Think of Singapore’s entertainment scene, and one enduring name synonymous with our local media landscape comes to mind: Dick Lee.
The self-styled “Mad Chinaman” has been appointed as the Creative Director of the National Day Parade (NDP) 2019 and we can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve for spectators come August 9.
A true love of all things Singaporean, Dick uses Singapore as inspiration for his brand of musicality and lets it seep into every nook and cranny of his work throughout a 40-year career span, through his smash-hit national song Home or through his film Wonder Boy.
“I think the reason behind my longevity in the industry has everything to do with my Singaporean-ness,” he explains. “My best successes have been when I tried to be Singaporean, and made it a point to be Singaporean. That originality made me stand out, and was my greatest asset.”
For anybody with eclectic musical tastes, original is a word hard to come by in the music industry. Record labels like to play safe with tried-and-tested formulas that don’t rock the boat. That’s why Dick, in making Singapore his muse, was seen as avant-garde for his time.
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“In the eighties and nineties, Singapore was still a young country and we were not as established then on a global scale in terms of our music,” says Dick. “For one, we didn’t have any folk songs of our own. What we did have back then was simply borrowed from other ethnicities.”
This gave Dick a chance to develop Singapore’s identity from scratch, and by using his genre of pop music fused with a dash of local flavour, he created something that was uniquely us, for us.
“Take Home for example. The reason why it was such a hit was because I wrote it from the heart, and my heart, being a Singaporean heart, directed me musically,” he reveals about the iconic ditty he composed in 1998. “I was away from home then and I was feeling really down, so I didn’t have to try so hard with this song because I was going for the feeling of being Singaporean.”
Click through the gallery to see Dick in his natural element at Everton Park, his favourite Singaporean neighbourhood:
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