Song to boost workers' morale

IRSHATH MOHAMED

Popular local singer, lyricist and music composer Shabir Tabare Alam hit a career bump in 2018. He was feeling low as he attempted to establish a foothold in the Tamil film industry in Chennai.

One day he walked out to the balcony of his apartment in the South Indian city and read aloud Tamil poet and writer Subramania Bharathiyar's poem "Thedichoru".

It gave him an instant boost.

Reflecting on those personal moments a couple of months ago, Shabir strongly felt that he should share the poem with the migrant workers in Singapore.

As they are suffering from the Covid-19 outbreak, he believed it would serve as a thoughtful response in these difficult times.

He decided to compose a song which would lift their spirits and provide cheer.

Shabir wrote the melody and the Teng Ensemble, a critically acclaimed Singaporean Chinese fusion music group, composed it.

Shabir's brother Abbas Akbar was roped in as the executive producer.

"Everyone came in pro bono as we all want to do something good for those who have suffered much during this pandemic," said Shabir.

"The collaboration with the Chinese ensemble shows that not just the Indian community in Singapore thinks about the migrant workers."

The result is the music video Thedichoru: Shabir X The TENG Ensemble.

"It took us three weeks, from conceptualisation to giving the final touches," said Shabir. "We had numerous meetings and all of us put in quality effort. There were times when we worked till 5am."

The newly formed ground-up initiative Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition extended support.

The Tamil music video was launched on May 27, followed by a Bengali equivalent today.

"The Indian migrant workers appreciated the music video. We thought that a Bengali version would cater to the Bangladeshi migrant workers," said Shabir, who produced it.

Rabindranath Tagore's song "Prano bhoriye trisha horiye" ("Fill my heart, quench my thirst") is sung by Iman Chakraborty, a national award-winning singer from West Bengal, accompanied by Singapore jazz legend Jeremy Monteiro on the piano.

"Thedichoru" received praise from the Indian community in Singapore.

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran lauded the effort as "uniquely Singaporean" in a Facebook post.

"The poem 'Thedichoru' by Tamil poet Mahakavi Bharathiyar encourages us to remain resilient in the face of adversity. It is a poignant message that all of us can get through these tough times, together. We are almost at the end of the circuit breaker period, so let's stay strong and keep up the good fight," said Mr Iswaran.

Many migrant workers, too, appreciated Shabir's effort.

"It feels refreshing to hear the magical poetry not just as words but through a song," said Mr Leve Xavier from Jurong-Penjuru dormitory.

"This song will give us the hope and spirit to overcome these difficult times and to fight the coronavirus."

Mr Bava Sahib, manager of the Leo dormitory in Kaki Bukit, said: "The song brings warmth to the heart that longs for comfort and reassurance."

irshathm@sph.com.sg

"Everyone came in pro bono as we all want to do something good for those who have suffered much during this pandemic."

- Local singer, lyricist and music composer Shabir Tabare Alam

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