Thursday, September 14, 2006

Menghirup Udara Malam di UIA

Malam tadi kami menyertai satu program di UIA,lebih tepat anjuran Fakulti Undang-Undang di bawah Dr Iqbal. Macam sirih pulang ke gagang.Sebabnya tempat yang sama pernah menyaksikan Dewangga Sakti beraksi empat tahun yang lalu untuk program Malam Nur Akar 4 bersama-sama kumpulan gamelan UIA,kumpulan Angklung Malam dll.
Tidak sangka kami bermain di tempat yang sama.Tempat terbuka atau lebih tepat berdekatan Fakulti Undang-undang dan jalan menuju ke perpustakaan. Kami hanya bereenam kerana Abdul Raof bekerja dan tidak dapat turut serta. Berdekatan tempat itu juga pernah diadakan Detik Merdeka 2001 yang menyaksikan penglibatan penyanyi lagu folk,Pak Pandir.Program itu diadakan menjelang detik 12 malam,31 Ogos 2001.
Meski hanya dengan empat lagu dan menjadi kumpulan penutup program,semua anggota melahirkan rasa kegembiraan dengan sambutan dan suasana program ini.Inilah roh yang kami cuba pupuk ketika mula-mula menubuhkan Dewangga Sakti pada tahun 2000. Mohsen yang banyak bertindak sebagai penganjur ketika itu dan anggota kumpulan yang lain melalui jalan sukar bermain di tempat-tempat terbuka dan tidak dipedulikan.Adakalanya ditertawakan dengan wawasan serta sifat eksperimen kami.
Malah ketika kami masih belajar,gitar menjadi alat yang dianggap haram dan ada ketikanya gitar-gitar kami dirampas dan diberi amaran keras supaya tidak melibatkan diri dengan perkara mungkar dan haram.Walhal,banyak lagi anasir-anasir liar yang menular di sana yang tidak dibanteras,sebagai contoh aktiviti pondan dan gay.
Tetapi kami tetap bermain secara gerila dan anggota kumpulan ini(dengan kumpulan lama mereka) banyak terlibat dengan gig di seluruh negara.
Program ini satu perkara yang positif. Dianjurkan oleh Fakulti Undang-Undang bersama-sama Rumah Penerbitan Suarasuara (Raja Ahmad Aminullah).Selain daripada persembahan Dr Iqbal dan kumpulan,penyajak Amirul Fakir dari Ipoh juga bersama-sama memeriahkan acara. Pelajar-pelajar UIA(saya rasa dari Fakulti Undang-Undang) pun turut terlibat membaca puisi,bermain muzik dll.
Program ini juga menjadi saksi -pemain violin Norman ramai peminat.Mungkin mereka terpesona dengan rambut atau pun seluar hijau beliau.(ha!ha!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Minum soya di Taipei

Pagi itu di Yi Cafe,Hotel Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Taipei.

"Kamu seorang sahaja yang turun sarapan pagi?"
"Ya!"
"Apa yang lain buat?Masih tidur?"
"Ya,masih tidur kerana terlalu letih"
"Kenapa?Mereka minum (arak) semalam?"
"Bukan.Kami letih kerana banyak membuat persembahan.Oh ya!Kami tidak minum arak!"
"Orang di Kuala Lumpur tidak minum?Saya lihat mereka (orang Islam) di Dubai minum!"
"?!Bukan begitu,ada juga yang minum!"
"Mereka sunni atau syiah?"


Begitulah perbualan singkat saya dengan Steven,penyelia Makanan dan Minuman Yi Cafe. Saya menerangkan secara panjang lebar tentang perkara itu-larangan minum arak di dalam Islam. Beliau mengakui yang kadang-kadang beliau juga minum.

Itulah Steven. Setiap hari ketika sarapan pagi menjadi rakan saya untuk berbual-bual. Bila ditanya tentang Malaysia,saya mencadangkan supaya beliau tidak sekadar datang ke Kuala Lumpur. Sebaliknya saya mencadangkan supaya beliau melawat Langkawi dan pulau-pulau di Terengganu seperti Perhentian,Redang dsbnya.
Di akhir perbualan saya berkata kepada Steven," Kami minum soya!" (ha!ha!ha!)
+Kami tidak sempat minum soya di Taipei kerana dihabiskan dengan meneguk latte dan cappucino setiap hari yang dicampur aiskrim Haagen Dazs

Monday, September 11, 2006

Islam in Taiwan-old article from Saudi Aramco

This article was taken from Saudi Aramco World (print edition July/August 1970-pages 22-27)

