DiGi honours Traditional Storyteller as an Amazing Malaysian

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November 13, 2005
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DiGi honours Traditional Storyteller as an Amazing Malaysian

'Awang Batil' Romli Mahmud to train over 60 students in The Traditional Storyteller of Perlis project

Perlis, November 14, 2005 – DiGi Telecommunications, through its nationwide corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, today enlisted farmer Romli Mahmud to teach youth the Awang Batil art of storytelling.

Awang Batil used to be a thriving form of entertainment in the northern states, but today is a dying art. Romli is perhaps the only exponent of this art form in the country today and is the fifth Amazing Malaysian selected by DiGi in this year’s programme.

Romli will be assisted by his son and several performing artistes from Kuala Lumpur in teaching the 60 children from five schools in the state. This weekend, the children will be introduced to Awang Batil in workshops organised for them. Training proper begins in January 2006.

DiGi's CSR programme, called DiGi’s Amazing Malaysians, aims to support the preservation of Malaysia's heritage by identifying individuals who are doing great heritage work (our Amazing Malaysians) and engaging them in projects with youth or children living mainly in rural areas.

The youth involved in this programme are Secondary 1 and 2 students from Sekolah Menengah Derma, Sekolah Menengah Arau, Sekolah Menengah Syed Sirajuddin, Sekolah Menengah Perlis and Sekolah Menengah Syed Putra. They will learn to perform popular folklore, Awang Akar Larak.

Originating from Kedah and Perlis, the Awang Batil style combines storytelling with music – played on the batil (a brass bowl) and serunai (double-reed oboe) and violin. Romli has made Malaysia proud by performing internationally.

“Stories are cultural treasures which not only entertain, but teach and remind us of our past and history. Unfortunately, the art of storytelling is not as prized as some other forms of heritage. Technology allows man to tell stories through books, television, cinema, radio, computers and so on, but the art of oral storytelling remains important and should be one our most valued inheritance,” said DiGi’s Head of Human Resources, Adzhar Ibrahim, in his speech during the official launch of the programme in Perlis.

“DiGi is contributing time, energy and resources with the hope that these children will be able to glean valuable knowledge from Romli and help them understand their own culture, values and identity a little better. These children are definitely a fortunate lot to be tutored by the last living legend in this art form. Storytellers such as the Awang Batil also play important roles of being teachers, historians and keepers of tradition,” added Adzhar.

Romli’s interest in Awang Batil began at an early age, as his father, Mahmud Wahid, was also a performer. He started having lessons from his father in 1966, and would accompany his father to every performance. However, Romli never actually performed for public audiences himself until 1997.

“I’m truly grateful that DiGi is trying to revive interest in this fading tradition. I feel proud, and honoured, to be able to pass down my father’s knowledge to these children and I hope they are inspired by it. This recognition as a DiGi’s Amazing Malaysian is not only for me, but also for all storytellers striving to keep the vibrant art of storytelling alive,” Romli said during the official launch ceremony.

The three-day launch at the Taman Budaya included a wonderful Awang Batil performance by Romli, and four workshops for the children at which they were exposed to storytelling styles such as Awang Batil, with dance, music and props.

About DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd
DiGi is a leading mobile communications company providing a comprehensive range of affordable, convenient and easy-to-use wireless services to simplify and enrich the lives of its customers. The company creates value by selecting the most appropriate cutting-edge technology so that customers benefit from products and services that give them choice, convenience and control.

About Awang Akar Larak

Awang Akar Larak is one of many popular Malay folktales that the Awang Batil routinely recites. During this “discovery weekend” of The Storyteller of Perlis, the children will learn different ways to tell parts of this long and flexible story which centres around Awang Larak.

One day, while trying to commit suicide, a disillusioned Awang Larak is saved by an old man who teaches him a miracle cure. Awang then becomes a famous healer. At the zenith of his fame and riches, however, the old man returns to tell Awang his life will soon end. As much as Awang tries to alter the course of his destiny, he soon finds he has to accept what fate has in store for him.

Kisah Awang Akar Larak – synopsis oleh Sulong Ismail

Pada suatu ketika ada seorang petani yang hidupnya terlalu miskin. Oleh kerana kecewa dengan kemiskinanya beliau akhirnya bertekad untuk mencabut nyawanya sendiri dengan menggantung diri menggunakan seutas tali dari akar larak.

Sebelum berjaya berbuat demikian datang seorang tua menasihati agar beliau tidak berbuat demikian kerana katanya ajal akan datang sendiri apabila tiba masanya. Orang tua tadi mencadangkan agar Awang menjadi seorang bomoh dengan dia sebagai pembantunya.

Setelah berjaya mengubati beberapa pesakit dengan bantuan orang tua itu maka nama Awang mula terkenal di merata tempat hingga akhirnya Sultan mendapat tahu dan bercadang untuk menguji kebolehan Awang.

Akhirnya Awang dipanggil ke istana untuk mengubati Sultan (yang pura-pura sakit). Setelah melihat keadaan Sultan yang ‘sakit’ maka Awang pun memberitahu Sultan yang beliau akan mangkat sebentar lagi maka Sultan pun marah dan terus mengusir Awang dari situ.

Tidak lama kemudian Sultan pun betul-betul mangkat dan setelah menteri-menteri bermesyuarat maka dicadangkan agar Awang dilantik sebagai Sultan yang baru. Maka bermulalah zaman kewangan Awang.

Tidak lama kemudian datanglah orang tua tadi menemui Awang sekali lagi dan memberitahu bahawa sekarang tibalah masanya Awang akan mati. Awang amat susah hati dan tidak mahu mati kerana sekarang dia sudah senang. Namun setelah beberapa kali tawar-menawar dengan orang tua itu akhirnya Awang pun meninggal dunia.