Mr Mohamed Razif has been in and out of prison five times since 2000, mostly for housebreaking offences.
Whenever he was released, he promised his family he would not go back into the slammer. But when he repeatedly turned back to crime, they began to doubt his words.
His desire to regain his family's trust motivated him to write a song, titled Flag Of Victory, for the 2018 edition of the Yellow Ribbon Songwriting Competition, while he was an inmate at Changi Prison Complex.
This is one of five original works which will be performed at Music For The Soul – Beyond Second Chances, a concert that will be broadcast online at 8pm today as part of Red Dot August, a series of free performances presented by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.
"The song is about my life journey," says Mr Razif, 38, who is now a financial consultant in the oil and gas industry. "I want to make a new life for myself and ultimately climb the mountain of life and plant the flag of victory at the summit. I also want to get my family to trust me again."
In the pre-recorded online concert, he will sing and play the cajon with four other ex-offenders: Mr Affandi Meskam, 41; Mr Zulkifli Abdul Rahman, 41; Mr Tan Wil Khiam, 57; and Mr Am Yusoff, 46. Their group is called the Yellow Ribbon Performing Arts Centre Alumni, named after a facility in Changi Prison Complex dedicated to nurturing inmates' musical talent.
They met in prison and now advocate for second chances for former inmates in the community.
The other songs featured in the concert were written by other inmates for the Yellow Ribbon Songwriting Competition over the years.
The songwriting programme was introduced in 2004 as part of the Yellow Ribbon Creative Festival for inmates to showcase their poetry and songwriting talent. The contest is now jointly organised by the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore and the Yellow Ribbon Project.
During the concert, the ex-offenders will perform with musicians Aaron Matthew Lim and Peng Chi Sheng, who are co-founders of Singapore music school Intune Music and have been coaching inmates since 2014.
Mr Lim, 42, says the lessons taught – which include instruction in guitar, drums, keyboard, singing and music theory – provide inmates with skills which they can use to seek music-related careers after their release.
WATCH IT / MUSIC FOR THE SOUL – BEYOND SECOND CHANCES
WHEN: 8pm today
After their release, some former offenders got in touch with both musicians last year to collaborate on performances, resulting in the concert.
One of the performers, Mr Tan, who was previously jailed for drug offences and is now a delivery driver, will play the piano during the show. "My favourite song is Changes because it acknowledges that nobody is perfect, but we are trying to change and become better," he says.
While he was behind bars, he says, music taught him lessons such as patience and focusing on the task at hand. "I learnt that when we practise our instruments, we will get better with time. And in life, when we focus on doing the right things, we will lead a good life."
Songs featured in the line-up
1 I'M GONNA ACHIEVE
Mr Zulkifli Abdul Rahman: "This song is about the difficulties ex-inmates face after release, when we try our best to stick to the right path and not go back to our old waRead More – Source