Just returned from Singapore from family and world and all broadcast is just about re-assembled. (more about that in another post) Has it been another month already? Sometimes I feel like goblins are stealing time with a timey wimey device.
New Single! Scheherazade
Scheherazade comes from 1001 Arabian nights. Actually she’s responsible for the 1001 Arabian nights having told all 1001 tales in the 1001 Arabian nights.
Scheherazade was a beautiful woman married off to a king. Now the king had a horrible habit of killing off a wife every night. The rationale for this was that the woman would remain faithful to him and wouldn’t have time to cheat on him . Talk about insecurities.
TL; DR, King was cheated on, now kills every new wife.
The story goes that Scheherazade staves off her impending death by telling stories to her king every night and leaving it on a cliffhanger. Actually, she gets her sister, Dunyazabe to visit her every night and to ask her to tell a story every night (on the pretext that Scheherazade is dying the next day) Scheherazade then finishes the cliffhanger early and then set up another new story, ending it again at dawn on a other cliffhanger — which then buys her one more day of life.
For all intents and purposes, Scheherazade is probably the founder of network TV’s series format as we know it. (1001 Arabian Nights was probably 40 Seasons and 6 movies.)
Long story short, the king falls in love with Scheherazade after a long 1001 nights as he realises that he has met his equal. That’s just probably his perspective. This is the behaviour of an insecure baboon.
Scheherazade will spend the rest of her life sleeping with her almost murderer and outwitting said baboon at probably everything else.
My Scheherazade is actually me imagining a race of storytellers who manage to live forever because people remember their stories. They never die because they are never forgotten.
This twist… unlike a lot of other twists is a personal one. My Scheherazade reference is my maternal Grandmother (Ah Ma or Nan to some of you.) , who had passed many years before. I wrote it when she got sick with dementia and passed on, so consider this a very belated eulogy.
Ah Ma was a woman of many talents and one of which was storytelling. I think I fell in love with storytelling and the arts through her. According to mum, Ah Ma came up with my name.
Which pretty much dooms me to music or the arts. Yun（韻） means Music/ Rhythm. Yu (毓）is an old Chinese character which loosely means “Mother of” or in some context “Maker of beauty”. As you can guess, it’s hard to translate these things. (see footnote)
That’s Mother of Music to you peeps, or beautiful rhythms if you be feeling whimsical. These days Mother of Music feels like a much more comfortable title to wear
— hey, magnificent titles forcibly given at birth take awhile for me to grow into. 🙂
My Ah Ma = Bad Ass.
I loved my horror even as a child, and Ah Ma had a knack of putting freeze sticks through your spines, even in the eternal summers of Singapore. She had a particular gift of making my brothers and me say “Stop it Ah Ma! I’m not going to be able to sleep from this.” (阿嬷不要讲了，我今晚不用睡了啦！！）
I can tell you that this is quite the achievement because I became quite the jaded horror fan at a very young age. My parents never censored the media for me and I was babysat with old classics like “The Exorcist” and “The Shining” and that’s just the English movies. There’s the creepy old Malay Pontianak classics, or the thick compendium of movies adapted from Liao Zhai (Chinese horror anthology)
Sometimes Ah Ma would tell stories about the Japanese in World War 2， about the cruelty of the Japanese invaders to the Chinese nationals at that time, that was hard for her to speak of but she did at times and those were tales of true horror. Then she’d tell about her life playing semi pro in basketball teams. As I said, she was pretty formidable. She was a teacher, a linguist and a lyre bird for accents. She spoke and wrote functional English (quite rare for her time, unless you were Peranakan), a wide variety of Chinese dialects, then Malay. I remember my aunts telling me that her accents for each of these was pretty spot on, so they always thought she was one of them — so she was local wherever she went.
I think she collected many stories this way and she shared many tales of heros and heroines that continue to define my identity this day.
Ah Ma managed Grandad’s business, did the accounts, looked after the kids ( later gran kids) cooked the annual corporate dinners from home (which sometimes meant managing no less than an assortment of 40-60+ dishes and feeding up to just under 100 grown men at once — all from her kitchen and without formal training as a cook or a restaurant manager.
I remember her beating me at badminton in her late 70s (embarrassing) . I remember her kindness and then I remember her fierce intellect.
Sometimes I think if Ah Ma had been born in my parent’s time or after where opportunities were just a little more equal for women, and at a time where the economy more or less worked, she might have been quite the bad ass .
Above all, I remembered her as the confidante and wonderful storyteller. She had a way of bringing you into the story worlds with nothing but the props of her voice. She was and will forever be, my Scheherazade.
Ah Ma suffered from dementia in her later years. It’s a cruel thing, for anyone to watch. For someone who was so self aware, highly intellectual and defiantly independent I think her moments of lucidity were perhaps the most hard to bear for her and those who loved her. Most of all, I hated watching her lose bits of her memories and her stories. I hated that she had to wait so long for her end when there was no cure in sight.
In a sense, Scheherazade is a little bit of a personal fantasy epic. In my fantasies every time I sing this song, I could rescue her, just like her stories defined and rescued me. Ah Ma lives like the Scheherazades and she remembers everything again. That, maybe somewhere on other planes, she’s having adventures of her own and is well and whole. I’d like to think that because we remember her stories, she lives on, like we will, in stories.
