Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mak Minah, Uncrowned Queen of the Temuan (repost)

"Minah Angong" by Andy Maguire (oil on fiberboard, 10" X 8")

Yes, I am pleased to tell you my story. But as I cannot write things down, I will ask my friend to help. He is among those who knew me well in my last years on this earth. I whisper these words in his mind’s ear, for he is still in the world of the living, while I am already back in the realm of spirit, and happily so.

Minah Angong's gravestone
My bones now lie buried on top of a hill overlooking the saddest sight you can imagine. Majestic hills stripped of trees, mountains blown up to make a dam. I may be dead but my spirit lives on in my songs, and in the sacred (and now badly scarred) landscape I love so dearly.  One day my songs will be heard and they will soften the hardened hearts of the greedy ones who destroy more than they construct. When men’s hearts heal, so will the land.

I was born in Pertak, Ulu Selangor, between two world wars, into the Temuan tribe. The identity card issued by the government says I arrived on September 14, 1930, and records my name at birth as Menah Anak Kuntom.  People knew me as Mak Minah because that was my stage name as lead singer with a band called Akar Umbi. Perhaps the most exciting moment of my life was when we performed before 42,000 people at the biggest stadium in Selangor. Afterwards, so many people came and congratulated me. I had a photograph taken with Sharifah Aini and Sahara Yaacob, who were also performing that night. We looked like three queens together!

Anyway, Menah or Minah makes little difference to me, since I can’t spell. Our names keep changing as we change. But once we write anything down, it becomes harder to change. Take my sister’s name: although we have the same father and mother, her name is recorded in her identity card as Indah Anak Merkol, after our  stepfather. My mother’s name was Beresih but all her children called her Mui, which is the Temuan word for Mak or Mother.

As a child I remember life was carefree and fun. Fish was abundant in the streams, and the forest supplied all our needs, except for luxuries like sugar, salt, and milled rice. Fresh meat was easily available as there were many animals that could be hunted or trapped.  We Orang Asli can eat anything, with or without legs or wings, as long as it’s not poisonous (we even know how to remove the poison from some wild plants so that they become edible). Apart from fish and wild boar, we also eat porcupines, pythons, leaf monkeys, deer, birds, and bamboo rats (whose flesh is very clean and sweet, as they feed only on bamboo shoots). These are all gifts of the Great Spirit That Dwells In Everything.

Mak Minah with younger sister Indah (1997) 

The only education I received was from my grandmother, who enjoyed telling us stories. She explained how human beings were seeded on Tanah Tujuh (which is what we call this physical world) by Mamak and Inak Bongsu, a brother and sister who survived the Great Flood by clinging to the top of a gaharu tree on Gunung Raja. 

My grandmother was full of wonderful tales about the beautiful elven races (Orang Halus) who left the planet for the higher heavens when the Difficult Times began. Some chose to remain, because they had grown to love the earth, but they gradually became invisible to human eyes.

Minah claimed she could summon the dragon,
totem of her tribal lineage (Peter Lau)
People ask me if Orang Asli have any religion. I always reply that we don’t need religion because our God is not separate from the everyday world in which we live. The Great Spirit That Dwells In Everything takes all forms and speaks to us as the song of the wind in the bamboo grove, or as the neverending gossip of the river. Sometimes it is the distant call of a mist-covered mountain. Other times, it is as close as a sleeping child breathing gently in its mother’s ear.

During my lifetime I saw how people became blinded by ambition and greed. They began to mine the earth for metals and log the forest for wood. With each passing year the land became hotter and the rivers became dirtier, so we could no longer drink the water without boiling it first.  With each passing year we had to walk farther and farther to find some bamboo or catch some fish because people would come into the forest and take out more than they needed. And with each passing year we saw more and more wilderness cleared so that towns could be built.

I enjoyed going to town where many things could be bought, but to do that we had to sell durians, petai, bamboo, cane (manao) and aromatic wood (gaharu) for cash. Yet I could never imagine myself living in a town where it’s always so noisy and hot. Like all Orang Asli, I dearly love the jungle which is our natural home and hunting ground. I would rather die than be forced to live in a town.

