|Serene, University of Aberdeen|
I will never forget the lesson I learnt in the early 1980's when I attended a British Council course at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. There were four representatives from Singapore, myself and three ladies. We had been selected to attend an English Language, English Literature and Linguistics programme.
Since a good number applied at the Singapore office, candidates had to go through an interview but we had been lucky and managed to get a place. For the attractive summer holiday, post-graduate course we were provided text books, meals, lodging and visits around Aberdeen's neighbourhood. Daily lectures and workshops by **distinguished professors were usually held up to lunch time. There were none during the weekends.
|Singapore representatives. Thistle among the flowers?|
|Cultural Night at Aberdeen University|
Yes, my dear readers. Everyone was prepared. But Singapore? No, because we had no song to sing. Don't forget it was the beginning of the 1980's and the national songs that had been composed were only available from 1984. We had come a little early. If only we had arrived in Aberdeen two years later, then we could be so proud singing, Stand Up For Singapore. Or if we had come in 1986, Count On Me Singapore would have been available.
Panic. The four of us huddled together trying to think of one we could sing as a foursome. I told them there was one. It was called, Singapura, a pop song. But it wasn't a patriotic song. And I remember it was by Sandra Reemer an Indonesian/Dutch singer. How could we be singing a song that wasn't composed by our countryman? Although we knew the melody, we didn't know the lyrics. Then there was our National Anthem. But we couldn't be singing the anthem for amusement.
What about Sing Your Way Home? Was that a Singapore song? I knew that one. As we racked our heads, I remember songs we taught our children back home. These were, Chan Mali Chan and Di-Tanjong Katong and Rasa Sayang. I knew them in Malay but they weren't really our songs. We shared them with our neighbours when we were part of Malaya.
|A Dance from Greece|
Others sang their national songs as duets and trios, some with guitars while a few brought their own musical instruments to accompany their singing. The people there were such a talented lot! Poetry recitals in European and Asian languages, short skits that threw us into laughter and even a parade of Shakespearean soliloquies.
I found one picture though (image above) and this photo jolted my memory because I realised I did a sketch with this bearded gentleman from an Arab country. He was friendly, quick witted, full of humour and I will never forget what he told me, "Take pictures, Lim. Immortalise yourself so when you look at them 50 years later you will realise how young you were when you came to Aberdeen."
|In newspaper wrapping|
With University mates @ Aberdeen, 2 from Singapore and on my (dark glasses) left and right from HK.
On the way to town, I saw this lone figure in front of a castle. He was the finest bagpiper I've seen, dressed up in the most elaborate Scottish costume and blowing his pipes in the gusty wind. It was a beautiful sight. "Wild is the wind to meet you, Staunch are the friends that greet you... "
Of course, we were too proud to tell our Scottish hosts and the other delegates from the other countries that we didn't have folk songs. Singapore was only about seventeen years old then. But today? Today, we've got plenty and you can "count on me to give my best and more..." Today we've got the gift of song.
So sing your National Songs this 2017 and belt them out.
|Cowdray Hall, Girdle Ness Lighthouse, Bridge of Don, Fish Market.|
A 1980's Postcard.
**It has been some time since I left Aberdeen but I still remember the music, moments, places and people, especially lecturer Ms Avis who drove me to London from the university in 12 hours flat when she offered me a ride back in her tiny Ford Fiesta. We only stopped for lunch at noon and had tea in the car. She was about 60 years young when I met her in the early 80's. It's hard to forget a kind lady like Ms Avis. God Bless Her Soul.
1980's Hit Songs in the UK
1 Dexys Midnight Runners: Come On Eileen
2. Survivor: Eye Of The Tiger
3 Irene Cara: Fame
4 Tight Fit: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
5 Culture Club: Do You Really Want To Hurt Me
10 Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder: Ebony And Ivory
University of Aberdeen, Scotland; British Council Summer Course; U.K., British Council Scholarships; Cultural Night, Scotland; Fish and Chips in Newspapers; Haggis from Scotland, U.K.; Bridge of Don, Scotland; Fish Market, Aberdeen, Scotland; Girdle Ness Lighthouse; Singapore Patriotic Songs; Singapore Heritage, Sung50
I learnt too, which was actually one of the objectives of going to Aberdeen, about another great playwright. Peter Shaffer was at his peak in the 1980's and reading a play like Equus was certainly an eye-opener for me.
Teaching Literature at school had been tough and a challenge, so I came with an open mind and learnt the ways of this university professor who tried to put across this piece of art (it wasn't an easy one) to his students in the simplest way possible.
Images: A Personal Collection and Google.