Malaysia’s roots anchored in music video

GEORGE TOWN: A homegrown band’s music video to showcase the nation’s cultural diversity for Malaysia Day is creating waves.

In the video filmed at a picturesque organic farm in Balik Pulau, band members performed a Hokkien song titled Song of the Streets while clad in traditional attire.

The number, originating from an old Hokkien folk song that one of the members heard growing up, was composed using local instruments and enhanced with added lyrics to pay homage to the popular local streets in George Town and the respective trades.

The band, Culture Shot aka la la li la tam pong, comprises band leader M. Sivasilan on the gendang, lead vocalist Ang Eng Bok who plays the Lan Tin Tang (Hokkien guitar), Kasiman Basman on the rebana, Tan Yean Chang on the erhu, Kang Su Kheng on auxiliary percussion and accordion, and Clarence Ewe on Chinese percussion.

Sivasilan, 35, said it was completely coincidental that the band members represented various cultural backgrounds.

“We formed organically in 2014 through meeting each other at various music events. This song was part of a performance we submitted to a music festival in Taiwan last year.

“We just didn’t release it in the country till this Aug 31,” he said.

Showcase of culture: A screencap from YouTube showing Culture Shot performing their hit titled ‘Song of the Streets’ at a farm in Balik Pulau, Penang.Showcase of culture: A screencap from YouTube showing Culture Shot performing their hit titled ‘Song of the Streets’ at a farm in Balik Pulau, Penang.

On the language barrier, Sivasilan added that only he and Kasiman did not understand Hokkien unlike the others.

“But it has been years of working together, and music is an expression on its own that transcends different languages. We worked on the song together as a band and we understand where the music is going based on melody, so it is easy to perform the song.

Sivasilan said the band performed songs in other languages as well.

“There are a lot of folk songs that have been forgotten, and we want to repackage them while keeping the essence. All the instruments we play are traditional, yet they are usually never seen together.

“We include Indian rhythms as there are no Indian instruments used in the band as yet. The challenges we do face musically is that traditional instruments can only play certain keys,” he said.

Ang said he heard the Hokkien song when he was a child.

“It is not completely composed by us. I overheard it during my childhood when I lived near Sia Boey here.

“When prayers were held near my house, there were kotai (stage performances) and someone performed this song, but I do not remember the whole piece.

“We could not identify where the tune came from and the original composer of the melody. The version I heard was not complete as it only mentioned a few streets in George Town.

“So I based it on memory and added lyrics to speak more about roads in the George Town area. I recalled my childhood and the places, and added them into the song until it became this final version. It is our must-perform song at all our gigs,” he said.

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