Japanese soldier in Malaya, 1942
When I was 12 the world turned upside down. Planes dropped bombs in the jungle to destroy bridges and railway tracks. We had to hide in caves on the slopes of mountains. For many years my family stayed hidden deep in the forest, for fear that we may be captured or killed by the invaders. During those war years we missed the taste of salt and sugar. We lived in the middle of the Malay Peninsula - far from the sea – and had grown accustomed to flavoring our food with salt bought from the Chinese merchants.  My mother taught me how to make cooking oil from the perah nut.

After the war life became even worse for us. The government put us all in detention camps, surrounded by barbed wire, and guarded by soldiers. They said it was to protect us from the communist guerrillas. Unused to suddenly being confined in a small space so close to town, many of our people became depressed, fell sick, and died. This is how I lost both my parents.

Sembo, Minah's favorite granddaughter
But I was already an attractive young woman with many admirers. My life stretched ahead of me like a newly laid road, and I had a taste for adventure. I found myself married to a man I hardly knew. At least he could take me away from the confines of the resettlement camp. We ran back to our beloved jungle and built a hut along the river, along with many others who could no longer bear living within a fence.

My first marriage was a tragedy. I was too young to be a dutiful mother. My children died of illness and my husband left me. For a while, I flirted with the idea of becoming a white man’s mistress. Then I met Angong who had recently become the Batin (headman) of Kampong Gerachi. He was a patient man with great wisdom. It was he who taught me the ceremonial songs passed down to him by his ancestors. Angong taught me to be proud of my noble naga (dragon) lineage. Not every family has an animal totem. Only those with some knowledge of jungle medicine (jampi) or who possess magical powers (dukun) have special allies in the animal kingdom. 

I bore Angong five children and greatly missed him when he returned to Pulau Buah, where souls go after they drop their physical bodies (which we call baju, or clothes). When my children grew up and started their own families, I moved to Kampong Pertak to live with my younger sister Indah and her husband Rasid. My elder brothers, Diap and Utat, lived nearby.  My eldest son, Ramsit, took over as Batin of Gerachi.

Minah Angong & Nai Anak Lahai with Akar Umbi lineup in August 1995

Mak Minah with Antares & Chandrabhanu
after performing 'Birthplace Reclaimed'
in 1993 (photo by Rafique Rashid)
It was fated that my life would begin to change in 1992. I met a few people from the big city who happened to be musicians. They heard me singing and decided to record my voice, adding musical instruments to give my traditional sawai (healing) songs a modern sound. The first song we created together was called Burung Meniyun. I was asked to sing it on stage during a performance by a famous dancer named Chandrabhanu who lived in Australia. I was surprised and touched that people in the big city would receive my humble song with such open hearts.  Never before had I sung for so many strangers in such a large hall! Chandrabhanu himself was quite a colorful character, dressed up as some kind of witch doctor with all sorts of strange objects dangling from his body. I found it exciting to meet so many new friends who were delighted to hear my ancient songs. 

It all happened so quickly. One moment I was just an Orang Asli widow gathering firewood and tapioca leaves in the forest and going fishing with my sister. Then suddenly I was on national TV singing for thousands of people in a huge stadium! I shall never forget the pleasure of hearing the loud applause and shaking hands with everybody afterwards. I felt proud to be able to please so many people with my simple songs. For once I could feel that no one was looking down on me, or ignoring me, for being an uneducated Orang Asli. 

Can you imagine how it feels to be recognized by someone in Ulu Langat who had seen my performance on TV?  When I went to the market in town, people came up to me and congratulated me on my performance. But back in Kampong Pertak, I was greeted with a mixture of wholehearted support and suspicion. Some whispered behind my back that I was soon going to be too sombong (proud) to be their friend. That really hurt my heart.

Minah performs at the first Rainforest World Music
Festival in Sarawak, August 1998 (Wayne Tarman)
I enjoy singing for people, and my late husband taught me that these songs handed down from our ancestors carry healing power. They are medicine songs. When I sing I can feel my spirit expand like a strong wind blowing through a tree. Naik angin, we call it.  Once I start I must carry on until the wind becomes a breeze and goes quietly on its way. If I don’t let the spirit wind flow (lepas angin) I can get very sick.

