Thursday, June 2, 2016

SOUNDING OFF PEOPLE & THE “TEGUR MENEGUR” ASPECTS OF LIFE


The human mind is truly a most amazing thing. It’s learning capacity and even its re-learning capability is almost without limits. A human being learns to react and interact with the environment from the very day of birth itself.  Call it social or cultural conditioning if you so desire but what the the immediate environment does to the mind makes a huge difference. 
Under most circumstances, it starts from the home and parental and family influences. That is why how one interacts with the environment depends almost solely upon the individual’s earliest experiences at home.

There is an Indian  / Sanskrit saying that goes like this – “Matha, Pitha Guru Theivam” which simply means mother, father and God. This is the order of reverence for a human being resulting in the ultimate understanding God. It is first through the mother and then the father that we get connected with God and in the earliest stages of life. The environment is not mentioned in this philosophy although we also learn through imitation of what others do which is what social conditioning is all about. Eating with fingers or chopstics or using the fork and spoon are early manifestations of this phenomenon.
In the Malay language there is a term that would rile up even the meekest Malay to get real mad if someone says to him/her  “kurang ajar”. This literally means and implies that the person it is addressed to has not been well taught and by implication it is a direct insult to his/her parents. Even in English the terms “badly / wrongly” brought up” is no compliment and again reflects on one’s parents but it is not really as biting as the “kurang ajar” label.

In older times parents and elders were looked up to for knowledge and wisdom for guidance to succeed in almost any aspect of life right from traditional skills for survival such as hunting. /. With advent of formal education this social process has been very much lessened in function as well as importance. Yet, it is seldom realized that an average child spends only a few hours at school and the rest of the time “outside” the school and at home most of that time.  Thus in the first few years of the child he/she is “indoctrinated” on how to speak/talk, behave and socialize. This would include language, body language, social manners and mannerisms besides religious orientation.  That is why I always say I am not proud to be an Indian simply because I had no choice in the matter. What if I was born as a prince in Denmark or England or Timbuktu or in the mountains of Afghanistan?

Therefore, although we are all conditioned to learn until we breathe our last breath, this seldom is the case.  Why is this so? Essentially, the human mind is also conditioned to be free  - mentally and physically and resultantly any form of restriction is resented. Try hugging a baby for more than say fifteen seconds.  After a few seconds of initial satisfaction from the hug and the resultant burst of endorphins in the brain, the child clearly begins to show its dissatisfaction at being restrained in this way. Similarly, the child would also resent any correction of any of its behavior which it had learnt before whether correctly or wrongly.
Behavioral change or modification was quite easy to do even by a simple advice or reprimand and sometimes even with a threat of a light beating.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is a common saying in English. The Holy Quran too recommends light beating of the child to correct perceived misbehaviors.


Today almost everyone from children to the older folks resent any form of correction or even a suggestion to change a behavior. It could even be something against the law or a societal norm.  In short, our modern society has become quite an unteachable lot. No one ones to be tauht or corrected for that matter – even school kids mind you.

When I was a schoolboy in the 1950’s the school had a free hand to discipline me in whatever way the teachers thought was fit.  I followed likewise when I became a teacher later in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Many of my ex-students who are now nearing senior citizens status would attest to my slapping them around for even small offences like eating sweets in the classroom.  Teachers of the time were fully sanctioned as discipline masters by non other than the parents themselves.  If a parent just hears that his son was whacked by the teacher, the child would get another beating at home. But times have changed and a new word has entered our vocabulary – child abuse. This is an idea that was introduced from the West principally from USA and now being increasingly adopted in toto by developing countries like Malaysia.

In Malaysia the common term “kena sound” or “kena menegur”” in Malay means that someone had been advised or told off by someone older or in authority for a wrong or breach of something.  It could have even been a boss advising his worker or a senior citizen telling someone jumping queue at the post office or traffic lights.  Even school teachers and headmasters have been punched by parents – their crime was simply disciplining children in school.  Because of such change of parental attitudes classroom teachers have let problematic kids alone and let school discipline literally go to the dogs these days.  These same “kids” then become adults and join society at large with a feeling that no one is qualified to discipline them…..even the police for a criminal offence.

In short, we have become a society of untouchables and unteachables.




Tuesday, March 1, 2016

PEKANS AND BANDARS IN MALAYA : THEIR ROOTS & BEGINNINGS ARE CHINESE



My growing interest and readings in the history and sociology of Malaysia has got me thinking.  There is very little help from reference sources on the net in the matter that which I am going to write below.  I bear full responsibility for the essay content which is mainly a result of analytical thinking on my part based on known history and my own readings....may not be what kids are learning in schools today though.


Let me begin by stating that almost all of the pekans (little towns) and the major towns and cities in West Malaysia of today particularly in the west coast were started by the Chinese immigrants to Malaya.  They may or may not have existed before the influx of the Chinese into Malaya in the 1790's. The much earlier and also much smaller Chinese immigration to Melaka in the 15th century is not the subject of this discussion.

