Mumbai-based composer Joseph Mendoza has been accused of copying one of Singapore's most iconic National Day songs, "Count On Me Singapore". "Count on Me Singapore" was composed by Canadian Hugh Harrison, arranged by Jeremy Monteiro and performed by Clement Chow, both Singaporeans, in 1986. The Straits Times reported on Thursday that Mendonza has claimed that he wrote his version "We Can Achieve", in 1983.
He also said that he only found out about "Count On Me Singapore" a few days ago. The two songs are virtually identical, except for small changes to the lyrics where "Singapore" was changed to "India" or "Mother India", according to the Singapore daily report.
In a statement to the media on Tuesday, Mendoza claimed that 250 orphans had performed the song in 1983 after he had written it while teaching music at the Bal Bhavan orphanage in Mumbai, where he is based.
He also claimed that the original tapes of his composition were swept away in the 2005 Mumbai floods.
"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," said the 58-year-old, who claimed he was a graduate of the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California.
He sold the rights to the song to a Christian book and record store, Pauline India, and recorded the song in 1999.
Although Mendonza acknowledged similarities between the two songs, he insisted that there was no way he could have known about "Count On Me Singapore" as there was no Internet in those days.
"Count on Me Singapore" composer Harrison responded on Wednesday in the YouTube comments of the song: "The fact that he (Mendoza) 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," The Straits Times quoted Harrison as saying.
The Facebook page of Singapore's Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) has also weighed in: "This is one of our most beloved and recognised national songs, we are happy that it seems to have struck a chord with people in India as well.
"We thank Singaporeans for coming forward to express your sense of pride in our national song. It may be a copy of our song, but sometimes, imitation is the best form of flattery," the Ministry said.