Siong Leng Musical Association
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Uploaded on Feb 18, 2012
Siong Leng Musical Association was established in 1941 to preserve, develop, and promote Nan Yin (which literally means "The Music of the South") -- one of the treasures of traditional Chinese musical arts and Li Yuan opera.
In its previous incarnation, it was known as Heng Yun Association, established in around 1901. In those days it was the most active Nan Yin group in the Malay Peninsula. The Lu Gou Bridge incident in China led to the outbreak of the Chinese war of resistance against the Japanese. Being the only remaining NanYin group, Heng Yun Ge NanYin Association took it upon itself to gather support for the Chinese through its fund-raising concerts. The success of its effort troubled the colonial rulers who, for fear of incurring the wrath of the Japanese, clamped down on the activities of the Association, which disbanded following internal dissent. Several dedicated members came together and formed Yun Lu Nan Yin Association, continuing with the fund-raising efforts of its predecessor. Once again, this provoked the ire of the Japanese who complained to the colonial rulers. This time, in deference to the Imperial might of the aggressive, they officially withdrew the operating license of Yun Lu. In consequence, Yun Lu was forced to close. Following a period of quiet inactivity, some members, stirred by an irrepressible spirit, secretly planned and reorganized themselves. In 1941 they established Siong Leng Musical Association.
During the 1970s, popular Western cultural influences were on the ascent, and Nan Yin was under threat. At this crucial juncture, Teng Mah Seng, a businessman, assumed the chairmanship of the Association. Encouraged by friends and supported by like-minded individuals, he was determined to reform and develop Nan Yin, and to prevent its demise. He devoted the remaining years of his life to Siong Leng, expending much time, effort, and resources.
Teng Mah Seng`s achievements lie in penning several hundred new style NanYin lyrics which expanded and revolutionized the expressive range of an ancient musical art form. They were done in collaboration with Zhou Sheng Xiang, who composed the songs` melodies. These songs reflected the thoughts and feelings of a deeply sensitive man on a wide range of contemporary subjects, including Singapore- Teng Mah Seng's adopted homeland. Following that, he published The Complete Book of Great Nan Yin Melodies in three volumes. Later, he published New Nan Yin Songs -- A Selection of Compositions by Teng Mah Seng.
To revitalize Nan Yin, Mr Teng organized a Southeast Asian Nan Yin Conference in 1977. In later years, this conference was held in turn in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia. These conferences gave impetus to Nan Yin and stimulated a revival of the art in the land of its origin: Quanzhou. Subsequently, the cities of Quanzhou and Xiamen in China organized numerous such conferences, which contributed to a climate of Nan Yin revival.
In 1983 he led a group to participate in the Llangollen Musical Eisteddfod in Wales. The group won Third Prize in Folk Song Solo for apiece entitled "Reminiscence" a Teng --Zhou composition sung by Madam Ong Guat Huah. The group won Fourth Prize in Ensemble Performance for the song "Trotting Horses". That was the first time Nan Yin won recognition on the world stage. For his outstanding contribution to the arts the Singapore Government presented Teng Mah Seng with the Cultural Medalion.
Like many traditional art societies today, Siong Leng Musical Association faces the challenge of securing a place for Nan Yin and Li Yuan Opera in the modern milieu. In weaving Nan Yin into the fabric of a hectic, fast-changing city, Siong Leng hopes to procure a space to grow and flourish.
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