The Great Famine in South China in the early 19th century drove many young Chinese to leave the country and to come to Tanah Melayu in droves by sailing in junks, which were all wind-powered.  Another reason was their involvement in the triads (secret societies) and for being hounded by the Manchus.  Many Chinese and Malaysians in the country also do not realize that the Chinese were forbidden by the Chin Dynasty emperor from leaving China and those who left were considered to be ‘traitors’, and should they return, they would be arrested and hanged.
Surprisingly, an interesting aspect of this episode on the Chinese immigration to Tanah Melayu was the role played by the Melayu hosts, who welcome the Chinese who comprised mostly of the young and confused and sickly, which has seldom been acknowledged before. Without Melayu support for them, most of them would not have survived a week living in Tanah Melayu. 
The only provision available for the Chinese to leave China then was for them to not return, ever; and that they should abide by the laws of the countries they are in and for them to follow the local ways and adopt their lifestyles and languages.  This was what the earlier Chinese Babas and Nyonyas had done when they embraced Melayu cultures and lifestyles without losing their own peculiar identity, so much so that they stopped speaking in Chinese especially Hokkien.  This Chinese exodus also affected Indonesia and Thailand.
Empty land was plentiful in Malaya and the Chinese immigrants slowly settled in such places and grew vegetables and did animal husbandry initially. The locations or remoteness did not
matter too much as the better ones had long been taken up by the Malays and other denizens of the Malay archipelago who had migrated here much earlier and now lived in their own villages with local chieftains who paid homage to the ruling sultan.
The discovery of tin was a major booster to the Chinese community.  Settlements now began to grow around mining areas and mostly populated by the Chinese.  As the numbers grew specialization of trade took place.  Coffee shops, sundry shops, hardware shops, tailors, barbers, opium dens, funeral homes and even brothels grew and under the protection of various triads. The ones that grew and became big were called towns and the smaller and possibly more remote ones were called pekans.    If you happen to see a Chinese graveyard anywhere in Malaya like at Bangi etc. remember that the Chinese had been mining there.


Examples of the towns / bandars that “litter” the west coast from north to south are Alor Setar, Sg. Petani, Kulim, Gopeng, Taiping, Ipoh, Tapah, Slim River, Tg. Malaim, Rawang, Kuala Lumpur, Kajang, Seremban, Tampin, Ayer Hitam, Labis, Segamat, Yong Peng, Kulai, Pulai and so on.  Examples of pekans which is the name for smaller towns with one main road with shops on both sides) would be Slim River, Kepong, Puchong, Sg. Besi, Mantin, Beranang, Broga, Lenggeng, Siliau, Rantau, Kepong and so on.
With British intervention after several requests from the Malay sultans a much better social order and control prevailed at the Chinese settlements.  The British just identified the leading thus in the community and made him the chief with the title of Kapitan China to lord over the Chinese settlement and collect taxes for them and the sultans.  Meanwhile, the British intervention in the Malay states also saw the rubber potential it is well-known how they started the rubber plantation industry mainly with the imported indentured laborers from India to man them.  This was because the Malays and the Chinese preferred their own life-styles at the kampongs and the pekans and mining towns.  In short, they were not exactly  too willing to do the work of clearing large tracts of jungles, forests and planting rubber there.  Malaria was also a very common killer disease then and many Indians succumbed to this disease.
To transport tin and rubber the British went on to build roads and the railroads by merely “ joining the dots” from north to south which was all the Chinese settlements from Alor Star to Johor Baru.  These former Chinese settlements / pekans had also begun to grow and prosper.  A typical pekan would have Chinese rubber dealers who collected rubber products (sheets and scrap) from the small holders around the town (Malays and Chinese). Then there were Indian barbers, Chinese run hardware and sundry shops selling things like knives and hoes (cangkuls), pails and so on. Assorted Chinese makan shops too emerged and we must not forget the ubiquitous Malabari Indian Muslim shop which primarily appeared to serve the Muslims who lived around the pekans. 

The same story existed in the bigger towns which besides the aforesaid had more extended businesses and establishments including smoking dens, toddy shops, brothels, petrol stations, cinemas, groceries including Indian, bicycle shops, book shops and so on so forth.  Places of worship too were built for all faiths and of  course these towns also became administrative centres for the British to house the police and other civil service departments which had been set up besides offices and power stations for the various utility boards and so on.
So the next time you see a Chinese graveyard somewhere you least expect it or a Hindu temple in the middle of nowhere remember that they are tell-tale signs of the earlier Chinese and Indians who had been there. Also remember that the Chinese were there whenever you see a small or big lake in Malaya even  a lake garden....they were once tin mining pools and man-made.


 End of story


LAZY NATIVES ? IT"S GOT MORE TO DO WITH NATURE & NURTURE

  
It had been noted from the earliest of visitors to the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos that the locals / natives tend to be "lazy" or rather a very relaxed lot....at least from their understanding of what being industrious is. Working half buried in mud under the hot sun however does not count as hard work BTW according to such "outsiders".
Blessed with good weather all year round it is true that we cannot compare the "brown peoples" here (whom we in Malaysia call Malays) with other more unfortunate peoples who live in other harsher weather zones even today.
Hey come on....take a tapioca stick and just poke it into the ground....then sit back and relax, manja with your wife or sing or play the seruling and in a few months you have your ubi kayu.....FOC. Kangkong is
an example of another food that grows by itself....you just have to pick it like numerous other things that can grow around the house or hut.....even eat it as "ulam" uncooked. An abundance and an amazing variety of fruits also can be grown" around the house....no need to water or do anything....
Plant rice (in those days) and just sit somewhere doing whatever pleases you....6 months later you have your rice that lasts you for the a whole year or more. Fish is plentiful in the padi fields, streams and numerous rivers and sea. Just pick whatever grows around the house and eat them cooked or raw. Rear some chicken, ducks, goats, cows etc for protein.
So you see, its not being lazy. It's just that the pressing need to toil and labour 365 days for survival just is/was not there. BTW, this the also the culture of tropical islanders.....semua kaki "relax bro" types. Unlike those who came from harsher backgrounds (some even starving ones) natives are thus seen as being lazy, unwilling to work or use energy, idle, indolent, slothful, work-shy, shiftless, loafing, inactive, inert, sluggish, lethargic, languorous, listless, torpid, enervated, slow-moving, slow, heavy, dull, plodding etc.....but they can work hard and be diligent too....it's circumstances or rather choice and the will.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Future of Malays #4 - by Bakri Musa

I agree that we Malays are at a critical juncture. Our choice is between continuing on the present path that has led us to where we are today, with our minds still trapped, or make a sharp turn towards liberating them. Remember that the path to the dumpsite is the one well-trodden.

