Tuesday, September 28, 2010

우리의 자랑

Samulnori performance

People who have come in contact with Korean culture will most likely have seen a samulnori performance before. What many people are not aware is samulnori does not have a very long history. In fact, it was a South Korean ensemble, established in February 1978, going by the group name 'Samul Nori' which brought the word into being and popularised it.

Samulnori has its origin in 'gut' (굿, shaman rituals). Unlike samulnori which employs only four percussion instrument, 'gut' employs many more. In olden days, performing in a 'gut' was not something people took pride in. You probably cannot imagine that a culture which Koreans are proud of now was once a thing of shame.

The unglamorous past of samulnori reminds me of the fate of Singlish. Singapore is a young country with not much exquisite culture to boast about. Despite the lack of rich inheritance, in less than fifty years of nation building, a language which we call 'Singlish' (Singapore-English) is slowly taking root in the society and becoming the de-facto language of conversation between locals. Just like samulnori in its earlier days of formation, some part of the society maintains the view that Singlish is poor English and not something to be proud about.

In my opinion, the evolution of Singlish is an inevitable course of history. One day, many hundred years later, it will eventually become a beautiful language. Even now, Singlish can be considered a very 'powderful' (powerful) language. A person's feeling and emotion can easily and effectively be conveyed without the need to invoke difficult words and long expression. To give a glimpse of the richness of the language, see the examples below:

1. Can lah
2. Can lor
3. Can meh?
4. Can ah?
5. Can leh
6. Can wor
7. Can liao
7. Can or not
8. Can means can
9. You the can

I am not about to explain what all that means for it will probably take a long time. Anyway, I see the beauty of the language in its conciseness or should I say 'no-frill'. A simple 'can' word can take on different meanings when used in different combinations. In case you find Singlish interesting, please enrol yourselves for an immersion course, in Singapore of course. Get ready to be 'awed'.


  1. Very interesting!
    Then why does Singaporean government discourage the use of Singlish(according to web search)?

  2. You may like to google the phrase "great affective divide"

  3. Oh, I got the answer from it. I wanted to say few things about it but decided not to because I didn't want them to raise a red flag on your blog, if you know what I mean. ^^ Thanks!

  4. hmm the endings are so cantonese as well!

  5. hai ah, hai ah. chinese dialects have heavy influence on singlish, so it is not surprising that singlish sounds like cantonese.