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Don Richmond, the NDP 2023 Music Director, co-wrote this year's NDP theme song with home-grown rapper Shigga Shay, who directed the music video. Image: Sim Ding En (left), Screenshot: Youtube/NDPeeps

It’s Feel-Good! It’s Catchy! It’s A Don Richmond NDP Theme Song!

When it comes to creating music and songs for Singapore’s National Day Parade (NDP), award-winning producer, singer, songwriter and composer Don Richmond is an old hand. He was the NDP Music Director in 2016, and took on the same role last year, penning the catchy and uplifting theme song “Stronger Together”, which was performed by Taufik Batisah and The Island Voices. According to Don, that number was akin to the closing chapter of a pandemic trilogy.

The 47-year-old has assumed the mantle once again this year, and co-written the NDP 2023 theme song, “Shine Your Light”, with home-grown rapper Shigga Shay, who also directed the music video. Performed by 53A, The Island Voices, lewloh, Olivia Ong, Shigga Shay, Iman Fandi, and Lineath, the song focuses on what’s next for Singapore, doing your best to achieve your dreams (i.e. shining your light), and, in the process, creating a positive impact on others.

The song ties in with this year’s NDP theme, “Onward as One”, a clarion call for all of us on this Little Red Dot to look forward and move onward as one united people.

We speak to Don about “Shine Your Light”, the creative process behind the feel-good ditty, and how the song reminds him of two very important people in his life – his wife, and his dad, broadcast veteran Brian Richmond. Awww!

What was the creative process like, and how long did it take to get this song right?

The initial ideas for it took about two days. At one point, I hit a wall, and I was trying to write backwards from there, cuz these days you can write songs in a non-linear fashion. There was always this middle section that felt like it needed something else, so I thought, what if it changed completely? Almost like shocking someone with a scene change. And that’s when I brought in Shigga. He listened to it, really liked it, and did his writing in half a day.

At some point, we knew that we were gonna get Iman in. I was like, what if we broke everything down, so that she’s not trying to fight with the beat. Let’s just have something nice and ethereal for her. We wrote that section for her in about half a day.

So if you put it all together, I would say in terms of man hours, maybe five days over, maybe, four weeks, to actually get it right.

What’s the difference between working with artists who’ve had experience performing at NDP (like Shigga, 53A, Olivia Ong and Island Voices) and those who haven’t (like Iman, lewloh and Lineath)?

That’s a very good question! People who’ve done it before show up knowing what frame of mind to be in cuz they know, okay, this is an NDP song. A lot of new singers come in with no idea of what they’re getting into – and I think it’s a good thing! Because with that, comes renewed energy as opposed to the slightly older energy of “a warrior that has already fought many battles”.

People like Iman come in with this very fresh, almost wide-eyed approach that’s very interesting. She came in and she looked a little like a deer in the headlights. But the minute she stood in front of the mic and started singing, her tone literally silenced the entire room. We were like, okay, we found the right person.

The lyrics talk about a million voices having one dream. Why is it so important to have a singular focus, whether it’s as a creative team, or as a family, or on a macro level as a nation?

Everyone dreams a little different, but the dream is always to do well, to find a way to do your best. And the one thing that binds us all together – different races, different ethnicities, different walks of life – is that at some point in your life, you always want to do better and to do your best. So the idea of “a million voices, one dream” is to me a very powerful image.

The NDP 2023 theme song is entitled “Shine Your Light”. Who comes to mind as someone who has shone their light, and, as a result, made a positive impact on you?

Oh wow. Watching how even up till today people react to my father, that really is a perfect example. When I was young, I remember us having dinners and, people always wanting to come up and talk to my dad about football or… anything!

And now, when I jump into a Grab and they see my name, Richmond, they go, “Are you Brian Richmond’s son?” And then when I say “yes”, you see the delight on their faces. Growing up, it was something I didn’t like, but the older I get, the more I realise it’s a sort of legacy that my father has left.

And it’s something to behold, because he got into whatever he was doing out of necessity. He didn’t necessarily have a great education, so he did anything he could, and somehow carved a way for himself. And this guy found a way to do his best, and did it on a national level. So he’s always the pinnacle of what to aspire to.

The song also talks about how there’s nothing we can’t handle in the pursuit of our dreams. What’s the biggest dream you had that got fulfilled?

Truth be told, I married the woman of my dreams! At one point in my life, I thought I was gonna be single for the rest of my life, because I never believed in “The One”. So I guess that was my biggest dream come true!

Bro, that is the best answer ever.

I’ll definitely ask my wife, “Eh you wanna read this article? Hey, come, come, read this!”

More about this year’s NDP

Fun facts about this year’s show:

  • It commemorates Singapore’s 58 years of independence.
  • It will be held at The Padang, where the first NDP was held in 1966.
  • One highlight to look out for is the Total Defence Parade – expect lots of floats, military and civil defence hardware, and multi-media.
  • Another highlight is a more tok kong aerial display to celebrate the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s 55th anniversary.
  • There’ll be a new Guard-of-Honour marching contingent from the Singapore Armed Forces’ fourth service, the Digital and Intelligence Service.
  • Expect crowd favourites including the Red Lions, Presidential Gun Salute and sensational fireworks.
  • Can't be present at The Padang? Catch the NDP celebrations, called “GetActive! Singapore Heartland Festival”, on 5 and 6 Aug at Bedok Stadium, Jurong West Stadium, Toa Payoh Stadium, and Woodlands Stadium; and on 6 Aug at Our Tampines Hub. The State Flag and fighter jets will be making their way here too. And yes, there’ll also be fireworks at these locations. Woo hoo!

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