25 August 2013: Three Malay titles – Performing arts

Areca Books presents three Malay titles …

Sanggar BudayaAn Artiste for All Seasons…
Trying to sum up the life of the late Mohamed Bahroodin Ahmad (or Cigku Baha to all who knew him) in a few pages is akin to choosing just three paintings to describe Rembrandt. One risks oversimplification when describing his talents ­­­– actor, teacher, performer, scriptwriter, choreographer and producer of Malay performing arts. Many remember his legendary performances which cut across social, culture and gender as he fleshed out characters and events. Beneath the outward cheeriness and optimism, Cikgu Baha’s chequered life was one of adversity, sacrifice, ambition, artistic triumph and tragic exit. This brief biography, written by Sohaimi Abdul Aziz, is a testament to a Penang treasure, including rare photographs. To all who never had the honour of knowing Cikgu Baha, his story, Sanggar Budaya, serves as an intimate introduction to his life, talents and achievements.

Syair boriaThe Bard of Boria
Love it or ignore it, boria is a quintessential part of Penang’s cultural scene. A form of theatre originally performed during Muslim religious festivals in India, Penang boria has assumed a religious-secular tone. Syair Boria details the life and poetry of the late Abdullah Darus, who was known in Penang as a boria poet. A scriptwriter by any other name, Abdullah assumed a role which was nothing less than pivotal to the song and dance of the boria plot. To boria enthusiasts, Abdullah’s contribution is significant: he has produced well over a hundred poems since 1948, many of which are focused on the psyche of a particular community and are often interwoven with Islamic teachings. One of his more popular works, Pahlawan Cangkul, was written as a social commentary of the divide between Penang’s island and mainland folk. One could even describe it as a sort of homegrown Tale of Two Cities!

tulila_revised_1Tulila: Mandailing Courtship Music
A young man and his fair maiden. Whispered poems and the trillings of a flute in the moonlight. Like the mythical Pan lulling nymphs with pipes, the art of markusip is a form of courtship used to serenade the fairer sex among the Mandailings. Central to markusip is the tulila, a woodwind instrument made of bamboo and tuned to mimic the sounds of nature. The tulila, interspersed with whispered quatrains called ende-ende, embodies the ritual of courtship between the sexes. Unlike the vastly popular Javanese gamelan, the centuries-old tulila is probably destined to extinction fairly soon, if it hasn’t become so already. But all is not lost if cultural heritage is documented properly, and this is precisely the raison d’être of Tulila: Muzik Bujukan Mandailing. Journeying to 18 Mandailing districts, author and researcher Edi Nasution captures everything there is to know about the art form. With this book, the demise of the tulila need never be an irreplaceable cultural loss.