            I do not agree that the forthcoming election (GE 13) will be a choice between liberalism and feudalism, as I understand both terms. Instead it will be between a party that has grown old, tired, and bankrupt of ideas versus another that is young, vigorous, and full of fresh talent.

            As an aside, “liberalism” to me means a system that treats every human as having certain inalienable rights or freedoms granted unto him (or her) by Almighty Allah, among them, the freedom of thought, to choose our leaders, own properties, and pursue happiness. Feudalism on the other hand was the social system prevailing in Medieval Europe where humans were either lords or peasants. Land, property and peasants belonged to the lords. Your fate and place in society was determined at birth and remained fixed throughout life. Meaning, born a peasant, and you would remain one until death.

            Clearly from the perspective of respect for human lives and values, liberalism is closer to Islam than is feudalism.

            True, Malay society today still retains many feudal elements. Nonetheless we are free to choose our leaders. Even though we could not choose our sultans, we do not consider ourselves slaves to them. Yes, we use the term “patek” in referring to ourselves when addressing a member of the royalty. That is merely a habit. A sultan can no longer grab a village maiden for his palace collection. We hitherto peasants could now (if we wish to and can afford it) own a house more palatial than the istana and drive a car that could overtake the sultan’s in speed, price and glamour.

            Returning to GE13, before we make a decision as to which party to vote for, it is prudent to do a downstream analysis. There can only be three possible outcomes. First, Barisan be returned to power; second, Pakatan to prevail; and third, neither winning a decisive victory. By decisive I mean where the buying of a handful of victorious candidates would not alter the balance of power a laPerak 2008.
           
            If Barisan were to win, that would mean voters approve of the current pervasive corruption and abuse of power. We would have gone further, essentially rewarding those who have destroyed MAS, Perwaja, Bank Bumiputra, and others. Expect the greed of ministers and their families to grow unabated. Our rotten system of education would continue its decline. Our professors and academic leaders would continue to be chosen based not on their scholarly contributions but their ability to suck up to the politically powerful. Najib would continue to lead as he has for the last four years – delivering an alphabet soup of acronyms, endless exhortations, and a surfeit of sloganeering, much like the character in Shannon Ahmad’s short story Uggapan (Slogans).

            Najib promised to, borrowing his latest buzzword, “transform” his administration. How could he possibly do that when all his ministers would again stand for election? If they win, they would surely again be ministers. What transformation did he have in mind? Hishammudin becoming Women’s Minister?

            Barisan leaders are scaring citizens into believing that our stability depends on their winning the election. On the contrary, if Barisan fails to secure a greater victory than in 2008, (no one is predicting it will win a supra majority), there will be an ugly power struggle at the top. The Najib/Muhyyuddin rivalry would eclipse the earlier Abdullah/Najib power struggle in its messiness. It would be even uglier than the Mahathir/Ku Li confrontation a generation earlier. The permanent establishment would be paralyzed, not knowing which faction to support. Mahathir has already sharpened the knife that he used with devastating effectiveness on Abdullah. This time the victim would be Najib.

            In defeat, there would be much soul searching in Pakatan. Perhaps their leaders would now resolve to focus on the things that they could agree on that would benefit the nation and citizens, as with eradicating corruption and abuse of power, ensuring justice, improving the education system, while distancing themselves from such meaningless symbolic items as with an Islamic state and who could use the word “Allah.” Those obsessions do not contribute to the well being of citizens, on the contrary, they divide us.

            The second possible outcome would be a Pakatan victory. That would not mean that all our problems would magically disappear. Far from it! First, Pakatan leaders are only human; there would be a great temptation to regard their victory as a bountiful harvest. There are many more family disputes during such times! Expect a not-so-pretty grab for positions, and contentious issues like who would be Deputy Prime Minister and whether he (unlikely a she) would be a Malay or non-Malay. There would also be the jostling for key portfolios as with education, finance, and internal affairs. Those are to be expected.

            The pettiness would challenge the wisdom and patience of Pakatan leaders. If they were to behave like kids at Hari Raya or Chinese New Year greedily grabbing duit rayas and ang pows, then their future and also that of the nation would indeed be gloomy. However, if they were to consider their victory not as Hari Raya but the beginning of Ramadan, meaning, a time to be tested, patient, and diligent, then their and our future would be bright.

            More interesting is to imagine what would happen to UMNO in defeat. Those who joined the party not for the sake of the party and country but for their greed would quickly abandon it. Their flow of opium would be cut off. Meanwhile the new 2M team of Mahathir and Muhyyuddin would be merciless on Najib. Erstwhile sleepy supporters of the equally soporific Abdullah Badawi would now be intent on exacting revenge on the two sides.
           
            As ugly and embarrassing as that would be to Malays, it would bring only good to UMNO. The party would begin its slow and long overdue rehabilitation, back to it glorious past. Its members would now be limited only to those who truly love and are passionate about the organization and of Malays. The party might once again be the pride and love of our people and not as at present, an enabler for the corrupt and criminal.

