lots of things to say and lots of things to publicise, but for me the most memorable bit was participating in a couple of Singlish-themed events headlined by the venerable colin goh, better known by many as father-of-Yakuza-Baby. first was an official panel on singlish together with colin and faith ng (who i met in london at the book fair last year) where we talked a lot of cock and sang a lot of song!
there are quite a few writeups of what went down here and here and here. subsequently there was a spontaneous singlish literary salon thrown together by colin, which included a far-ranging set of luminaries from the literati (kirpal singh, felix cheong, alvin pang, ann ang among many others...) to the bloggerati (mrbrown, mr miyagi and colin himself...). and of course, it got browned if you want to read about that.
but here are just three quick observations from all the singlish-ness:
(1) there is a lot of love for singlish out there. the panel was packed. there were people standing at the back. where we may not have reached carol ann duffy levels of fan-dom, i think the laughter-levels in the binary pavilion were as high as i heard them all festival. sometimes literature gets a bad name as something that you sit and watch in respectful silence. but singlish - singlish is something you own, you have a stake in, you participate in making - and when you are so personally invested in something, you laugh cry shit fart eat sleep drink it. how can you just sit there and watch?
(2) colin's sharing on the difficulties he had with censorship because of singlish, both for talkingcock.com the movie and singapore dreaming (i still maintain this is the best movie to come out of singapore, ever) was an eye-opener for both me and faith - simply because: we never had any problems in our own singlish adventures! publishers and educators and schools and nac have not batted an eye at the high amount of 'singlish' content in our works, to the point where its shocking to us to imagine that it was something once banned. in that sense, we owe a huge debt to colin and all those who blazed the trail before - to the extent where singlish is now accepted by one and all as something that is uniquely singaporean.
(3) the literati and bloggerati have much to learn from each other. one side has the content and the craft and the credibility to infiltrate the classrooms in the form of 'high' literature - the other has the popularity and the ground sense and the reach that poets can only dream of. collaborations like colin's spontaneous literary salon should be the way forward - especially in a level field like singlish. writers run the risk of pigeonholing themselves to an elitist literary market if they don't reach out to the wider community, whereas bloggers also could end up playing corny jokes to the same crowd if they don't refine their material to new standards... there is so much both sides could do if they combined powers.
i'm going to conclude my little singlish/literary rant with the video i played at the singlish panel - due to the sound quality i think the audience couldn't catch most of the lyrics, and the closed captioning was unable to play due to technical difficulties.
"sekali i" is a song from a musical, sing city 2, i wrote with my brother in 2009 for the kids at UPenn. (more on musicals here.) it's a singlish love song - but also my love song to singlish.
(you can watch it here but better to click through and click on the 'captions' button in the bottom left at youtube.)
(alternatively, lyrics are below the break).
(copyright joshua and caleb ip 2009)
sekali i (maybe i)
was meant for you (si lao tin zhu dia)
would you want to (you like or not)
to go steady with me (to be my girl)
ka wa kia ki lim kopi (have a coffee)
lim pepsi (have a coke)
lim teh si (have a tea)
until the day is done (finish)
don't paiseh (don't be shy shy one)
sekali ni xi huan (i love you)
and wo xi huan (you love me)
we could be lansing lansing
until the sun comes out
and maybe i (sekali i)
was meant for you (si li eh da bo kia)
sekali you (maybe you)
was meant to be mine (other people cannot touch)
i never knew (suey suey you)
could be the one (si wa eh ai lang)
why you so sudden
you never give signal one (you never showed your heart)
but you understand (you know)
when i hold your hand (ni qian wo de shou)
i'm crazy for you (then i a little bit siao siao one)
i ask you hurry closer (fai di lah)
walk a little closer (cepat jalan)
don't come so close sir (gostun)
don't come so close sir (keblakan puseng)
oh you langgar into my life
like a cao ah beng on a zhu zhu ki bike
sekali you (maybe you)
dowan me (you dowan my love)
and maybe you (sekali you)
jio another zarbo more pretty
oh my heart picha (ping ping piang piang)
into many small small pieces
i pray to buddha mohammed ganesh and jesus
that you (maybe you)
will be mine (zuo wa eh sim gua)
no words can replace
no need for translation
regardless of race
language or religion
as long as you understand
the language of love
is when i hold your hand
then that's good enough
steady bom pi pi
and here is a better quality audio cover with the most elegant sounding singlish/hokkien you will ever hear.
someday i want to record this properly and do a happening mtv. national day song competition sia.
a singaporean poet with an unhealthy addiction to forms.
all content copyright of joshua ip 2012