Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oslan Hussein : Ayam Den Lapeh (HQ Audio)

The hills are alive with the sound of music at Bukit Tinggi

If you think that the Filipinos are the most musically talented people in the Nusantara, then you haven't heard the Sumatrans (esp Minangs and Bataks) sing and strum their guitars.  Other than Oslen Hussein, a very popular Sumatran singer of the 40s and beyond was S. Effendi.
The Minangs were also known for their Adat Pepatih, ulamaks, literary writers, folklores and tongue-tingling Padang cuisine.  The link between Sumatra and Semenanjung Tannah Melayu dated back to the time of Bukit Seguntang Mahameru at Palembang, where the ancestors of the Malay kings and subjects had their first Social Contract or wa'adat.  The pact between Sang Sapurba and Demang Lebar Daun stipulated that the ra'ayat will the king's loyal subjects for as long as the king treat them with dignity.    
Thus Bapak's posting to the hill station where the Japanese military had their 25th regiment was heavensent and a belated honeymoon for Mak.  The cool air at Bukit Tinggi, the surrounding lakes and valleys were the perfect retreat for Mak, away from the brutality of the Kempetei and the near famine in Japanese-occupied Singapore.  She had just settled into married life and had her first born son, who was named after 'Bung Hatta', a native of Sumatera Barat who became the first Indonesian Deputy President. 
At Bukit Tinggi, Mak was initiated to the Indonesian struggle for Independence, its literature, folklore, music and cuisine.  Through the works of Marah Rusli, one of the pioneer novelists in Indonesia, and 'Pak Hamka', a literary giant who later became a revered ulamak, Mak immersed herself in narratives of love vs arranged marriages, poverty vs power, status and wealth, modernity vs the 'Adat' in Sitti Nurbaya (Kasih Tak Sampai) and Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijk. 
The Adat Pepatih was supposed to favour women in terms of property and inheritance but it still gave power to make decisions in the hands of the Elders.  "Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat" (Let the child die but let the Adat live) reflected the belief that age-old conventions should over ride immature behavior or impudent resistance.
The popular folktales such as Malin Kundang (Anak Durhako - the Prodigal Son) and Sabai Nan Aluih emphasized the importance of filial piety to the young.  Malin Kundang is the Minang's version of Si Tanggang while Sabai was a feisty young lady who avenged her father's death.  Set against the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding hills and valleys of Sawah Luntor, Pagar Ruyung (the seat of the Minangkabau kings), Batu Sangkar, Merapi, Lembah siAnok and Tarai Anai, the local legends gave life to the people, places (Aie Manieh, Lembah Harau, Sawah Lunto) and other living beings in that enchanting landscape.  

Danau Maninjau

Ancestral Home or Rumah Gadang

SabahNanAluih: A popular folktale

Sumatra Barat

Malin Kundang before he was turned to stone

Another tragic love story

Love vs arranged marriage/
modernity vs the 'Adat' 
The famous Jam Gadang

Sunday, April 24, 2011

1st Malaysia-ASEAN Regional Bloggers Conference

I was glad I made it to the 1st Malaysian-ASEAN Regional Bloggers Conference (MARBC) at the KL InterContinental today.  Not only did I get to meet bloggers from Malaysia, but also counterparts from Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Hassan Skodeng talked about the 'crap' that littered 'blogosphere' but maintained that bloggers should 'self-regulate'. urged for "sense and sensibility" to prevail among bloggers on both sides of the political divide while pointed out the absence of the 'usual suspects' at the conference.
The PM concurred that blog readers should be discerning enough to sieve the wheat from the chaff and called for digital inclusion of dissenting bloggers. 
For more updates, read about 'Asean bloggers reach cooperative 'KL Consensus':

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Images of Bangsawan and Utusan in the thirties and forties

Well, I've yet to come up with pictures of the Javanese community in the Orange Grove/Dunearn Road area during the pre-War era, where Mak grew up in. 
My 'dig' into the nocturnal Bangsawan world of Tok Mat Semawi at Wayang Satu and his day job at Utusan in the thirties and forties only produced selected images which are listed below.

1.  Tok Mat must have had some theatrical blood flowing in his vein to take up the directorial role at the Bangsawan stage at Wayang Satu.  The Javanese too must have found it easy to migrate from the traditional  'wayang wong' (People's Play, as opposed to shadow or puppet play) to the modern opera which made its way from Italy through Persia.  The Bangsawan was supposed to be entertainment for the nobility, but it appealed to audiences from different walks of life.  Its financiers and actors too were comprised of Peranakan Indians, Arabs and Nyonyas.  Hence the assorted titles, such as Jula Juli Bintang Tiga, Nyai Dasima and The Merchant of Bagdad. 
2. Sandiwara Dardanella, which manifested European influences in its prop and costume.

