‘Puzzled’ Singaporean officials waiting on proof Indian composer wrote patriotic anthem

Coconuts Singapore
·3-min read

Singapore’s guardians of culture said today they were still looking into a soundalike version of patriotic anthem Count On Me, Singapore, saying they were “puzzled” by an Indian composer’s assertion that his version was penned several years earlier.

The ministry today responded to Joseph Mendonza’s allegations that he originally composed his version of the song three years before it debuted in Singapore in 1986, adding that officials were waiting for the 58-year-old musician, who performs as Joey Mendoza, to come forward with proof.

“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. We have thus contacted Mr Mendoza to invite him to substantiate his claims,” the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth said in a statement.

Though the first record of Mendonza’s song came in 1999; he told Coconuts that he had taught it to hundreds of orphans 16 years earlier.

The ministry last week appeared to back off from a statement it was looking into whether his version, We Can Achieve, stepped on any intellectual property toes, saying it was pleased Singapore’s song “struck a chord” with the people of India.

We are aware that a song titled “We Can Achieve” that bears striking similarity in tune and lyrics to our national song…

Posted by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth – MCCY on Wednesday, 17 March 2021

250 orphans are ‘living proof’ my song came before ‘Count On Me Singapore’: Indian composer

But apparently, that didn’t mean that it was dropping the matter. In today’s statement, it said officials were aware of an apology from Pauline India, the Christian media company in India which paid Mendoza for the rights to record We Can Achieve in 1999.

Pauline India removed the song from SoundCloud, where it had been included on a playlist of patriotic songs.

“We do not think any ill will was intended either by Pauline India or the school, and have accepted the apology,” the ministry said.

Mendonza told Coconuts on Tuesday that he wrote We Can Achieve in 1983 for 250 orphans to sing and perform at Mumbai’s Bal Bhavan orphanage. He said he was only paid INR2,000 (S$37 or US$27) after he sold the song to Pauline India in 1999. His recordings of the song were lost when Mumbai flooded in 2005, he said.

Singaporeans discovered We Can Achieve only recently on YouTube, where one video featured a teacher and students singing it. They have since been removed.

Ministry officials would not say whether they were undertaking any legal action for copyright infringement. Hugh Harrison, the Canadian composer of Count On Me, Singapore, has called on Mendonza to stop claiming he was its creator, noting that it was “impossible” for the song to have existed before 1986.

Other stories you should check out:

250 orphans are ‘living proof’ my song came before ‘Count On Me Singapore’: Indian composer

Indian teacher called out for copying patriotic Singapore song removes video

This article, ‘Puzzled’ Singaporean officials waiting on proof Indian composer wrote patriotic anthem, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.