Friday, May 21, 2010

Anda Bersyair, Aku Berpantun

When we were in high school, the official language used in our textbooks were in Malay. The government has been trying to push the use of English in Mathematics and Science subjects in order to make Malaysians more competitive in the global market. Which I think is fair enough, when potassium for example, is still kalium in our language and the salt sodium is natrium to us, which can be a little confusing.

I love the Malay language, however, and I was lucky enough to be in a school where they encouraged the holistic development of our students, and the Science students all had to do a literature subject, be it English Lit or Sastera Melayu (Malay Literature) since we were thirteen.

Some of the things that I remember doing was listening to my Malay friends sing out the syairs - their lilting voices singing out the words to the poem that contained a story or words for living wisely. I mean, how cool is that - it's combining my two favoritest things in the world - music and poetry!

(I doubt that they would make a crossover movie, though. Like all those crossover dance movies you see nowadays.

*begin announcer voice sequence* This Summer. Two dance forms will collide on your screen. Like Never Before. Hip-hop, and Ballet. We call it BallHopping.*end announcer voice sequence*

*begin announcer voice sequence* This Summer. Two art forms will collide on your screens to Blow. Your. Minds. Music and Poetry. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are - the Pusicians. *end announcer voice sequence* )

What brought about all this nostalgia, though, was the fact that I somehow dug up an old Malay four-line stanza, or the standard pantun, which I concluded a friend's e-mail with recently, and I just realised how much beauty there was in the language.

The standard pantun consists of four lines, the first two being introductory, almost nonsensical lines, just to introduce the heart of the poem, which is in the last two lines - which can either be a word of advice, or a request, or even a riddle.

Berakit-rakit ke hulu,
      Berenang-renang ke tepian,
Bersakit-sakit dahulu,
      Bersenang-senang kemudian.

(Row, row to the start,
       Then swim, swim to the banks,
Suffer, suffer at the start,
       Then later you can relax.)

The earliest pantun that stays in my mind as a favourite till today was one we read as seven-year-olds:

Buah cempedak di luar pagar,
       Ambil galah tolong jolokkan,
Saya budak baru belajar,
       Kalau salah tolong tunjukkan.

(A jackfruit sits outside the gate,
       Grab a long stick and let's go get it!
I am a new student at this subject,
       If I'm wrong, help correct it!)

Okay, please forgive how badly I translate the pantun into English. I am, after all, not a Pusician.

(P.S. Can anyone else remember anymore pantuns?)


Husen said...

Pisang emas dibawa belayar,
Masak sebiji di atas peti,
Hutang emas boleh dibayar,
Hutang budi dibayar mati.

(Golden banana was brought to sea...)


mellowdramatic said...


That is one of the old classics! I love your take on "golden banana was brought to sea"... Let me try and complete it...

Golden banana was brought to sea,
Cook one of it on top of a chest,
Debts of gold can be paid by me,
Debts of kindness will follow me to rest.

Okay, I is not so profisiens in the Malay languaging. Luckily my controls of the England is power.To da maxs.

Whoever can cook a golden banana on a chest deserves to win Masterchef, in my opinion.

wearniceskirt said...

i only remember my favourite simpulan bahasa la..Bila jauh bau bunga, Bila dekat bau tahi :)

mellowdramatic said...

wearniceskirt - Haiyo... how come I am not surprised that the only simpulan bahasa you remember has the word "tahi" (sh!t) in it?

I guess it's the equivalent to "nice from far, but far from nice!" Heeheehee!