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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Many National Anthems Did Singapore Have?

Here's a book with so many interesting stories that you'll probably read it within a day. Chan Kwee Sung is a master story-teller who uses simple language and crafts lively anecdotes that scenes of old Singapore literally pop out of the pages from his 200 page book.

I have quoted Chan about his articles on Chinese food in the previous posting since they are related to my topic on street-hawkers and Elvis' hit Crawfish. But in keeping wtih this blog's music theme, I wish to highlight readers on his topic, Anthems (page 130-132) where he discusses the five major national anthems Singaporeans had to sing before Zubir Said's masterpiece, Majullah Singapura.

According to Chan, senior citizens, who have lived through the days of the British, "the fearful Japanese" and the Malay peninsula, "can modestly claim to vocalise five, or maybe six anthems (page 130)." These songs would include, God Save The King, Kimigayo, God Save The Queen, and Negara Ku. During colonial days, Chinese students sang, San Min Zhu Yi, Nationalist China's anthem. The Indians had their own anthem in Hindi spurred on by their "patriotic fervour" of Indian nationalism.  (As a child I learnt the two British National Anthem, the Malayan one and remember a little of San Min Zhu Yi.)
There are about 60 stories in the collection and Chan weaves intricately the hard facts between simple, easy to read phrases, to make them palatable for everyone. Before settling as a writer, he was office assistant, a fitter, a pilot trainee, a business man. He authored Long Life, a fortnightly column for The Straits Times Press Singapore from 1998 to 2002. Chan, who was born in 1930 passed on in 2002.

The Foreward in the book, by his children, Keen Len, Keen Ian and Lai Gwen, had Psalm 102:18 quoted, "Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord."

(My son Daniel received this book from his friend, one of Mr. Chan's children. Thanks to both.)

Image/Cover: One More Story To Tell - Memories of Singapore 1930 - 1980 by Chan Kwee Sung (2005), Landmark Books, Singapore. (Image shows Chan as a trainee pilot at old Kallang Airport, 1950).

Original article: Andy Lim

6 comments:

unk Dicko said...

I have never met Chan Kwee Sung. Yet I remember his name and especially his writings and musings of the past. It was always full of interesting snippets that were largely not known to most of us readers.
Wonderful post !

Andy Young* said...

I guess unk Dicko you're a younger man, but it's true Chan writes about subjects not largely known to many readers.

Thanks for visiting. You've been helpful with your comments.

Anonymous said...

From KM:

It should be written as 三民主義 literally translated as, 'The Three Principles of the People' expounded by Sun Yat Sen.

The Three Principles stood for Nationhood, Liberty and Livelihood.

Andy Young* said...

Thank you KM. Your translation and explanation will help readers unfamiliar with the language to understand the psyche of the Chinese in Singapore during those years.

I am glad those turbulent days are over.

Thimbuktu said...

Thanks for the social history blog topic on "How Many National Anthems Did Singapore Have?", Andy.

"One More Story To Tell - Memories of Singapore 1930 - 1980 by Chan Kwee Sung", the predecessor of the social history of Singapore which inspire us.

The Foreward in the book, by his children, Keen Len, Keen Ian and Lai Gwen, had Psalm 102:18 quoted, "Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord." serve this meaningful and the purpose of like-minded bloggers.

Andy Young* said...

Thank you James. I had similar thoughts too when I read the Psalm.