Hugh Harrison could sue for libel, as Indian composer said he only found out about 'Count On Me S'pore' a few days ago

The Indian composer's claims can be construed as an attack on Harrison's integrity.

Belmont Lay | March 18, 2021, 04:53 AM

An Indian composer, who has been accused of copying a patriotic Singapore song in its entirety and only making tiny changes to the lyrics, is doubling down and asserting he wrote his version in 1983, three years before Singapore's version came out in 1986.

And he even turned the tables on Singapore, saying that he only found out about Count On Me Singapore a few days ago.

This was after it was reported that renditions of Count On Me Singapore were populating YouTube, except that the "Singapore" word has been changed to "India" or "Mother India".

Indian composer doubles down

Instead of explaining how the two songs are almost identical, the 58-year-old man from India, who calls himself Joey Mendoza on Facebook, said in a statement to media on March 16 night that his song, We Can Achieve, was written in 1983.

The Indian man, whose real name is Joseph Conrad Mendoza, even said 250 people in an orphanage in Mumbai can prove his claim, as they learnt to sing the song back when he was done writing it.

According to Mendoza's own account of what happened, a total of 250 orphans performed the song in 1983, when he was apparently teaching music at the Bal Bhavan orphanage.

Recorded song in 1999 only though

Mendoza further claimed that he was paid INR2,000 (S$37) for selling the rights to We Can Achieve to Pauline India in 1999 -- the first time he put the song down in a recording -- 16 years after he wrote it.

Pauline India is a Christian record and books store.

But he is apparently speaking without concrete proof in this instance.

This is due to Mendoza claiming that the original cassette tapes and documents of his composition's performance were swept away in the Mumbai floods on July 26, 2005.

He said: “The only living proof I can offer you are the 250 orphans who first learnt it in 1983 and all the orphans at Bal Bhavan in the successive years too.”

Mendoza claims he studied at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California in the United States.

Songs similar due to coincidence

Public opinion has been unanimous that We Can Achieve sounds identical to Count On Me Singapore.

In his other responses to the media, Mendoza acknowledged that similarities exist between Count On Me Singapore and We Can Achieve.

But he is of the opinion that they sound the same because of a coincidence, since there was no internet during those days when the songs were written.

Mendoza said in his statement: “There was no way I or the other composer could know that things would look so similar. (And no INTERNET ACCESS) With due respect to the other composer there are so many phrases that musically were connected and it could be all coincidental.”

Canadian wrote Count On Me Singapore

The songwriting credits of Count On Me Singapore has long been awarded to Hugh Harrison, a Canadian.

The song was written for Singapore’s National Day in 1986.

Publicly addresses case of plagiarism

Harrison has since come out to publicly state his position on the matter in the comments section of his song's video on YouTube.

He wrote on March 17 that he had reached out to Mendoza and Pauline India regarding the Indian man's “false claims to be the original creator of this song”.

Harrison wrote that he has "written to both Joey and the executive of Pauline Communications in Mumbai requesting that certain actions be taken to address Mr Mendoza's false claims to be the original creator of this song".

Harrison added: "I will let you know if and when I get a reply and how I intend to respond should corrective action not be forthcoming. Thank you all for your kind words and support."

Harrison has also stated for the record that he had worked with other musicians on the song, including Singaporean jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro, and disputes any claims to the contrary.

In another comment on YouTube, Harrison said "India has a five year limitation on copyright infringement".

Canadian composer could sue Indian composer

However, Harrison wrote that he has the option of suing Mendoza for libel as the Indian man's claim that he is the original composer in 2021 attacks Harrison's integrity and professionalism.

Harrison wrote on YouTube: "That being said, Pauline Communications clearly have the right to sue him for selling them a song to which he had no rights."

"In addition, the fact that he is claiming now in 2021 that he is the original creator of the song implying I copied the song from him is a direct attack on my integrity and professionalism and for that he could be sued for slander and/ or libel."

"As it stands now, I have written him and given him the opportunity to rescind his claim and am awaiting his response."

Singapore government issued one statement

Count On Me Singapore now belongs to the Singapore government.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth has since responded to the case of clear-cut plagiarism.

MCCY had originally said it was investigating potential copyright infringement, but subsequently said it was happy the song “struck a chord” with the people of India.

Top photos via Joey Mendoza Facebook