Syair Kisah Perang Rokam: A Malay Historical Verse Form from Malacca

  •  Shaiful Bahri Md Radzi    
  •  Zubir Idris    
  •  Muhd Norizam Jamian    


Syair Kisah Perang Rokam (The Ballad of the Rokam War) is a historical syair depicting the outbreak of the anti-British resistance among the Malay folks of Serkam in the state of Malacca in 1887. The uprising of social unrest rose due to the enforcement of a new revenue system that brought repressed emotion among the people. The account of the events were transmitted orally as a local legend and later composed by a person named Encik Hasin into an oral verse form, the syair. It was then transformed into the written form based on the personal notes of Haji Omar Haji Osman, a local religious personage, teacher and also a local historian. Although, the syair encapsulates only nineteen verses, however, it manages to portray the event, criticizing both the British and the local villagers. The British were criticized for introducing such an unfavourable taxation scheme whereas the locals were criticized for their lukewarm spirit in their struggle against the colonial force. In view of this, the purpose of this paper is to introduce a syair form of historical work originated from a village milieu which was orally composed. This paper will also elaborate the folkloristic nature of the syair and its conceptual implication to the conventions of Malay syair. As a commoner’s composition of poetic form originated from the village milieu, the characteristic of folkloristic features were highly visible as it was presented in the language of the everyday Malay society. Such folkloristic features could be seen in terms of words selection, sentence construction, the used of nicknames blended with the elements of humour to bring a jovial mood to the audience although there were also historical elements significantly embedded in the syair.

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