            There are two other much more meaningful consequences to an UMNO defeat. Consider that the corruption of Khir Toyo, former Chief Minister of Selangor, was only exposed with Pakatan winning the state. Had UMNO won in 2008, that slimy character would now still be its chief executive, with his greed and corrupt ways unabated. Because Pakatan won, he is now awaiting jail, pending appeal, for his corruption conviction. There are many Khir Toyos at the federal level; they could only be exposed with a Pakatan victory.

            The second important consequence would be on members of the permanent establishment, from senior civil servants and heads of GLCs to sultans and professors. They would now realize that their careers are no longer dependent on their skills at sucking up to Barisan. They would be forced to examine themselves carefully and not be so politically partisan. The future of their careers would now depend on their dedication, diligence and professionalism, not their political skills and leanings. That could only be good for the country generally and its administration specifically.

            Many, especially in UMNO, predict a vicious racial riot a la May 1969 with the party’s defeat. I totally disagree. First, in 1969 the power shifted from Malays (UMNO) to Chinese (DAP). If UMNO were to lose in the coming election, power would still be in Malay hands except that those Malays would not be from UMNO. Second, our society is much more wise and mature now. The Chinese for example need not have to parade with their dragons to show off their might. A look around KL and Penang would be enough to reassure them and others. And if Malays were to run amok on the streets, those luxury bungalows and BMWs they would burn down might just belong to the likes of Khir Toyo and Abdullah Badawi!
           
            In 1969 UMNO was still Malay, and Malays, UMNO. Today conditions have changed radically, as evidenced by the recent massive KL112 rally.

            Extremists like Ibrahim the Frog could easily be taken care of. An offer of a directorship or two and trips to Macao would silence them. Alternatively, do not impede the anti-corruption agency. I am simply amused that Malay leaders from Mahathir to the academic Ramlah Adam would pin the hopes of our race to characters like Ibrahim the Frog.

            For Malaysians, the greatest consequence to a Barisan defeat would be that we actually get to experience and benefit the meaning of free elections. That is, by merely putting an “X” in the appropriate box on the ballot paper, we could change our government. There is no need to riot or demonstrate on the streets. A Barisan defeat would effectively demonstrate the true meaning of checks and balances in a democracy.

            The third and worst possible consequence would be if neither party were to win convincingly. We had a glimpse of that ugliness in Perak following the 2008 election. All, politicians from Barisan to Pakatan and members of the establishment from civil servants to the sultan, did not shine. Their behavior brought shame to the nation. They however, were oblivious of that.
           
            Expect that, only worse, in Putrajaya. The behavior of these politicians would be more flagrant than those of the ladies of the evening. As odious as that would be, there would be some redeeming values. We would finally see those politicians for what they really are, worse than those prostitutes at Chow Kit Road. At least those ladies had the morality not to sell themselves so openly and in broad daylight.

            The odiousness would so enrage many that able and honest citizens would now be encouraged if not compelled to offer themselves as candidates in the future. That can only be good! We would finally get to appreciate the awesome power of the ballot booth and that elections have consequences, prompting us to be more prudent the next time we vote. That is one invaluable lesson.

            In short, the best outcome for Malaysia in GE 13 would be for Pakatan to win convincingly. Next would be for neither side to do so. The worst outcome would be for Barisan to be returned to power. Stated differently, a hung parliament would be a not-so-pretty Pakatan victory.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

SPEAKING OF JEWS, CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS

Siblings of faith through a common Abrahamic connection the adherents of these three religions have caused untold misery on planet earth just because of their faith.  I dare say that the death and carnage caused by the traditional barbarians of old such as The Vikings, The Huns, The Goths and The Mongols pale in comparison to what this unholy trinity comprising of Jews, Christians and Muslims have done in this world.

These religions are supposedly peaceful religions following God’ commandments known as  the ten Commandments.  All three also believe in the same God of Moses(pbuh)but are yet to agree on his name.  The Jews are monotheistic like Muslims but do not acknowledge Jesus (pbuh) to be the promised Messiah.  Christians not only believe that Jesus (pbuh) is the Messiah but have alleviated to him to the position of Son of God.  Together with the Holy Spirit it is an article of faith among Christians to believe God as trinity comprising of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost/Spirit.

Now Muslims acknowledge all the twenty five prophets mentioned in the Holy Quran who are also mentioned in the Holy Bible but believe Muhammad (pbuh) to be God’s last and final messenger.    Christians and Jews do not acknowledge Muhammad (pbuh)as a prophet of God.  The Bible has 73 prophets mentioned in it.

But it is a proven fact that Jews, Christians and Muslims have lived side by side for a long time despite the minor differences.  For starters all were originally desert dwellers with more commonalities than differences till more recent times.  Pork is forbidden in all three religions going by the scriptures.  All three groups are supposed to be circumcised as a covenant between God and Moses.  Even Christ was circumcised.  In fact the Holy Quran has special mention of the Jews and Christians as “People of the Book” and relaxes on social interaction between the three religions even in matters such as food and  marriage.

Most observers may find it difficult to understand the rivalry between these three faiths.  For
instance, the Jews and Muslims insist God is one.  Most Christians of today do not believe this although two of their ten commandments speak of the oneness of God as found in the Exodus and Deuteronomy chapters of the Holy Bible.
All I can say is that Satan (another entity found in all the three religions) is having a field day at drawing people away from the truth as he has challenged God that he would do.  

