There are songs written in Bahasa Melayu (Malay) from Singapore and Malaysia that describe Geylang Serai in the 50s and 60s. Geylang Serai, which lies in Eastern Singapore, was a predominantly Malay area and people frequented the open street and wet markets to buy condiment and fresh ingredients for their home cooked meals.
Ahmad C.B., who originally came from Indonesia and lived in Malaya had been composing songs since the 40s. He wrote this one that relived the busy scenes of Geylang in the evening.
The Taj Cinema he mentioned in the song was a rendezvous for many young Malay couples who frequented the place to watch movies. A similar meeting place in the city was the Magnolia Milk Bar at the Capitol Cinema, near the junction of North Bridge Road and Stamford Road.
Geylang Waktu Petang (Literal translation in blue)
Di waktu petang di Geylang Serai: In the evening at Geylang Serai,
Terang benderang sungguh-lah ramai: Bright, cheerful and crowded,
Tua dan muda miskin atau kaya: Old and young, poor or rich,
Semuanya ada terdapat di sana: They are all there.
Begitu banyak orang jualan: So many people selling their wares
Sehingga sesak sampai ke jalan: Overcrowding on the roads
Bermacam barang terdapat di situ: Lots of things to be found
Kasut dan baju 'macam model baru: Shoes and clothes of the latest fashion
Kalau penat carilah bai serbat: If tired, look for the Indian drink hawker
Di dekat Panggung Taj: Near the Taj Cinema
Di situ tempat kalau nak buah: That's the place for fruits
Di situ memang murah: That's where they're cheap
Kalau nak kuih tak susah pilih: If you need cakes, easy to choose.
Berbagai bangsa yang lalu lalang: The many races that frequent the place
Sungguh lah puas mata memandang: Satisfy their eyes
Itulah kisah Geylang waktu petang: That's the story of Geylang in the evening
Sungguh cukup ramai di Geylang Serai... Very crowded is Geylang Serai.
(Thanks to Ms Chang Soh Kiak, producer: FOODAGE documentary.)
Image: Mr. Johar Amir, You Tube.