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October 20, 2010

Look around you and discover treasure!

Another overdue post on a talk held at Bukit Merah Library on "Old Chinese Dialect Songs and rhymes" on October 9, 2010. 

The speaker is a renowned DJ from Malaysia. Better known for his Chinese name Ji An 吉安 (Chong Keat Aun, 张吉安), he spent a few years going around the country to collect and record dialect songs and rhymes. He has published a book titled 乡音考古 (literally translated as "archaeological findings of the village music" but it will be more appropriate to translate "village music" as "folk songs/ballads"). Here is his website:

He mentioned a few key points which I have noted and shared the same sentiments.
1. Everyone, not just researchers, can play a part in recording voices/songs around us (especially in the context where generations of overseas Chinese have migrated, settled down, localized but to some extent, preserve their tradition). We never know if this may be of value and become an important heritage in future. 

2. Doing such collection/research is a race against time. We never know when these people will leave us. Personally, I was much saddened by the recent demise of this lady puppeteer and I hope in time to come, I will be able to put my collection into writing and documentation as well. 

Some pictures that I took during the talk, pardon for the poor quality because the speaker preferred to talk in the dark. Even so, many of us were attentively listening to him for almost 3 hours. A natural speaker with a great passion indeed.  

Minnan song with a local flavour

Tongan nursery rhymes well-remembered by an elderly lady

Hainan lullaby songs

There are a few more others like Nanyin, Guangxi mountain songs, Yongchun proverbs etc etc. Ji An was saying that in China you will never get to find so many dialect groups all "cramped" together in one area. The existence of a multi-dialectal Chinese community is something unique about Singapore and Malaysia, perhaps existing in some parts of Southeast Asia and other places with overseas Chinese communities. 

Look around you and you may find treasure! 

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