Here’s another Pagoda recorded in Singapore, this one in 1938. It features traditional Chinese wedding music played by a seroni ensemble. The typical ensemble consists of seroni (a shwam-like oboe known as suona in China), swilin (bamboo flute) and percussion; a small drum, cymbals and gong. Usually this type of music is used to accompany the bride while she is carried in a sedan and throughout other parts of the wedding. The piece heard on this record is labeled “Siew-Tow”, the most important part of the ceremony when the vows are taken.
A seroni ensemble is also used for funerals and other rituals.
Immigrants from southern China began moving to Malaysia and Indonesia as early as the 15th century. The British later encouraged Chinese immigration to the Straights Settlements in the the 19th and 20th centuries. Chinese, speaking several different dialects, quickly established themselves as traders throughout the region, as in other parts of Southeast Asia.
The label is hard to read, but it says:
Let’s see….now where was I?
Malaysia! sure…why not?
Malaysia has a wild diversity of music captured on 78 rpm record and a wide range of influences; Malay, Arabic, Hindu, Indonesian, Chinese, Portuguese and more. Lagu Melayu (Malay songs) tend to fall into categories like the Hindu influenced Orkes Harmonium, the Islamic based Orkes Gambus (Gambus is an instrument derived from the oud) and Orkes Melayu (Malay songs with western instruments). Indonesian influenced styles like krontjong, bangsawan and stomboel were also popular. Ultimately these diverse styles gave way to the ubiquitous rock based Dangdut.
Today, after a long break, we present a venerable Malay genre with roots reaching back to the 15th century called Dondang Sayang, literally “to sing with love.” The band is always led by a violinist who weaves in and out of the vocal melody, backed by a rhythm section of rebana (frame drum) and tetawak (gong), accordion was later added to the core ensemble. The singer improvises a kind of classical Malay poetry called pantun, often bantering with a singer of the opposite sex.
Here’s a scratchy, but excellent example of Dondang Sayang sung by Misses Itam & Timah for Singapore’s Pagoda label in 1930. I think each singer does one side of this record, but I have no clue which is which.