Serving The Nation With Their Musical Talent
STORY: Farhan Shafie
31 July 2021
(Clockwise from top left) Sezairi, Yung Raja, Dominic Chin, Nathan Hartono and Shigga Shay are all alumni of Music and Drama Company, and they're still using their musical gifts to educate and celebrate our Little Red Dot. | Photos: (Clockwise from top left) instagram/@sezairi, @yungraja, , @dominicchin.music, @nathanhartono and @shiggashay
For almost 50 years, the Music & Drama Company (MDC) has launched the careers of many of Singapore's most illustrious artistes.
First formed in 1973 as a way to boost the morale of SAF troops through live entertainment, MDC was once the NS stomping ground of entertainment stars like Dick Lee, Jeremy Monteiro, Sheikh Haikel, Jack Neo, Chua En Lai, Gurmit Singh and Najip Ali. The level of talent in MDC was, still is, and most likely will continue to be, in a word, insane!
Now, there's a new batch of alumni who have taken their musical skills from the balmy stages of Pulau Tekong to mainland Singapore - and beyond. With National Day around the corner, we pay tribute to these artistes who've never failed to show love for the nation through their musical projects.
The 25-year-old singer-songwriter Dominic Chin has gone from being an NSF with MDC to joining the company full-time. When it comes to soaring vocals, you could say he's the poster boy of the current generation of singer-songwriters. His original compositions have also garnered him a growing fanbase that is moved by his vulnerability and earnest lyrics.
Recent "national service": Dominic wrote and performed a tribute to the Singapore Armed Forces (entitled "Courage and Strength") as part of the recent SAF Day observance on 1 July, and it is an absolute banger. Pairing the montage of our servicemen in action together with Dominic's awe-inspiring voice is a winning combination. It is a performance that will definitely make you #hormatSAF. The song begins at the 1:00-minute mark in the video above.
R&B singer Sezairi is no stranger to most people. Ever since winning Singapore Idol Season 3 over a decade ago, the 34-year-old has gone on to establish himself as one of the most consistent and recognisable voices in the local scene with tracks such as "It's You" (a wedding favourite) and "70s". It's certainly a long way from his days conducting arts education programmes with MDC in his No. 4 uniform at secondary schools.
Recent "national service": This year, Sezairi follows in the footsteps of his Singapore Idol predecessors Taufik Batisah and Hady Mirza by having his name attached to a National Day Parade song. NDP 2021's theme "The Road Ahead" sees him performing alongside fellow singers Linying, Shye-Anne Brown, and Shabir Tabare Alam and has been praised for being one of the best NDP songs in recent years. Enamoured by the song's uplifting tune and the accompanying music video's charming animation, we can't help but agree.
Before Nathan Hartono was charming hearts as the first runner-up of Chinese singing competition Sing! China, he had to face an admittedly tougher crowd of national servicemen during his MDC stint. The experience has shaped his cool-as-a-cucumber stage presence.
(Sort of) recent "national service": That cool attitude also helped him navigate the critics who questioned whether he was "Singaporean" enough to sing 2020's NDP theme "Everything I Am". Born to Chinese Indonesian parents, he is the first naturalised citizen to perform a National Day song. What is undeniable is his soothing vocals and reassuring presence, which helped listeners get through a particular tough period during the peak days of the pandemic.
He is undeniably one of the hottest rappers in Singapore right now, and is also blowing up internationally. His monster singles "Mustafa" and "Mami" have propelled him to appearances on Vice, MTV and even a segment on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. He credits his time emceeing at MDC during his two years of national service for gaining the confidence to perform and host.
Recent "national service": You might have seen the 26-year-old on your TV screens as part of the insanely catchy "Let's Test, Trace and Vaccinate" jingle, dropping some mad bars to up the cool factor. Who knew our gahmen could pull off swag?
When you think about the leader of the new school of Singapore rap, Shigga Shay is at the forefront of that conversation. He is a trailblazer who fused Singlish and hip-hop on songs such as "Limpeh" and "Tapau". While his time in MDC taught him a lot about showmanship, it also helped him evolve into an all-around performer. Not fake news: he actually took dance classes such as ballet (wait, what?) during his time there.
Recent "national service": Other than performing at multiple National Day Parades, Shigga Shay has also been doing his part to put Singapore on the world map through his musical collaborations. He recently teamed up with popular Korean-American Jay Park singer on his latest single "uRight" which showcases our city's gorgeous skyline on the music video. It currently has over one million views on YouTube.