10 Feb 2012

People - OS Hotshot -

Singapore Boy, A Long Way to Fly

If you associate someone with their first names, you know they’ve made it – be it a Fann, Zoe, or Jeanette. Well, for our Singapore Day 2012 personality feature this week, we have Hossan, arguably one of Singapore’s most loved and recognised personalities.


If you associate someone with their first names, you know they’ve made it – be it a Fann, Zoe, or Jeanette. Well, for our Singapore Day 2012 personality feature this week, we have Hossan, arguably one of Singapore’s most loved and recognised personalities.

Double-confirm: Hossan and a line-up of local celebs including Michelle Chong, Chua En Lai, The Great Spy Experiment, Jack and Rai will amuse and entertain at Singapore Day 2012.

Hossan has his fingers in almost every pie as—an Actor, Comedian, Host, Entrepreneur, Consultant, Radio DJ, you name it.  He’s a man of many talents and highly-sought after artiste, whose laurels read just like a list of uniquely Singaporean quirks -- unending and one that warms the heart.

Since his foray into the Arts scene in 1993, Hossan has won over local and international pundits, no matter his collaborations in the United States, London, Australia or Singapore. His impressive conferments of accolades include the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) conferred by the French government and Top Outstanding Young Person’s Award for Cultural Achievement in 2007 (TOYP program of Orchid Jayceettes of Singapore, affiliated to Junior Chamber International). More recently, he has been ‘double confirm-ing’ his presence on our local screens as the host of the essentially Singaporean show “We Are Singaporeans”, a game show on MediaCorp Channel 5 about everything and anything under the Singapore sun.

 Singapore Boy 101

Hossan isn’t new to Singapore Day, having participated in the 2007 and 2009 events. We have him relive some of the wackiest and heart-tingling moments of his previous Singapore Day.

Share with us your upcoming role for Singapore Day 2012!

Hossan: I’m going to be hosting segments of the concert at this party in the park. I’ll be showcasing a brand new game show, well not brand new anymore but a very popular game show called “We are Singaporeans” and we’re going to simulate what we’ve been doing on (local) television. So we’re going to play “We are Singaporeans” in New York, asking questions about how much people know about Singapore. Basically, share our collective history, ask things like how many official Merlions are there in Singapore. Hopefully, people learn! It’s going to be quite fun! Oh and basically, I’ll be leading the Mambo party after the whole concert, that will be quite fun! It’s going to be interesting because we’re trying to make this whole concert and party which people can relate to. It doesn’t matter if, you’ve been living abroad or you’re just a student there who’s just left Singapore, I think it(Singapore Day) will cater to everybody. It brings back memories for people who’ve left the country or makes the people who’ve just left, homesick! (laughs)

You’ve had previous experiences at Singapore Day, how epic were they?

Hossan: I did the first one in New York, Central Park. Then I did the one in London as well. It was very, very interesting to see how it’s grown. Just come and say hi, it’ll be great to meet new people, make new friends, fellow Singaporeans who are overseas.

I bet you had lots of fun at previous Singapore Days?

Hossan: Yeah! People bounce up to me and go “Hey! Welcome to New York! Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you since school!” In London as well, there were people who’ve been following what goes on in Singapore via the internet. So they see you as if they know you, because that’s the way they connect back home and its really nice and heart-warming when they come up and say hi, welcome, thanks for coming! It’s our pleasure to come and entertain everyone out there!

So share with us one of your most memorable experiences at Singapore Day!

Hossan: Good or bad? (laughs) The first one in New York was very funny. We had The Great Spy Experiment playing (FYI, they’ll be performing this year too). They’re a rock band, an indie rock band. So of course the speakers were there and they were loud, as it would in a rock concert. I had an auntie come up to me while I was just standing there watching the band. Because I was wearing my tag which said ‘Artiste’ so I could go backstage and she said “Can you ask them to not play so loud! It’s too loud!” She’s a Singaporean who lives in New York. And I’m like “But I can’t tell them to lower it down because it’s a concert.” And she was like “What do you mean?! What do you mean?! I know the Prime Minister you know!” I’m like, okay, why don’t you give him a call? Because I can’t ask them to lower the volume, it’s a concert!” You can take the Singaporean out of Singapore but you can’t take the Singaporean out of the person. It’s just amazing to see that! (laughs)

I was really touched by the people who made effort to come all the way up to Hampton Court Palace which was really far out from London itself and having a nice day out with us, laughing at the jokes and feeling part of the community. One woman actually said she flew out from Dubai to London to come to Singapore Day because she missed the company of Singaporeans. You see people queue for the chicken rice, char kway teow, chilli crab and it’s nice to be able to bring part of Singapore there, even if it’s just for one day.

You’re known as the Singapore Boy, what do you think is most Singaporean about you?

Hossan: I think I’m Singaporean in the sense that I’m quite kiasu lah. I am quite efficient, to a fault actually. Because I want to be efficient, so I multi-task. And one realises that multi-tasking is not the best way to go. You forget part A after you do part B and then you do part C. I’m proud to be Singaporean. I’m one of the spokesperson for ‘Don’t eat sharks fin’, for obvious reasons. Why are you eating shark fins? So anyway I tweeted “Don’t eat sharks fin, look at what’s happening to the climate and ecology.” And someone tweeted back and said “How dare you impose your western mindset on us. I’m proud to be Chinese and I will eat sharks fin.”