Islam in Taiwan

Cut off from its roots, Taiwan's small community of Chinese Muslims struggles to survive.
Written by Peter G. GowingPhotographed by Max AbellanedaAdditional photographs by Ray Cranbourne
Twice in its history the island of Taiwan has been invaded by Chinese refugees fleeing the collapse of a mainland regime. And both times Muslims were among them. The first invasion occurred in 1661, after the fall of the Ming dynasty, when a legendary hero called Koxinga (Cheng Cheng-kung) led 25,000 followers from the southern coast of China and seized Taiwan from the Dutch. The second invasion took place nearly three centuries later, in 1949, when Nationalist President Chiang Kaishek, after his defeat by the Communists, led more than a million followers into exile on the island of Formosa, a Portuguese name meaning "beautiful."
It is not known exactly how many Muslims accompanied Koxinga to Taiwan in the 17th century. The records suggest that there were only a few families, all of them from Fukien Province. They were the first Muslims to settle on the island, and in the course of time their descendants drifted away from Islam. As one generation followed another, they became almost totally assimilated into Taiwanese society, adopting Taiwanese customs and the Taiwanese religion (an eclectic mixture of local spiritism, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism). Cut off from effective contact with the large and vigorous Muslim community on the mainland, the Islamic faith on Taiwan simply atrophied.
The half century (1895-1945) of Japanese rule on the island provided the coup de grace—the Taiwanese were discouraged from practicing "foreign" religions. If there were a few Muslims on Taiwan under the Japanese, they were not native to the place and they practiced their faith as individuals and not as a community. In his History of Taiwan , written in 1918, Professor Lien Ya Tang said, "The spread of Islam in Taiwan is nil; believers are few, mostly from other provinces; hence there is no mosque in Taiwan as yet." Still, interesting traces of Islamic practices are preserved by the present-day descendants of the Muslim followers of Koxinga. The Kuo family in Lukang, for example, does not include pork among its offering at the family shrine even though the family is not Muslim. Two families in Keelung place copies of the Holy Koran before the tablets of their ancestors. The present owners are not Muslims and do not read Arabic, but they honor a book held sacred by their forebears. Two or three families in Tainan observe funeral customs of Islamic origin including the ceremonial washing of the body and wrapping it carefully in white cloth—though in all other respects they are culturally Taiwanese.
These traces and others of a similar nature are about all that is left of the Islamic presence on Taiwan introduced in Koxinga's time. Today not more than 200 out of some 10 million native Taiwanese (as the descendants of the early Chinese settlers are called) are Muslims. Practically all of them are recent converts, many because of marriage to Muslim mainlanders.
Among those who came over from the mainland with the Nationalists in 1949, however, were an estimated 20,000 Muslims. They came from all over China—which has 20,000,000 Muslims in all—but many of them had been born in the provinces where Islam was especially strong: Yunnan, Sinkiang, Ninghsia and Kansu—all in the western and northern regions of China. They are, like the other mainlanders, mostly soldiers and government employes, though there are now many shopkeepers and teachers among them.
A few Muslim leaders hold seats in the Legislative Yuan and the Nationsal Assembly. There are Muslims serving as ranking officers in the armed forces of the Republic of China, notably Lt. Gen. Ma Ching-chiang, formerly Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Service Forces and now one of the top advisers of President Chiang Kai-shek. Muslims also hold important posts in the diplomatic service, among them the Republic's present envoy to Kuwait, Ambassador Wang Shi-ming.
The beginnings of Islam in mainland China are obscure, but the year A.D. 651 is usually accepted as the date for the first official contact between the Caliphate and the Chinese Empire. In that year an embassy from the Caliph Uthman was graciously received at the capital of the T'ang dynasty. Later, Arab traders settled in some of the southern seaports, notably at Canton, and established a rich commerce with the Middle Kingdom. In 756, some 4,000 Arab mercenaries, sent by Caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur, assisted the Chinese Emperor in suppressing a Tartar revolt and were rewarded with land and permission to settle in the Empire. After that, particularly during the Mongol conquests of the 13 th century, other Muslim peoples—Arabs, Persians and Turks—moved into China, settling principally in the northern and western provinces.
The Mongol rulers encouraged Muslim scholars, traders and craftsmen to make their home in China. It is said that certain Muslim arts and sciences, especially medicine, mathematics, astronomy and military science, flourished more vigorously in Mongol China than in Baghdad.
At first the Muslims constituted a distinctly foreign element in Chinese society, set apart by their dress, language, dietary laws and religious customs. In many places they lived in separate communities called ying ("barracks"), reflecting their military origins. But they took Chinese wives; their descendants adopted Chinese names and Chinese ways; and with the passing centuries they became racially and, to a high degree, culturally indistinguishable from the general society. Even so, psychologically and religiously they regarded themselves as a people apart. They refused to eat pork. They greeted each other with Arabic or Persian salutations. They wore turbans. They buried their dead in segregated Muslim graveyards. They followed their own Muslim marriage customs and laws. And they worshipped in mosques, receiving the ministrations of imams and ahongs (from the Persian akhund , a teacher and religious functionary) whom they chose from among themselves and trained in their own seminaries. Chinese Muslims followed a somewhat Sinicized brand of Sunnite Islam, adhering to the Hanafi School.
From time to time religious reformers would try to bring Chinese Islam more into line with religious practices in the Middle East. In the 17th and 18th centuries a quarrel arose between "old doctrine" and "new doctrine" factions, the latter pressing for a "return to orthodoxy" and urging a centralized, institutionalized orthodox Muslim state. The quarrel continued into the 19th century and was the chief factor in the collapse of a Muslim rebellion against the Manchus in the western and northern provinces.
The revolution of 1911, under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, liberated the Muslims from Manchu oppression and went on to recognize them, along with the Han, Manchurians, Mongols and Tibetans, as one of the five "races" constituting the Chinese people. Soon a "new, new doctrine" arose among the Muslims, supported by the Kuomintang, advocating a liberalized Islam, more accommodating to Sinicization and ope'n to reform in terms of social customs, political theory and religious faith. Adherents of the previous factions united against this new threat believing that its real aims were to promote "pan-Hanism" and to destroy the influence of the traditional religious leaders. Thus, there crystallized a fresh division among the Chinese Muslims: the "old sect" versus the "new sect". The latter had many followers among Muslims in the large coastal cities.
To some extent this division is reflected in today's rivalry between Taiwan's two Muslim religious organizations: the Chinese Muslim Association and the Chinese Muslim Youth League.
All Muslim Chinese on Taiwan are regarded as members of the Association, headed by Acting President Abubakr Chao Ming-yuen. Founded on the mainland in 1937, it followed the Nationalists to the island in 1949. It is the only organization officially recognized by the government as speaking for the Muslim community. Many of the Association's leaders are also government officials.
Working through its several local branches, departments and committees, the Association engages in many activities. Since 1959 it has produced two complete translations of the Holy Koran into Chinese. It publishes a monthly magazine devoted to Muslim interests. It sponsors a weekly radio program beamed to the mainland by the China Broadcasting Corporation. It conducts an educational program for young people and supplies reading material for Muslims in the armed forces. The Association, through its Overseas Affairs Commission, maintains lively contact with the World Muslim League and other international Islamic organizations. It also receives and entertains many foreign Muslim visitors to Taiwan; nominates pilgrims for the annual hajj (only five can go, by government edict); selects students for scholarship awards to study at Islamic centers abroad; and assists in arrangements for foreign Muslim students studying in Taiwan. Occasionally, in cooperation with the government, the Association organizes goodwill missions to Muslim countries.
The Association has its headquarters in the beautiful and impressive Taipei Mosque, which was. built in 1960 under its leadership. It solicited funds from local and foreign friends (including Their Majesties the Shah of Iran and the King of Jordan) for the $150,000 edifice—and arranged a loan of $100,000 from the Nationalist Government which was only too happy to have a stunning mosque to show visiting Muslim dignitaries.
Rivaling the Chinese Muslim Association in enthusiasm, though not in numbers or influence, the Chinese Muslim Youth League has its offices in the Culture Mosque, a converted Japanese house also located in Taipei. The President of the League is Hajji Ishaque Shiao Tung-tai who serves as imam of the mosque as well.
Hajji Ishaque was one of the founders of the League in the city of Mukden, Manchuria, in the early 1930's. At that time it was called "The Chinese Muslim Youth Cultural Improvement Association" and its purpose was to unite Muslim youth against the Japanese and their puppet regime in Manchuria. During the Nationalist-Communist civil war of the late 1940's, Hajji Ishaque and many members of the organization migrated to Kwangtung Province where, at Canton in July of 1949, they reorganized themselves, with other interested Muslims, into "The Chinese Muslim Youth Anti-Communist and Nation-Building League." Later that year the League moved to Taiwan. The members, including Hajji Ishaque, were at first active in the Chinese Muslim Association, but in 1951 they withdrew in order to preserve their separate identity as a Muslim religious organization. The League adopted its present name in 1957.
