Singaporean officials warned a German electronic group it cannot perform the full version of its 2002 hit “Million Tears” at an upcoming concert because the dance track has been repurposed as a chant by a local secret society.
The organized crime group was formed in the 1970s, and its members have since been arrested for narcotics distribution, prostitution, and a variety of other crimes.
The groovy ballad’s syncopated beats, it turns out, sync perfectly with Salakau’s signature poem, according to Rice Media, a digital publication covering Southeast Asia.
The danceable song picked up steam in Singapore through burned CDs in the 2000s and grew even more popular after it became streamable on YouTube.
At one point in the song, lead singer Melanie Münch sings, “Whoa oh whoa oh, a million tears for you” — which, among Salakau members, is a cue to start their collective chant.
The band said it had no intention of causing a stir in Singapore.
It reportedly first learned about the controversy while on a tour stop in Singapore in 2019. Back then, it wasn’t aware that its sleeper single had become an unexpected hit in the Southeast Asian city-state.
“We are European musicians and hadn’t heard about the chanting before,” band member DJ Novus told Rice Media. “The organizer told us they were unsure whether we could do the song, but everybody loved it. It was one of the reasons why they invited us.”
Not all who sing along to the chant are gang members. Some sing along ironically — or simply as a joke.
Gangs in Singapore at one point had far more complicated ways of identifying each other, per Rice Media. As far back as the 18th century, some used elaborate hand signals, tea ceremonies, and codes of conduct to distinguish themselves from the general population.
The band said they’ve found a middle ground that keeps both Singaporean officials and music fans happy: While touring inside the country, they play “Million Tears” but leave out the parts that usually illicit the gang chant.