Sunday, March 18, 2012

My childhood cultural sights and sounds of Singapore

Reading Gintai_昇泰's blog entry about a Malay wedding that he attended suddenly reminded me of familiar cultural sights and sounds from Singapore. Sights and sounds that I grew up with, and thus were somehow comforting at a subconscious level. Stuff that I would miss if not for the blessing of Youtube.

Cantonese opera

During our pre-school years, our Cantonese standard was not good enough to understand what the performers were singing in the classical Cantonese opera performances held during the 7th month Ghost Festival in Chinatown streets. Nevertheless, the colourful costumes, drama, and clear good-vs-bad storyline were captivating. My sister and I used to mimic the operatic gestures using my grandfather's long pyjamas pants as "water-sleeves" [水袖]. I spent many hours copying the intricate head-dress of the female characters with pencil on scrap paper.

Malay kompang

Those were the days of life in a HDB estate. Malay weddings were often held at the void deck (i.e. empty ground level of a HDB apartment block) and often had a kompang team. While I may find it noisy when I have to study, I would nevertheless be moved by the rhythmic beats of the kompang team. Sometimes the kompang performance would morph into a dikir barat performance, and their choral voices are mesmerizing. Occasionally there would also be a lovely bevy of ladies dancing the joget.

Traditional Indian Hindu dance

The precise movements, gestures and expressions, colourful costumes and synchronized dance steps of the traditional Indian Hindu dance fascinated me since young. Once my primary school class had an outing to the (old open-air) National Theatre to watch several performances. During an Indian Hindu dance performance, while many of my classmates were bored and distracted themselves through chit-chating, I was engrossed with it.

Some aspects of this old Singapore life is gone now. E.g. Street-side Cantonese opera and the open-air National Theatre. Thankfully the kompang is still an integral part of a typical Malay wedding. Although now that I'm in Canada, I can only access all these via Youtube.

No comments

Post a Comment