The Young Squirrel Chant


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.

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