'If Dec means Xmas, Aug means NDP'
WHEN you think of December, you think of Christmas. And when it comes to August, singer-songwriter Dick Lee feels that National Day should occupy a similar perch.
More specifically, he is talking about the National Day Parade (NDP) on Aug 9.
"NDP has become a Singapore tradition. I can't imagine August without NDP," said the 57-year-old, who is providing the creative direction for tomorrow's show at the The Float @ Marina Bay.
And to produce a show that resonates with Singaporeans, Mr Lee, who has directed the 2002 and 2010 NDP shows, suggests that tradition is as important in August as it is in December.
"You do something else, like have a Christmas tree that is (made of) metal, it just does not feel right."
Similarly, with NDP, it will be back to basics - no musicals or abstract light displays. Instead, Mr Lee wants the hour-long NDP show to be a colourful song-and-dance session to celebrate the nation's 49th.
While there is no NDP theme song, one of the hallmarks of Singapore's birthday celebrations, spectators can still expect to sing along to past Singapore songs, which have been given a new spin in remixes and mash-ups that take on a pop feel, like One People, One Nation, One Singapore and Where I Belong.
The song that Mr Lee penned in 1996, Big Island, has already got many singing and tapping their feet at NDP rehearsals over the last few weeks.
Even Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen put up a short video clip of the song on his Facebook page earlier this week, saying it had an "infectious beat".
Providing the soundtrack for the show is music director Sydney Tan, who said he wanted the NDP music to be relevant to both young and old.
"It is about taking these songs and reinterpreting them in a way in which they (young and old) all can get it...I mash it all up, the vocabulary, the styles of then and now, to bring the familiar to you in a different way," said Dr Tan, who also provided the music score for the 2009 show.
But show organisers are not playing it all safe with feel-good songs and displays.
This year, there will be a segment of the show to illustrate the fears, anxieties and uncertainty that Singaporeans face today.
There will also be five short films, showcasing characters like a disabled boy and a former convict who face challenges in society.
Film director Boo Junfeng, who is behind the short films and multimedia effects, said that the clips will strike a chord with the wider public who can empathise with the circumstances.
While the films strike a sombre tone, they also celebrate the "can-do" spirit of every Singaporean, said Mr Boo.
Besides these reflective moments, show organisers still promise the familiar dazzling mass and fireworks displays tomorrow.
Mr Lee, who is also celebrating 40 years in the entertainment industry, said: "A lot of people like what NDP represents and the way it is presented...It has become part of our calendar and our lives.
"Maybe in the not-too-distant future, we may not even need an NDP and people will just celebrate National Day automatically...after all, the Government does not have to organise a show for us to celebrate Christmas."