Many people, one story: Songwriter pens song for Singapore

Salt&Light wishes all Singaporeans Happy National Day!

Christine Leow // August 7, 2020, 12:55 am

Ryan - feature

Ryan Kong penned the song One as a gift to Singapore and rallying cry for unity. All photos courtesy of Ryan Kong.

Writing songs has always been Ryan Kong’s way of journaling events and emotions. The 34-year-old has three albums of original works and a collective – HeartDriven Music – that bear musical testimony to the milestones in his life.

So, it was only natural that, when he wanted to do something about a cause that was close to his heart, he chose to write a song.

“Regardless of race, language or religion – we are ultimately one.”

Kong’s latest single is called One, written during the uncertain days of the Circuit Breaker.  

“It was one of those 4am moments,” said Kong referring to how inspiration usually strikes him in the wee hours of the morning.

“I had this idea to write a song for Singapore.”

As he sheltered down at home during those long weeks and reports of the outbreak flooded the news, Kong saw that “local or migrant, all of us here in Singapore are fighting the same battle”.

“Regardless of race, language or religion – we are ultimately one. The virus is blind to who you are. It doesn’t differentiate between our backgrounds.”

And so came the song that is a “declaration of love and unity”.

“It is a rallying cry for everyone in Singapore to play our part in whatever capacity we can as one nation to open our hearts and help the guest workers here,” said Kong.

“Even as we talk about ‘flattening the curve’ for the virus, I wanted to convey the idea that there are no two curves – no us versus them. We feel it when they are hurting. The guest workers are part of Singapore as well.” 

Added his wife Amie, 31, who sang alongside Kong on the music video: “That’s our heart for Singapore.”

Honouring friendships

To showcase the unity they hope to foster, the Kongs decided to feature real friendships between locals and foreigners in their music video.

“We hope that the message inspires national reflection.”

Among them was Adhi, a Permanent Resident, who runs English and basic computer classes for migrant workers and considers them “my brothers” and “a big part of my family”.

Banker turned home-schooling dad and Salt&Light Family Night’s co-host Alex Tee also appeared in the music video. He helped eight Sri Lankan students stranded in Singapore because of the Circuit Breaker, delivering fresh produce to them twice a week. 

Partnering the Kongs to gather these true tales were two organisations who work with guest workers – Project Providence (PP) and the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO).

“It reiterates the core of what we do, which is to be One Singapore.”

Said PP’s spokesperson, Esther Tan: “Just one to two generations ago, our forefathers arrived here as strangers. As a nation of immigrants ourselves, we want to reach out and understand the plight of guests who come to seek a better life.

“We hope that the message put forth to our fellow Singaporeans in this video inspires national reflection on the treatment of guests in our land, and sparks the determination to respond with action.”

Added AGWO’s Chairman Reverend Samuel Gift Stephen: “Our guest workers who have contributed so much to the building of our land have always been invisible to the consciousness of the general public. This pandemic has brought to light their living conditions and struggles.

“We collaborated with PP to support the One song because it reiterates the core of what we do, which is to be One Singapore.”

One goal

The one-ness extended to the collaborative effort that made the music video a reality. When a call for co-operation was issued, strangers offered their help pro bono.

“The day we filmed the music video was the first day we met the crew face-to-face,” said Amie.

Among those who volunteered was an undergraduate who offered to do the illustration for the music video. He brought in more people to help and before long they had a production team for the music video.

Volunteers came alongside the Kongs to produce the music video, demonstrating the very one-ness the song is about.

Volunteers came alongside the Kongs to produce the music video, demonstrating the very one-ness the song is about.

“God just opened doors,” said Kong.

Added Amie: “They shared the same heart as us. They wanted to do it for God as an act of service. It was their offering.”

“When we do this as a nation, it becomes a powerful display of love.”

The filming was done over two weekends but they still did not have an editor. Meanwhile, Kong prayed and felt that August 1 should be the date to release the music video. Time was running out.

“The night before we were supposed to edit, a colleague called and offered to help us. He ended up editing the music video,” recounted Tan.

“In hundreds of ways, God provided everything we needed for the music video just to prove that it was His work.”

Agreed Kong: “We could never have done this on our own. Confirmed impossible.

“We wanted to do something impactful for the guest workers. But with a toddler and a newborn to care for, there was a limit to what we could offer. So we started with what God has placed in our hands – our music.

“We all hold a piece of the puzzle. Our individual impact may seem insignificant. But when we come together collectively as one nation with our different talents and gifts, each playing our part to reach out, it becomes a powerful display of love.”

Musician Ryan Kong’s God-songs: Heart-driven even in ‘fig tree moments’

“Everybody deserves food and shelter”: Project Providence helping scores of stranded S-pass workers

“Your family may not be here, but we are”: Volunteers bring clothes, murukku and laughter to migrant workers stuck on cruise ships


About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.