Music

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TRACK 1 Overture

At the beginning of the film, we see Raja aboard a school bus looking forlornly at a photo of his father. Apparently his father is performing in “some remote village” – so remote that there is “no WIFI, no 3G” (as Raja finds out in the DVDs that his father – whom he fondly calls “Appa” – has left for him as the only means of communication between the two).

The school bus starts off. As the bus sets off, the audience is shown a montage of Singapore’s iconic places, as Raja introduces himself, and shares his thoughts about Singapore.

The music starts off a little poignantly as Raja looks at photos of his father, then shifts towards a brighter and sunnier disposition, developed from the Father-Son theme, as the bus sets off. As the bus turns into the school compound, the music builds and segues into the opening title card.

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TRACK 2 Fight and Punishment

On the first day of school, Xavier begins to show his disdain for Raja, Xavier is the son of Henry, and he is as xenophobic as his father. Shi Tian, however, constantly comes to Raja’s rescue, and frequently admonishes Xavier for being rude to Raja.

During recess one day, Xavier taunts Shi Tian, who then begs Raja to avenge her. Raja and Xavier get into a mock-kungfu scuffle, which Xavier loses when he knocks over the school principal’s prized mushrooms. Not knowing their significance, in his anger, Xavier picks up the mushrooms and hurls the pieces at Raja and Shi Tian. The commotion catches the attention of Miss Chong (the Principal’s personal assistant) who screams for the Principal’s presence (and we assume that he personally hauls the kids to his office). He admonishes them, calling them “murderers” who have wrecked the school’s “honour”, and orders them to a month of detention in the school hall.

The music reflects this mock-kungfu fight by incorporating Chinese percussion, winds and string instruments. When the children are being punished, the Principal grieves over his wrecked mushrooms as if a person cries over the death of another living being. The exaggeration results in an unwittingly amusing, and I’ve responded with a mock-tragic violin solo.

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TRACK 3 Recollections of Chinese Opera with Appa

The Head of Department for Chinese of the school, Mr Guo, surprises the detained students with a Chinese wayang performance. Raja is abruptly reminded of the miniature Chinese Opera masks that his Appa had shown him during one of their treasured, private moments together. In this track, you can hear the “Father-Son Theme” played tenderly on the piano.

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TRACK 4 Futile Joy

After the previous Vice-President departs, Henry believes that he will take up the position. To his horror, he finds out that the post has gone to a newly-arrived Australian “foreign talent” (hence the appearance of a rather British-colonial-inspired march as well as “Waltzing Matilda”). It is a comic moment because the foreigner (whose name is Steven) makes himself at home while being absolutely oblivious to Henry’s disbelief and dismay.

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TRACK 5 To Have or Not Have a Car

Lucy desperately wants a car because she is fed up with taking public transport. One evening, she spits on a genuinely-disabled girl who has taken up a “reserved” seat out of frustration. A commuter captures the act on video, and circulates it online. Utterly embarrassed, she desperately wants a car so that she does not have to suffer the ignominy of taking public transport. The family debate becomes a hilarious spectacle.

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TRACK 6 To Be the Best, Nothing but the Best

This piece accompanies a tableau in which the characters train hard to achieve their goals and outdo their . Henry is determined to beat Steven in the Car Challenge, Lucy and Lao Chen are determined to get their car, and the school prepares for the Queen’s visit to the school. Meanwhile, the story takes a nasty turn when Henry finds out that Raja, instead of Xavier, has been assigned to play the lead role of Wu Song in the story “Wu Song and the Tiger” (even though the son voluntarily rejected the role which required him to memorise lines and lyrics).

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TRACK 7 If Everyone Were Poisoned

Lucy has lost the car challenge, and shuns the party organised by Xiao Yang, her colleague who had won the competition, to celebrate his victory in the competition. She dreams up a scene where everyone gets poisoned; Xiao Yang is made the scapegoat and arrested, and Lucy gets the car in his place.

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TRACK 8 Lucy Chokes

She laughs wickedly at her dream, but ends up choking on a fish ball. Her colleagues and supervisors rush to her aid. Xiao Yang saves the day by using a vacuum cleaner to suck the fish ball out.

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TRACK 9 Friends Forever, and a Worried Emma

Shi Tian and Xavier help Raja to run away, and they camp out in the school. Their friendship strengthens especially when Xavier shares the tonic that his mum has given him. Meanwhile, a frantic Emma searches for Raja, with no clue where to begin.

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TRACK 10 The Truth About Appa

After Raja runs away, Emma eventually decides to stop withholding the truth, and persuades Raja to go home with her by telling him that she will bring him to see his Appa. The next day, they make a trip to the columbarium. Raja loses himself when he learns that his Appa had died, and hadn’t been performing in remote places as Emma had told him. This heartbreaking scene ends with Raja looking into the stars, uttering “Appa, I miss you” tearfully.

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TRACK 11 Confrontation backstage

A scuffle breaks out just before the children are about to go on stage. Henry discovers that Raja, and not his son, will be playing the lead,  and flies into a rage. He attempts to yank the costume off Raja, while Mr Guo and Miss Chong try to separate the two. Emma arrives to witness the scuffle and pounces on Henry, giving the teachers a chance to herd the performers onstage.

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TRACK 12 A Triumphant Performance

The first part of the music underscores the climatic moment in the fight between Wu Song (played by Raja) and the Tiger (played by Xavier). Towards the end of the performance, as Raja knocks the tiger out, Xavier whispers to him a request to give him a solid, final “knockout blow” so that his character can die dramatically. Raja delivers the final punch, and the audience, including the Queen and her family, erupt into thunderous applause and cheers. Raja looks momentarily stunned by the response, and realises that he has made his late Appa proud with his performance. Henry also overcomes his disappointment in Xavier and proudly embraces his son.

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TRACK 13 Raja Reconciles with Emma

Raja thanks Emma for coming to his rescue, and apologies to her. Emma is emotionally overwhelmed by this gesture, because Raja has finally accepted her as his stepmother.

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TRACK 14 Finale and final montage

At the conclusion of the film, the outcomes of each of the major characters are shown. Henry vows to continue working hard and continues to dream of the Vice-President’s position; Emma and Raja’s relationship has vastly improved; Lucy patiently waits for the day when she will own a car, and Mr Guo’s Chinese Opera Society has grown by leaps and bounds. His first three disciples are now assistant coaches, taking the new members through their paces. In the final scene, Raja is shown leading a hall of students through their basic wayang movements.

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