The Chinese Muslim Youth League requires formal registration of its membership and as of mid-1969 it recorded 560 members, including 55 Taiwanese converts. Most of the members live in and around Taipei, though some are scattered throughout Taiwan. The League, according to Hajji Ishaque, represents a continuation of the "new sect" faction which had existed on the mainland. It is liberal and reformist in attitude and is usually more accommodating to Sinicization and change than is the case with the Chinese Muslim Association. In ritual matters the League incorporates some minor differences vis-a-vis the Taipei Mosque. For example, while the larger mosque offers its prayers in Arabic, the prayers in the Culture Mosque are rendered in Chinese, reserving Arabic only for the recitation of a few verses from the Koran.
In general, the League feels that it has appeal to a younger and more progressive group than is represented in the Association. It conducts regular classes for young people and stresses instruction in Islamic law and theology rather than in Arabic language and ceremonial concerns.
Neither the Association nor the League engages in active evangelizing for converts. Yet some converts are won to Islam each year. There are those, especially the Taiwanese converts, who embrace Islam as a condition of their marriage to Muslims. But the rest are attracted to the faith through contact with Muslim leaders or general reading. Both organizations put literature into the hands of inquirers and give a cordial welcome to those who are curious about the faith. The Taipei Mosque reports some 100 conversions annually and the Culture Mosque attracts about half that many.
Despite the winning of a number of converts, and the natural increase within Muslim families, there does not seem to be a substantial numerical growth annually in the Muslim community. There are no official figures available but one observer feels that birth and death rates within the community are about balanced and that if there is a net gain each year it is only slight. The Chinese Muslim Association claims that there are 40,000 Muslims on Taiwan (it has made that claim every year since 1959) and that about half of them are "Taiwan-born descendants of Chinese Muslims who came . . . with the hero Koxinga." There may well be 20,000 Taiwanese descendants of Koxinga's Muslim followers by now, but they most definitely are not Muslims today—and from all appearances they do not want to be, despite the efforts of the Association to resuscitate Islam among them. Twenty thousand is probably a good working figure for the size of the Muslim community, though within that number it is hard to say how many are "practicing" Muslims.
Only five mosques serve the religious needs of Taiwan's Muslims—two of them in Taipei and one each in Chungli, Taichung and the large port city of Kaohsiung. The Taipei Mosque is the largest and most attractive of all the mosques on Taiwan. Unlike the temple-style mosques of the China mainland, it incorporates Arabian and Persian architectural elements, including two stately minarets. The spacious, high-domed central hall can accommodate up to 1,000 worshipers. The building also has an auditorium seating 400 persons, a reception hall, several offices and ample facilities for ritual ablutions.
The mosques on Taiwan are completely autonomous and are rather simply organized. The elders in each mosque choose a board of directors which oversees the material concerns of the community. The board in turn selects an imam or ahong to take general charge of religious affairs.
There is little difference in function between an imam and an ahong. The former is the more prestigious title and is reserved for one especially well-versed in Arabic and the teachings of Islam. Both of the mosques in Taipei are headed by imams who are highly qualified and trained for their posts. Hajji Ishaque, imam of the Culture Mosque, was educated in Manchuria. Hajji Ma Tse Chiang, imam of the Taipei Mosque, is a China-born citizen of Saudi Arabia, educated in Mecca and Medina. Incidentally, he is also Professor of Arabic at the National Chengchi University in Taipei.
The other three mosques on Taiwan are in the care of ahongs. In mainland China, ahongs were of different grades, performing different functions. On Taiwan there are six or seven ahongs, all more or less of the same grade, able to read some Arabic, preach the doctrines, explain Islamic law, adjudicate minor disputes within the mosque community, officiate at ceremonies (such as name-giving, circumcision, weddings, funerals) and lead in the public prayers. Both the Taipei Mosque and the mosque in Kaohsiung employ a sort of "minor ahong" whose main duty is to slaughter animals according to Islamic law. None of the ahongs presently functioning on Taiwan has received the standard training for his office. They are older men, retired soldiers most of them, chosen for their piety and above-average religious learning.
On the mainland, some of the largerv cities such as Peking and Mukden had mosques exclusively for women, with women ahongs in charge of them. No such development has occurred in Taiwan. When women do go to the mosque, and few do, they accompany the men, though at the mosque they are usually separated by a cloth screen. Women have traditionally enjoyed considerable freedom in Chinese Islam, and they have the same freedom on Taiwan. There are no harems and no veils. Polygamy and divorce are both quite rare.
Religious instruction is given to children by their parents in the home, but classes for older boys and girls are conducted at the mosques, usually during the weeks of school vacations in the winter and summer. Only the Taipei Mosque is able to have an educational program which runs throughout the year. Some 30 youngsters are currently enrolled in classes which meet two hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays.
While there is general awareness that the Hanafi School of Islamic jurisprudence is traditional in Chinese Islam, on Taiwan there is little application of the religious law outside the mosque because, of course, Nationalist China is a secular state and recognizes no law but that of the state. Within the mosque community, however, offenders are judged and punished by a council called and presided over by tile ahong.
Abstinence from pork and alcohol are among the usual marks of a Muslim society, though the Muslims on Taiwan honor the prohibition against alcohol more in the breach than the observance. Even the rule against pork is very hard to maintain in pork-eating Taiwan. Until recent years, the Taiwanese did not generally eat beef because they regarded it as an unconscionable offense against cattle from whom they otherwise receive so much—milk for the children, work on the farm, transportation, etc. The fact that Muslim restaurants and there are more than twenty on Taiwan—do not serve pork, but do serve beef, makes them something of an oddity.
The Chinese Muslim Association cultivates and maintains relations with Muslim leaders and groups throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia. Because Taiwan's Muslims are mostly exiles from the Communist-dominated mainland, it is not surprising that in their contacts with world Islam they are advocates of a strong anti-Communist and anti-Peking position. The hajjis selected to go to Mecca each year are zealous missionaries of Nationalist China's opposition to Communism. Indeed, their travel is even subsidized by the government. After the pilgrimage they are expected to visit various Muslim countries, calling on political and religious leaders and exchanging views on ways to protect Islam from Communism.
A significant link between Islam on Taiwan and the Muslim world exists in the small group of Chinese Muslims studying at Islamic centers overseas. At present some nine students are studying Arabic, religion and other subjects in Saudi Arabia, four in Libya and one in Lebanon. Taiwan has no seminaries for the training of Muslims for religious leadership so the education these students are receiving abroad is of vital importance to the future of the Muslim community on the island.
In talking about the problems they face in the practice of their religion on Taiwan, the Muslims mention the hardship of performing their Friday religious duties in a society which treats that day like any other. No special considerations are given them on Muslim holidays or during Ramadan, the month of fasting. The fact that most Muslims on Taiwan are of the middle and lower middle class causes them to despair of having adequate resources for future development and progress as a religious community. In addition, there is a problem of leadership which grows more acute each passing year. The present leaders have carried their responsibilities for many years, and there is apparently little interest on the part of the younger generation to relieve them. One ranking Muslim leader has stated that of the 14 students now studying abroad, only two or three in all probability will return to take up active leadership roles in the community.
In short, the small Muslim community on Taiwan confronts the problems inherent in being a tiny minority in an overwhelmingly non-Muslim nation.
Even so, Islam is present and alive on Taiwan. The Muslims there are loyal to the Nationalist Government and feel that their future is bound up with that government. They are cut off from their coreligionists on the mainland, but even after two decades of exile they continue to hope that the separation is only temporary. Should Taiwan remain permanently separated politically from the mainland there is no telling what would happen to Islam on the island. The Islam which accompanied Koxinga in the 17th century eventually died out largely because it was cut off from its mainland roots. History might repeat itself.
Then again, it might not. Far more Muslims came to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek than with Koxinga. They are better organized and are very much in touch with the Muslim world. If the present generation of Muslims can transmit to the next generation only half of its courage and tenacity and loyal devotion to its Islamic heritage, then the future of the faith on Taiwan is assured, come what may.
Peter G. Gowing is Professor of History and director of the Southeast Asian Studies Program at Silliman University in the Philippines, author of Mosque and Moro, and a regular contributor to scholarly journals in Asia, Europe and America.
This article appeared on pages 22-27 of the July/August 1970 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.
See Also: ISLAM—HISTORY, TAIWAN
Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for July/August 1970 images

