Thursday, April 28, 2011

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


Ummie said...

Malin Kundang or as this side of the peninsular are more familiar with Si Tanggang.
After visiting the site, it's sad to know many folks just take it as another historical place, when it's for us to ponder and 'muhasabah diri' from what is left, for all of us to see our inner self.

BaitiBadarudin said...

Yes, as I was writing, a few of the morality tales from Sumatera Barat came to mind. I think there was one about a princess who turned into a fish with gold chains and other myths and legends which were delighted me as a child. Perhaps, I should start reading them again.
How was the visit by your friends from Kaki Bukit last week end?

Ummie said...

No, not last week, but this Saturday.
Madrasah Ma'arif maulid.
PJ people coming too.

BaitiBadarudin said...

Wallahi, I wish I could be there but I have Arabic classes at Masjid Negara on Saturdays. Kirim salam ya pada orang Kaki Bukit, dan juga orang PJ.