My first experience of flying was when Akar Umbi performed in Sarawak at the Rainforest World Music Festival. I had such a grand time and made even more friends. I returned to Sarawak with Akar Umbi the next year, for the last time. At the party after the close of the festival, my newfound friends sang me a rousing Iban farewell. My heart was light and heavy at the same time. Perhaps I knew this was our last meeting on this earth.

Photo by Roland Takeshi
Even as I felt the pleasure of being applauded, I could feel the pain of losing our past and future. The dam project would soon destroy Kampong Gerachi and its durian orchards. A man-made lake would fill the Selangor River Valley, drowning a once-beautiful forest, along with our ancestral graves. I could not imagine anyone so foolish as to declare war against the forces of nature.  Did they have no understanding of, or respect for, our deep love of the land? Were they totally unaware that destroying the land would mean the end of our livelihood and future?  We are the land. If the land dies, we die. 

My sister Indah and brothers Diap and Utat felt the same way that I did. We cherished our traditions and would never lose our heart connection to the land, even if we were offered vast amounts of money.  The Temuan tribe has lived here for many thousands of years; the hills and valleys and rivers are much, much older than that. Our fruit trees can live for over a hundred years and as long as we keep planting new ones, our great-great-grandchildren will never starve. But if they destroy the wilderness and put our people in housing estates and make us work in factories, our tribe will be disappear within a generation. Our nenek-moyang (ancestors) told us: “When Orang Asli are no longer visible on this earth, the sea will rise, the sky will fall, and everything will perish.”

Minah Angong by Antares (1999)

It all seemed hopeless. My own son, as headman, had signed an agreement with the dam builders and loggers, allowing the destruction to begin.  I tried to talk him out of it, but he silenced me, his own mother.  My sorrow ran deep.  Before it had even started the dam project had split our families apart. 

But there were thousands of voices raised against the dam, and I was glad that we had so many friends, people who knew the true value of the rainforest and fought hard to stop the destruction.  I was interviewed by many reporters and I told them how I felt about seeing our way of life being taken from us.  One reporter asked me: “Don’t you want to see your grandchildren getting a good education, which they can only get when development reaches the rural areas?” I replied: “All those who cut down the trees and make the hills bare, causing landslides and floods, aren’t they educated too? If that’s what being educated means, then we Orang Asli don’t want to be educated!” The reporter had nothing to say to that.

Minah gazes at the Indian Ocean at Batu Ferringhi, Penang, 1993 (photo: Rafique Rashid)

In a way, I’m glad I didn’t live to see the bulldozers and excavators arrive. Three weeks after I performed in Sarawak, I fell ill and surrendered my body to the earth. It has become part of the sacred landscape of my ancestors. But my spirit is reunited at last with the Great Spirit That Dwells In Everything and I am happy.

[Originally published in Off The Edge © Antares 2002, first posted 21 September 2014. Reposted 14 September 2016 & 14 September 2017]

Monday, September 23, 2019

Overview of the Malaysian music scene since the 1970s (repost)

Below is a September 2013 email questionnaire sent by Marco Ferrarese, a PhD student, punk-rock guitarist & travel writer residing in Penang, who requested my input, to be included in his dissertation on the evolution of various musical genres in Malaysia...
Marco Ferrarese monkeying around as a freelancce cultural anthropologist

