Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moments of Great Poetry in Modern Music

Here's a compounding problem.

     You are an SPM leaver. You couldn’t get to college and your family has been talking about you being too grown up to be continuously fed free of charge. So you take up a job, pushing fish carts in Pasar Borong Selayang in the daytime. By your third months’ pay you could now afford a cheap acoustic guitar with some unheard-of made-in-China brand that they sell by the dozen in Popular bookstore.  So by night you just gather up a few friends by the corner of some sidewalk and play some songs loudly, with Karim, who drives his boss around in a limo in the daytime, to beat on some inverted tin pails as drums.

      Into the sixth month you found out you could create a melody or two, showed it to some Aziz Bakar’s former driver and HE hooked you up with him. It is not too long that they think that you have some natural musical talent (never mind that you can’t tell a clef from a bass) and they decide to put an album out. You now decide to call your group with some fancy western-sounding names but then, see, you haven’t READ that much things in English and thereby your vocab is quite limited. So you just decide on some names like “Expedisi” or “Left-handed” or the more digestible and pronounceable "Search" or "Wings" or some other monosyllables. Soon enough, your fans even stretch out to reach those Malaysian students who reside in America and THEY would like to hear you perform and would you please come over and perform in ‘Frisco and… uh… while you are at it, woo these local Americans by your music ... so can you please write some English songs too? The latter you definitely couldn’t do, but you can perform in some grade-B night club, yes.

     And you still remember the head-banger audience staring at each other unfazed, uncomprehending, uninterested, when you announced loudly into the microphone, “We will Rock YOOOUUUouuuuuu!!”. Neither us, nor them, nor you yourself, know what THAT means, of course.

     Yes, there had been attempts to write “English songs” by non-English speaking artists, but see, writing songs is not about melodizing translated proses into English (some of which resulted in nothing more than just a long essay about certain topics chopped off at certain strategic points to make them look like poetry) but rather the transposition of ideas into as economical and as terse a verse as elegance allows.

So folks. No poems from Leman Pulut today. (And Yes, I do have many more in store mode, waiting for me to just click the “Publish” button for it to be published in this blog). Instead I would like to talk a little about poetry in a most unexpected setting and underrated circumstance: that of the lyrics of songs. When stripped bare, I think it is not too far fetched to say that almost 90% of all song lyrics are nothing more than the glorification of love between two human beings (or 88.25% or 92.46% --- what the heck, who the hell cares? It's not that I am Pornthip!). It’s love this, love that. It’s a bore, isn’t it? So let’s study some of the most beautiful poetry in modern music today.

Take a look at the almost Shakespearean ode that Anthony Banks wrote for the Genesis piece “Cinema Show” below. It is still about love. But to intersperse it with innuendos and Greek mythology? 

  Take a little trip back with Father Tiresias
  Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through
  I have crossed between the poles
  To me there’s no mystery:
  Once a man, like the sea I raged
  Once a woman, like the earth I gave
  In fact there is more earth than Sea”

Words are abuzz amongst fans and non-fans alike in saying that Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” is perhaps the most beautiful song ever written, if one could stand its 23-minute symphony-class length.  I don’t know whether they do deserve that envelope, but the song's accompanying surrealistic lyrics by Roger Waters surely would stand up to the reputation if that is to be really so:

      Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air
      And Deep beneath the rolling waves in labyrinths of coral caves
      The echo of a distant sound comes willowing across the sand
      And everything is green and submarine
      And now this is the day you fall upon my waking eyes
      Inviting and inciting me to rise
      And through the window in the wall 
      Comes streaming in on sunlight wings
      A million bright ambassadors of morning”
          --- "Echoes", Pink Floyd

It is said that Jacques Cousteau loved this piece so much that he repeatedly played it during his Caribbean adventures.

And who could capture the intricacies of fidelity, jealousy, vengeance and tragedy as beautifully as Pete Sinfield’s “The Letters” here:-

      With quill and silver knife, she carved a poison pen
      Said to her lover’s wife: “Your husband’s seed has fed my flesh”
      And like a leper’s face, that tainted letter grazed
      The wife with choke-stone throat, ran to the day with tear-blind eyes.
      Impaled on nails of ice, and raked with emerald fire
      The wife with soul of snow, with steady hands begins to write:
      "I'm still, I need no life to serve on boys and men
      What's mine was yours is dead I take my leave of mortal flesh"
                --- "The Letters", King Crimson

Pete Sinfield happens to be my favourite poet.  Reading his “Prince Rupert Awakes” for King Crimson below, one is not sure whether one is reading Byron or a modern poet:-