Kembali ke tanahair


Akhirnya setelah 10 hari,kami kembali ke negara tercinta tanggal 9 September 2006. Perjalananan 8 pagi dari Taipei Taoyuan International Airport (yang baru ditukar namanya minggu lepas daripada nama lama CKS International Airport) dan tiba di KLIA jam 3:15 petang setelah transit di Kota Kinabalu selama 40 minit.
Taiwan satu masa dahulu dikenali sebagai Ilha Formosa (pulau yang cantik)oleh pelayar Portugis yang terdampar di pantai setelah kapal mereka karam di perairan Taiwan pertengahan kurun keenam belas. Malangnya kami tidak terdampar di pantai untuk melihat kecantikan yang digambarkan pelayar Portugis itu.

Kerana itu,kami amat menyesal.

Kami tiba di KLIA jam 3 :15 petang Sabtu lalu bersama tekad baru.

Taipei menjanjikan harapan dan mengajar sesuatu tentang kembara hidup manusia. Tentu sekali pengalaman yang dapat membantu perjalanan hidup. Taipei menjadi saksi kemunculan sulung Dewangga Sakti di luar negara.
Kami akan kembara lagi ke Jepun tanggal 24 September ini.Kali ini hanya tiga orang membawa panji :- Zulkifli -gambus, Noor Azmi -perkusi dan Norman -violin.
Moga bersinar muzik Melayu di seluruh pelusuk alam!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jalan-jalan sekitar Taipei lagi...