1) You have been exposed to Malaysian alternative culture and music since the '70s. Can you tell me something about that scene and its development in the early years? I know about kugiran bands, pop yeh-yeh and the likes... but how did Western music arrive in Malaysia? Do you remember some of the ways it did (i.e, radio, television etc.), and how it impacted you as a young man? Why people loved the budaya kuning so much as to try to reproduce it?
Actually, as far back as I can recall, Western music was already a major influence among urbanized Malayans. My dad told me he played saxophone & drums in a ragtime combo in the 1930s. As a kid growing up in the 1950s, I remember my parents – both Anglophonic & middle-class 2nd generation urban Chinese – had a collection of 78 rpm lacquer discs (later replaced by 45 & 33 rpm vinyl records) mostly consisting of 1940s & 1950s orchestral hits by the likes of Victor Silvester, Norrie Paramor, Percy Faith & Xavier Cugat. My dad wasn’t into black musicians or he might have also collected records by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington.
In the early 1960s my classmates exposed me to radio hits by groups like Cliff Richard & The Shadows, Blue Diamonds, Pat Boone, Elvis Presley & Ricky Nelson. I recall buying only a few of these singles, as I didn’t really go for pop music. For some reason I preferred Broadway musicals (especially more adventurous ones like “West Side Story”) & movie soundtrack albums (specifically epics like “Ben Hur” or “Exodus” or “Cleopatra”)… till the Beatles showed up & convinced me there was intelligent life on the radio.
A Peace Corps Volunteer named Duncan Catling was assigned to my small-town high school when I was 14 and he introduced me to neo-classical symphonic works like Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” & George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” So you see, my musical upbringing was hardly typical but the fact that it was entirely Western rather than Eastern reflects the fact that my parents were English-speaking (for the most part) & had absolutely no interest in Chinese history or culture – or for that matter any other Asian culture, which they probably deemed “inferior” or “antiquated.”
2) How did Malaysian youth react to Western music in the 1970s? Were these behaviors about to change drastically a few years later, when Malaysia became increasingly Islamicized in the 1980s?

The Beatles & psychedelic rock made an enormous impact on me as a teenager. This was an era when marijuana became a popular recreational sensory stimulant throughout the world; followed by more powerful utopiates like LSD & psilocybin. With dramatically enhanced awareness & swiftly mutating neural circuitry came the appreciation & ingestion of this brave new music as an evolutionary agent. It was undoubtedly a trigger for accelerated synaptic growth leading to an entirely different perspective on life, reality, everything.
Compared to consciousness-altering, life-changing groups like The Doors, Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, the saccharine, predictable, entirely prosaic local radio hits favored by Malay, Chinese or Tamil speaking households seemed like a couple of centuries past their expiry date.
So in the mid-1970s it was common to see Malaysian bands doing cover versions of more accessible Western rock groups like Santana, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Bob Marley & Bob Dylan. The reason Western music grabbed the youths’ attention was simply because it carried more immediate excitement than traditional Asian music. The youth of Malaysia were looking for powerful evolutionary stimulants, too young as they were to wallow in cultural nostalgia & country music.
The insidious influence of Ayatollahism that crept into Malaysia in the mid-1980s didn’t really impact on those already hip to mutant or alternative culture – but it certainly squashed all possibility of exciting, innovative, liberating music ever getting played on the radio. Kids in the rural areas, trying to break free from stultifying tradition, were drawn to the angry, rebellious sound of punk, metal & trash – and soon found themselves finger-wagged & persecuted by officialdom.
The more docile ones became lulled by maudlin mainstream Malay pop music which poses no threat to the power structure. Islamization merely had the effect of depriving Malaysian music-lovers of ever getting to see sexy or radical acts on stage. Access to underground music, however, remained largely uncontrolled, though mostly confined to niche audiences.
3) You have described Heavy Metal kutus in your book Adoi!, but you didn't mention punks. How did these two subcultures interact in KL in the 70s and 80s? Is there any peculiarity in their behaviors that you consider more authentic, in the sense of reproducing/imitating or reinventing the music they borrowed from the West?
Adoi! was written in 1988, just as punk & new wave acts like Sid Vicious & Boomtown Rats were beginning to influence Joe Kidd’s generation. My loyalty still lay pretty much with the psychedelic, exploratory music of the late 1960s & mid-1970s. I found punk, metal & trash too angry, too aggressive for my taste. By 1971, in fact, I was already father to two girls and preoccupied with earning money & maintaining a family. I was more inclined to listen to Dave Brubeck, Charlie Mingus, Thelonius Monk, Sun Ra, John Coltrane & Keith Jarrett.
Malaysian heavy metal band Nuclear Strikes 
Amy,  lead singer with popular metal band Search
The rise of the underground punk/metal/trash scene in Malaysia can be interpreted as a covert rebellion against the mundane materialism of Mahathir’s shallow Vision 2020. True, the anger felt by Malaysian youth wasn’t quite as intense or extreme - or self-destructive - as examples from the industrialized West – nevertheless, it was an authentic gut reaction to the systematic dehumanization that accompanies industrial development. In that sense, I would say it was as “authentic” as the punk/metal/trash movement in the West.
The Heavy Metal crowd favored long hair, tight jeans & Scorpion-flavored sentimental rock ballads, while the Punks were into Mohicans, piercings & noise. I don’t recall seeing these subcultures interacting. It was as if they inhabited different dimensions, orbital paths rarely if ever intersecting. It may be oversimplifying things to say that the Heavy Metal crowd was more into just being sexy (Amy of Search used to transform into a satyr on stage, making his female fans cream their panties); while the Punks embraced anarchy & leftist ideals as a political statement.
KD Possum & The Flying Fox in 1979 (l-R): Antares, Ping, Shamala Devi, Nashville Slim,
Rob Stuebing, Lightnin' Fooch & John Davis