      Go Polonius or kneel
      The reapers name their harvest dawn
      All your tarnished devil's spoons
      Will rust beneath our corn.
      Now bears Prince Rupert's garden roam
      Across his rain tree shaded lawn
      Lizard bones become the clay-
      And there a Swan is born
           --- "Lizard", King Crimson
Apart from publishing a book of poetry of his own, Pete Sinfield goes on to write poetic lyrics for some other people, a notable one of which would be to accompany Emerson Lake and Palmer’s gargantuan “Pirates”:-

      "Who'll make his mark", the captain cried.
      To the devil drink a toast.
      We'll glut the hold with cups of gold
      And we'll feed the sea with ghosts
      I see your hunger for a fortune
      Could be better served beneath my flag 
"Pirates" - ELP

The following is by Yes’s Jon Anderson.  At first glance it would seem that the singer laments and pines for his/her lover as normal love songs do, but upon closer scrutiny, (and knowing Yes’ penchant for the Mystical and Spiritual) the song is really about a slave longing for his Lord, much in the same way as the pinings of the ancient sage Plotinus’ “The flight of the one to the One”:

      Soon, oh soon the light,
      Pass within and soothe this endless night
      And wait here for you: Our reason to be here.
      Soon, oh soon the time,
      All we move to gain will reach and calm;
      Our heart is open: Our reason to be here.
                                                               "Gates of Delirium" - Yes

Not all lyric poems are classically-sounding. From the ‘60s Art Scene and Flower-Child era comes the following piece by Grace Slick. If ever there is a censorship on poetry, this one could rank high above, with its glorification of psychedelias and cosmic mushrooms:

One pill makes you larger, 
one pill makes you small
And the one that mother gave you 
does nothing at all
Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall.
         “White Rabbit” - Grace Slick, Jefferson Airplane

How about Ian Anderson’s “Locomotive Breath” below. Is it about the grieving of an old man agonizing over a wasted life, or about old death himself in a macabre setting?:-

      In the shuffling madness of the locomotive breath,
      runs the all-time loser, headlong to his death.
      He feels the piston scraping -- steam breaking on his brow --
      old Charlie stole the handle and the train won't stop going --
      no way to slow down.

      He hears the silence howling -- catches angels as they fall.
      And the all-time winner has got him by the balls.
      He picks up Gideons Bible -- open at page one --
      old Charlie stole the handle and the train won't stop going --
      no way to slow down. 
        --- "Locomotive Breath", Jethro Tull

Oh well, we won't be achieving THAT kind of poetry in the Malaysian music scene anytime soon. Meanwhile, just be content with Sarimah Ibrahim's take at being a bard-ette, sic and all:-

      Don't say that you will be there to comfort me,
      Cos when it comes to love its mysery,
      Made a fool for you, just like our mtv,
      You smile i cried never knew what I felt inside,
      Oh now you say that you got the game on me,
      That is just the way of saying you are a waste of time,
      You lied, i cried, you mean that you broke my heart,
      Pack your bags get out of my life

Just like our MTV? Hehehe. At least she got that part right :-).

The musical pieces accompanying the poetry above are in itself a delight to the ear. They ARE beautiful, and belongs to a class of modern music called Progressive, a cross between Classical and Rock Music. (p.s: these are Progressive Music. They are not punchy pop or rock tunes that delights the ear right from the beginning: you have to listen till the end to comprehend the messages and the musicality in its entirety.). 

The songs can be listened to here:-

1. Cinema Show - Genesis
2. Echoes - Wright, Waters, Mason, Gilmour
3. The Letters - King Crimson
4. Lizard - King Crimson 
6. Pirates - Emerson Lake and Palmer
6. The Locomotive Breath - Ian Anderson & Jethro Tull
7. Soon (Gates of Delirium) - Yes
8. White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let's BURN the Quran

Some people find it difficult to stomach the reasons that Pastor Terry Jones gave for burning the Quran. According to him, the invitation to this global libricide has much to do with his thesis that Islam is "a dangerous religion" whose teachings "are from the devil". Well, you can now stomach all you want: we have compiled what we think here are a series of qualms that might have resided in the good pastor's head so that we may all understand his thought-processes.

 My name is Jones – Reverend Terry Jones
The Lord is in my blood – Christianity is in my bones
I’ve come with a message of Love, Peace and Brotherhood
Let us burn the Quran if you know what is truly good

A really foul book this is, most wicked and beastly
Enjoins all sorts of immoral lewdness and obscenity
Delights in all manner of evils, iniquities and vices
And gets a cosmic orgasm, out of human sacrifices

What kind of religion is this that glorifies fornication
Vividly portrays incest, whoredom and sexual seduction
Who forces rape victims to marry their evil perpetrator
And burn people with the feeblest reasons whatsoever

What kind of a God is that, with a countenance most uncouth
Smoke comes out of his nostrils, fire out of his mouth?
Would you worship a God on whose head are horns attached?
Or loses against a mere mortal in a celebrated wrestling match?