Di dalam pengamatan kami,teksi di sini terlalu banyak dan ada di merata-rata tempat. Jika kami berjalan,tidak kira di mana hatta setelah jam 12 malam pun teksi masih mudah didapati. Pengalaman kami menaiki teksi ke Menara 101 menyeronokkan kerana teksi pun model Altis. Terasa besar dan selesa. Hajat di hati sebenarnya nak naik Cefiro tetapi pilih punya pilih,Cefiro tak kunjung tiba.
Perjalanan bermula dengan nilai NT70,tidak kira masa walaupun selepas tengah malam. Perjalanan hanya memakan masa selama 10 minit. Tambangnya NT100 (lebih kurang RM10).
Kami tidak berpeluang menaiki bas tetapi pengalaman menaiki MRT Taipei amat menarik. Sistem MRT mereka amat tersusun. Bayangkan MRT yang bersambung dengan pusat membeli belah bawah tanah yang mempunyai lot-lot kedai yang pelbagai dan lebih memeranjatkan adalah kewujudan Pejabat Daerah Daan (di Metro Mall)yang amat mesra pelanggan di situ(hanya pejabat kecil-mungkin untuk menyenangkan warga Taipei yang tidak dapat ke pejabat utama). Lebih menarik perhatian,jika kita pergi ke suatu tempat yang jauh dan perlu bertukar-tukar tren sebanyak tiga kali pun kita masih berada di dalam stesen. Tidak perlu melintas jalan atau bertukar ke bangunan MRT yang lain. Semua MRT mereka bersambung.Itulah yang kami perhatikan di dalam sistem MRT di Taipei ini.
Di dalam stesen juga kami dapat melihat arca-arca yang diletakkan di antara tempat menunggu di situ.
Sepanjang 10 hari di sini tidak ada adegan merempit oleh mat-mat motor. Melintas jalan juga mudah.Kalau sudah lampu hijau untuk melintas,semua kereta atau kenderaan lain akan serta merta berhenti dan memberi laluan. Chef Melvin yang berasal dari Malaysia memberitahu perkara ini memang dipraktikkan di sini.
Malam tadi Melvin membawa kami ke pasar malam terbesar di Taipei bertempat di Shihlin.Kami bertukar tren sebanyak tiga kali dan tambangnya hanya NT30 (lebih kurang RM3). Malam tadi awalnya hujan dan ini mungkin penyebab tidak ramai orang berkunjung ke situ. Di sini,kami banyak membeli barang-barang yang ingin dibawa balik seperti T Shirt,keychain dll. Puas kami cari keychain yang mempunyai lambang Taiwan tetapi tidak ada. Di satu kedai,kami terjumpa satu keychain 'Made in Malaysia'.
Kebanyakan peniaga di sini tidak faham bahasa Inggeris. Kadang-kadang bertanya harga pun mereka tidak dapat berkata hatta nombor sekali pun di dalam Bahasa Inggeris . Mereka menunjukkan calculator dan menaip harga di situ. Tapi itu tidak menjadi penghalang. Bagi kami bahasa bukan penghalang.Ada macam-macam cara untuk berkomunikasi.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Taipei 101


Hampir 10 hari di negara orang tentunya sedikit sebanyak mengingatkan kita dengan tanahair tercinta. Berlainan dengan pemain perkusi,Azmi ketika ditanya pagi tadi berkata dengan nada penuh kesedihan,"Aku rasa macam tak nak balik pulak".Bila ditanya kenapa dia berperasaan begitu,dia mengaku merasa sedih meninggalkan gadis-gadis manis di sini.ha!ha!(Sebenarnya tidak begitu.Bila kita semakin ingin meninggalkan negara asing ini, kita akan merindukan kembali nostalgia di tempat kita lawati)
Mengamati struktur Taipei membuatkan kita tertanya-tanya.Tidakkan politikus dan penggubal dasar negara kita belajar sesuatu bila ke luar negara (Saya maksudkan negara yang lebih maju daripada kita).Tidakkah kita ingin lihat negara Malaysia kita menjadi lebih berstruktur jalanraya dan bangunannya?Kenapa kita tidak mahu belajar sesuatu? Tidak kira daripada sudut mana.
Semalam ketika berjalan menyelusuri stesen MRT Taipei di dalam perjalanan ke kompleks membeli-belah bawah tanah yang bersambung dengan MRT,saya tersentak seketika. Bersama Norman,kami meneliti susunan lukisan yang diletakkan cantik di lorong berjalan kaki.Lebih kurang 30 lukisan dipamerkan di situ. Jelas tiada vandalisme atau kesan-kesan dicuri.Walhal,tiada pengawal keselamatan yang bertugas di situ. Bayangkan kalau di Kuala Lumpur...tanpa pengawasan.
Bermula 11 September sehingga 15 Sepember ini,mereka akan membuat sit-in protes menuntut Presiden meletakkan jawatan kerana tuduhan skandal rasuah berprofil tinggi melibatkan keluarga dan orang-orang terdekat.Baru beberapa hari lepas mereka mengadakan raptai (rehearsal) untuk demonstrasi ini tanpa sekatan atau gangguan daripada pihak berkuasa. (Demonstrasi pun ada raptai?)
Mereka membuat raptai di dalam hujan.Demonstrasi nanti akan diiringi oleh muzik latar daripada komposer terhebat Jerman, Ludwig van Beetoven iaitu Symphony No 4 titled "Fate",Komposer Czech Bedrich Smetana'symphonic poem "Mavlast" dan Komposer Finland Jean Sibelius bertajuk "Finlandia".
Menurut salah seorang penganjur Fan Ke-ching,lagu-lagu itu akan dimainkan di 32 pembesar suara yang ditujukan kepada Pejabat Presiden dengan harapan Presiden Chen Shui-bian akan mendengar suara rakyat jelata.Walau bagaimanapun,sebagai meminimakan kesan muzik kepada mereka yang bekerja dan tinggal berdekatan pejabat Presiden, muzik itu hanya akan dimainkan selepas waktu bekerja dan ketika hujung minggu.
Steven,penyelia Makanan dan Minuman di Yi Cafe ketika ditanya berkata,"We want to kick out the president!".Menurutnya lagi,separuh daripada rakyat Taiwan tidak menyukai Presiden.Mungkin kerana di sini pembangkang mereka kuat dan apa sahaja kesilapan boleh mengakibatkan parti pemerintah kehilangan kuasa. Yang menariknya, Datuk Bandar Taipei Ma Ying-jeou juga terlibat meluluskan protes ini yang dimulakan oleh bekas pengerusi parti pemerintah Democratic Progresive Party(DPP),Shih ming-teh.
Ma ketika ditanya oleh The China Post (edisi 3 September) berkata akan bertanggungjawab di atas apa yang berlaku selepas itu yang jelasnya telah dibuat setelah berunding dengan ketua polis Taipei. Tindakan Ma ini jelas tidak disenangi oleh Premier Su Tseng-chang dan Interior Minister Lee Yi-yang. Su Tseng-chang memberi amaran ini akan memberikan petanda kurang sihat dan permohonan sama akan berlaku di masa hadapan.
Manakala, Le Yi-yang pula mengkritik tindakan kurang bijak Ma kerana protes 24 jam sehari selama lima hari ini akan mengakibatkan konflik sosial dan memberikan kesan kepada pembangunan ekonomi.
Sungguh seronok melihat politik Taiwan. Mungkin inilah apa yang kami lihat terpapar di stesen TV minggu lepas. Di dalam parlimen(kalau tidak silap),empat orang menyanyi diiringi gitar akustik dengan perasaan yang amat sedih sekali.Suara dan lagu yang mereka mainkan amat sedih.Tiba-tiba senario bertukar!Sambil menunjukkan ibu jari tangan ke bawah (sebagai tanda tidak bagus),mereka menjadi bengis dan menghamburkan kata-kata protes. Walaupun tidak faham bahasa mereka tetapi daripada gerak geri mereka dan paparan di dalam akhbar pula membuatkan kami seakan-akan memahaminya walaupun berlainan bahasa.
bersambung...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dewangga Sakti interview- New Straits Times Merdeka pullout



