Why 90s ‘Why U So Like Dat?’ Singlish song is so memorable

The rap song was a massive hit in the 1990s.

By Tanya Ong |Belmont Lay | March 5, 2018

On March 4, 2018, veteran Singaporean musician Siva Choy passed away at the age of 70, in Perth, Australia, where he had been based since the 1990s with his wife, Ilsa Sharp. The couple have no children.

Choy was a homegrown blues musician, columnist, author, actor and comedian all rolled into one.

But he is best known for his hit tune, Why U So Like Dat?, an almost nonsensical Singlish rap ditty that captures the economy of our creole language and also pokes fun and highlights the stinginess of other Singaporean idiosyncrasies — specifically the “kiam siap” mentality.

Rare local English hit

The song was written in 1991, in an era where it was de rigueur for music to be distributed via cassette tapes and over the radio.

The scarcity of distribution channels compounded by the tune’s earworm quality elevated it to mythic levels.

Primary school children would ask one another, catchphrase-style, “Why they so like that?”, while adults accustomed to new easy wealth living in an era where the economy routinely grew at 10 percent or more per annum, were left doing spit takes and wondering why anyone would even go to all that trouble to bother putting down such a silly song with simplistic lyrics on record for posterity?

For those who remember: This was an era where if you wanted to hear a piece of music again, which you happen to catch a glimpse of over the radio, the only option was to physically go out to hunt for the album or single and pay to own a copy of it.

Those were the times.

An audio meme

Essentially, what Choy did was that he recorded an early Singaporean audio meme: A highly memorable, easily transmittable and intuitively relatable Singlish song for all and sundry — except those stuffy types with stiff upper lips who cannot deal with plebeian aesthetics.

If you don’t already know it, you can listen to the song here:

Why U So Like Dat?
Why you so like that? (x3)

Oui, why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?
Why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?

I let you kopy all my sum,
Because you always blur,
But when I try to kopy back,
You always call the Sir!

Oui, why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?
Why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?

I always give you all my chocolate,
I give you my tic tac,
But when I wan a kit kat,
You never gimme back!

Oui, why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?
Why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?

You tell me dat you don’t like girl,
I also donno why,
But when you see a pretty girl,
Your voice go up damn high!

Oui, why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?
Why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat!

You always talk in diaglect,
And When I ask you why?
You scold in Hokkien very loud

Oui, why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?
Why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat!


Oui, why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat?
Why u so like dat ah?
Hey why u so like dat!

First Singlish comedy album

The album that the song came from was also called Why U So Like Dat?

Together with the Kopi Kat Klan, a local comedy group, Choy wrote directed and performed songs in Singlish as well as coffee shop skits.

It was considered Singapore’s first Singlish comedy album.

In 1991, as compact disc (CD) technology was not yet widespread, the album was first released on a cassette.

It was only in the late 1990s that Viyo Records released the album in a CD version. It was so popular that it sold over 40,000 copies in 1999.

In total, the album was said to have sold more than 50,000 albums.

The use of Singlish

Apart from being a nostalgic earworm, Why U So Like Dat? struck the local consciousness in the early 1990s way before the clampdown on Singlish on mainstream broadcast was enacted.

It had time to lay its seeds, spread and ferment, as it is only in hindsight that Why U So Like Dat is often brought up in discussions surrounding the use of and deterrence against Singlish.

In the 1990s, Singlish was featured in several popular TV shows and movies such as Phua Chu Kang and Money No Enough!

However, it was also around that time that the government voiced their concerns over the use of Singlish in Singapore.

In his 1999 National Day Rally Speech, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong highlighted the importance of using standard English for Singaporeans to remain competitive in the global economy, with English the designated working language of Singapore.

The same year, then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew also emphasised the importance of standard English. According to him, “Singlish is a handicap we must not wish on Singaporeans.”

In 2018, Singlish is still used in everyday interactions by most Singaporeans.

Distinctly local

Nevertheless, the Why U So Like Dat song’s popularity stems from the fact that it is still relatable to Singaporeans, just like many of his other works.

In 1977, Choy and a few others recorded Long Number Lah, which included a compilation of jokes.

The recording was distributed only to family and friends at that time, but became so popular that it was subsequently released in 1992.

He also performed in comedy acts and series such as Rocking Rambutan! and Stand Up For Singapore!

Up until today, Choy is still widely hailed as a pioneer in tapping into the hardwired Singaporean psyche and for anchoring a local sense of humour in Singapore that is often prone to disown things we deem to be not acceptable just because the government said so.

Top photo compiled from Siva Choy’s Facebook

About Tanya Ong

Tanya knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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