S M Ong: Updating Phua Chu Kang’s Sar-Vivor Rap for coronavirus
"Some say 'leh', some say 'lah', Uncle Phua say time to fight Sars."
How many remember those opening lines from the Sar-Vivor Rap by Gurmit Singh as Phua Chu Kang?
After the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore was reported last month, I saw the 2003 music video reposted online.
What a blast from the past.
Someone commented: "This was randomly sung in school even after the crisis… no better morale-booster."
Another wrote: "The last few awesome things from Mediacorp before everything went downhill."
The video is also the starting point for a new local rap video called Kung Flu The Wuhan Virus Rap (ft. Lil Feez, Big J, Medium A), which dropped on Saturday.
Most memorable line: "Let's kick Wuhan's butt with some kung flu."
Yes, it appears that everybody is Kung Flu Fighting.
The new video also cops this line from the old PCK video as a sort of homage: "Wash your hands whenever you can, wash with soap, then at least got hope."
While Singaporeans are nostalgic for the Sar-Vivor Rap now, the initial reception for the video produced by the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board and Mediacorp was a bit mixed 17 years ago.
Someone even wrote to The Straits Times to complain: "It leaves a bad aftertaste. While the intention is good, trivialising the Sars tragedy and making it sound like one big joke may not be wise. The lyrics of the rap are coarse and uncouth...
"Sars is a deadly disease which claimed many lives. For those who lost loved ones, I am sure The Sar-vivor Rap did not bring relief, comic or otherwise."
While Sars killed 33 people in Singapore, the rap itself was accused of murdering the English language.
One student wrote to The New Paper: "Sars can be an excuse for the poor economy. It can also be an excuse for paranoia in Singapore. But it cannot be the excuse for Singapore to condone Singlish on national television."
As another put it: "It's quite a disgrace. So much for the Speak Good English campaign."
But others loved the rap by the popular if sometimes controversial sitcom character.
One teacher told TNP back then: "Singaporeans need to loosen up a bit. I don't think he meant it in disrespect, but just to strike a chord among the majority."
Personally, I thought the line "Sars is the virus that I just want to minus" was kind of genius.
Someone else said: "Singapore needs stuff like that. We have to get the message to really stupid people, and this seems to be the way to do it."
I'm not sure about the "really stupid people" part, but I do agree the video helped get the message to certain segments of the populace.
That's why I propose reviving the Sar-Vivor Rap for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Of course, it can't be the Sar-Vivor Rap any more. I would call it the Corona-Vivor Rap.
I have also changed the lyrics to make it more current:
Some wear mask, some don't wear
Uncle Phua say time to take care
Everybody, we have a part to play
To help fight this coronavirus today
Wash your hands with soap and water
Is better than using hand sanitiser
If you feel sick, wear a mask quickly
When you have a cough and your nose is runny
If you just came back from China, please
Wait 14 days, just take leave
Eh why you rush to catch that train
Don't go to work, use your brain
Get the right info about the virus
Go to MOH website for the latest
Don't anyhow share the message from grandma
Spread fake news, wait kena Pofma
Good hygiene when you travel
Help you to pass the checkpoint without trouble
Don't eat raw and undercooked meat ever
Then you can be a corona-vivor
PCK say don't play play
Or this coronavirus is here to stay
But we can fight this, you and me
Help fight it in our country
I just cannot tahan, the virus from Wuhan
No more surprises if you use your brain, use your brain, use your brain
Can't infect me baby and I don't mean maybe
You must be steady, just use your brain, use your brain, use your brain
I just checked Gurmit's Facebook page.
He too reposted the old video with the comment: "PCK Sars Rap. Should we have him do the Wuhan Rap?"