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Sweet Melodies in Kelantan Malay

February 11, 2011

I remember this guy particularly well. Of all 10 Yummy Desserts from Kelantan, Tarmizi “The Nekbat” from Gua Musang won the award for Best Singer during my Focus Experiment. This serious-looking gentleman is only 25 years old, but he sounded like a 70-year-old man from some remote, mysterious territory in Kelantan. His focus speech was the most pleasant to hear – authentic, authoritative, natural and melodious. I suspect this could be due to his upbringing. When I asked him about it, he said that he liked to “chill out” with old men and women in his neighborhood. I knew he was not lying because, when I asked 3 prompt questions to which he replied with 3 different focus replies, I always felt the presence of a wise old man sitting like Buddha next to me, telling me to listen carefully to him, asking me to stop being such an idiot, asking me what I was doing with this crappy experiment.

But I didn’t care how crappy this experiment could possibly be. I was having so much fun. Conducting Focus Experiment was maddeningly fun. I felt like I was inside the character of the ever-hectic Mr Schuester who tried to coach the high-school Glee Club members to sing for a national choir competition. Ah, the girls were amazing. Farah “The Buah Tanjung” from Tanah Merah could not get the melody right at first, but after a series of warm pokings, she finally released the original song that I was looking for. Salwani “The Cek Mek Molek” from Pasir Puteh was a timid girl who was not in the singing mood until we got comfortable with each other. She just needed some stupid joke from me to start hitting that note. Arini “The Seri Muka” from Kuala Krai was a matured girl who took the singing session in a serious yet cheerful manner. Fatin “The Putu Mayang” from Machang was so in love with the melody that she kept tuning to the same music even after the experiment was over. Even Hanisah “The Puteri Mandi” from Kota Bharu could do it well, unlike that hysterical Carrier-Sentence session.

The boys? Don’t look so surprised. We do have some talented singers besides Tarmizi. Muin “The Jala Emas” from Pasir Mas was a nervous boy who played a girl-game when I asked him to answer those questions in correct focus conditions. But he sounded like a professional cabaret singer after getting the right gear. Maliki “The Tepung Bungkus” from Bachok was a pitch-perfect singer. His tones were so pleasing to my ears. Hazwan “The Akok” from Tumpat sounded like Maher Zain when the experiment was concluded. Hanif “The Butir Nangka” from Jeli was smiling and ready to sign for a million-dollar contract as a recording artist after I said, “Yes, we are done!”. You see, there’s always this surge of party-like merriment after the end of individual recordings with these music stars. So musically immersed, I thought I was really acting in one of those Glee episodes.

Yes, I respect these people. They could follow the research methodology pretty well. Trust me, it could be so taxing and ass-scratching trying to repeat 20 sentences with 3 different tones for 5 times. But after hours and hours of perseverance and joy, I finally obtained 3000 utterances from 10 speakers. I have yet to label nor analyze these rich spoken data, but I’m sure there are a lot more interesting things to discover as far as double consonants and prosody in Kelantan Malay are concerned. I could already hear those sweet melodies playing on the moldy air from my phonetics lab.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2011 2:51 pm

    Purrrlease satisfy my curiosity. How different or similar with the singsong way the Thais speak? purrr….meow!


    • February 12, 2011 4:12 pm

      Exactly. That’s what I’m trying to investigate. Yet to find out, but will discover soon enough!


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