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Count on Me, Singapore dispute: Indian composer says in reply to MCCY that 250 children are ‘living proof’ of his song

SINGAPORE — The Indian composer at the centre of a controversy involving a Singapore National Day song told TODAY that he has replied to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on the matter and that 250 children are “living proof” that he was the original composer of the song.

Count on Me, Singapore dispute: Indian composer says in reply to MCCY that 250 children are ‘living proof’ of his song

Mr Joseph Mendoza (pictured) said he had no clue that the song Count on Me, Singapore exists until up to a few days ago.

  • Mr Joseph Mendoza said that he has sent a reply to the Singapore Government on his song, We Can Achieve
  • There is a dispute over the song because it sounds like Count On Me, Singapore 
  • Mr Mendoza said he only has 250 children singing it as “living proof” that he first wrote it in 1983
  • He also said that he was not interested in going to court over the disputed copyright

 

SINGAPORE — The Indian composer at the centre of a controversy involving a Singapore National Day song told TODAY that he has replied to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on the matter and that 250 children are “living proof” that he was the original composer of the song.

Mr Joseph Conrad Mendoza, who emailed a copy of his reply to TODAY, told the ministry that he can send recently taken videos of people who were children at an orphanage singing it in 1983, “testifying that they’ve learnt the song”.

He also asked for MCCY's suggestions on what he should do in this situation.

The 58-year-old had claimed that he composed a song in 1983 called We Can Achieve that has been getting online attention this past week because it sounds similar to Count on Me, Singapore, which was first sung at the 1986 National Day celebrations here.

In the recently circulating video of We Can Achieve, all references to “Singapore” in the lyrics seemed to have been replaced with “India”.

Count on Me, Singapore was composed by Canadian Hugh Harrison, who had said that the copyright to the song belongs to himself and the Singapore Government, which had asked him to write the song while he was working for the McCann-Erickson advertising agency.

On Thursday (March 18), Mr Mendoza sent TODAY two videos of two different women, 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.

“I am not interested in any court or to justify anything… I don't earn anything out of this,” he wrote in an email to TODAY, adding that he had not heard from Mr Harrison.

In a Facebook post earlier on Thursday, MCCY said that the Singapore Government holds the copyright to the music and lyrics of Count on Me, Singapore.

The ministry is “puzzled” by Mr Mendoza’s claim that he wrote the original version of Count on Me, Singapore, and has asked him to substantiate his claims.

In his reply to MCCY, Mr Mendoza said: “With due respect to Singapore, her people and its culture and the composer, I had no clue that Count on Me, Singapore exists until up to a few days ago. 

“I look for neither money nor fame from this situation… (I) only seek the peace and goodwill of my Singaporean brethren.”

On providing evidence in physical form, he said that cameras were not easily accessible during those days.

“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 Shanmukhananda Sabha hall where the performance was held burnt down in February 1990 and there is thus no record of it. 

He said that as of now, the evidence he can send is the original lyrics and videos of the orphan children who took part in a performance in 1983 and are now adults, testifying that they have learnt the song. 

In 1999, Mr Mendoza sold the rights of the song to a Catholic publishing house Pauline Communications, which then released the track as part of a CD called We Can Achieve — Inspirational Songs for Children and All.

Pauline Communications, which is run by a community of religious sisters, also uploaded the song to music-sharing platform SoundCloud in 2012, which it has now removed.

“There was a cassette with one of the sisters, which failed to stand the test of time,” Mr Mendoza said.

Related topics

MCCY Count on Me Singapore Song India copyright

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