4) What about KD Possum & The Flying Fox, the first and only Malaysian bluegrass band? How did you get involved in this project, and how do you consider it in terms of its musical authenticity? After all, there was an American performer, among Malaysians... but bluegrass in Malaysia, well, it sounds quite peculiar.
In 1976 I found myself auditioning for a local production of “West Side Story.”  That experience gave me a taste for performing, so I immediately agreed when a former Peace Corps Volunteer named Rob Stuebing invited me to join the bluegrass group he was forming with a banjo-player colleague named John Davis. All I could play at first was the blues harp (at one time I owned 17 of them). Subsequently I contributed a bit of mandolin, backing vocals & eventually began writing my own songs. To me, it was simply a chance to make music with a bunch of good friends & have some fun. It didn’t cross my mind that a Malaysian bluegrass band was anything “peculiar.” Hilarious, perhaps, but as a group we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. I didn’t actually like country music, what more hillbilly songs – but it was a good foundation to learn how to create music, starting with the roots.
KD Possum & The Flying Fox was a truly Malaysian phenomenon in that at its height we had 2 Americans on guitar, dobro & banjo, 1 Indian vocalist, 1 Malay bassist/vocalist & 3-4 Chinese members on harp, mandolin, autoharp, kazoo & backing vocals – and we attracted equally diverse audiences. We may even qualify as the first Malaysian band to release a live album (Out of the Woods, 1982). As to whether our brand of bluegrass was authentic – well, Rob & John sounded like Appalachian hillbillies & our bassist Lat went by the name Nashville Slim. That’s authentic enough for me.
5) After this band and your personal decision to move into nature, you have recorded a lot of what can be categorized as "world music". Was this an evolution of your tastes, a conscious decision dictated by the circumstances, or did you just decide to perform more "authentic" Malaysian music?

Akar Umbi in August 1995 (clockwise from left): Antares, Stanley Nickam, Philip Boyle Jr,
Rafique Rashid, John Hagedorn, Nai Anak Lahai, Minah Angong, Xiong Lee 

Malaysia, truth be told, is a political artifice. There is no authentic “Malaysian” culture or identity – apart from the titillating blend of all the cultural influences to be found here, whether Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Siamese, Burmese, Cambodian, Arab, Turkish, Portuguese, Dutch or British.

Minah Angong, Temuan ceremonial singer 
The work Rafique Rashid & I did with the Temuan ceremonial singer Minah Angong (whose niece I later married) arose spontaneously after hearing her sing at a drunken party. We were astonished by the soulful quality & shamanic power of her voice. Tried dropping her a capella voice on top of an instrumental piece we had recorded – and it worked marvelously, this “ethnic-trance fusion” experiment that became known as Akar Umbi - after our celebrated performance in September 1994 at the Shah Alam Stadium before an audience of 42,000 plus a nationwide live TV broadcast.

