Here’s another thing to complain about, S’poreans

Singapore: a clean, tropical island state that has strongly discouraged1 public performances of the fairly innocuous Complaints Choir (the original Birmingham version, in the home country of the bright sparks who thought it up-Helsinki and elsewhere in the world). (via the ever on-the-ball Elia Diodati)

Copied and pasted from the choir’s website, an explanation of the brouha from the choir’s point of view:

ATTENTION! UPDATE: “All public performances of the Complaints Choir of Singapore have been cancelled. The Singaporean authorities did not want to issue a permission for public performances if foreign choir members wouldn’t leave the choir. The choir has few members who are permanently living in Singapore but who are not Citizens. The Malaysian born choir conductor and the artists Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen weren´t given a permission to perform either.

The choir decided that they did not want to perform under these circumstances and hence all public performances were cancelled.

Complaints Choir is a project, where people are invited to complain about anything they want to and sing the complaints out with fellow complainers. The individual complaints are transformed into a cheerful choir song within a workshop process, which unites participants coming from different backgrounds.

The humorous complaints choir performances have been popular all over the world. This is the first time the Complaints Choir project created negative attention due to the reactions of authorities.

The lyrics contain mostly daily irritations like “People put on fake accents to sound posh” and “My neighbour sings KTV all night”. In the chorus the choir sings: “What’s wrong with Singapore, loosing always makes me feel so sore, cause if you are not the best then you are just one of the rest. Oh my, oh Singapore, what exactly are we voting for. What’s not expressively permitted is prohibited”. The relation between daily complaints and political ones were in average the same than in other countries where the project has been realised. The authorities did not come to follow the rehearsals before making their decision.

It was a strong provocation for us to hear that the authorities wanted the Non-Singaporean choir members to be excluded from the choir performances. This would have spoilt the project’s intention to create a strong sense of community, a community that is based on shared complaints about life in Singapore here and now.
We are disappointed that our prejudices against Singapore have been affirmed. We find it irritating that foreigners – people that built this city, nurse Singaporean kids and bring in their knowledge – are not allowed to complain.” – Tellervo + Oliver Kalleinen

I honestly can’t think of a country where the inhabitants complain more than Singaporeans. It’s part of our cultural identity. Even if the government was the most benevolent in the world (which they would have you believe), Singaporeans would still find something to complain about. Amongst the physical complaints the Complaints Choir lists are the humidity (geawd the humidity hits you hard when you land), the population density (everyone is stacked over someone else, even when you’re dead) and the lack of natural resources. Cultural complaints include the kiasu and kiasi mentality (it follows you out of the country; i should know). There are maybe one or two sly comments about the governing body, but nothing scandalous and a common complaint the world over.

According to the choir, the government’s main complaint2 is the inclusion of non-Singaporeans in the choir. While the choir could well choose to perform with a cast of only Singaporeans by birth, but that would be, um what’s an un-sue-able word, overly nationalist? Ah, these meddlesome foreigners – teaching innocent Singaporeans how to complain, making them dissatisfied with their lot, encouraging them to find their voice (wot they already have, albeit only when they’re sure the room isn’t bugged).

Some even-keeled local response3.


1 I want to say banned here. It has been all-but-banned, but technically, they’ve just made it impossible to get a performing licence without the choir losing its conductor and some of its performers.

2 fully intended sans apology.

3 It’s appropriate how the link has been auto/deliberately truncated to “complaints-choi”, “choi” being a dialect (Hokkien? Cantonese?) word exclaimed when you want to negate the possibility of something happening. Kinda like “touch wood”.

Update: For fear of the lyrics and the youtube video disappearing into the ether as sometimes happens, copied and pasted below.

THE COMPLAINTS CHOIR SINGAPORE LYRICS

We get fined for almost everything
Drivers won’t ‘give chance’ when you want to ‘change lane’
The indoors are cold, the outdoors are hot;
And the humid air, it wrecks my hair
Those answering machines always make you hold
Only to hang up on you

When a pregnant lady gets on the train
Everyone pretends to be asleep
I’m stuck with my parents till I’m 35
Cause I can’t apply for HDB
We don’t recycle any plastic bags
But we purify our pee

*chorus:
What’s wrong with Singapore?
Losing always makes me feel so sore
Cause if you’re not the best
Then you’re just one of the rest

My oh my Singapore
What exactly are we voting for?
What’s not expressly permitted
is prohibited

“Ooh”

When I’m hungry at the food court, I see
People ‘chope’ seats with their tissue paper
To the aunty staying upstairs:
Your laundry’s dripping on my bed sheets
Please don’t squat on the toilet seats
And don’t clip your nails on MRT

Stray cats get into noisy affairs
At night my neighbor makes weird animal sounds
People put on fake accents to sound posh
And queue up 3 hours for donuts
Will I ever live till eighty five
to collect my CPF?

*chorus

Singaporeans too kiasu! (so scared to lose)
Singaporeans too kiasi! (so scared o die)
Singaporeans too kiabor!(scared of their wives)
Maybe we’re just too stressed out! (even the kids)

“Ooh”

Old National Library was replaced by an ugly tunnel
Singaporean men can’t take independent women
People blow their nose into the swimming pool
And fall asleep on my shoulder in the train

Singapore’s national bird is the crane (the one with yellow steel girders)
Real estate agents’ leaflets clogging up my mailbox (en bloc, en bloc; en bloc, en bloc)
Why can’t we be buried when we die?
No one wants to climb Bukit Timah with me

*chorus

“Ooh”

There are not enough public holidays
My neighbor sings KTV all night
Wedding dinners never start on time
My hair is always cut shorter than I want
Channel 5 commercials are way too long
Why do men turn bad?

*At first it was to speak more mandarin
Then it was to speak proper English
What’s wrong with my powderful Singlish?

People sit down during rock concerts
We have to pay for tap water at restaurants
ERP gantries are everywhere
But I can still see traffic jams on the road
All the bus stops have tilted benches to keep you off balance

*chorus

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