Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Terang Bulan Avenue

I have been 'summoned' by my wife to fetch her home from her sister's house in Opera Estate*, Singapore (or else she isn't coming back she says ... haha) where she has spent the past week 'bonding' with her kinfolk. So I will take a slow drive down to Singapore early Friday morning and spend a couple of days there.

* It is interesting to note that all the roads and avenues in this housing estate are named after operas, operettas and Malay bangsawan of old e.g. Carmen, Aida, Figaro and even Terang Bulan Avenue where my wife and I were married more than thirty years ago. The theme song from the old Malay bangsawan or opera Terang Bulan was adapted in 1957 as our national anthem Negara Ku.

I recall many years ago, as part of the often brutal 'ragging' aboard my pre-sea training ship in Bombay, I was made to stand stark naked at attention by my seniors and sing our national anthem. Imagine my horror then when I was proudly singing the Negara Ku, albeit in my 'birthday suit', one of the senior cadets started to hum and then sing the song in a language I could not then identify! It appeared that this particular senior cadet grew up in the Seychelles Islands where the song was an old and popular folk song*.

It was fortunate for me that I remembered my history lessons well and managed to explain away the 'connection'. Our national anthem was actually adapted from the Perak state anthem, which in turn was adapted from the then popular bangsawan song Terang Bulan. This song had originated from the Seychelles where Perak's Sultan Abdullah was sent in exile by the British after being implicated in the assassination of J.W.W. Birch in November 1875.

But I must have looked pretty silly then forty years ago, with mouth agape and 'main mast' dangling in the wind, when my seniors aboard the training ship ordered me to stop trying to be a comedian and sing the correct song, or else to hit the deck (literally) and do a hundred push ups instead ...

From the French song La Rosalie, original melody by Pierre Jean de Beranger.

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