Taken from Merdeka Supplement
Ethnic tunes with a modern feel
DEWANGGA SAKTI
Local underground folk band
DEWANGGA Sakti’s music is perhaps best described as traditional Malay meets the 21st century. Originally, it revolved centred around the gamelan. But that was when they were still university students and had access to these RM30,000 instruments (cheapest).
Now, the music has shifted into a thrilling blend of gambus, darbuka and rebana communing with the violin and electric guitar.
Their contemporary rendition of traditional Malay tunes like zapin, nasyid, joget and inang call to mind a flurry of strange and confusing but exciting images: Butterfly lovers meeting in a Chinese teahouse, Anakin Skywalker and Amidala caught in a Bollywood moment on gentle grassy slopes, Turkish dervishes whirling madly to pulsing trance beats in a New York square. Adversity has served to fan their passion in producing music that speaks of their Malay legacy and identity.
“We don’t want to be entertainment workers. We want to be artistes. To sing not because of the money,” said Mohsen Amdan, founder, composer, guitarist and lead vocalist of this emerging local underground folk band.
The rest are: Abdul Raof Salhudin and Noor Azmi Mohd Shariff (percussion/ back-up vocals), Muhammad Syamsul Faiz Zainuddin (bass guitar), Norman Soo (violin), Wan Yaser Wan Salim (guitar) and Mohd Zulkifli Ramli on the gambus. All but two are under the age of 30.
As the proverb goes: Easier said than done. The experimental artiste is only appreciated at home when he spreads his wings and flies away. The energetic techno-rap Tokyo Drift (Fast & Furious) by Teriyaki Boyz flavoured with beautiful strains of gamelan has got everybody talking. All of a sudden, people are asking: “What’s that sound? It’s amazing, it’s cool”. In Japan, they are clamouring for such compositions. Here, we don’t give a d___. Or do we?
The reality, says Mohsen, is simply that our young generation today “are not aware. There is a lack of exposure, a lack of local bands out there (producing ethnic music)”. And that was why Dewangga Sakti was born: “To conserve our heritage, to protect and promote our legacy, culture and identity. We saw a vacancy in the local music industry,” said Mohsen, 28.
When they first started performing during their university days, they were impeded time and again by a sort-sighted university administration. Luckily they had their own grassroots support; equipment was borrowed from fellow underground musicians. Their first-ever concert in 2001 was financed by a neighbourhood burger stall owner to the tune of RM400.
Currently, the band is in the midst of putting together their self-produced debut album, tentatively titled Mabok Kepayong (Lovesick). They hope to release it by year end. Finally, their music will be heard by the masses.
It has taken them six long years. All of them have day jobs (except Norman who is still studying music at the National Arts Academy in KL); Mohsen has a year-old daughter while Syamsul and Zulkifli are expecting their own soon.
Many of their original compositions were lost during this chaotic period. Only one survived, Jalan Kembali (Road to Return), which they have renamed Kembali Mencari (Returning to Find) for the album in memory of the band’s early days.
Next on the cards are setting up their own studio, expanding their repertoire of folk music (Syamsul plans on taking up the accordion) and expanding their band into a bigger ethnic ensemble.
They are very serious about becoming full-time musicians and to one day join the ranks of internationally acclaimed ethnic artistes at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak. Earlier this year, they performed to an appreciative crowd at the annual FĂȘte de la Musique, held at the Alliance Francaise in Kuala Lumpur.
Right now, Mohsen, Norman, Noor Azmi and Zulkifli are in Taipei as part of the Government’s initiatives to promote Malaysian culture and heritage. It is their first time performing as Dewangga Sakti abroad. Next month, from Sept 25 to October 5, the latter three will perform at the Asean Tourism Fair in Sapporo, Japan. Their participation in the two concerts are sponsored by our the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism.
“We will be playing traditional Malay folk songs and maybe a couple of our originals. In Japan, we plan to play their folk numbers and maybe songs like Sukiyaki or the Doraemon theme song,” quipped Zulkifli. — By DEBRA CHONG (NST)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jalan-jalan sekitar Taipei



Taipei kelihatan agak terancang bandarayanya. Bangunan dan jalanraya mempunyai struktur yang baik,tidak bersimpang siur dan jika dilihat daripada tingkat 41 hotel kami tidak menampakkan satu bandar yang cacamerba. Papan tanda dan tulisan di atas jalan menyukarkan kita untuk sesat kerana amat jelas.
Apa yang menarik di sini adalah susunan bangunan yang menyenangkan warga Taipei atau pun pelancong asing. Contohnya,kita dapat melihat deretan bank ,pusat seni ,kedai foto dll semuanya di tempatkan berdekatan mengikut klasifikasi tempat itu.Apa yang menarik perhatian,kedai 7 Eleven kelihatan di merata-rata tempat.Ada yang hanya bersebelahan jalan. Kami juga sempat singgah ke pasaraya 'Wellcome' yang dibuka 24 jam.
Pada malam keempat selepas sambutan merdeka di hotel,kami bertiga (Azmi tidak keluar kerana urusan siber) berjalan kaki sekitar Taipei bermula tengah malam sehingga jam 2 pagi.Memang betul kata En Junaidy kadar jenayah adalah rendah di bandaraya ini kerana kami melihat ramai wanita yang berjalan berseorangan atau bersama rakan pada malam itu(mungkin baru balik kerja atau pun menghabiskan masa di kelab dan pub yang banyak terdapat di sekitarnya). Kami berjalan tanpa ada tujuan yang jelas,cuma ingin melihat persekitaran Taipei.Terdapat nama-nama pub yang menggelikan hati kami:-contohnya Saints & Sinners (Pendita dan Pendosa) dan Bar Code!
Tidak pula kami menyaksikan adegan merempit di sekitar bandaraya ini. Tahu-tahu saja sudah sampai ke menara tertinggi di dunia iaitu Menara 101. Sekali pandang,tidak nampak menara ini se'gah' menara lain contohnya Menara Berkembar Petronas.