(laughs) It’s not about race!

Hossan: Exactly! That’s my point! At which part I said, “At which point am I Chinese? I’m Singaporean.” Race aside, it does not matter what race you are, it boils down to the fact that you’re Singaporean, no matter what race you are. It got me all riled up, what Western mindset? I’m Singaporean and sharks fin has nothing to do with race.

Back to the Singaporean in you, what’s your favourite Singlish phrase?

Hossan: (laughs) I think the best phrase to use and even my friend from Australia who lives here now has adopted it. It’s ‘wah lao’. Because, wah lao encompasses everything you want to express, without having to say it. You can be upset and you go “wah Lao!” You can be amazed. You see, you don’t have to say anything else! Wah lao just encompasses everything and I think it should be put into the Oxford dictionary. (laughs)

 Just call me Sir Mambo!

If you happen to spot Hossan absorbed in his own brand of unworldly Mambo moves this Singapore Day 2012, fret not, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. He bashfully confesses his top mambo tunes are a toss-up between Dancing Queen and Never Gonna Give You Up where he concocts his own Mambo steps. As Hossan mentioned, he will be part of the crew leading the Mambo Jambo party, so err keep a look out for this aspiring dance choreographer.

On to Mambo, are you a mambo geek or god? It was current in your day right?

Hossan: Thanks lor, in my day! I’m so old. (mock cries) Back in those times, even before I became an actor, I was just starting out in theatre, 18, 19 years ago and Mambo was becoming really exciting. We would queue to get in, even now. Everyone would just be dancing normally and merrily having a good time. I don’t know how it evolved to the Mambo Jambo of today, which is quite a phenomenon! No one else in the world does it in any club. I was completely fascinated by the way it’s become. I started learning the Mambo steps just to fit in and try to be young again lah. And I found it hilarious! Everyone identifies with it. It’s amazing to watch 18, 19-year-olds go to Zouk and sing the lyrics of songs that I was singing at their age. I love it! I wouldn’t call myself Mambo King lah. Just call me Sir Mambo.

Share with us more on your Mambo days!

Hossan: I was quite the party animal. It was “Let’s see who can get on the podium first!” It was great energy. Sometimes you go to clubs, you get this really agro, alcohol-fuelled, you stare what! But Mambo was never like that. Mambo was all about having fun, doing the dance and people would actually be teaching others in a corner. And Mambo virgins, as we call them, would be at another corner trying to learn very surreptitiously. As you get more and more confident, you start to get onto the dance floor and when you’re really tok kong (Hokkien term meaning superb, top of the line) already, you get on the podium to do it. It’s very fun!

Which mambo song/s would probably best express your love for Singapore?

Hossan: Maybe for this day and age, especially with what’s been happening (underground), I think Locomotion would be quite funny. (laughs) I think Never Gonna Give You Up is quite interesting. With all the flaming that’s been going on, sometimes I get really tired of it. Yah, sure there are flaws in every system. So I think Never Gonna Give You Up is a good song too. If you say you’re Singaporean, things aside, there should be ties that still bind you to the country that you grew up in.

Any experiences living or studying abroad for a long time? Missed Singapore?

Hossan: The longest time I was away was just 3 or 6 months. For me, travelling is a great eye opener, it makes me realise why I’m Singaporean or why I’m proud to be Singaporean. I went to Salt Lake City last year to cover the Sundance Festival. Three times in one day I was asked, “Where is Singapore?”, “Why do you speak English?” I felt like asking them “Why do you speak English?” That makes me realise where we are, where we come from and how far we’ve come and I think we’ve got to take that into consideration. There are times we go “Why am I living here?” for various reasons. Especially as an artiste, why am I staying on if I can’t express myself the way I want to -- Who I am, who I want to be.  I think at the end of the day, Singapore’s been really, really good to me, despite the little complaints and squabbles I have. I think that’s important to remember.

Anything you’d like to say to overseas Singaporeans before you see them at Singapore Day 2012?

Hossan: This goes out to wherever you are, not just New York! I hope to be able to meet fellow Singaporeans on my travels. The times that I have met students at San Francisco, Boston, Australia, I think it was so nice to be able to connect with them and I hope to do more of that. To reach out and meet Singaporeans and assure them that you might be away for a short while for your studies or you might be away for a long time because you found a job overseas, but at the end of the day, don’t give up on where you came from, Singapore. Despite everything that is going on, as cliché as home is where the heart is, it actually rings true for a lot of people.

With that aww-inspiring reminder from Hossan, one, two, three, everyone sing “This is home truly, where I know I must be. Where my dreams wait for me, where the river always flows. This is home surely, as my senses tell me. This is where I won’t be alone, for this is where I know its home.” Once a Singapore boy, always a Singapore boy.

By Melody Lee

What are you waiting for? Make a date with us this Singapore Day 2012, the biggest party outside of Singapore, celebrating all things uniquely Singaporean!

Singapore Day 2012

Venue: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Date: 14th April 2012

Time: 1030am – 6pm