Saturday, August 28, 2010

In tune with popular marching songs

ONE of the best marching tunes I love is the one from the movie Bridge Over River Kwai.

The tune was highly popular in the 1970s and was frequently heard over the airwaves. I did not get to watch the movie until much later in my childhood but it was a tune every boy (and girl) who knew how to hum or whistle could repeat with the same tempo and ease.

The tune was also the standard march past music played over and over during sports days and other athletic meets.

Another popular marching song was When The Saints Go Marching In.

The song was adopted by one of my rival schools when their team met mine at soccer, hockey and basketball meets those days.

Their cheerleaders would sing on top of their voices as their players strolled into the courts and even when their team lost to ours, they still held their heads up high, without doubt inspired by the tempo of the song, as they walked out of the courts.

For several years in the 1970s, Radio Malaysia broadcast a 30-minute Lagu-lagu March segment in the morning, right after Negaraku was played at 6am. I switched on my Silver transistor radio as soon as I woke up at 5.30am for school those days.

As I changed into my school uniform and got down to a breakfast of either a few pieces of "biskut askar" (tasteless hard biscuits for soldiers, they say) dipped in Ovaltine or treat myself to a bowl of hot two-minute noodles, the songs never failed to put me in high spirits.

I cannot recall the names of most of the songs, save for the more popular ones, but I remember I never got tired of listening to them.

The marching songs followed me from home to school each morning, moving from my home radio to an orange coloured pocket transistor radio I won from a lucky draw at the Batu Road Supermarket.

The portable radio fitted nicely into my shirt pocket but to listen to the marching tunes while I cycled, I had to use a hands free kit which earpiece looked like a miniature hair dryer attached to a unwieldy cord that was bent on getting entangled.

Reception wasn't clear most of the times but I had heard some of the songs so many times that it was enough for me to hum the missing parts as I left for school at 6.20am.

The last 10 minutes of Lagu-Lagu March was my companion as I pedalled my way through the dimly-lit main road from Gombak to the Setapak High School in Air Panas.

On those cold mornings, I remember, the foreign marching tunes were sometimes spaced with our local patriotic songs and one I especially loved was Malaysia Berjaya.

In August, if I am not mistaken, you could hear Malaysia Berjaya more than once a day over the radio. There was something about that song that never failed to keep me in high spirits each time I hear it.

I wonder how many of today's generation share the same enthusiasm about marching songs or Malaysia Berjaya.

I don't frequently hear them on the radio when I send my children to school these days - I could be tuning into the wrong stations.

I recently heard Muhibbah being played aloud at a supermarket.

Curious, I asked a local teenager beside me if he knew what song it was.

Confidently he nodded and declared that it was an oldie.

I didn't know whether to feel amused or embarrassed for asking. I said it was Muhibbah and added that when he goes home, he should ask his parents about other patriotic songs that used to rule the airwaves.

When they do tell him, I hope they will also tell him what those lyrics meant in eight days when we celebrate Merdeka.

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