So this is for the ones we love. Here’s to the storytellers. Past and present. Here’s to remembering the stories.
Buy the track here
1. For those who do not speak any Chinese , Chinese is a pitch based and picture based language (yeah we still run on hieroglyphics) . So spelling my name with phonetics is actually data corruption at the highest level.
So please don’t go telling peeps that anything with Yun = Music. Because YUN as a phonetic pronounciation without pitch and the original Chinese wording it could mean clouds (云）, transport （运）, (faint)晕 etc, there are a myriad of characters spelled “Yun” , introduce similar levels of complicated monstrocities for “YU” — and that’s just the mandarin pronunciation.
I won’t lead you down the labyrinth of what it sounds like in the Southern Chinese languages which results in my name having a different phonetic spelling, which have more pitches, because that’s a little bit confusing and cruel 😀 )
Also…can’t talk about Ah Ma and have the blog post in only English so here it is in my mother tongue.
首先介紹《一千零一夜》.這是阿拉伯民間故事集，是以包運連環的方式開始的。山魯佐德是這《一千零一夜》故事的創作人，也是故事中的主角。相傳薩珊王朝國王因發現前任妻子不貞，將其殺之。此後，這國王每日便新娶一女，翌日便殺。當然，國王如此特殊的癖好也傳遍全國， 沒人敢嫁入這豪門。負責國王婚事的維齊爾也因此將招滅頂之災。他的女兒山魯佐德為了救父，自願嫁給國王。聰明的她每夜便用講述故事的方式吸引國王， 每當故事講到最精彩的時候，天也剛好亮了。
國王吊了胃口，為了聽故事，也不忍殺，暫且容她不死， 命她故事隔夜再續。就這樣，山魯佐德講了一千零一夜，靠著故事延續性命。 日子久了，國王終於愛上了山魯佐德，免了她的死罪。 國王故事裡覺得和山魯佐德“合拍” “登對”這詞應該是國王的一面之辭吧，本人認為這位才女為了救父而終生糟蹋這堆又鈍又臭的牛屎上才是其中的真實故事。
我這首歌裡改編的山魯佐德 （Scheherazade)是一族用講述故事的方式得到永生的人, 她們都叫山魯佐德。她們的身軀很特殊，只要有人記得她們的故事，她們便可遠不病，不痛，不死。
我心目中的山魯佐德 （Scheherazade）是我外婆 （阿嬤）。她已病逝多年，這也算是非常遲來的追悼詞吧。
我記憶中阿嬤特別會講故事。文筆也非常好。據我媽說，我這名字是她取的。 YUN ”韻“是韻律的”韻， YU ”毓“是”鐘靈毓秀“ 的”毓“，”毓“本身有”孕育“ 的意思。 兩者加起來剛好有孕育音樂的意思。所以我好像沒的選－－ 當上了音樂家也是命中注定的。
我小時特愛聽鬼故事（騙你的 －－ 現在也特愛聽）， 父母也沒限制我年幼不能看鬼片。後來鬼片看多了，膩了，膽子也大了， 很難嚇著。可是阿嬤講的鬼故事卻能讓我們不寒而栗，雞皮疙瘩。有時還嚇得我們姐弟四人自舉白旗，求她口下留人， 不讓她說下去。當然我們隨之也會挨到阿嬤的笑罵 ”要聽又要怕，今晚不睡我打的呀！！”
其實， 我覺得阿嬤講什麼故事都讲的绘声绘色。她常說起她在學校的一些零碎趣事， 以前還是灌籃高手， 得過獎的，她教過書。又通曉多種方言，又會馬來話， 也會英文。雖然通曉多語言的本領在東南亞見多不怪， 不過聽我阿姨們說，阿嬤不但話會講，口音也學的很像，去到哪裡都被當地人當成自己人。她人生經歷豐富故事也多。阿嬤也會偶爾講起日戰的生活，講起日本人當時對華人的殘暴，肆虐，我記憶中的那些故事，比任何恐怖片都可怕。我記得中學讀亞洲史的時候我最愛找阿嬤講當時的故事，因為她故事講了，我那厭人的歷史課本也就可以少看了。
（ 其實我對歷史故事樂此不倦，不過本人覺得歷史課本往往無謂的詰屈聱牙，讓人看了頭痛欲裂－－ 還好中學時有了一個非常好的歷史老師， 才沒對歷史課文從此反感）
山魯佐德 （Scheherazade)是我的個人幻想作品。 。我常有那麼一個空想，阿嬤和山魯佐德一樣，能在千千萬萬的故事里永遠長存，永遠健全。只要有人記得阿嬤的故事，那阿嬤的精神就永遠健在。阿嬤的故事畢竟影響了我的人生觀，讓我一生受益不淺。這首歌是為阿嬤而寫的。也順便獻給愛講故事的同道中人 －－ 因為發人深省，提倡文化意識，激發奮鬥感的故事，往往就是一個人走在人生道路上的盞盞深海明燈。