‘We Are The Ones’, a song of Asean unity and diversity

'We Are The Ones' debuted at Asean Cultural Week 2018 which was held from Oct 25 to Oct 28 in Beijing, China. — Pictures courtesy of Alvin Wee
'We Are The Ones' debuted at Asean Cultural Week 2018 which was held from Oct 25 to Oct 28 in Beijing, China. — Pictures courtesy of Alvin Wee

PETALING JAYA, Nov 1 — When Malaysian producer Alvin Wee and composer Rendra Zawawi were approached to come up with the theme song for Asean Cultural Week 2018, they knew they had to craft an anthemic tune worthy of uniting an incredibly diverse region.

The end result was We Are The Ones, a song which captures the diverse cultures together through themes of synergy, solidarity, and strength.

It’s not the first time Wee and Rendra have worked together, having come up with Zee Avi’s Arena Cahaya for Ola Bola which won the Best Original Film Song title at the 53rd Golden Horse Film Awards.

The duo also collaborated on the song Together We Rise , the closing theme for the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games, which was performed to an audience of millions.

We Are The Ones features an array of Asean talents behind the production, including Malaysian songstress and Sing! China finalist Jeryl Lee Pei Ling, Singaporean lyricist I-Ling Chia, and Los Angeles-based Filipino mastering engineer Jett Galindo.

'We Are The Ones', a collaborative effort by musical talents from different Asean countries.
'We Are The Ones', a collaborative effort by musical talents from different Asean countries.

Rendra and Wee spoke to Malay Mail about the creative process behind the song and its inspirations.

“I think the approach was pretty organic. We were told that the reference should be that of We Are The World (by Michael Jackson), so naturally we needed a killer hook or a catchy chorus that should be singable to anyone who listened to it.

“Alvin and I doodled on the song with just the guitar and piano, playing away with melodic ideas for the chorus and verses. Once we got that in place, we connected all other musical ideas for the verses, and somehow rather it all got stitched pretty nicely together,” Rendra said.

We Are The Ones draws inspiration from spices, an ingredient that plays an integral role in Asean’s food and culture.

To mirror the ways in which spices unite the region’s cuisine, We Are The Ones was sung together with children from Asean embassies in Beijing, China, as well as many from the recent Asean-China Youth Camp which took place in Kuching, Sarawak.

Children of different races from the Asean region and China joined in to bring the song’s themes of unity and diversity to life.
Children of different races from the Asean region and China joined in to bring the song’s themes of unity and diversity to life.

The music video was shot at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, making it the first project to be filmed there since 2008 when it was used as the location for the Beijing Olympics theme song’s music video.

“It’s such a historical landmark. On top of being one of the gorgeous spots in Beijing and China, it makes a lot of sense with the song we wrote and the story of this convergence of different people,” said Wee.

The producer hopes that the song will galvanise people to pool their efforts together so that the region may prosper.

“The message itself is carried out through the creation of this song and video. We hope listeners will be inspired and empowered to unite and work together further towards a better future.

“In a world full of constant change, I’d like people to know that change starts from within,” Wee said.

Rendra added that fostering a sense of community within Asean countries was paramount in order to secure better prospects for all.

“If we want to be a major player in the eyes of the world, we need to be a stronger unit, in a stronger and bigger household. That is Asean to me — representing the first step towards a direction of unity and strength,” he said.