Sunday, August 07, 2022

A National Day Special 2022: Social Harmony In Kampong Amber: Pianist Baba Sam Gan

Renowned pianist Sam Gan at the keyboard with 
Michael Bangar in sunglasses and Horace Wee in black.


Sam Gan is a baba or peranakan [Straits-born], so the reader might have to go through Malay words in his letter below but they have been carefully explained, so go a little slow to read. Unless you are familiar of course...

Hi Andy,

Bringing back memories of my family and me growing up in Kampong Amber [Amber Village], from 1947 to 1953. Best years of my childhood... Malay, Chinese, Indians, all living in harmony... We played, ran around barefooted, shirtless, in the rain, in the sunshine. 

According to the time of year, playing gasing [top spinning], layang layang [kite-flying] ,keeping fighting spiders in match-boxes, fighting fish in glass jars, rubber-bands competitions, *goli [marbles], catching, rounders [simple baseball] not many arguments, but a lot of fun. 

Playing marbles *[goli] in the 1960s

We were very proud of our kampong [village], so when asked, "Tinggal di mana?" [Where do you live?]

We would proudly reply, " Kampong Amber!" I still consider myself a Kampong Boy from Kampong Amber! 

Puasa Time [Fasting Month] was different with the Carbide Cannons made from Bamboo, booming in the evenings; the Kenduris [food social gathering] and kompangs playing at Malay Weddings. 

Then there's the rains that flooded our Kampong every year during the N.E. Monsoon from November to late January; kids selling fresh nasi lemak [coconut rice and fried fish with chilly-paste] and kueh kueh [Malay cakes]. They come in the mornings for ten cents a bungkus [banana-leaf packet] for breakfast. 

The Mee Siam [spicy Thai noodles] from the Javanese lady selling her tikar2 [mats], and the 30 cents takeaway (bring your own duck egg) Mee Goreng [fried noodles] from the Mamak [Indian] provision store , Plain Roti Prata was five cents a piece and a glass of Kopi [coffee] and Teh Susu [tea and milk] costs ten cents from the **Sarabat [Indian drink-hawker] stall next to the Chinese Swimming Club new pool at Amber Road.

**Selling Sarabat Tea [1963]. 
Photo credit: MITA/NAS Geraldine Soh.

Then there was the Pasar Malam [night market], Chinese Wayang [Chinese street opera] during the Chinese 7th month and of course the Orang Minyak [Oily Man] stories to frighten the young girls and ladies to be home before dusk. ..these are just some of my memories of My Kampong Amber!... what a time to grow as a boy in the old days, 75 years ago.

[It took me a bit to edit this one Sam, but it's well worth it. Thank you.]

NB: From what I understand, having read Finance Minister & Future PMs, Lawrence Wong's Facebook posts, his parents lived in Kampong Amber in the 60s.

This article is original and has been copyrighted.

Google image sources have been identified individually.

'Di Tanjong Katong' with ***Sakura Teng. 
YouTube Video by Medan Fan.

***One of the more renowned lady pop singers from Singapore 60's.

'Di Tanjong Katong' is a traditional Malay folk song describing the East Coast seaside. It is close to Kampong Amber where Sam Gan used to live.

Sam Gan: 'I Love You For Sentimental Reasons'
YouTube Video by Sam Gan.



Anonymous said...

Wonderful memories and wonderful piano playing.

Thank you, Sam.



ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Steve,
Always wonderful to have your comments to spur us Singaporeans on.
That's what neighbours are for.

(Dr. Steve Farram, if you are a regular reader, is a professor at Darwin University, Australia dealing with the political history of West Timor.

He is also into pop music history around our region and an avid collector of SEAsian vinyl records, contributing many articles for this blog too.)