Rapper Subhas removed from National Day documentary following music video response to ‘brownface’ ad

Screenshot of Subhas Nair in rap video made in response to controversial E-Pay ad.
Screenshot of Subhas Nair in rap video made in response to controversial E-Pay ad.

The fallout is continuing for Singaporean rapper Subhas Nair. Already under investigation by police for alleged offensive content in a recent rap video, the 27-year-old has now been excised from an upcoming ChannelNewsAsia (CNA) documentary intended to air in honor of National Day.

Nair’s blistering video was created in response to the controversial E-Pay ad created by Mediacorp and agency Havas Worldwide in which Chinese actor Dennis Chew was dressed in brownface to impersonate an Indian man. The ad was pulled amid the resultant firestorm, and an apology for “hurting feelings” was issued, though Mediacorp has yet to specifically illuminate its stance on the use of brownface.

The clip, which also featured his sister, social media personality Preeti Nair, attracted both praise and condemnation from netizens as well as a response from law minister K Shanmugam, who said it had crossed the line by attacking Chinese Singaporeans.

In a statement to Coconuts Singapore, Mediacorp-owned CNA said Subhas was removed as it “strongly objects to all such offensive content which threatens racial harmony and will not associate with individuals who intentionally create such content.”

“As a result, CNA has removed Mr Nair from its upcoming musical documentary ROAR and taken down the articles related to his involvement with this program,” it said.

The ROAR documentary, about Singaporean musicians making new music for National Day, featured Subhas and three other local artists: Benjamin Kheng, Aisyah Aziz and Wang Weiliang. It’s scheduled to air on Saturday.

Subhas’ now-axed segment featured a collaboration with members of Migrant Bands Singapore, a musical group formed by mainly South Asian workers in the country, for a song called UTOPIA.

Earlier in the day, Subhas posted a short Instagram clip of himself jamming with Migrant Bands Singapore, saying in the caption that he was looking forward to the show.

The rap music video was posted on Facebook on Sunday and had garnered about 40,000 views before it was taken down after a notice was issued to them by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

An IMDA spokesperson told Coconuts Singapore that the clip constituted prohibited content under the Internet Code of Practice “that is objectionable on grounds of public interest and national harmony.”

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