Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pasar Theatre in Chinatown

Interesting title for this event, "Pasar Theatre" in which I understand "Pasar" as market in Malay. Nevertheless, it was Arts to the people, and in this part of Chinatown, behind the Tooth Relic Temple, it's the older folks. Of course, apparently oblivious to the music or the blast, a few groups in the far back were more interested in the "Dum" (Checkers) or Chinese Chess. Such is typical of a marketplace.

When I was there on Sunday 24 May 2009, I was in time to watch the Nanyin performance by Siong Leng Musical Association, one of the two Nanyin groups in Singapore, resident in Bukit Pasoh, a couple of minutes walk up the slope.

To bring the folks back to the old days, the emcee was dressed in the typical samfoo of yesteryears, 1960s and before. And of course, with young girls, there was the typical twin pony tails. Ah, only this time, the lady emcee was speaking mostly Mandarin. I was trying to scan the faces of the old folks to see if they could understand. Some did. She did add in some Hokkien here and there, and probably some snatches of Cantonese as well.

To many of the old folks, the small skitch that I saw of her talking to an imaginery letter writer of her telling her parents back home about her work in Nanyang and enquiring if their sow at home had already given birth .. they certainly must have brought lumps to the throat, if they understood the Mandarin. 

The emcee cleverly weaved in the stories with the Nanyin performances and again, if the audience understand the ancient Hokkien, they might appreciate the lyrics of songs such as "Jia Hang Tsu Beh" - eating sweet potato rice porridge, something I could relate to as they could be a meal by itself and certainly supplemented to keep the tummy filled. Easy to grow, and it grows fast, the sweet potato roots could be eaten in many ways, and the leaves too, whether in fuyi (Cantonese for the fermented tofu) or in sambal (Malay for the chilli paste).

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