Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

'Harmless' and 'Hump-less' Political Podcasts

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2011), 5, (1), 39–70.

Abstract

Censorship of the media has long been seen as a major feature in the governance of the Singapore city state, which ranked 133rd out of 175 in the World Press Freedom Index in 20091. However, this grip on freedom of speech has been obliquely and intermittently challenged in the republic's recent history, particularly with the emergence of alternative spaces on the Internet for the expression of social and political resistance against state-engineered discourses. One notable case over the past decade involves the releasing of a series of 'netizen' podcasts and music videos culminating in what has come to be known as the 'Mee Siam My Humps' saga. This chain of events ruptured at the height of the republic's general elections in 2006, and saw the country's prime minister Lee Hsien-Loong represented by Internet pranksters in a series of web mashups juxtaposing seemingly disconnected audio and visual references to local spicy food and R&B group Black Eyed Peas' hit, 'My Humps'. The podcasts and videos sent out mixed messages: was Lee so 'trendy' a personality to have earned this association to pop culture, or was the video a prankster's reaction to government censorship executed by way of localised satire? Segments of Lee's National Day Rally speech – held at the height of election fervour and articulating the government's tough stance on discussion of politics over the Internet – were themselves sampled in the web mashups. The resulting low-resolution and deliberately amateur assemblages of music, text and image were made to be performatively ambiguous, doubly functioning as tribute videos to Lee as well as veiled commentary on electoral politics. Situating the 'My Humps' saga within a parallel world of 'netizen' expressions in Singapore, this paper examines how ongoing negotiations of intertextualities and (re)creative content on new media platforms present fresh and changing avenues of resistance to hegemonic governance.

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Tan, Shzr