The universal appeal of Minah Angong’s medicine songs was a surprise to all of us, especially her. She couldn’t believe sophisticated audiences would be so receptive to her humble, unschooled voice. I had to laugh when it dawned on me that I was still stuck with a hillbilly band – this time from the Titiwangsa Range instead of the Appalachians.

My 2nd solo album reissued as a CD in September 2010
So, to remove the bland taste of folk music from my eclectic palate, I ventured into idiosyncratic expressionist solo experiments, mostly extemporized because I’m musically illiterate. I regard myself as a Malaysian citizen, so however my artistic output turns out, it’s always “Malaysian” – though the authenticity of “Malaysian” as an adjective can be questioned.

6) Talking about authenticity and Malaysia to me is a bit of an oxymoron. However, as you have spent so much time among orang asli - ideally, the authentic inhabitants of this country -, would you consider their lifestyle as authentic to Malaysia? If not, do you believe there is any kind of cultural/artistic authenticity in this country?
Allow me to quote playwright Huzir Sulaiman as the only appropriate response:
“It angers me when after hundreds of years of importing aspects of other people’s culture some politician in a 4,000-ringgit Italian suit complains about Western values and such-and-such a thing is not from our culture. Our culture is everybody else’s culture. We’ve never had our own. Deal with it and grow up." ~ Huzir Sulaiman, Notes on Life & Love & Painting (1999)

7) Sorry If I insist on the authenticity point, but you state that KD Possum & the Flying Fox was "authentic enough for you". How do you envision authenticity in music, then? Don't you think that music should be more localized and reflecting of a people's environment and traditions, social history and politics, rather than use the stereotypes of global genres such as rock/punk/psychedelia etc.? I am not arguing that there should be no globalization of sounds in this world, but don't you think that, let's say, a Malaysian punk band would be more authentic if they sang about actual political and social problems, rather than the higher stereotypical ideas of the genre crafted in the West?
Os Pombos, a popular Malaysian cowboy band,
has been around for decades
What are you driving at? Are you suggesting it’s “inauthentic” for blue men to sing the whites?
I don’t represent any kind of cultural tradition. Some people do, some don’t. Why on earth should I insist that music be more localized, reflecting “Malaysian” culture & traditions? Nobody knows what “Malaysian” means. It depends on your political orientations. If you’re an Umno member, for example, you’ll insist that national culture must smell & taste Melayu.

I don’t insist that anyone or anything must smell & taste Chinese or Eurasian or whatever. If something sounds good, I’ll listen to it over & over again & share it with friends. I’m not the national arbiter of musical fashion & taste. I value originality more than technical precision, it’s true - and the idea of a Bollywoodized version of “Thriller” or a bunch of Malay kids with baseball caps & oversized clothes rapping in a shopping mall strikes me as fairly comic. But why can’t they be left to do whatever pleases them?

M. Nasir in action
There will always be a few individual artists, like M. Nasir, who focus on musically exploring their own tribal roots & regional influences. Or the short-lived Thavil Blues Band formed by Allan Perera & Paul Ponnudurai in the mid-1990s which introduced curry-flavored blues to the world.  Bluegrass wasn’t & will never be my idea of music. My solo musical experiments were purely for fun & they express my personal idiosyncrasies rather than some national culture.

8) Returning to KD Possum & the Flying Fox: it was a multi-ethnic band. How did the members come together in friendship? Based on my current observations, I have noted that, especially in punk and metal, there is a majority of Malay players and fans, and the Chinese have instead focused more on other fringes of indie and post-rock, while the Indians have at times created a localized Tamil version of hard rock. I understand that your musical involvement today is lesser than before, but do you feel that back in the 1970s it was easier to mingle as Malaysians, without the silly racial divisions which are reified in the public as of today?

You’re making an intellectual mountain out of a circumstantial molehill here. KD Possum & The Flying Fox was really just a few good friends getting together to make some sweet noise. Our female vocalists Ping & Shamala happened to be married to Rob & Lightnin’ Fooch. Lat @ Nashville Slim was a regular visitor at the Fooch household where I first met him & none of us was aware that we were the embodiment or forerunners of some stupid slogan like “1Malaysia.” There was a great deal of camaraderie among us, that’s for sure. We had a lot of fun.

