If you’re travelling by MAS this month, flip over to page 88 of the inflight magazine Going Places for a story on a truly awesome character. My expedition to learn more about Orang Asli culture, for the Tradisi segment, led me to one Raman Bah Tuin in Gombak.
I went expecting just another routine craftsmaking experience (sorry, we writers do get jaded). Instead, what I got was magic.
At the tail end of our visit, we requested for a nose-flute performance. He obliged. Leading us out of the house, he took his position at a nearby clearing with banana, coconut and papaya trees in the background. I couldn’t help thinking that he looked somewhat comical, sitting cross-legged with his nostrils positioned over one end of the flute, sweat streaming down his face and topped by a costumey headgear.
My amusement faded when he started playing.
The first notes that emerged were so faint I strained to hear them. I couldn’t put a finger on its origins – had this been played elsewhere, I wouldn’t have known it was Orang Asli.
But here, against the backdrop of running water and chirping insects, the haunting melody seemed at home with the surrounding, complementing instead of overpowering the environment. I would have never expected something so wonderfully tender and delicate from this humbly dressed man.
At the end of his song, my cheeks were wet. I glanced at Soo, wondering if she had any reaction. I could be wrong, but I suspect she was affected too.
We also saw a bunch of interesting objects in his house, many of which I’d never seen, like this two-stringed guitar.
Many thanks to Gerai OA founder Reita Rahim, for leading me to the absolute gem that Raman bah Tuin is.
Bonus pix: Me being vain :))by