The words hung in the air, capturing the attention of a rapt audience and bringing tears to many. As the song's last words, "please have faith in me, I'm changed", faded away, a woman sitting in the front row dabbed her eyes. The singer was her son.
Hairul (not his real name) wrote the song dedicated to his six-year-old daughter and his mother while in jail. He said he hoped to convey his remorse and ask for acceptance. "I have never sung to my mother before."
Hairul, 44, was one of the inmates performing yesterday at the Yellow Ribbon Song Writing Competition finale, held by the Yellow Ribbon Project and the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass). It was attended by the inmates' families and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.
Hairul's song, Change, was one of the final 10 from nearly a hundred submissions by inmate-participants. Just 34 inmates were selected by audition to go through a three-month period of intensive training, working with famous local songwriters such as Don Richmond and Nicodemus Lee.
Compass chief executive Edmund Lam said: "We have to educate society that people make mistakes. Some of these people have talent and it is a matter of giving them the opportunity."
Launched in 2013, the annual competition is aimed at rehabilitating inmates and allowing them to express themselves while gaining skills. Yesterday's event saw prizes awarded to three inmates, who wrote songs on the theme of "My Imperfections".
A selection of songs written by the finalists will be produced in an album by Compass and going on sale in November. Money raised will go towards helping with rehabilitation and reintegration efforts for inmates, former offenders and their families.
For now, Hairul is serving a seven- year jail sentence for a drug-related offence and will be released next year. He wants to get a stable job once he is out. "I want to tell my daughter that I love her so much. Daddy's coming home very soon."
This article was first published on June 17, 2015.
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