What kind of deity is this that speaks out of an eddy
And talks to mankind from the lips of a donkey?
Who wails and howls and go stripped and naked
And teaches that everyone from birth is naturally wicked

And bad news for ladies who so much love penises
Of men and boys and guys who aren’t actually their spouses
This God says thy hands shall, by law, be cut off before long
If you so much touch those wiggly bobbly schlongs

A cantankerous God, at everything he spites
At walls, at pillows and everyone uncircumcised
Angry at shepherds, and women and little kids
And commands a prophet to eat human shit

So let’s burn the Quran for it's full of garbage,
Gets messages across by use of obscene language
A book so outdated in Science and Technology
But excels splendidly in lewdness and pornography

This book defies Zoology by talking about dragons
Of the mutant cockatrice and gaily flying serpents
And unicorns whom we thought are from books of fantasy
Are cryptozoological creatures to be believed in religiously

In the science of Geography this book doesn’t fare much
Talks about a flat earth with a geo-centric touch
But in matters of Medicine it has full of remedies
Of demonic possessions and malignant leprosies

In Sociology this book is an apotheosis of wisdom
You can now at least understand from whence came racism
Lowly blacks and pesky gentiles and slaves by a long haul
The God of this book hates the very mention of them all

Unlike theirs, the Christian God is a gentle one
Ours is made of love, ours made of fun
So let’s burn the Quran: I think we all should
So the world may know true Love, Peace and Brotherhood

Copyrights Reserved by LemanPulut

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yo !

All you Malayu `Ho!
Wassup Bro?

Namaku Koo Ben Chee
Panggil saja aku WeeWee
Darah daging ku diperbuat dari benci
Dalam tubuh ku mengalir darah Shih Huang Ti
Cintailah daku sebagaimana kau cintai 
Si Konek Kecil Herman PeeWee
Aku macam Ikan Keli

Moyangku dari Tongsan
Kenapa kau sibuk, wahai Melayu Tempatan?
Kami datang dengan jemputan
Dari kami punya Mat Salleh Tuan
Kukerjakan lombongmu, kukerjakan hutan
Kukerjakan semuanya hingga kudapat kekayaan
Aku tak pernah masuk sekolah kebangsaan
Aku benci Azan
Geli geman!

Kecinaan ku tebal
Dalam sekolah aku bebal
Kawan2ku ke Australia tapi aku tinggal
Ku daftar di Taiwan sampai habis penggal
Sedikit sebanyak itu menjadi pasal
Aku benci Melayu baghal
Dan aku tahu aku kebal
Kerana DAP dibelakangku
Itu yang mahal!

Aku benci TNB
Buat Letrik? Lebih baik buat bateri
Adikku nak baca buku sampai tak jadi
Kerana lampu rumahku tiba-tiba mati
Kalau aku maki apa kau peduli?
Kerana dibelakangku DAP
"Kalau kau love the country Defend WeeWee"

Namaku WeeWee dan benci adalah namaku
Ku benci Gomen, kubenci Negaraku
Negaraku adalah Negarakuku
Kuku dari perkataan Cuckoo
Ertinya Gila. Biol. Layu
Memang aku benci Melayu
Siti Insyah kau pun Satu
Nah pergi suck banana
Kau tahu apa maksudku

Aku benci Proton Saga
Aku panggil Potong Saga
Melayu semua patut jadi Jaga
Tapi aku tak mahu laga
Lebih baik aku kata
Aku benci India juga
Sekarang aku lega!

Those girls cover their heads
They are melayu stupid
Baik tudung, baik songkok-semua aku hate
Kau tak suka rap aku? Too late
Aku dah sebar, aku dah popular, aku dah belit
Kau nak ambil tindakan mahkamah?
Tunggu. Wait.
Please don't sue me. Aku tak ada duit.

Kalau aku diseret ke Polisi
Apa aku risau, Ayahku akan melutut lagi
Minta maaf dan berjanji
Tak akan buat lagi
MCA pun akan join sekali
DAP akan berbesar hati
Melayu akan lembut hati
Dan aku akan jadi Free
Untuk buat rap lagi!

Ini gambar ku baru ambil tadi
Kalau aku tahu Melayu tak lemah begini
Haram aku tak buat rap lagi
Sekarang aku takut bontot ku akan digali
Oleh beberapa penghuni
Kajang State Penitentiary