KD Possum & The Flying Fox in 1980 (clockwise L-R): Lightnin' Fooch, Shamala Devi,
Rob Stuebing, Antares, Ping
Other guest musicians were roped in for bigger concerts. I mean, how likely is it to find a Chinese banjo-player from Penang named Willy Chin? Nobody thought in terms of race or nationality. We weren’t embarrassed to be playing Appalachian folk music. If Rob were Greek & played the bouzouki, we would have been just as happy performing Mediterranean folk music. I enjoyed being part of a band. It so happened none of us owned amps & drumkits or we might have been churning out rock - or jazz, but the truth is, none of us was that much of a virtuoso on any instrument.  

Marco Ferrarese's latest book:
click here to order!
My checkered musical career includes a very brief stint as part of a madrigal choir performing medieval songs. I did it at the insistence of the choir conductor, my great buddy Hans Sallmann who was director of Goethe-Institut & an enthusiastic cellist. Guess I was grateful to Hans for appreciating my weird musical output. I gave him my second solo album & he called the next morning to say it was “the most interesting music” he had heard since arriving in Malaysia.

There are no serious racial divisions – apart from the ones fabricated & orchestrated by Barisan Nasional to keep itself in power indefinitely. Artists, especially musicians, don’t give a shit about race & religion & such crap. They’re usually in it for whatever buzz they get out of jamming together.

[First posted 5 November 2014, reposted 30 June 2017]

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Dedicated to all those who arrived in 1980 and thereafter...

The Path to Enlightenment by Steve Griffith

If you were born in 1980 you will be hitting 40 in 2020. Generally speaking, this is the age of full ripeness for most women and a few men (who usually take a while longer to fully mature, say around 44). In effect, yours is the generation that will spearhead the radical changes necessary as we quantum shift into a whole new spiral of evolution.

Beginning in the mid-1960s many advanced souls began incarnating on this planet - eager to either help with a tumultuous transition between zodiacal ages and frequency zones, or to witness what some say is an incredibly rare cosmic event, the mass awakening of an entire species within a two or three generation span.

At first, these evolutionary agents passed unnoticed, and many chose to arrive as the Flower Power era was peaking; and, for sure, a large number were conceived by parents who had themselves undergone a significant psycho-spiritual shift - whether through rediscovering ancient meditation techniques or through exposure to psychotropic and entheogenic drugs like marijuana, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms and LSD.

In the 1980s, the term "indigo children" began to circulate as a description of these incoming souls - initially within New Age and esoteric circles, then gradually finding its way into the mainstream. Much has been speculated about this phenomenon, none of it definitive, but this paragraph I found in Wikipedia serves nicely as a brief summary:

Descriptions of indigo children include the belief that they are empathetic, curious, strong-willed, independent, and often perceived by friends and family as being strange; possess a clear sense of self-definition and purpose; and also exhibit a strong inclination towards spiritual matters from early childhood. Indigo children have also been described as having a strong feeling of entitlement, or "deserving to be here." Other alleged traits include a high intelligence quotient, an inherent intuitive ability, and resistance to authority. According to Jan Tober and Lee Carroll, indigo children function poorly in conventional schools due to their rejection of (fake) authority, being smarter than their teachers, and a lack of response to guilt-, fear- or manipulation-based discipline. [Source: Wikipedia]

Irene Fernandez (1946~2014)
I have chosen the year 1980 as a hypothetical turning point when the number of incoming "indigo children" began to reach a critical mass. Prior to that, of course, there were many who fit the general description of "indigo child" (and I'm inclined to include myself as one of the forerunners of this mutant breed of human beings). Perhaps even as far back as 500 B.C. there were already a handful of indigos appearing in our midst: somebody like Socrates or Prince Siddhartha, to name but two prominent examples, most certainly would have been exceptions to every established rule in their day. (In the Malaysian context, I would classify strong-minded moral warriors like the late Irene Fernandez and Ambiga Sreenevasan as early Indigo incarnations.)

