Racing to End HPV Cancer
NOMAN is an Island: Race to End HPV
Wawan Husen is a singer/songwriter, music producer and videographer in Singapore. Cindy Chng is a social innovator, community builder and the founder of Action4HPV - an active campaign partner working tirelessly to raise awareness about HPV not only in Singapore but also across the Asia Pacific region and in commonwealth countries around the world. Inspired by the ‘One Less Worry’ HPV Awareness Campaign theme, Cindy and Wawan created a catchy song to grab attention to spread the word about HPV in a fun way. IPVS had a chance to talk to Wawan and Cindy to hear how the One Less Worry song came together.
Q: How do you two know each other?
C: We are both community volunteers living in the same neighborhood and we first met each other at community meetings. I remember Wawan was involved in a local cultural festival. We discovered that we are both passionate about helping young people find and develop their potential. Wawan is involved in social impact initiatives and teaches young people videography and trains young singers. Because of his popularity, he is a kind of influencer in the music scene here in Singapore.
W: Yes, we became friends that way, although our backgrounds are different. Cindy impressed me with her fire and determination to help people, she puts her heart into it.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Wawan?
W: I can try! I grew up as a ‘streetwise’ kid in Singapore. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had an intense interest in music. As a teenager I played in a heavy metal band. When I was about 19 years old, I participated in a talent competition on TV in Singapore and became a finalist on that program. That gave me the opportunity to create and record music for another TV program. From that point my career in music started to come together.
Q: What is your genre?
W: I like all types of music, but I am probably best-known for ballads and love songs. Now that I have two little daughters, my heart is full of daddy’s love which inspires some of my songs. It’s amazing to become a parent!
Q: Are you a full-time singer-songwriter now?
W: It’s been necessary to do a bit of everything actually. When I started out, karaoke was very popular, so I would take a popular song each week and re-produce it. I also started writing and producing songs of my own because I really admire artists that can do that. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be authentic.
I sang almost every evening in clubs around town and became fairly well-known here in Singapore. Then COVID came along and killed the live music scene. I had to find other ways to put food on the table. So I took my little camera and started making more videos. I produced theme music for television shows and all kinds of videos, like the one about HPV.
Q: Did you know much about HPV when Cindy asked you to write a song about it?
W: Actually I had already videographed a show about HPV with doctors talking about some health issues, but… honestly, I didn’t really understand what HPV was or how it affects almost everyone.
C: He found out! And Wawan showed his talent, because although he never wrote a rap song before the One Less Worry song, he took on the challenge and the result is pretty cool.
Q: Tell us about the creative process of coming up with the song.
C: I wanted to do something different to reach people, something more appealing than asking people to sit and listen to a health talk. So I thought, most people enjoy music and dancing, why not try to grab attention and impart information that way? I already had a Zumba tempo in mind, and it was easy enough for us to come up with a simple melody. I went to my friend Neha who is a choreographer and asked her to come up with some fun Zumba moves to go with this music. So she came up with a routine.
The words of the song came last, and that part was very spontaneous. Wawan and I met up for coffee and started to brainstorm about working key messages about HPV into the lyrics. We knew the chorus had to be One Less Worry, so we just thought ‘One Jab, One Check, One Less Worry.’ We were experimenting, but it was so much fun that we finished in a day.
W: I took the lyrics home to my recording studio. Normally it takes a lot of repetition to produce the desired result. I have to find my place in the song, and identify the right words to emphasize, things like that. With the One Less Worry song, it only took one time. This was exceptional.
Q: What were the key messages you wanted to work into the lyrics?
C: Well for example that HPV is asymptomatic. Thanks to the COVID pandemic many people know that this means no symptoms, you can have it without being aware of it. I also wanted to make it clear that males are also affected by HPV and should get vaccinated to protect themselves and to avoid passing along the virus to others.
Here is our song One Jab, One Check, One Less Worry, produced by Wawan Husen.
Q: People around the world that are working on the International HPV Awareness Campaign really like your song and are using it to spread knowledge about HPV. How does that make you feel?
W: I am very happy to help deliver such important messages that can save lives. It would be great if the song goes ‘viral’ to raise awareness about HPV. I am a strong believer in the strength of audio and visual influence. A good video doesn’t mean it will be a good song. I think this is good song that fits to the purpose. It makes people smile and nod to the beat.
C: Yes. People will listen carefully if they enjoy what they hear.
Q: Do you think music has the power to change things for people?
W: Yes, I do. Like I mentioned, I pretty much grew up in the streets. I can tell you; music is such a universal form of expression. We all want to be heard and understood. It has powerful influence on the way we see things - for good or for bad. Music changed my perspective toward life.
Q: Do you think we could turn the One Less Worry song into a viral TikTok challenge? What would it take to succeed?
C: I think we need to come up with something unique to catch attention, and maybe find some popular, well-known people to help create a music video that everyone wants to see. I am working on a (probably crazy) idea that I will keep quiet for now, but hopefully will come together.
Q: Wawan, when your daughters are old enough, will you take them to get vaccinated against HPV?
W: Yes, but first I must convince my wife. She comes from a family where it is necessary to share a lot of information and facts to persuade someone to do something like getting vaccinated or screened. Maybe next time I am working on something to do with HPV, I will bring her along so she can see what it is about.
Q: And invite her to join for a coffee with Cindy and she will become convinced!
W: Sounds like a good plan.
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