NUS Museum Events

Maintaining Heritage Series: Pantuns in Wayang Peranakan

Wednesday, 3 August 2016
6.30pm - 8.30pm
NUS Baba House

Limited to 40 pax. Registration is compulsory
To register, email

Dondang Sayang is a traditional form of singing poems known as pantuns commonly associated with the Malay and Peranakan communities in Singapore and Malaysia. Typically, the exchange is based on a theme and it would involve two singers testing each other’s wits.

Although most singers would have memorised hundreds of pantuns, the more gifted ones were able improvise on the spot and often gave rise to laughter and applause when a particularly clever phrase was sung.  A performance would be accompanied by an orchestra made up of four musicians on the violin, Malay hand drums (rebana) and a gong.

In the past, the dondang sayang was performed in homes during celebrations such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and even on Chap Goh Meh (15th day of the Chinese lunar new year). Nowadays, it is usually performed during cultural events and plays. In this session, Frederick Soh and Terry Lim will explore the intricacies of this age-old tradition and how the Gunong Sayang Association is trying to revive this vanishing music form.

This talk is supported by the Gunong Sayang Association.

[Image: Tan Koon Neo performing a dondang sayang at her father’s residence, Botan House, Neil Road, Singapore, 1964. Courtesy of Peter Lee & Jennifer Chen, The Straits Chinese House: Domestic Life and Traditions. Singapore: Editions Didier Millett Pte Ltd & National Museum of Singapore, 2006.]

View the e-flyer here.

About the Speakers

Frederick Soh is a fourth generation Peranakan who is very passionate about the Peranakan culture. He currently serves as the First Vice President of Gunong Sayang Association. Frederick has been associated with Peranakan stage productions for the last 16 years with the association and has played the role of young male characters for some of them. Other than acting, he also enjoys getting involved behind the scenes and penned his first script for a play Pagar Makan Padi in 2010.

Terry Lim is fifth generation Peranakan and a descendant of philanthropist Gan Eng Seng. He is a retired actor who has performed in several of the Gunong Sayang Association’s stage productions such as Bulan Pernama, Anak Udang Anak Tengiri, and Belom Mati Belom Tau. Terry is very passionate about reciting pantuns and singing the traditional keronchong as well as the dondang sayang.

Maintaining Heritage Series
The series explores the varied dimensions of heritage in Singapore and beyond. Talks are organised to generate awareness of the challenges and considerations in the management of elements that make up the heritage ecosystem.  Themes on evolving cultural practices and policies, collecting and display, and conservation and urban development are discussed in this series.