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Ms Indranee Rajah sings in the Bollywood Cutting Edge, a fund raising event – October 10th, 2012

Tanglin-Cairnhill Constituency Citizens’ Consultative Community Development and Welfare Fund and SINDA had jointly organized the Bollywood Cutting Edge – The Trilogy on 25 August at Hotel Mandarin Orchard.

This event, a fund-raising charity dinner, was organized to raise funds for SINDA (Singapore Indian Development Association), as well as for the under-privileged families living in the Tanglin-Cairnhill constituency.

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Mr: Tharman Shanmugaratnam was the Guest of Honor.

Ms Indranee Rajah, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar and President, Singapore Indian Development Association, (SINDA), surprised the audience with her singing two songs, one in Tamil and another in Hindi.

Here comes Ms Indranee Rajah’s interview in regard to her performance:

1. How did this idea of performance rise?

Maniza Jhumaboy agreed to organize a dinner and fashion show for the Tanglin-Cairnhill Community Development and Welfare Fund ( that’s the charity fund for my constituency division) and SINDA as joint beneficiaries. I was thinking about how we could raise funds in addition to those from the ticket sales. So I approached a group of Chinese businessmen who regularly support our community and asked, if I sang two songs, whether they would agree to donate 100,000 for the event. They readily and generously agreed.

I decided to sing one Tamil song and one Hindi song because I think they are both beautiful languages, and precisely because I don’t speak either language. I feel that if one is asking for donations one should also put in some effort. I have sung in Mandarin and Cantonese with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra before and in English with the SSO. In this case, learning to sing in Tamil and Hindi would be a new challenge, and would be meaningful having regard to my role as President of SINDA. The message I wanted to convey, especially to SINDA students, was that you must not be afraid to learn something new even if it is difficult, and you must always try. Also, that you can learn new things at any stage in life. Some friends were concerned that people might laugh at me if I could not do it well enough. But I figured that if I hold back from learning something just because I’m afraid I might fail, or that people might laugh at me, then I will never learn anything new. So I decided I would go for it.

2. Why did you choose this song?

I first heard the Tamil Song “Who’s a Hero” at the Official opening of the Vasantham channel a few years ago. I remember thinking back then that it was a fun and a catchy song, and that if I ever had a chance to learn it I would. So when this cropped up, that was the first Tamil song that came to my mind. It has a nice rhythm, and I thought people would enjoy it. The Hindi song, Ye Samaar was the suggestion of Mdm Maheshwaree, the wife of Mohammed Raffee, who was my singing coach for the two songs. The two songs also present a nice contrast – Ye Samaar has a very 1960s feel to it, whilst “Who’s a Hero” is modern, but with jazz roots.

3. Do you have any prior singing experience? If yes, can you share that with us, please?

No professional singing experience, if that’s what you mean. However, I did sing with the church choir from the time I was very young until my teens. The choir master ( who was also the pastor) taught us singing techniques like how to control your breathing when singing, how to reach and hold high notes etc. Also, at my alma mater, Marymount convent, we had regular singing once a week after assembly. We also had a drama teacher at Marymount, Mrs Elma Thwaites, who used to produce musicals. I performed in a couple of them, and she taught us how to sing properly for stage performances. And then of course, much later in life, I became an MP, and as everyone knows, as an MP, chances are that sooner or later you will have to sing at one community function or another. No escape, so you have to sing whether you are trained or not!

4. How long did you practise for this performance?

I had 10 practice sessions over about 6 weeks.

5. Can you kindly share the experiences/challenges of your practice session?

The practice sessions were very enjoyable because Raffee was a very good teacher. My biggest challenge was in trying to get the pronunciation right. I don’t speak either language and did not learn either in school. I went to school in the days before the Mother Tongue Policy was introduced, so I did Malay. I had lots of difficulty with the “r”s and “l”s in Tamil, and with the “th” in Hindi. I could never tell the difference between when I was getting them right and when I got them wrong. Whenever Raffee corrected me I would protest because it sounded exactly the same to me, although he would insist that there was a difference! Eventually I got the hang of it, even though I don’t think it can be said that my pronunciation was perfect.

6. You are a good stage speaker. Equally where you at ease, singing on stage?

I was okay with singing on stage. My biggest worry was that I might forget the words which I had to memorize, but thank goodness I did not!

7. How was the response to your performance?

No one asked for their money back, so I think it went all right! Lots of people were very encouraging, and said that they appreciated my making the effort even though I did not speak either language.

8. Who helped you in designing your costumes for the performance?

The lengha was ready made. It was not designed specially for me. I only had to get it fitted, and to lengthen the blouse a bit as the original version of the blouse was a little too revealing! I had actually bought the outfit long before the charity event. At the time I bought it, I chose it because I thought it was an unusual design, and I liked the colour combination. The wrap-around strings of beads were also an interesting feature. I decided to wear it for the charity event because it was a traditional Indian dress with a fresh modern twist, which reflected the two songs well.

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