Earlier this week we met Fiji’s welcome song, “Bula Maleya.” (Land in the Nadi International Airport on the western end of Viti Levu and it may well be the first music you hear.) Let’s end our week of music from Fiji with this tremendous version of the song. “Bula Maleya,” meet…ELVIS!
Tag Archives | Malaysia
“Bula Maleya” may well be Fiji’s favorite song. It originated with Fijian soldiers who fought, as members of the British Commonwealth, in the British military campaign to fight the Japanese in Malaysia (then Maleya) during World War II. During the battles Fijian and Malayan soldiers became friendly and wrote this song to mark their cooperation. Today’s Fijians have adopted “Bula Maleya” as a welcome song, singing it readily to greet tourists arriving on the islands.
At Adau is a groundbreaking world music ensemble from the island of Borneo. The band fuses many forms of traditional Bornean music — all your favorites, like Sape’, Perutongs, Beduk and Kidibad and even Takebung — with rock instruments like the drum kit and electric guitar. At Adau wants much more than to just play pleasant songs from Borneo: says their website, “At Adau musical creations do not only represent their feelings and expressions but also reflect peace, serenity, appreciation for nature and a deep love and harmony between people around the world, regardless of cultural backgrounds, races, and boundaries.” Cool! Watch them rock Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival in 2017
Yesterday we learned about one of Malaysia’s favorite sports — sepak takraw. The sport has the illustrious designation of being a “keepie uppie,” a game in which the player uses every part of the body except the hands — feet, legs, knees, shoulders, chest and head — to keep a ball or other object from falling. Hackey sack is a keepie-uppie, as are games played internationally like footvolley (Portugal), football tennis (Czech Republic), jianzi (China), sipa (the Philippines) and bossaball (started in Spain, but now played worldwide). You should definitely clear some space then try sepak takraw, or any keepie uppie, in your classroom. Your kids will really get a get a kick (HA!) out of playing them.
In class this week as we learn about Malaysia we really have fun playing the sport Sepak takraw, one of the nation’s favorite sports Sepak takraw is essentially a cross between volleyball and hackeysack. The sepak takraw ball is a small-ish one, made of rattan (a kind of palm). The three players on each team stand on each side of what looks like a volleyball/badminton net. As in volleyball they must keep the ball from touching the ground on their side. As in hackeysack they may only touch ball with their feet. And, as in any international sport we meet in music class, when we “play sepak takraw” we joyfully let the toddlers bounce a ball and say “yay!”
Yesterday we met the tourist-friendly Malaysian city of Malacca where, to our delight, tourists ride about in three-wheeled, flower-adorned pedicabs (rickshaws). In class we pretend to be hard working rickshaw drivers, as we sing “My Rickshaw,” pedaling from sunrise to sundown: “Abang beca, abang beca di tengah jalan, I drive my rickshaw in the town, Abang beca, abang beca di tengah jalan, I pedal hard to keep those wheels going ’round . . . .” In this video I’m sitting on a chair to teach the song, but the real fun takes place in the classroom. There we get down on the ground and pedal pedal pedal, climbing all the way up an imaginary hill — which, even in our imagination, is hard work! — then letting gravity grab us as we race toward town.
One of our favorite songs of this season is, “My Rickshaw” (“Abang Beca”) a traditional song about the rickshaw drivers in the tourist-friendly parts of Melacca Malaysia, a port city on the southwestern coast of the Malay Peninsula. Founded as a port town in the early 1400’s, Melacca had became a strategic pan-Asian trading hub long before the Portuguese conquered it in 1511. The Dutch ruled from 1641 to 1798, then the British until World War II, then the Japanese during the War…eventually Melacca became part of independent Malaya. Today it is a tourist-friendly, Portuguese-oriented port town, and a UNESCO-registered World Heritage site. We sing in class about the town’s uniquely colorful, musical three-wheeled pedicabs.
Malaysia’s rich tradition of nurturing folk music doesn’t prevent it from embracing Western pop. In the 1960s the Beatles and other Western bands became popular in Malaysia, inspiring local musicians to create their own rock. (In the ’80s, music journalists looking back on the style gave it the name “Pop Yeh Yeh.”) Since the mid ’80s Malaysia has been one of Asia’s foremost centers of R&B, and rap, and, since the mid ’90s, Malay Pop. Typical of a country that readily blends the old and the new, Islamic pop styles like nasyid allow musicians to forge modern musical ground while maintaining their own ancient religious and cultural beliefs.
Malaysian music, like so much of Malaysian culture and society, is the result of an ever-evolving interplay between Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, Chinese and global (especially Islamic) styles. Several kinds of Malaysian traditional music have developed as a mix of local and international forms, like traditional xylophone “kertok” ensembles from the Western Malay Kelatanese communities along the South China Sea, Arabian-influenced zapin music (and the accompanying zapin dance), violin/drum/accordion and gong folk music called “ronggeng” from Malacca and, as we see in this video, dondang savang, a “slow and intense” genre built from Indian, Arabian, Chinese and Portuguese influences.
This week our online class takes us to very modern Malaysia, a country that is engaged in many balancing acts at once. An economic powerhouse that boasts skyscrapers, superhighways and enthusiastic international industry, Malaysia is also home to millions who live simply and in accordance with ancient traditions. Geographically, Malaysia balances two distinct regions separated by the South China Sea: Peninsular Malaysia, the urban hub of the nation, and Malaysian Borneo, whose many, many animal species help make it “megadiverse.” Religiously, Malaysia balances a Muslim majority with its Buddhist and other religious minorities. Ethnically, Malaysia is exceedingly conscious about balancing the rights and privileges of indigenous Malaysian people, known as the “Bumiputra” with those of Chinese Malaysians. Because of all this balancing sometimes Malaysia seems modern and easy to understand. Then one runs up against a strict cultural practice or an Islamic law enforced by the nation’s “Religious Police,” and the contemporary Malaysia seems to disappear. . . .