Since the introduction of 'Stand Up For Singapore' back in 1984, National Day Parade (NDP) theme songs have been essential components of Singapore's birthday celebrations over the decades.
Featuring homegrown artists such as Kit Chan, Tanya Chua, Taufik Batisah and Rui En, Mel Ferdinands and Mahani Mohd, and Electrico, these creations differ in terms of style and sound but are united by a shared ability to remind us of our identities as inhabitants of the Little Red Dot.
Continuing that tradition, the latest addition to the library of NDP theme songs, 'Shine Your Light', is an inspirational number that reminds Singaporeans of the remarkable journey they have been on and encourages them to courageously go forth and "shine [their] light upon the world".
Composed and co-produced by returning NDP Music Director Don Richmond, the NDP 2023 theme song is brought to life by the voices of pop rock band 53A, rapper ShiGGa Shay (who also penned the song's lyrics alongside Richmond), jazz and Mandopop vocalist Olivia Ong, hip-hop artist and producer LINEATH, folk-pop singer-songwriter lewloh, rising pop and R&B act Iman Fandi, and vocal outfit The Island Voices.
In the first installment of Hear65's four-part Behind NDP 2023 mini-series, four of this year's featured artists — ShiGGa Shay, Olivia Ong, LINEATH, and lewloh — reveal what it was like working on 'Shine Your Light' and talk about the kind of impact they hope to leave through the track.
What was your reaction to finding out that you would be a part of this year’s NDP theme song?
SHIGGA SHAY: When Don Richmond asked me to be a part of this year’s NDP theme song, I was really honoured. It’s a huge honour for any artist to be able to contribute to a national celebration like NDP. This would also be the first time they featured a full rap verse on a NDP theme song. I guess the main challenge was striking the right balance between crafting a catchy song and ensuring that it conveyed the desired message that captured the spirit of our nation. Don wrote most of the song, while I only wrote Iman Fandi and LINEATH's parts, including my rap verse. We wanted the song to resonate with all Singaporeans, regardless of background or musical preference.
Credit: DRINK Entertainment
"It’s a huge honour for any artist to be able to contribute to a national celebration like NDP."
OLIVIA: I was delighted! And I’m happy to be part of it because through this year’s NDP theme song, I got to know other talented artists who are also on this song!
LINEATH: I felt a sense of pride and joy to be on this year's NDP theme song. It's an opportunity that rarely comes by and I'm very grateful to have been chosen to sing it.
LEWLOH: So I was actually in Hong Kong on tour, and I got a call from Don Richmond, telling me that I was going to be a part of the NDP theme song. And honestly, I think I was in a bit of disbelief. And I was in that state for about two months because, I don't know, being a part of the NDP project wasn't even one of my milestones because I just didn't think it would ever happen to me. I think it only really sunk in when I was at the Padang doing the rehearsals. I was like, "Wait, I'm actually a part of the theme song." Even today, I'm still a bit in disbelief. I'm like, "Wait, I'm going to be a part of this — it's very cheesy — but part of history." So yeah, that was my genuine reaction. I honestly just didn't even let myself celebrate. I was like, "Nah, this is a prank."
Credit: Where Are The Fruits
"Being a part of the NDP project wasn't even one of my milestones because I just didn't think it would ever happen to me."
What was the experience of collaborating with other local artists like while you were recording ‘Shine Your Light’?
SHIGGA SHAY: Collaborating with Don Richmond while recording “Shine Your Light” was an incredible experience. The studio sessions were filled with creative energy, synergy, and a shared commitment to create something special for Singapore. The collaborative process allowed us to bounce ideas off each other, bringing different perspectives and strengths to the table.
OLIVIA: I didn’t get to meet the other artists when I recorded the song. However, it was fun to work with Don Richmond! I learnt that he is a very funny guy, has good energy, and is someone who is very encouraging as well.
LINEATH: I met everyone on the music video shoot day and it was their individual stories of how they got to be a part of this year's theme song that made me feel so excited. [I was] excited to start a new journey with this group of friends.
Credit: DRINK Entertainment
"I met everyone on the music video shoot day and it was their individual stories of how they got to be a part of this year's theme song that made me feel so excited."
LEWLOH: When I work on a song, it's usually just by myself or with one other person, so getting to hear other people's voices on the same track was just super refreshing. And it's almost like when you go into a kopitiam and you just like get to see so many cuisines in one place. It feels definitely like a privilege to get to be a part of a project with so many other people who have worked so hard and are super talented [and have] also [come to] share their voices. I think the key word here is privilege. You don't get to work on a project with so many talented and hardworking people at the same time.
Which line from the song do you relate to the most? Why?
SHIGGA SHAY: There are so many powerful lines in 'Shine Your Light,' but one that resonates with me deeply is "Let the sun dry your tears, let the light put out your fears, Lion City, this is family for a few hundred years." This line holds a special meaning for me as it beautifully encapsulates the idea of resilience, hope, and the strong sense of community that Singapore embodies. The phrase "let the sun dry your tears" speaks to the idea of overcoming adversity and finding solace in the light that shines upon us. It represents the strength and determination to rise above challenges, knowing that brighter days will come.