Foto ketika sesi bertemu akhbar 30 Ogos 2006



Foto ketika sidang akhbar 30 Ogos 2006,Rabu. Banyak akhbar Taiwan yang datang tetapi kami pun tidak tahu akhbar apa.Tapi bukan Nanyang Siang Pau la.ha!ha!
Sidang akhbar ini diadakan di tingkat enam iaitu di Yi Cafe, Hotel Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza(tempat kami menginap selama 10 hari).
Di belakang kami (dari kiri-Chef Suparman,Laila-pelukis batik,pengurus besar Hotel(lupa nama!),Dato' Dr Ku Abdul Rahman(Presiden Malaysia Friendship and Trade Centre(MFTC),En Azlan (Pengarah Pelancongan Malaysia Taipei dan Melvin Kong(Service Manager-Yi Cafe Chef de Cuisine)
Barisan hadapan:- Mohsen,Norman,Azmi dan Zulkifli.

Makanan apa engkau makan?

Pagi tadi ketika sarapan pagi,kelihatan 'pork sausage' terpampang di tempat makanan di Yi Cafe. Sosej babi?Jangan terkejut!Ini makanan normal mereka. Ketika makan tengahari terlihat satu lagi keanehan (aneh bagi kami tapi biasa bagi mereka) iaitu masakan 'frog leg' atau kaki katak? Siapa suka makan katak?
Itu senario di kafe ini. Selain makanan lain,inilah hidangan mereka. Bagi kami yang mengutamakan pemakanan yang mengikut lunas-lunas Islam, hidangan ayam atau daging kami tidak sentuh langsung kerana walaupun masakan itu dimasak oleh En Suparman tetapi sumbernya bukan disembelih oleh orang Islam.
Di sini kami mengutamakan pemakanan yang amat sihat(ha!ha!) iaitu makan sayur-sayuran ,buah-buahan,makanan laut(termasuk ikan) dan minum pula jus serta susu. Selain itu,kopi latte dan cappucino menjadi santapan harian kerana makan secara buffet. Mohsen pula dengan bangganya makan aiskrim Haagen Dazs yang mahal itu dua kali sehari.
Nasi? Ada nasi putih dan nasi beriani.Maklumlah promosi makanan Malaysia.Ada juga murtabak,roti canai dan roti jala serta beberapa lagi masakan tradisi Malaysia seperti kek,sago gula Melaka,rojak buah dll tetapi kami tidak sentuh makanan itu.Kalau makan pun hanya sedikit.Lagipun murtabak,dagingnya bukan sembelihan Muslim.
Untuk sarapan pagi,seperti biasa makanan bijiran dicampur susu kurang lemak,roti bakar dan aneka buah-buahan serta jus. Jangan cuba-cuba memesan telur setengah masak di sini kerana mereka tidak faham bahasa. Kami minta 'half-boiled egg',dia berikan telur rebus!Makan sajalah Labu!
Oh sungguh sihat kami ketika ini.Tidak minum teh tarik,nasi lemak dan roti canai!Semuanya berkhasiat...ha!ha!ha!
Satu lagi yang kami sempat perhatikan -orang Taiwan makan banyak.Betul ke?Atau mungkin beberapa orang yang datang ke sini sahaja. Kalau mula makan pukul 6:30 petang tu kadang-kadang pukul 8:30malam pun belum habis lagi,berulang-alik mengambil makanan.
Kita di Malaysia apa kurangnya?Makan mungkin kurang tapi makanan pula kurang berkhasiat...