A large number of the indigo wave that came in during the mid-1960s might have found themselves smashed to smithereens against the jagged reefs of societal miscomprehension - many ending up as junkies, jailbirds, sociopaths and psychotics. In America, the indigo child was often misdiagnosed with some fictitious disease called Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and prescribed zombifying drugs like Ritalin. Sadly, some of these kids subsequently turned into serial killers (ref. the shocking 1999 Columbine High School and 2007 Virginia Tech massacres).

Nurul Izzah Anwar, future prime minister?
Well, I would like to believe that the Indigos who arrived after 1980 have another significant attribute - Christ-like compassion and unity consciousness, meaning the capacity to feel and express universal love. That's why they have been dubbed "Indigo Crystals." Indigo Crystals are also known for their fearlessness and deeply ingrained sense of natural justice. A classic example of an Indigo Crystal would be Nurul Izzah Anwar (born 19 November 1980).

2020 is the year of the Indigo-Crystal-Rainbow Child!

Starseed KeRa (Christy Tice) and her amazing Indigo-Crystal-Rainbow son, Akyuna Akish

I sense that very vividly, after encountering a great many young people ranging in age from 15 to 40. They may appear outwardly unmotivated, even a bit lost, but they all have a powerful core of empathy, compassion and a deep commitment to doing whatever they can to heal the emotional cancer that has brought humanity to the edge of self-destructive inhumanity.

These mutant young humans grew up in the digital age, many of them computer literate by the time they entered school or in their early teens. They are the generation of internet savvy, plugged-in youth that claimed Facebook, then Instagram, as their own preferred means of communication and took to Twitter like a flock of chattering birds. They are the ones inspired by movies like The MatrixV for Vendetta, or Avatar. They are the ones you see wearing yellow, mocking false authority, and demanding regime change. They are equally at home in virtual as well as actual reality and are capable, not only of multitasking, but also of multidimensional consciousness.

Freedom fighter in Tahrir Square, Cairo, January 2011
They have access to far more information at their fingertips than all previous generations of humans - thanks to search engines like Google and online databases like Wikipedia. They also have access to YouTube - one of the greatest ideas since Web 2.0 was launched.

Hugo Farrant, visionary rapper
This is the generation that will end artificial barriers and boundaries; that will refuse to be categorized by race, skin color, and religion - and, if they had their way, even national identities will swiftly become irrelevant, as they become planetary nomads - relocating to wherever their hearts lead them. Truly, this phenomenon has long been prophesied in indigenous legend as the advent of the Rainbow Tribes on Earth.

As we embark on yet another bumpy orbit of the Sun, I feel a profound gratitude that "changing the world" is no longer one of my life missions - I gleefully pass the scepter of power to these Indigo Crystal Rainbow warriors, for the 21st century is theirs to claim and reshape.

The best thing any parent or grandparent can do is to quickly recognize that the youngsters are capable of far greater understanding than all their ancestors put together. Don't stifle their imaginations - for that is the one ingredient dangerously lacking in the previous generations, the ability to imagine heaven on earth; and to invent technologies that benefit and liberate, rather then despoil and enslave.

The preceding generations have bequeathed to these Indigo Crystal rainbow starseeds a very bleak prospect indeed - a planet in the grip of massive eco-apocalypse, poisoned and ideologically fragmented - constantly on the brink of mutual assured destruction - with more and more species becoming extinct by the month, and ugly rumors of population culling as the only way to solve all our self-created problems.

Let the old ways be fondly remembered, carefully preserved in public archives and museums - but let them no longer be an obstacle to radical transformations of the human soulscape. What may have served our forefathers no longer serve our grandchildren.

Let us wish all old-style authoritarians and despots a graceful retirement or an inglorious demise in 2020.

Party on, folks! Celebrate the circumpolar rainbow bridge that bypasses Armageddon to Heaven on Earth!

[First posted 31 December 2011, reposted 30 April 2014 & 3 March 2016]