3. Roekiah, a popular Prima Donna.

4.  An elaborate set, costume and cast.

5.  The facade of the Utusan office at Cecil St.

6.  The editorial staff of Utusan celebrated its birth in 1939.

7.  Utusan Melayu in Jawi script then.
8.  A group photo of those who had given their sweat, blood and tears to see Utusan became a reality on 31st May 1939.
9.  A poster of a Bangsawan performance by Nyonya artistes in Penang.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Before there was Geylang Serai (1890-1910)

Kampong Siglap circa 1890s 

Kampong Bugis, 1900

The Sultan of Johore, 1908

Telok Belanga, 1912
Photos courtesy of On a little street in Singapore

These were some of the coastal communities pushed inland to make way for development along the Singapore, Rochor and Kallang rivers in the early twentieth century.  Note the poverty and squalor and why modernisation and westernisation were very attractive alternatives to the traditional 'kampong way of life'.  
I have to verify whether my maternal grandfather was actually half Bugis and whether his father once emerged from one of these stilt hovels and walked along the narrow wooden walkways in his all-black outfit of tunic, pants, and headgear, with a weapon tucked under his waistband or sash.
Now, I've got to find pictures on the Javanese at the Orange Grove district in the 1920s.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Geylang Serai (1920s-1970s)

Here's another video about growing up in a kampong in Singapore, but this one's in Kampong Ubi, Geylang Serai. I'd like to thank 'pandanwangie' for sharing his compilation of snapshots of life in GS which spanned about half a century, from the twenties to the seventies.
Note the smiles and laughter, tears and joy amid the destitution in the underbelly of society hidden by the hustle and bustle of the rows of shops, the wet market, the crammed stalls and the bus terminus at the intersection where GS collided with Jalan Eunos and Joo Chiat Road.
From a sparsely populated area in the twenties, where electric trolleys or trams plied the streets and the canal flowed by tall coconut trees and derelict houses, the community almost burst at its seam from the influx of people seeking a 'better life' coupled with rapid population growth after the Great War.
Wooden houses with bamboo shades or laundry on their narrow and wide verandahs, narrow wooden or wide concrete stairs, ladies in batik sarong and kebaya, carrying their babies in their shawls or dressed in western gowns admiring her (?) quadruplets, and children playing and bathing in the public tap.
Notice too the gasoline lamp, the flood, the politicians on their campaign trails, the new structures of high-rise flats, emporiums, cinemas and the vocational institute which sprouted in the sixties, the loaf-shaped red and white buses, the concrete bus shelter, the traffic police marooned in the middle of the road and the tragic reaction to the demolition of 'a whole way of life' to make way for modernisation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jalan Perwira, Kaki Bukit, Singapore

Well, folks, this is the YouTube video on life in Kaki Bukit in the seventies and eighties, posted by Muzaffar703.  I wish I could thank him personally or he would by chance stumble upon my blog, as I had stumbled upon his video.  Note the 'little hut' that housed the 'bucket-type latrine' of the 'good old days of poor sanitation and plumbing' (Snicker and Sneer).
I would also like to thank T Azra who conveyed his salam through Remgold's blog.  I hope there are many silent readers like him who enjoyed reading my postings but are too shy to comment. 
I would also like to share another title of the same genre, A Kite in the Evening Sky by Shaik Kadir, as mentioned by T Azra.  It is a lower secondary text published by Marshall Cavendish Education.  It recounted a childhood in Geylang Serai in the late fifties and sixties.  I will try to get my hands on the book and do an off-the-cuff review.  Til then, God speed!   


Monday, April 18, 2011

Gedung Kuning & Kilat Senja

It's been two weeks since my last posting and I've been "sitting on an egg" ('mengeram' in Malay, or 'incubating', the process by which the mother hen warms her eggs so they'll develop from a fluid yolk into breathing, chirping, hopping, pecking, fluffy yellow chicks).
I've also re-read the Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini to get ideas on developing characters and dialogues, spent hours at MPH and Borders at the Curve to study titles, by Asian writers, which have won literary awards. 
In a way, that was both inspiring and intimidating since it made me wish that I had the benefit of a 'writers' support group' that would provide me with precious insights and encouragement.  So, I googled for 'writing groups' but just found Sharon Bakar's and Silverfish's creative writing workshops which have limited places and specific time frames. 
Be that as it may, while waiting for a writing coach to flutter down from 'writers' heaven', I'll continue with the background research so as to verify pertinent information.  I found from a video on Kaki Bukit, which I will post along with those on Geylang Serai in the sixties, that the late Yusoff Latiff was not a passer-by but was a resident of Kaki Bukit. 
And in surfing the net, I also found titles by two intrepid female writers, Hidayah Amin and Assoc Prof Hadijah Rahmat.  It took Hidayah five years to compile her book and Hadijah 26 years to complete her research.  But I'm not a patient 'mother hen' (literally 'ibu ayam' in a positive sense) who could wait that long to see my manuscript into print.  Thus, I resolved to write and/or edit at least a page a day, insyaAllah!    
The following are links for reviews of and online orders for Gedung Kuning and Kilat Senja: