Saturday, February 02, 2008

Singing bird squashed

Wow! What a surprise this Saturday. My family in Singapore are having their Chinese New Year reunion dinner and I can't be there. And the Straits Times has published in the print section my letter in response to the banning of the Singapore Complaints Choir from public performances.

I remember once in the Slovak Republic I told a bunch of university students from the Baltic states that if they wished to have their voices heard, they must write to the press. They must write and keep writing, and soon the editor would get so fed up, he/she would publish a letter.

If only they had spelt my friend's name correctly. (Actually, I think I might have been the one who spelt 'Marjorie' wrong. Sorry, Marge.) So here is their edited version:


Feb 2, 2008

Why squash singing bird amid renaissance drive?
THE prohibition against foreign members performing in the Complaints Choir just does not square with the current debate on renaissance and graciousness.

Like every other netizen I rushed to hear what they had to complain about, and found their complaints quite innocuous, mainly about habits that many of us deem 'ungracious'.

The piano playing was feisty and while it is not quite Mozart, it gave me a good laugh. And that I think is what the Complaints Choir is all about.

It is an opportunity to laugh at ourselves in song. It combines the skills of writing, singing, rapping, and teamwork in an effort to showcase aspects of our Singapore culture. What can be wrong with that?

It is part of our human nature to want to create (beautiful art, poetry, music, buildings, babies, etc). We can channel this creative energy into good, or into bad. We limit these legitimate channels of expression at the expense of something else.

The presence of 'foreigners' is a moot argument. If they can keep the country running whether as a domestic maid, a sportsman or any other form of foreign talent, they should be allowed to sing in a choir.

It's not like they wrote the lyrics and held a knife to the throats of local choir members and said, 'Sing this, or else ....'

I was reminded of what my dear friend Majorie said of her grandfather's wise words on driving: imagine holding the steering wheel as if you are holding on to a little bird. If you don't hold it tightly enough, it flies away. Hold it too tightly and you'd squash it.

If we are striving for cultural renaissance, why are we squashing this singing bird?

Now the whole world is laughing at us because we can't laugh at ourselves.


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