NDP theme song captures spirit of Singapore's future

Vocalist Sara Wee from local band 53A, which performs this year's NDP theme song. Shooting the music video for the song involved using "green screen" backdrops, which can be digitally replaced with other images.
Vocalist Sara Wee from local band 53A, which performs this year's NDP theme song. Shooting the music video for the song involved using "green screen" backdrops, which can be digitally replaced with other images.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The team behind the new theme song include (from left) NDP multimedia committee chairman Lt-Col Lim, music video producer Mr Huang and composer Mr Richmond, who said he got his inspiration for the song while in the shower.
The team behind the new theme song include (from left) NDP multimedia committee chairman Lt-Col Lim, music video producer Mr Huang and composer Mr Richmond, who said he got his inspiration for the song while in the shower.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Tomorrow's Here Today is composed by Don Richmond and performed by band 53A

This year's National Day Parade (NDP) theme song and its accompanying music video will both carry elements in tune with the occasion's futuristic theme of "Building our Singapore of tomorrow".

When writing the song's music and lyrics, composer Don Richmond said he had one burning question in mind after Singapore's Golden Jubilee: "What would the first song be to start off the next 50 years?"

The result was Tomorrow's Here Today, an upbeat pop anthem rallying Singaporeans to ponder about the country's future.

It is performed by local band 53A - a fixture at night spots such as Hive by Wala Wala and Timbre @ The Substation. The young, six-member group is known for its covers of songs across different genres, from pop and rock to punk and jazz.

Mr Richmond, 39, described the tune, which took 11/2 months to complete, as one filled with "youthful energy" and "something that people can tap their feet to".

As with most of his songs, inspiration came in the shower.

THE RIGHT ELEMENTS

It is bold. There is a lot of innovation, a lot of coordination involved, and this really captures the essential elements that are necessary in building our Singapore of tomorrow.

LTC SHANE LIM, on the music video for this year's NDP theme song.

"When I was shampooing my hair... I was thinking to myself, what would really be the best title for it?" recalled Mr Richmond, the son of radio DJ Brian Richmond.

"I was humming 'Tomorrow's here today, tomorrow's here today.' I went, 'You know what? That could be a great title for a song.' And then I worked backwards from there.

"If you are going to build the future, it has to start today. You can't wait till tomorrow."

His favourite line is the chorus "Dream away/Take the world by the hand."

"The whole idea of taking the world by the hand is really leading... So we are not just following the trend. We are not just going with the flow. We are taking charge and taking the lead," he added.

Writing this year's NDP song probably came with less pressure than what singer-songwriter Dick Lee faced when penning a tune for last year's Golden Jubilee, said Mr Richmond.

But he is ready to face any flak that is often thrown at new NDP songs. "I'm ready to be judged. I honestly feel the worst thing that you can do is try to think that you have to please everyone," he said.

Coming up with a video to capture the song's aspirational mood was no simple task either - it involved more than 400 people over four months.

In the film, young dancers frolic in front of old shophouses and food stalls, while colourful lanterns mirror the eclectic ethnic costumes moving beneath them.

The video was shot to look like it was filmed in one continuous take, and used "green screen" backdrops, which were later digitally replaced with other images.

Video producer Huang Junxiang, 27, said: "We wanted to go with something technically advanced because of this year's theme."

One advantage of using green screens instead of shooting outdoors was the ability for the video producers to "cram in as many icons of Singapore as possible", from old shophouses to the Esplanade, he added.

Lieutenant-Colonel Shane Lim, 36, chairman of this year's NDP multimedia committee, said the video allows the audience to "feel as if they are part of it".

He added: "It is bold. There is a lot of innovation, a lot of coordination involved, and this really captures the essential elements that are necessary in building our Singapore of tomorrow."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2016, with the headline 'NDP theme song captures spirit of S'pore's future'. Print Edition | Subscribe