The second part of the line, "Let the light put out your fears, Lion City, this is family for a few hundred years," highlights the unwavering bond and unity among Singaporeans. It speaks to the rich history and shared experiences that have shaped our nation, emphasising the deep sense of kinship and belonging we feel. This particular line resonates with me because it encapsulates the message of unity, resilience, and the power of our collective history. It reminds us that, as Singaporeans, we are a family, supporting and uplifting each other through thick and thin, and that together, we can overcome any obstacle that comes our way.
"I’ve learnt on life’s journey that it takes courage and humility to shine your light."
OLIVIA: I’m going to say that it’s "Shine your light upon the world". I’ve learnt on life’s journey that it takes courage and humility to shine your light. There’s this quote by Kenneth H. Blanchard: “Humility does not mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less.”
Shine your light so that you are able to help others in your capacity as well!
LINEATH: It has to be "Shine your light upon the world". it serves as a reminder for me to be brave in who I am and what I have to offer to this world.
LEWLOH: It was actually the line that I was assigned. It's my verse, which is "Pack in our beliefs, we're dancing in the streets, onward as one." The reason why I resonate with that line so much is because it was actually a personal goal of mine over the past year, which was to just be so unapologetic about expression or expressing myself. And dancing on the street is something that honestly I feel like more Singaporeans should do. Just put on whatever earphones you are using and literally just be present. Just dance [and] express yourself.
In one sentence, tell us how you want Singaporeans to feel after listening to ‘Shine Your Light’.
SHIGGA SHAY: I want Singaporeans to feel a sense of pride, unity, and inspiration, knowing that each of us has the power to shine our light and make a positive impact on our nation and the world.
OLIVIA: We hope that you’ll catch the positive energy of the song!
LINEATH: Well, I hope that they will be encouraged after listening to this song.
LEWLOH: I want Singaporeans to feel empowered and encouraged to be unapologetically themselves.
Credit: Where Are The Fruits
"I want Singaporeans to feel empowered and encouraged to be unapologetically themselves."
You’re also featured in the music video for the song. Share your favourite memory of being on set with us.
SHIGGA SHAY: One of my favourite moments that stood out for me was seeing everyone come together on set for the finale scene during the music video shoot. Witnessing the vision we had conceptualised for the song and music video being brought to life was truly magical. Seeing the passion and dedication of the performers, the hard work of the production crew, and the enthusiasm of everyone involved created an electric environment. Despite the long hours and hard work, there was an undeniable sense of excitement and passion that filled the air, creating a memorable and uplifting atmosphere that captured the spirit of the song.
Credit: DRINK Entertainment
"Despite the long hours and hard work, there was an undeniable sense of excitement and passion that filled the air, creating a memorable and uplifting atmosphere that captured the spirit of the song."
OLIVIA: It was nice to finally meet the faces behind the voices on the NDP song during the MV shooting set! Everyone was so kind on set. It made shooting the music video a very pleasant experience!
LINEATH: The finale scene when everybody was on set. Meeting all the artists and the production team members for the first time was probably the most memorable part of that day.
LEWLOH: So my favourite memory was when we were filming the finale scene at Pasir Panjang Power Station, and there are two reasons. One was because I'd never filmed or been in a room where they used those fake firework things. I think they're called cold sparks. But to just be around like that technology, that was kind of cool.
The second one is, I feel like there's no way to escape the cheesiness because it's an NDP song, but it really felt like that last scene of Avengers: Endgame where all of the superheroes form up. Just being in that room was really super humbling for me because these are artists that I really look up to and admire. Even though we may not share the same genre, or we may not be from the same community, I know how hard they've worked and I know how how much talent they all have and just seeing us come together and beyond that, that final scene together [made me go], "Wow, okay. I feel small in a good way. If I'm on the same stage as these guys, then maybe that says a lot also about my own journey so far."
There have been many NDP theme songs over the years, and yours is the latest one to join a list that includes tracks like ‘Home’, ‘Stand Up For Singapore’, and ‘Count on Me Singapore’. How do you hope Singaporeans will remember ‘Shine Your Light’?
SHIGGA SHAY: I hope that Singaporeans will remember 'Shine Your Light' as an anthem that celebrates unity, resilience, and the power of collective strength. Just as the iconic NDP theme songs of the past hold a special place in our hearts, we hope 'Shine Your Light' becomes a timeless reminder of the indomitable spirit of Singapore.
OLIVIA: NDP songs usually reflect the times that we are in so I’d say let the words "shine your light" be the mantra you start carrying with you this year and beyond! There’s no better time than now to take up courage, realise your potential and be the best that you can be!
"NDP songs usually reflect the times that we are in so I’d say let the words 'shine your light' be the mantra you start carrying with you this year and beyond!"
LINEATH: I hope that they will remember this song as the song that had an upbeat energy which invokes camaraderie and passion to believe in yourself.
LEWLOH: I hope Singaporeans will remember 'Shine Your Light' as a personal anthem. I think previous NDP songs maybe focused more on the external and how, you know, we can come together and bring Singapore forward. But I think 'Shine Your Light' is very much about self-reflection. And it's about how I present myself or how I celebrate my individuality. How do I shine my own personal light? How do I be myself more? And so yeah, this song is for you. It's really just for you. When you listen to it, when Singaporeans listen to it, it's just a reminder to celebrate [themselves].