Today it would seem that most Christians, Jews and Muslims have indeed wandered far away from the basics of their respective religions.....no thanks to Satan.



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Between Spirituality and Religiosity: Striking a Balance

Religion has played a crucial part in the lives of human beings ever since when.  The Abrahamic religions would place this right from the first human being that is Adam.  Whatever said and done any religion is just a belief system that can neither be proved or disproved and since anyone can believe in anything Islam puts it bluntly in Surah Al Kafirun 109 : 6 -  " To you your religion and to me mine."  This would also indicate that it would be pointless to do anything else like argue or fight about it.
Religiosity is a general term that is used in the scientific study of religion to refer to the beliefs and behaviors of individuals that address ultimate or transcendent concerns and sometimes just considered to be synonymous with such terms as religiousness, orthodoxy, faith, belief, piousness, devotion, and holiness.   I would simply put it as something that is more visible and more tangible that way.  Hence you can identify a person’s religious belief merely by his or her outward manifestation in the form of dress and/or other related social trappings.
Thus humans have had a clear divide in matters of religion which can be easily seen in the outward manifestations of appearance, behavior and even speech.  To me this is the easier part.  For example, even a child of six can complete the Ramadan fasting faithfully for an entire month or pray five times a day.  And it is also not uncommon to see children wearing crosses or going to the church every Sunday.  But wait, if such outward manifestations of religiosity are that easy to follow then it must be a piece of cake to be a “religious” person but mere outward manifestations alone in any religion  do not make anyone religious.

The second and more difficult of being religious has to do with spirituality aspects and tenets which deal with the more practical  aspects of the values prescribed in each religion.  The Christian faith, for example, demands its adherents to follow the Ten Commandments.  Loving your neighbor as yourself is something that is almost impossible.  Other acts of goodness like caring for your neighbors, society and the environment are more easily said than done.  One common value is well outlined in what has been termed as the Golden Rule. The odd thing here is that this is one area which all religions preach the same thing but it is not that easily followed.  The degree of adherence to any article of faith also differs between people of the same faith.  Some take it more lightly than others.  Muslims are generally very “fussy” about the Friday congregational prayers.  Followers of other religions may not have similar forms of congregational prayers but may be more religious in following the true essence of what their  the religion demands in terms of values.

Most people feel that a sensible balance between the two aspects of religiosity and spirituality can be maintained.  Of course that would be ideal I suppose but look around the real world and see how much of these two aspects are really balanced.  There are people on both ends of the spectrum as well as others who are in between.  Whatever said and done it is up to each and every individual concerned to decide where to position oneself.  Therein lies the choice.


Monday, September 7, 2015

HOW I STARTED LEARNING AND PLAYING THE PIANO - BY MYSELF

 



I first began tinkering on a piano in 1976 at MPIK/STTI where I also first learnt what a treble clef was. I was aged 32 then. No piano cikgu but only relied on ownself with my knowledge of guitars and chord progressions learnt. I was much inspired waching all my lecturers play it – Mr. Khoo Soon Teong, Mrs. Ranji Knight, En. Nazri Ahmad and Puan Shamsiah.

I asked my lecturer Mrs. Knight to tutor me on the piano. I went to her house and started playing chords and hummed the tunes along.....she was flabbergasted and did not know where to start with me and, instead,  asked me how I was employing chord movements on my right hand and playing the bass line / chords on my left hand.....and that was the end of my piano tutoring. She recommended me to get the John Thompson series of books and I bought two and started practicing simple exercises on my right hand and with a severely handicapped left hand (till today).


And thus began my “piano playing”.  I also listened a lot to the piano music of Richard Clayderman besides observing other piano players esp. the professional musicians whom I performed with – Ahmad Wan Yet and others but could not decipher their chords but could figure out their adlibs.  When I went back to schools as an itinerant music teacher covering four schools I kept on practising and playing the piano for simple children’s songs.  In this way, I reached some level of pano playing which still, BTW, baffled those who played especially classical piano style….they envied me much more than how I envied them and their fingering techniques.

In the 80’s when my full 6 pc. band, The Shades of Time was not getting much gigs (tak laku lagi) I started playing on a Casio keyboard with the auto chord setting and performed nightly with a solo singer at pubs and clubs quite successfully too.  I had also bought my first upright piano and played it often at home. It was a Kimball. I got a 2 year gig at the Ria Hotel in Seremban as the resident 3 pc band with me on the piano accompanied by a bassist and drummer and we backed Filipino songstresses who were changed every 6 months.  These singers were not the type of dancer singers that flooded Malaysia later.  If the singer sang in B major I was not permitted to play in C (my favorite key till today) or Bb….I will get reprimanded immediately. So in this way I started also playing the dreaded sharp keys. I sold my Kimball off in 1984 when I went to USA on a government scholarship to study formal music. By then I already had my Grade 8 (Theory) certificate already.

Me playing the keyboards as a one man band in the 90's.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2mjJ7NZt2M


I learnt more jazz theory there and played it on the guitar and also the piano.  When I returned I was back in MPIK / STTI and “showed off” my piano playing and many of my students were “impressed” and/or inspired too.  Many classically trained pianists who were my students ( Grade 8 and LRSM requirement) came to Seremban to learn jazz voicing on the piano and how to solo” / adlib…and paid me handsomely too. By then I could play the keyboards on my own and started performing professional gigs and stints again with singers like Azizah Basri, Dorothy Barnabas, Ronnie Rajamoney and Augustine Manuel. Today ?? Yes,  I still play the piano alone for myself at home with very much “rusty” hands.  So there. That’s my story.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mengapa Muzik Patut Diadakan Dalam Kurikulum Sekolah-Sekolah




Written by Johami Abdullah @ Joe Chelliah
Seorang pendidik muzik harus dapat memberi rasional serta sebab-sebab yang wajar dan meyakinkan mengapa mata pelajaran muzik patut diadakan dalam kurikulum sekolah. Guru Matematik atau Sains boleh berbuat demikian untuk mata pelajarannya dengan amat mudah pada hari ini. Bagaimana pula dengan pendidik muzik?

