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National songs & Cultural policy in Singapore

Lee, T.ORCID: 0000-0003-3333-0076 (2002) National songs & Cultural policy in Singapore. In: 14th Biennial Conference Asian Studies Association of Australia: After Sovereignty: Nation and place, 30 June - 3 July 2002, Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart


Not much has been written critically about the symbolic role and function of cultural policy in Singapore. For many, Singaporean cultural policy is about media censorship and/or the maintenance of social and political control. For others, the motivation is purely economic, that is, cultural policy has a unique ability to extract economic worth from each and every able Singaporean. Whilst outlining (pre-)existing cultural policy positions, this paper looks at recent policy frameworks in Singapore (namely: Singapore 21, 1999 and The Renaissance City Report, 2000). It suggests that these statements are aimed at convincing citizens of the need to embrace socio-cultural change for the good of the nation. To ensure that these messages reach and engage the people, the Singapore Government employs a popularisation strategy where popular cultural items – most notably national pop-songs, music video clips and images of Singapore as youthful and ‘cool’ – are heavily mobilised. This paper looks specifically at the mass appeal of government-commissioned national songs and their accompanying music video clips. As this paper will evince, most of the lyrics and video images of national songs are not only powerful purveyors of the myth of nationhood, they are also essential tools of cultural policy as social and cultural change in Singapore. It is important to realise that these ‘new’ policy positions do not negate the ‘old’ ones. Instead, as this paper will show, the strategy of popularisation via the mass distribution of national songs has an immediate effect of reinforcing the hegemony of the economic and the legitimisation of the political in Singapore.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
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