director of advertising agency McCann Erickson and Mr Richard Tan, the director at the Ministry of Communications and Information at the time.
“We all saw the song birthed right in front of our eyes , so there’s no way Mr Mendoza could have written this song in 1983,” said Mr Monteiro who was also the music director and arranger for 2 other national songs – ‘Stand Up For Singapore’ (1984) and ‘We Are Singapore’ (1987), together with Mr Harrison. In addition, Mr Monteiro wrote the music for ‘One People, One Nation, One Singapore’ (1990).
Nevertheless, Mr Monteiro has asked for calm in view of the huge Singapore public backlash against Mendoza.
“I hope the outcome is that Mr Mendoza apologises, and then let them settle the financial and legal matters with Pauline India,” he said, referring to the India-based company which had bought the song rights from Mendoza.
“I hope Singaporeans can ‘chillax’ a bit and will let the matter sort itself out.”
In an interview with CNA, Mr Mendoza said, “I was teaching a song You Are My Sunshine You Are My Sunshine and as we and our whole thing was like a vision for children to build confidence and then this idea of the first part and sound came in from there.”
He added, “Because I’m a trumpet player and I was singing and then we put in some words together something to me that of all the compositions in my life, too.”
In response, Mr Harrison said, “”It’s insulting to me that out of all the compositions in my life, that this one I will choose, somehow, magically, find out about it in 1986 before the internet in one day when I flew from Hong Kong to Singapore,”
Meanwhile, after producing the video testimonies of 2 former orphans from the Bal Bhavan Orphanage, Mendoza is asking MCCY to suggest what he should do next.