Segala bentuk seni, termasuk muzik, merupakan satu saluran unik yang boleh menentukan tahap pencapaian mana-mana satu tamadun. Seni adalah amat penting dan unik kerana segala bentuk seni membezakan tingkah laku manusia daripada makhluk-makhluk lain. Malah kajian-kajian dalam bidang arkeologi dan antropologi menunjukkan dengan jelas bahawa setiap kelompok manusia telah mengadakan beraneka jenis aktiviti muzik sepanjang zaman. Para ahli falsafah dan psikologi yang diakui sebagai "gergasi" dalam bidang pendidikan sejak Plato telah mengesyorkan supaya muzik harus dipelajari oleh semua orang supaya proses pendidikan itu cukup sempurna. Di bawah ini tercatat beberapa sebab (berpandukan The School Music Program: Descriptions and Standards (Reston, Virginia: MENC, Edisi Ke-2, 1986) mengapa mata pelajaran muzik harus diadakan dalam kurikulum formal di sekolah-sekolah.

1. Adalah memang wajar bahawa setiap individu mempelajari muzik tanpa apa-apa sebab yang tertentu (muzik semata-mata untuk muzik). Muzik merupakan satu bidang yang begitu kaya dengan beraneka jenis pengetahuan, kemahiran, dan cara-cara berfikir yang amat berbeza dari zaman ke zaman dan dari tempat ke tempat. Kebolehan untuk bermain muzik, menyanyi, atau menghayati muzik sama ada untuk menghiburkan diri sahaja ataupun untuk memperkembangkan intelek seseorang itu adalah amat wajar bagi setiap insan.

2. Ia merupakan satu matlamat pendidikan yang utama untuk mewariskan budaya sesuatu bangsa itu termasuk warisan budaya manusia yang silam kepada generasi muda. Satu komponen utama dalam mana-mana budaya ialah amalan muzik bangsa itu sendiri. Oleh yang demikian, pendidikan muzik boleh dianggap sebagai satu lagi saluran yang sihat untuk mencapai objektif ini.

3. Potensi muzik yang terpendam di kalangan para pelajar boleh dicungkil dan dipelihara dengan amat baik semasa mereka masih bersekolah lagi. Potensi dan bakat muzik yang terpendam di kalangan para pelajar sama pentingnya dengan potensi dan bakat lain seperti kemahiran-kemahiran linguistik atau psikomotor yang juga boleh dicungkil pada peringkat sekolah. Dengan itu, adalah amat merugikan sesuatu bangsa jika setiap kanak-kanak tidak berpeluang untuk menguji bakat muzikalnya sewaktu bersekolah lagi.

4. Muzik juga merupakan salah satu aktiviti utama yang membolehkan kita menyalurkan sumber tenaga kreatif yang semula jadi. Selain itu, muzik juga dapat memberikan peluang kepada setiap individu untuk meluahkan perasaannya secara sihat. Aspek ini amat penting untuk mengimbangkan lagi proses pendidikan semasa yang memberi tekanan yang begitu ketara dalam bidang sains dan teknologi mengikut satu arah aliran di merata dunia. Muzik juga membolehkan setiap individu, malah setiap bangsa mempertunjukkan atau memperlihatkan identiti masing-masing.

5. Pembelajaran muzik dapat membantu kita untuk lebih memahami sifat manusia dari aspek perhubungan antara manusia dengan manusia, manusia dengan alam dan juga tentang ibadah dan kerohanian manusia. Kita juga dapat mempelajari tentang beraneka jenis kebudayaan lain di dunia dengan lebih mendalam melalui saluran muzik.

6. Pembelajaran muzik di sekolah-sekolah boleh dianggap sebagai satu dimensi tambahan yang memberikan peluang kepada pelajar untuk menikmati kejayaan secara individu. Ini adalah lebih penting bagi mereka yang senantiasa kurang merasai kejayaan dalam bidang-bidang lain. Di sini kita diingatkan bahawa kejayaan dalam sesuatu adalah amat penting untuk membentuk satu sikap positif tentang keyakinan diri dan ego bagi setiap pelajar. Maka, proses persekolahan tidak seharusnya tertumpu kepada mata- mata pelajaran kognitif sahaja sehinggakan kepentingan pelajar-pelajar yang berbakat dalam bidang afektif lain seperti muzik dan seni lukis tidak diambil kira langsung. Situasi seperti ini boleh menghampakan pelajar-pelajar berkenaan dan ekoran daripada perasaan itu banyak lagi masalah sosial boleh timbul. Selain itu, pelajar yang berjaya dalam mata-mata pelajaran yang dianggap lebih kognitif juga harus berpeluang menceburkan diri dalam bidang afektif supaya proses pendidikan itu lebih seimbang.

7. Pembelajaran muzik secara formal dan sistematik boleh meningkatkan lagi paras penghayatan muzik di kalangan pelajar dan membantu mereka dalam menghayati muzik yang lebih canggih dan kompleks. Mereka juga berpeluang untuk mengenali muzik daripada budaya dan tamadun lain. Peluang untuk mempelajari atau menghayati bentuk-bentuk muzik tersebut amat kurang di luar proses persekolahan.

