S'pore ex-offender writes and performs song to inspire others to stay on the right path

Mr Upu Badarrudin (vocals) and other former offenders performing at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre on Aug 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Since his release from prison about a year ago, Mr Upu Badarrudin Shah Jaldairie has been using music to help rid himself of his old ways.

The 54-year-old, who was jailed for drug-related offences, told The Straits Times that he has since ignored former acquaintances who were bad influences and now mixes only with friends who are determined to stay clean.

Turning over a new leaf is not always easy for former offenders, said Mr Upu Badarrudin, so he decided to write a song, Lessons, to motivate others to stay on the right track.

"It is very important to me for former offenders to be inspired by it as they need inspiration and motivation to stick to the right path, to learn important life lessons and to ultimately stay away from a life of crime," he said.

On Sunday (Aug 8) night, Mr Upu Badarrudin, who now owns his own barbershop, performed the song with six other former offenders and their music mentors from Intune Music at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.

The performance, called We Are Each Other's Second Chances, was organised by the Yellow Ribbon Project and presented by Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay as part of its Red Dot August, which showcases free performances that are unique to Singapore.

The song's lyrics, which include, "Learn to distance, open up your eyes and see/Learn to listen, open up your heart, believe", echo Mr Upu Badarrudin's challenges and experiences since his release.

"Every time we talk about changes, it seems easy, but former offenders may not know how to take the first step to change. This has happened to me and over the years, I have learnt that we do have the tools to change," he said.

"It is important to accept everything with an open heart and open mind. This will motivate me to stop doing the wrong things and mixing with the wrong crowd, who may influence me to go back to my old ways."

Mr Upu Badarrudin told ST that he wrote the song in between serving customers as a barber after reflecting on his own journey.

After several months of working at a friend's barbershop, he opened his own place, Sleek and Trendy Cut, in April this year using his savings.

Mr Upu Badarrudin worked with Intune Music director Aaron Lim and songwriting instructor Sin Sek Jhia to refine the song.

Mr Lim, 43, who shared the stage with Mr Upu Badarrudin on Sunday, said: "We helped him to refine his song structure and lyrics, but a lot of the ideas came directly from his own creativity. He also gave many suggestions with regard to music arrangement and how to make the song sound even better."

He added that the music school has been working with the Singapore Prison Service since 2014 to teach inmates music at the Performing Arts Centre (PAC). The centre is located in Changi Prison Complex and nurtures the musical talents of inmates.

"Whenever we see the Yellow Ribbon PAC Alumni band members like Mr Upu perform, we are extremely touched and also honoured to be part of their music adventures," said Mr Lim.

He added that music helps former offenders stay on the right path as they allocate their time rehearsing their songs, refining their skills, and interacting with like-minded former offenders who are keen to stay crime-free.

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