Indian composer withdraws claims to Count on Me, Singapore, apologises for ‘confusion caused’
SINGAPORE: An Indian composer who said he wrote the song We Can Achieve – which is nearly identical to national song Count on Me, Singapore – has withdrawn his claims and apologised for the “confusion caused”, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said on Sunday (Mar 21).
Mr Joseph Mendoza earlier claimed that he composed We Can Achieve in 1983, three years before the creation of Count on Me, Singapore, after footage of a performance of the former went viral.
The lyrics of We Can Achieve are the same as Count on Me, Singapore, apart from the substitution of “India” or “Mother India” for “Singapore” and a minor difference in one of the verses.
Mr Mendoza, who goes by the name Joey Mendoza, claimed that evidence to back up his claims, such as cassettes and written documents, was destroyed in floods in Mumbai in 2005.
The Singapore Government holds the copyright to the music and lyrics of Count on Me, Singapore, which was composed by Canadian Hugh Harrison and arranged by Singapore jazz veteran Jeremy Monteiro for National Day celebrations in 1986. MCCY described Mr Mendoza’s claim as an “affront” to this.
“MCCY pressed Mr Joey Mendoza to substantiate his claims that he composed We Can Achieve in 1983. We take a serious view to this, as Mr Mendoza’s claim is a direct affront to our ownership in Count on Me, Singapore,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
“Contemporaneous evidence, and first-hand accounts, such as those of Mr Jeremy Monteiro, support that Mr Hugh Harrison wrote Count on Me, Singapore in 1986."
Checks conducted in India turned up no evidence or records of Mr Mendoza having any rights to We Can Achieve, MCCY said.
The ministry said Mr Mendoza has now changed his position following its correspondence with him.
“(Mr Mendoza) in fact does not have any evidence to substantiate his claim that he had written We Can Achieve in 1983, and he also does not lay any claim to the lyrics and tune of (Count on Me, Singapore),” MCCY said.
The Indian composer has "unconditionally and irrevocably" withdrawn any claims to the song, it added.
MCCY said Mr Mendoza has informed his associates and networks of this, and he has instructed social media platforms to remove renditions of We Can Achieve.
In addition to apologising, Mr Mendoza has stated “that he has no intention of attacking the integrity or professionalism of Mr Hugh Harrison”.
“It is important that our rights to the song are protected and that there remains no doubt as to our origination and ownership of the song,” the ministry said. “MCCY accepts Mr Mendoza’s apology on the terms set out above, and will treat the matter as closed, on this basis.”
"BEST FORM OF FLATTERY"
In its initial statement on the matter posted on Facebook on Mar 12, MCCY said it was aware of “unauthorised versions” of the song circulating online and that it was “investigating the matter for potential copyright infringements”.
However, the Facebook post was later edited to remove the mention of the investigation, while We Can Achieve was described as a “remixed version” of Count on Me, Singapore.
“It may be a copy of our song, but sometimes, imitation is the best form of flattery!” the updated statement said.
In another statement on Thursday, MCCY acknowledged the “striking similarity in tune and lyrics” between the two songs, and said that “whilst Count on Me, Singapore is one of our most beloved national songs, we are also happy that it seems to have been well appreciated in India”.
MCCY also said that publisher Pauline India, which produced a CD in 1999 featuring We Can Achieve, has apologised and removed the song from its platforms upon recognising its similarities with Count on Me, Singapore.