8. Melalui pembelajaran muzik para pelajar akan berpeluang untuk mempelajari sistem simbologi muzik yang juga merupakan satu lagi sistem simbologi manusia yang sungguh hebat. Setiap pelajar di sekolah diwajibkan supaya mempelajari sistem-sistem simbologi dan ikonografi yang terdapat dalam matematik, sains, dan bahasa-bahasa tertentu. Maka, para pelajar harus juga diberi peluang untuk mempelajari sistem simbologi yang digunakan untuk seni muzik.

9. Adalah amat mustahak bagi setiap pelajar menyedari bahawa bukan semua aspek kehidupan manusia boleh dinilai secara merata atau sejagat. Adakalanya sesuatu isu tentang soal kehidupan atau tingkah laku manusia boleh dilihat dan difahami dengan beraneka cara. Muzik boleh menyampaikan nilai-nilai seperti ini dengan amat berkesan. Dalam suasana yang mengagung-agungkan materialisme, pembelajaran muzik boleh memberi satu perspektif yang lebih seimbang terhadap kehidupan kita.

10. Muzik telah memainkan peranan yang utama dalam kehidupan manusia untuk mempertingkatkan kualiti kehidupan manusia di seluruh dunia. Manusia tidak boleh hidup dengan cukup bahagia tanpa muzik. Peranan muzik dalam sesuatu masyarakat adalah cukup jelas dan nyata. Maka, tidakkah harus memberikan pendidikan muzik yang sistematik kepada generasi muda untuk membolehkan mereka hidup dengan lebih sempurna dan bahagia?


Kesemua justifikasi yang tersebut di atas adalah juga sejajar dengan objektif-objektif untuk pendidikan di Malaysia seperti yang terkandung dalam Education in Malaysia (1985, hlm. 135) yang diterbitkan oleh Bahagian Penyelidikan dan Perancangan Pendidikan, Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia. Objektif-objektif itu adalah seperti yang berikut:

1. Untuk menentukan literasi yang berfungsi di kalangan rakyat Malaysia.

2. Untuk membekalkan para pelajar dengan kemahiran-kemahiran intelek dan psikomotor yang boleh menimbulkan satu tabiat di kalangan mereka supaya sanggup belajar serta bekerja secara lanjutan dan berterusan.

3. Untuk membentuk sikap-sikap tertentu yang sihat dan mulia di kalangan pelajar supaya mereka akan:
(a) menghormati serta menyayangi manusia yang lain
(b) mewarisi suatu komitmen dan rasa tanggungjawab terhadap kemakmuran dan kemajuan negara
(c) menghormati kerja-kerja buruh kasar

4 Untuk mewariskan budaya negara serta kebolehan untuk memperkayakan lagi budaya Malaysia kepada generasi muda (Digariskan oleh penulis).

5. Untuk membentuk etika tingkah laku sosial dan peribadi yang diingini di kalangan pelajar yang juga selaras dengan fahaman keagamaan dan moral kita Jika kita mengambil kira kelima-lima garis panduan tersebut, kita akan dapati beberapa aspek yang penting dari perspektif pendidikan di Malaysia seperti perpaduan negara dan moral tidak disebut secara nyata dalam senarai MENC yang telah dibincangkan tadi. Oleh yang demikian, kita boleh dan harus menambahkan lagi sekurang-kurangnya enam sebab mengapa muzik harus dipelajari oleh semua pelajar di Malaysia.

1. Muzik telah membantu manusia dalam hal-hal yang berkaitan dengan ibadah manusia sepanjang zaman. Elemen-elemen muzik yang terkandung dalam muzik ibadah daripada semua bangsa dan kaum sepanjang zaman adalah cukup jelas dan nyata. Maka, pembelajaran muzik sudah tentu akan dapat membantu kita dalam hal-hal yang berkaitan dengan muzik ibadah secara langsung ataupun tidak langsung.

2. Muzik mempunyai banyak potensi dan skop untuk mempengaruhi kelakuan dan pemikiran manusia sama ada secara positif atau negatif. Oleh itu, kita boleh menggunakan muzik secara positif untuk beberapa keperluan kebangsaan semasa seperti menanamkan rasa taat setia dan cinta akan nusa dan bangsa serta meningkatkan lagi perpaduan negara. Perpaduan negara merupakan salah satu matlamat utama dalam pendidikan di Malaysia sejak merdeka lagi seperti yang terkandung dalam Laporan Razak (1956).

3. Pada masa sekarang, soal untuk memperkenalkan warisan budaya kebangsaan serta identiti Malaysia difikirkan amat perlu. Perkara seperti ini adalah lebih ketara di kalangan negara-negara yang sedang membangun seperti Malaysia. Maka, pembelajaran muzik tradisional kita secara formal banyak membantu dalam aspirasi kebangsaan ini. 4. Soal moral adalah sesuatu yang diutamakan dalam proses pendidikan di Malaysia dan juga dalam proses pembangunan negara pada amnya. Hal moral ini juga adalah amat penting dalam semua agama. Dengan itu, lagu-lagu yang mengandungi lirik berkenaan, nilai-nilai murni, aspek moral, dan aspek akhlak yang baik boleh diajarkan kepada golongan muda-mudi dari peringkat prasekolah lagi.

