Tuesday, 10 March 2009

A red rose... and poetry

In a recent post, Kak Teh of the hugely popular Choc-a-Bloc Blog, wrote about a performance by the pop band Alleycats in London which she had managed to capture on video.

Like many others, I grew up listening and singing to the many hits from Alleycats. If I am forced to sing karaoke (as would normally happen at family wedding receptions), I would choose to sing 'Sekuntum Mawar Merah Sebuah Puisi'. In my comment at Kak Teh's blog, I mentioned that this song has a special meaning to me because of something that happened years ago while I was a student in the UK. I thought that I could share the story here.

It was 1983. I shared a flat with two other Malay friends at a place called Holberry Close in Sheffield. Two other Malay students rented the flat below us. One of them was seeing this English girl who was studying medicine at the University of Sheffield. The girl's name is Kathy, but she wanted us to call her by her nickname of Coot. She hails from the town of Birkenhead on the Merseyside. Being a Liverpool FC fan, I immediately knew where that was.

One evening, my friend brought Coot over to our house for dinner... sort of wanting to introduce the Minah Salleh to our Malay cuisine, I guess. The meal was enjoyable and Coot did not seem too much troubled by the spicy taste.

After dinner, we sat around chatting about anything and everything. My friend then picked up his guitar and began to strum and sing some Malay songs. When he started to sing Sekuntum Mawar Merah, I told him to hold on a bit. For Coot's benefit, I would translate the lyrics of the song into English line by line as he sang the song.

And so began an impromptu session of song translation, delivered in the manner of a guy reading poetry to woo the heart of an English maiden.

I was doing the translation on-the-fly as it were, without prior preparation. While the exact words used were probably not the accurate translations, I believe they were close enough. I did not falter in my delivery and the overall romantic context was maintained. S Amin Shahab, the original writer of the lyrics would not have been too displeased with my effort.

At the end of our joint singing/translating performance, I could see the blushes on Coot's cheeks.

I'm including below a youtube video of the song as sung by Alleycats together with the original Malay lyrics. Sorry, I can't exactly recall the unrehearsed English translation that I did that night. Looking back, I realised that it was quite a tough thing to do... especially the line, `Berlagu dalam irama nan syahdu.'

Youtube video by BalsemGosok

Sekuntum Mawar Merah Sebuah Puisi

Penyanyi : Alleycats
Pengarang Lagu : M. Nasir
Penulis Lirik : S. Amin Shahab

Sekuntum mawar merah sebuah puisi
Untuk gadis pilihan oh.. di bulan Februari
Mulanya cinta bersemi dan kehadiran
Ribuan mimpi-mimpi oh.. di bulan Februari

Kemesraanmu dan cintaku
Berlagu dalam irama nan syahdu
Tapi mengapa hanya sementara
Cinta yang menyala padam tiba-tiba


Terkenang kembali lagu cinta lama
Kisah mawar merah berduri
Menusuk di hati...
Haruskah ku ulangi

Apakah dosaku dan apakah salahku
Sering gagal dalam bercinta
Mengapa cinta hanya sementara
Api yang menyala padam tiba-tiba

( ulang dari 1 )

Sekuntum mawar merah sebuah puisi
Di bulan Februari

I am also including a photo taken during our small Aidilfitri makan-makan in 1983 which Coot also attended. Yours truly is the thin guy on the rightmost of the pic.

And finally... to answer Kak Teh's query in response to my comment in her blog : The relationship did not end the way of the fairy tales :-)


Kak Teh said...

Oldstock, what a wonderful story for a beautiful song. If only we can write the script to its ending! Alas, we can only plan.

1983 - you were in Sheffield. I visited the place just two years before.

HLiza said...

Somebody sang to me this song too..unfortunately our story ended just like the lyrics said. I was in form 4 in a boarding school. I think he'll remember me when he hear the song.

Snakebite said...


toya je gambo dema.

my afro was gone in 1983 i think, replaced by the mcgyver cut.

Anonymous said...

Oldstock... wonder how those "Abang2" look like now? Esp the one wearing that "bow tie"?..

Yeah.. this is one of the greatest Malay songs ever produced.. My all-time favourite song...

Thanks for the lyrics..

D said...

Though still in primary school at that time, I soooo like that song! Hey, give it a shot and translate the song. It would be interesting!

Oldstock said...

Kak Teh,

It was not meant to be, I guess. My friend now is happily married to a Malay lady. I don't have news on how Coot is getting along. Nak tanya kawan I tu, rasa macam segan pulak. Almaklumlah, cerita lama.

Oldstock said...


Form 4 dah ada peminat... not bad :-)

The guy must have surely sang his heart out. I would give him an A, for effort.

Oldstock said...


Itu ko tak tengok lagi rambut aku a few years earlier than this pic. Macam rockers, beb. Anak aku tengok pic lama, macam tak percaya, heheheh.

Oldstock said...


Of the nine guys in the pic, 4 of us are in contact. When I go up to KL, we often meet up for mengeteh.

The friend in bow tie is an architect now based in the UK. He came to KL 2 years back and a few of us met up for dinner.

Oldstock said...


I would love to translate the song for you but doing it now would lose the magic of spontaneity.

Emila Yusof said...

saya suka semua lagu alleycat!!

Patricia said...

I know all the Alleycats' songs, though I can't say I was a true fan. But isn't it amazing the way they are still so well-known and well-loved? The sign of true poetry and music, like you say.

This song in particular, was one of my favourites, because of the words. I'm not really a fan of that abang's voice lah :(

Oldstock said...

-> Emila, nampak sangat yang kita ni dari satu generasi, ye :-)

-> Pat, a major portion of the strength of Alleycats can be attributed to the skill and mastery of M. Nasir. Yeah, some people do not like David's voice. This particular song has also been sung by Hattan, and I have to admit that I like Hattan's rendition more. But that is in no way any disrespect to the original artiste.

Nurie said...

Hope it's not too late to post you my comment!

It's nosltalgic huh to remember this kind of stories during our uni days..ah those good ol days!

Reading yr post, actually reminded me of sohaimi Mior Hassan song - Epilog cinta dari Bromley. Now thats another great song. Im sure you know tis song :-)

Epilog Cinta Dari Bromley

Kau tersenyum manja
Menyatakan hasrat kepadaku
Kau kata kau cinta
Cinta pertama kepadaku

Ku hampir tergoda
Bergelora dalam kalbu
Kau bukan untukku
Kau dan aku tak mungkin berpadu

Nun di sana
Beri beribu batu
Kau kutinggalkan bersama hatimu

Nun di sana
Kau meratap pilu
Satu masa nanti
Kau akan mengerti
Apa maksudku

Kini kau menanti
Harapanmu abadi terhadapku
Kau coretkan lagi
Rahsia hatimu kepadaku

Ku doakan dikau
Bertemu seorang teman sejati
Yang satu aliran
Satu kepercayaan
Aduhai Kathy

Oldstock said...


Lagu cinta lama ni... sedap kalau nyanyi karaoke.

Alley-k said...

Dear Alleycats fans, U are invited to visit the one and only official Alleycats fan website, an effort by me, Kannan & Prakash, die hard fans of this legendary group. (as a tribute & sempena dengan ulangtahun ke 40 mereka), at www.alleycatsmalaysia.com