Pasar Malam Taipei

Catatan hari ketiga 1 September-siaran tergendala

Setelah tiga hari di sini kami semakin dapat menyesuaikan diri dengan keadaan. Walaupun belum sempat menjelajah ke sekitar Taipei kecuali pada hari pertama kami ke pasar malam tidak jauh dari tempat menginap. Apa lagi...berjalan kaki menyedup udara malam Taipei yang agak hangat.
Pasar malam di situ sekali pandang tidak ubah seperti Jalan Petaling di KL.Cuma...banyak aspek positif yang dapat dilihat di pasar malam mereka.Pertamanya, tahap kebersihan yang tinggi.Mereka tidak buang sampah merata-rata. Keduanya, peniaga tidak mengacau pelanggan atau orang yang berkunjung ke situ dengan pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang mengganggu.Tidak seperti di PS.Ketiganya, pasar malam mereka tersusun dan deretan kedai di tepi jalan itu mempunyai hiasan dalaman seperti kedai-kedai di pusat membeli belah. Melihat kepada apa yang dipamerkan,tidak jauh beza dengan pasar malam di KL.Hendak membeli barang pun terasa kurang berminat,mungkin tshirt Taipei memadai untuk dibawa pulang sebagai kenangan.Apa-apa pun kami perlu membuat 'survey' dahulu.
Mohsen cenderung untuk mencari barang-barang IT yang agak murah di sini.Manakala,Norman pula agak sibuk membuat senarai CD yang ingin dibeli.Terdapat pilihan CD yang menarik di sebuah kedai muzik yang dibuka sehingga jam 12 malam.Terdapat CD metal,rock,flamenco dan bermacam-macam jenis muzik lain yang ditawarkan dengan harga yang agak murah daripada harga yang dijual di tanahair.(Kami mendapat tahu sehari selepas itu Man pergi membeli lima keping CD di situ)
Tetapi yang kurang enaknya di pasar malam itu,bau makanan yang dimasak di situ.Macam rasa nak muntah pun ada.Bagi penggemar filem biru,vcdnya dijual secara terbuka.
Malam ini sambutan kemerdekaan Malaysia dianjurkan oleh Malaysia Friendship and Trade Centre(MFTC) yang disambut di ballroom hotel.Jemputan adalah seramai 250 orang yang terdiri daripada pegawai dan jemputan daripada kedutaan-kedutaan asing di sini.Tetamu kehormat adalah Menteri Luar Taiwan.
Kami sempat membuat persembahan selama setengah jam.Malam ini terbukti gambus dan muzik yang kami mainkan terutamanya zapin mengingatkan jemputan daripada Kedutaan Yaman dan Oman yang berada di situ kepada kampung halaman mereka.
"I feel homesick!",kata orang Oman itu.Menurut pegawai di situ,orang Yaman itu pula mengatakan berulang kali bahawa muzik yang kami mainkan mempunyai pengaruh muzik Yaman.Memang gambus dari segi sejarahnya dibawa oleh pedagang dari Yaman yang juga berperanan mengembangkan agama Islam ke Tanah Melayu.Instrumen gambus ini dikenali sebagai qanbus di sana.Bentuk gambus lama dipanggil gambus Hadramaut atau gambus hijaz.Mereka juga memperkenalkan tarian zapin yang telah diadaptasi menjadi tarian Melayu yang indah.Seperti flamenco (kata asal fellah mengu/rural wanderers) yang dibawakan oleh gipsi Arab ketika zaman Andalusia dahulu,zapin menjadi satu bentuk muzik unik yang telah melalui proses asimilasi sehingga menjadi sebahagian daripada budaya Melayu.
Kebanyakan orang-orang Melayu yang kami sempat berbual di sambutan kemerdekaan ini amat peramah.Mungkin juga kerana hanya terdapat 12 sahaja keluarga Malaysia di sini.Mungkin kalau pergi ke London,berlainan pula Melayunya.
Tukang masak yang memasak untuk promosi ini berasal dari Sabah.Namanya Suparman dan mukanya saling tak tumpah seperti A R Tompel.(Mohsen sempat berseloroh mengatakan namanya bukan Superman ketika persembahan di cafe tengahari tadi)
Hari ini baru hari ketiga,ada tujuh hari lagi kami di sini.Kadang- kadang bosan juga ketika membuat persembahan kerana kami bermain terlalu lama.Mungkin kalau nak rasa macam mana pemuzik profesional membuat jelajah tour, beginilah agaknya keadaan.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

From Taipei with Love

Alhamdulillah,kami berempat telah selamat sampai ke lapangan terbang CKS Taipei pada jam 9:50 malam pada hari Selasa 29 Ogos.Penerbangan yang memakan masa lebih enam jam bermula pada jam 3 petang dari KLIA dan singgah di Kota Kinabalu(transit selama 40 minit)sebelum mendarat di Taipei.Kami disambut oleh En Junaidy iaitu pegawai pelancongan Malaysia Taipei yang berusia penghujung 30an.
Rombongan kami juga disertai oleh seorang pelukis batik yang bersama-sama kami akan terlibat dengan promosi makanan dan kebudayaan Malaysia di Taiwan sebagai mewarwarkan Tahun Melawat Malaysia pada tahun 2007.
Promosi ini akan memakan masa selama sepuluh hari bermula 30 ogos dan berakhir pada 8 September. Kami ditempatkan di Hotel Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza di bandar Taipei,lebih kurang 40 minit perjalanan dari lapangan terbang. Penginapan kami amat memuaskan,maklumlah kadar satu malam sahaja bersamaan RM600.00(NT 6000.00).
Promosi ini dianjurkan oleh Pejabat Pelancongan Malaysia Taipei dan tiket kapalterbang ditaja oleh Penerbangan Malaysia.
Ini adalah julung-julung kali Dewangga Sakti ke luar negara.Walaupun berempat sahaja kerana terikat dengan kuota yang sedikit,insyaallah di masa akan datang kami akan membawa semua anggota jika terlibat lagi di luar negara.
Sepanjang perjalanan dari lapangan terbang ke hotel,kami asyik memandang keadaan sekeliling. Lebuhraya agak selesa dan kenderaan yang melaluinya juga besar-besar.Malah teksi mereka juga menggunakan kereta bermodel terkemuka seperti Wish,Cefiro,Altis,Camry dan macam-macam lagi.Tidak terdapat kereta saiz kecil seperti Kancil di sini. Pemain violin Norman bertaruh dengan Mohsen jika dia dapat melihat satu kereta bersaiz kecil seperti Kancil.Apa benda mereka bertaruh,biarlah rahsia...(ha!ha!)
Keadaan bilik hotel yang selesa membuatkan kami rasa ingin tidur sahaja tetapi tugas mesti dilaksanakan.Lagipun menggalas nama negara,macam main sukan pula!
Persembahan di tingkat enam,Yi Cafe dan bermula seawal 11:45pagi untuk makan tengahari.Set selama setengah jam diikuti 15 minit rehat sehingga jam 2:30petang. Kemudian jam 6:30petang sudah memulakan tugas untuk makan malam pula.
Cuaca ketika kami sampai ke sini 39 darjah selsius. Terbit matahari pula pada jam 5:30 pagi dan jam 6:15 petang telah terbenam matahari.
Jam 3 petang pada hari pertama 30 Ogos, ada sidang akhbar dan sebelah malamnya pula adalah pelancaran promosi ini. Banyak tetamu daripada kedutaan dan akhbar yang hadir.Persembahan kami hanya dibekalkan dengan dua buah microphone dan ini mendatangkan masalah kepada kami kerana kami memerlukan sekurang-kurangnya empat microphone untuk memastikan bunyi yang terhasil memuaskan. Tetapi persembahan mesti diteruskan.Ini satu cabaran untuk memaksimakan keadaan.
Malam itu setelah persembahan kami berjalan-jalan sekitar Taipei ke pasar malam tidak jauh dari hotel kami menginap. Menjelang tengah malam kami kembali ke hotel setelah menyambut merdeka di tepi jalan,sambil memerhatikan polis membuat sekatan jalan raya.
bersambung (Nantikan cerita pasar malam dll)