The Young Squirrel Chant

on Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Malay culture is a rich and romantic one which has interwoven into its fabric, threads of Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Arabic and even Western cultures due to Malaysia's position along the ancient sea routes of trade.

A personal favorite of mine is an art form called "Dikir Barat" which is widely practiced in the state of Kelantan. It is widely believed to have been introduced to Kelantan from adjacent southern Thailand. "Dikir" means a prayer or a ritual while "Barat" means west. Indeed Dikir Barat is a style of singing which is accompanied by an almost ritualistic chanting and southern Thailand lies to the west of Kelantan.

I even joined a club to learn how to sing Dikir Barat when I was in school but alas, that was many moons ago and I am no longer able to remember enough to sing it. However, I thought you might like to hear how this art form sounds like.

I have chosen a song called "Anak Tupai" which might not surprise you means, "Young Squirrel". The song is about a young squirrel with a bushy tail and empty stomach wandering about in search of food and enjoys the fruits from people's orchards. The people set a trap for it and eventually poison it. The squirrel's parents go looking for it and find it dead. Not a happy ending for the squirrel I fear but the song does talk about how man doesn't spare each other from violence so therefore, it was too much to hope that they would spare that one squirrel.

Enjoy the two video versions of the song. I should also mention that this is not in the formal Malay language but the colloquial dialect of the Kelantan state.


Claudia said...

My husband loves the Mississippi squirrel revival - which is a kind of traditional song for a bored Southern Baptist boy. (Here's the link: )
Thanks for the chant. I've wondered what Malay sounded like! :) Plus I like the rhino.

Gina said...

:) A close friend who loves to travel to Malaysia, recently introduced me to Diker Barat. Reminds me of line dancing. I saw one version of Diker Barat on You Tube, which was being done at a wedding or some kind of special event. Looks like they are having a lot of fun doing it. Thanks for sharing this Sad Squirrel song.

Dr.John said...

I liked the first video best. It felt like an opera being sung by a hippo and a dog.
Thanks for sharing a bit of your culture.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for the comment and the recommendation. It's actually supposed to be a hippo but they are in the same group of grey wide-bodied animals.

Dikir Barat is a fun group activity. The simpler songs involve the repeating of the same line again and again and are easy to learn. They sometime choreograph the movement of the hands leading up to the clapping so that it is synchronised with style.

dr. john,
I have always enjoyed your posts on the Finnish culture.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janice Thomson said...

This was neat LGS. I enjoyed the beat tremendously. Thanks for another tidbit of Malaysian culture.

meggie said...

In spite of the sad content, the tune is very catchy! thankyou for sharing this.

the walking man said...

Dikir Barat...along with the other influences you mentioned, this reminded me of south African township music. I suppose the most famous group doing that is Ladysmith Black Mbazo.

cyclopseven said...

Hi have got something unique here Lone Grey Squirrel. Keep it up.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks. Glad you liked it.

I agree about the catch tune and rhythm.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Well, I am also a fan of the rich harmonies of the South African Township music.

Thank you for coming by and for the kind words. Don't be a stranger.

squirrelmama said...

I am sorry for the sad song but perhaps in those lyrics people might indeed learn a lesson. I hope so.
By the way, LGS, speaking of "young squirrel," any word on the little squirrels rescued by your colleague?

Molly said...

This made me want to get up and dance!

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