Folk Songs For A City

Dick Lee has contributed songs that reflect the Singapore state of mind over the years. In his own lighthearted way, his songs have come closest to becoming folk tunes. He talks to STORM about some of his compositions.

In 1995, the government needed more songs. So they created the Sing Singapore campaign, and every year, MITA, the arts ministry, would introduce new songs. They wanted to build a Singapore songbook. Fried Rice Paradise was put in there.

In 1996, they invited composers to write new songs as part of a competition. The theme for 1997 was the Singapore River, and my best friend, Dr Sydney Tan asked me take part. One lonely night in Hong Kong, I wrote the song Home. It won the competition, and became the theme song for the 1998 National Day Parade (NDP).

Home was not written as an NDP theme song. Maybe it appealed because it was not propaganda sounding.

Home was written 18 years ago, and maybe we have a folk song. If in another 20 years people are still singing it then it’s a folk song. Many generations can sing it.

I have monthly gigs where I perform three songs – Life Story, Fried Rice Paradise, and Home. The audience doesn’t want to hear new songs. These songs are part of our identity. And I’m linked inextricably to Singapore.

Singapore created me. Being Singaporean is our most unique thing. If you can have it in your music, that will set you apart.

Dick Lee Singapop 60th Birthday Concert is presented by the Rice Company.

The Star Theatre, 7.30pm

Tickets form $48–$168

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