Father of the Bride – Unearthing a hidden gem of Bagan

We the people of Bagan are very proud people. We would rather call ourselves the People of Bagan than being referred to as Orang Batu Pahat. To us Johor is another state. Johor to the us is Johor Baru and its surrounding territories.

Why not? Bagan existed long before Batu Pahat. My kampong house was built in 1860. The town of Bandar Penggaram or Batu Pahat was opened up by Dato Bentara Luar together with the people of Bagan as its pioneering sponsors and promoters in 1890. The facts spoke for itself.

Bagan in Malay means the preferred landing point. It was a port for the import and export of goods for the surrounding territories. The only Kampong that preceded Bagan was Minyak Beku where the Well of Batu Pahat of Awi dichu that Siamese admiral resting port is located.

With its position as the landing point, it outshone even Minyak Beku. It became the preferred settlement amongst Javanese and Banjarese. Even The Malaccan Malay made it a kampong after the fall of Malacca.

With its popularity and growing settlement so was trade, followed by the development of culture and the arts.  In education I have been telling friends no Mukim in Malaysia would be able to match the number of professors Bagan has produced. At  the last count there were 8.

In Arts and culture Bagan was famous for the Zapin and Ghazal. The arts and culture and the newly defined religion to the folks of Bagan was seamless. May father was an Imam. During my sister’s wedding he would be dancing the zapin. Yes I remember that vividly.

That was the late 60s. In the 70s the Malaysian version of Taliban emerged. Anything cultural was haram. Zapin was haram. Ghazal was haram, masadeke was haram. Even the authority of my father the imam was challenged. There were family arguments and boycotts. There were those who refused to follow the solat of my father as Imam. It was stressful times.

Looking back I must say it was not unlike the cultural revolution in China or the Pol Pot regime of the Khmer Rouge.

It has been 30 years since the last Zapin was being performed at the Big House.

I have been determined to revive the Zapin at the Big House. What an astonishing discovery , a Ghazal and Zapin Party existed that withstand the onslaught of the Malayan Taliban. It has been aptly named as Sri Bagan.

It has been amazing the resilience of these passionate lovers of the arts. Who are we to tell that and that are Haram?

Last Saturday, I had the honour of joining these die-hard lovers of the arts in the thing they love to do, the ghazal, the zapin and the joget. It was a preview of the performance for the Big Day.

I am proud to be a Bagan Boy. A 30 year wait is going to end, Insyallah.


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