5. Muzik juga boleh digunakan untuk membantu pengajaran mata-mata pelajaran yang lain di Malaysia, khasnya pada peringkat sekolah rendah. Lagu The Alphabet Song, misalnya, boleh digunakan oleh guru Bahasa Inggeris. Muzik juga boleh digunakan dalam konteks Pendidikan Jasmani dalam aktiviti-aktiviti seperti gimrama, aerobik, dan tarian-tarian rakyat.

6. Muzik boleh disifatkan sebagai "jendela dunia" kerana muzik boleh digunakan untuk lebih memahami kebudayaan asing. Selain itu, muzik juga boleh membantu para pelajar menyedari serta memahami konsep persaudaraan antara manusia sejagat.

Kesemua sebab yang telah dibincangkan di atas menunjukkan dengan jelas betapa pentingnya setiap individu mempelajari muzik pada setiap peringkat pendidikan formal di Malaysia. Potensi melalui pembelajaran muzik untuk digunakan secara positif adalah begitu luas serta jelas dan nyata. Haruskah kita mengabaikan atau tidak mempedulikan potensi muzik ini dalam proses pendidikan kita?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

THE IMMIGRANTS OF MALAYA : SOME THOUGHTS

Either by accident, evolution or as God’s creation we humans inhabit earth.  Despite many physical and physiological commonalities humans always want to be considered different from others esp. in terms of physical features, race and other such external habits and culture.  The Malays, Chinese and Indians in Malaysia are no different.  Each community has prejudices, its own pride and of course stereotyping of others.  I am going to outline what little I have read and experienced personally on these matters.

Let us begin with the “tuans” - the Malays. Mostly earlier immigrants themselves from the border-less Malay archipelago of earlier times, Malays consider themselves the true natives while not ignoring the aborigines as the “more” original denizens.  Traditionally, as most islanders anywhere in the tropics, Malays are also prone to a more “take it easy” life and are not inclined to hard labor or work unless absolutely necessary as in the planting of padi or catching of fish.  It is my view that islanders generally are also more prone towards the more sensual pleasures in life that can involve activities like dancing, music making or just idling away with empty talk (borak2) and have a very low in-built resistance to “saying no” to many pleasurable things.  However, a Malay is just as proud of his heritage like any other Lim or Khan or Nair.  He can even run amok if you hurt his pride or his leader so beware.

Now,  we move on to the Chinese.  It is generally accepted that earliest Malaysian Chinese to arrive here were emissaries of the Ming emperors.  Their visits here were just to show them their superiority and glory of China which the sultans of Melaka immediately acknowledged and even sought protection from their then overlord - Siam.  This protection of a weak person from another toughie

or bully has even become a profession in Malaya till today – the well-developed protection racket that continues till this day.  But most if not all Malaysian Chinese of today are not descendants from the Ming emperors.  They are descendants of people who escaped harsh lives and conditions in China to “cari makan” here.  They soon became organized communities doing whatever economic activity that helped them earn a living.  There was much communal cohesion among Chinese which we can even see today, for that matter even worldwide.  They had their own secret societies, funeral  and massage parlors, coffee and makan shops, dhoby shops and similar joints to support their community which indulged mainly in tin-mining and vegetable growing over here initially.  As the initial waves of migrants were mostly men it has been claimed that the first Chinese females to arrive here were mostly comfort women. Used to hard work and united by language, color and physical features besides the inherited trend of toiling day and night, this community is known to have succeeded from rags to riches thorough sheer hard work and determination.  The laxity or lack of religious restrictions for most Chinese has also helped them to engage in almost any trade.  It is no surprise then that more than 40 of the richest men in Malaysia today are from this community.  Such economic “successes” have indeed also earned some degree of displeasure from the other two main communities even today in Malaysia. Now what about the Indians?

The earliest civilized foreigners to arrive in this region were the Indians as early as the 2nd century. Southeast Asia came under Indian influence starting around 200 BC until around the 15th century…a whole 13 centuries mind you. During this period, Hindu-Buddhist influence was absorbed by local polities. India had also established trade, cultural and political relations with other Southeastern Asian kingdoms in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Malay Peninsula, Cambodia and to a lesser extent in Vietnam too. Their pervasive in almost all fields is well-documented and can be seen even today in Malay cultural practices and language.  Gujarati Muslims also introduced Islam to the Malay Peninsula and other parts.



But these are not the Indians from whom our Malaysian Indians of today are descended from. They are descended from mainly two types of Indians whom the British brought over here.  The smaller group, mainly from Kerala and Sri Lanka, were English educated and therefore served in clerical and supervisory positions initially and therefore served as a conduit of communication with the Tamils for the British masters.

However, the bulk of the “imported” Indians were hardcore menial workers from also very harsh backgrounds in India.  With hardly any education, most of them were illiterates but these folks, both the men and women,  could work like mules.  They were also the ones who turned the Malayan secondary jungles and forests into rubber plantations.  They were also the ones who laid the basic infrastructures such as roads, telecommunications, railways, ports and the various other public works and utility boards. The Malays called this group somewhat condescendingly as “ keling kaman”.  To provide some form of rest and recreation for this group to unwind from a hard day’s work, the British introduced toddy shops for them in the estates and towns.  Tamil schools were also started to allow some degree of primary education which also seldom got them anywhere.  Such was the reputation of the Indians that even the BTN has reportedly referred to Indians en bloc as “si-botol”. By virtue of their darker color and lower socioeconomic status other Malaysians also tend look down on Indians in general….forget Anandakrishnan and Tony Fernandes.  Of course, the English educated Indians had beers and whiskies and at times even behaved more British than the British themselves eben till today.