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Diverse creative journeys behind original NDP songs

Singers coped with personal struggles such as loss of family and disruptions brought about by Covid-19

Over the past few months, singer-songwriter Sezairi Sezali went through personal hardship as he worked to fine-tune the chorus to National Day Parade (NDP) original song Breathing City.

The axing of gigs and loss of his cat and a family member during this period were some of the woes.

As he wrote the lyrics of the chorus - "can't wait to see our children standing on the moon" - at home, he was reminded to be hopeful as he looked out of his window, he told reporters yesterday.

From his flat, he saw a "sliver of empty space in the night sky, two buildings and the moon right in the middle".

"I was like, I'm so lucky to be able to see the moon tonight... this is hopeful, that the universe is still trying to show me everything's still here," said Mr Sezairi.

The 34-year-old will be performing the song - one of three original compositions this year - at the NDP tomorrow. He made his NDP debut in 2010, a year after winning singing contest Singapore Idol.

Asked what he wants viewers to take away from his composition, he said he hopes people will start to think of what they can do for others around them.

"I have personally been through a very tough time during Covid-19 - I've lost family, lost a pet, lost a couple of people - and the one thing I've learnt is that life really, really is fleeting," he noted.

"For me, it's really about putting in the work to tell people you love them. We take it for granted that we see the people we love every day."

Mr Sezairi, who is performing at the NDP for the third time, drew inspiration for the song after watching a nature documentary that featured Singapore's greening efforts.

"While we need songs that can be sung together collectively, at the same time, things like that sometimes limit the artistes," he said.

"Sometimes you just want to experiment with your thoughts and feelings... I'm so thankful to be given the opportunity to write an original song about how I feel about this country honestly."

SPECIAL

Even though the NDP this year has been pushed from Aug 9, this edition still feels the most special to him because of its unique set of challenges and the people involved, he added.

About 600 performers are expected to be in the spotlight at the Marina Bay floating platform during the show segment.

While Mr Sezairi took months and went through multiple iterations of the song, fellow singer Aisyah Aziz, 27, co-wrote Spirits Anew with Harun Amirrul Rasyid Mohamed in a day.

Theirs and theme song The Road Ahead by Linying and Evan Low, are the other two original songs this year.

Ms Aisyah said the song, which was inspired by a line in the National Anthem, was about listening to one's inner voice and finding happiness within, amid the chaos caused by Covid-19.

"It was easy to write the song because we were writing from our feelings," she added.

Vocalist Shabir Tabare Alam, 36, will perform his original song Singai Naadu - translated as Lion City - at the NDP for the first time, in the third act of tomorrow's show.

He said it has become more difficult for him to sing the song, which was released in 2012.

"(The song) now means different things. Because we're in this struggle together... it's so difficult to sing this without breaking down, as it means different things to you and the people around you," he added.

"So I guess that is the biggest challenge for me - to keep it together and to perform it properly."

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