Dondang Sayang: Rhythm of Heritage in Melaka’s Heart

A Day Job Fueled by Passion: Institut Warisan Melaka and the Pulse of Dondang Sayang

Imagine waking up at 78 with the music of your city thrumming in your veins. That’s Datuk Mohd Baharim Mohd Sharip, and Melaka is his city, its heartbeat a melody of cultural heritage he carries with infectious enthusiasm. His day job at the Institut Warisan Melaka isn’t just a paycheck; it’s a mission to keep dondang sayang alive, a 500-year-old art form that’s the very soul of Melaka.

Dondang sayang isn’t just music; it’s a conversation, a dance of words and melodies between singers, a tapestry woven with threads of love, loss, and the vibrant tapestry of life. Imagine spontaneous poems, sung back and forth, carrying stories from Malay, Baba Nyonya, Chetti, and Portuguese communities – that’s the magic of this UNESCO-recognized gem.

Maestro of Dondang Sayang: Datuk Mohd Baharim Mohd Sharip’s 50-Year Symphony

Dondang Sayang Datuk Mohd Baharim Mohd Sharip

And Mohd Baharim is a maestro of this symphony. With 50 years under his belt, he’s not just a performer; he’s a walking encyclopedia of dondang sayang. Accolades hang on him like notes in a melody – Tokoh Warisan Kebangsaan Orang Hidup, Tokoh Dondang Sayang Negeri Melaka, and the prestigious Boh Cameronian Lifetime Achievement Award – testaments to his unwavering dedication. But for Mohd Baharim, the real prize is the spark of love he ignites in younger eyes.

“I write the script for all their performances,” he beams, pride lacing his voice. His children and grandchildren dance to the rhythm of dondang sayang, carrying the torch forward. He remembers his own early days, captivated as a boy by the lyrical jousting of Baba Kim Teck and Puan Chik Mohd Amin. That moment, the magic of live, improvised verse, was his calling.

From Local Stages to Airwaves: A Journey of Musical Chameleon and Rhyme Improvisation

But his journey wasn’t confined to local stages. The 1960s saw him as a musical chameleon, playing violin, keyboards, and drums in bands like Kumpulan Dendang Perantau and Cak Kun Cak. From Malay to Chinese to Portuguese, audiences swayed to the music, united by the common language of dondang sayang.

Radio beckoned in 1983, and suddenly, his voice was weaving magic across airwaves. The “Pesta Dendang Rakyat dan Pertandingan” in 1988 remains etched in his memory, a bittersweet victory where he bested his own mentor, Kamarudin Abu Hasan. Later, when Pak Din lay on his deathbed, he entrusted Mohd Baharim with the legacy of his band, Mawar Biru. It was a responsibility he embraced with reverence.

Tapestry of Song: Albums, Duets, and Busking the Streets of Melaka

His passion translated into albums, duets with Nyonya Tan and ghazal singer Zainab Mohamad, each note a testament to the vibrant tapestry of dondang sayang. Before the pandemic, he brought the streets of Melaka alive with “The Legend of Dondang Sayang Melaka,” a busking group featuring his grandson, Firdaus. Together, they serenaded tourists and locals, igniting a spark of appreciation in every heart.

Through Loss and Hope: The Rhythm Endures, Carried by Future Generations

Tragedy struck two years ago when Firdaus passed away, leaving a void in Mohd Baharim’s life and the band. But even in sorrow, his spirit remains resolute. At the recent Boh Cameronian Arts Awards, he stood tall, his acceptance speech a burst of rhyming defiance:

Dondang Sayang Tanjung Surat, Sampai ke Johor dia melarat, Bukan dikarang, bukan dibuat, Di Luh Mahfuz sudah tersurat.

Passing the Torch: Datuk Mohd Baharim’s Enduring Legacy

This cultural heritage, woven into the fabric of Melaka for centuries, runs deep in Mohd Baharim’s veins. He sees it as his duty, his legacy, to pass it on. “Whatever skill or knowledge I have today, I must cascade down to the younger generation,” he declares, his voice ringing with hope.

“Dondang Sayang will live on, as long as we keep the rhythm of our hearts beating to its tune.”

This is just a taste of the magic that is Mohd Baharim and dondang sayang. So, the next time you find yourself in Melaka, listen for the rhythm, the poetry in motion, and allow yourself to be swept away by the melody of a heritage that keeps the heart of Melaka beating strong and vibrant. Hint: MELAKAfm.

Let dondang sayang’s tapestry of words and music lead you down winding streets, past brightly painted shophouses, and into the welcoming arms of this ancient city. Every corner holds a verse, every beat tells a story, and in the hands of Mohd Baharim and his students, this heritage dances on, a living flame passed from generation to generation. So come, traveler, seeker of soul, and allow the rhythm of dondang sayang to guide you. Let Melaka sing to you, its heart laid bare in every verse, and discover the magic that unfolds when heritage finds a voice.”

Daun cempedak gugur melayang
Daun kuini gugur merata
Kalau tidak berdondang sayang
Hilanglah seni budaya Melaka.

Burung helang terbang layang
Turun ke kota membuat sarang
Takan hilang dondang sayang
Kalau kita sama berjuang.

Source: TheStar

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