Geylang Sipaku Geylang [Creepers and Ferns] (SATB)


Geylang, Si Paku Geylang is a popular Singaporean folksong. It is written in the traditional Malay pantun style. The pantun is a four-lined verse consisting of alternating, roughly rhyming lines. Each line should contain between 8 and 12 syllables. Typically, the first two lines of the pantun has no discernible connection in meaning to the next two lines.

As the pantun is traditionally an oral form of expression, no one knows who actually wrote this song. Nevertheless, Geylang, Si Paku Geylang has been embraced by the nation, and the song is taught in primary schools, with the result that almost everyone in the country is well acquainted with it.

The direct translation of geylang in Malay is “bracelet” or “ring”, while sipaku is “nails”. However, the suggested translation here is that geylang refers to creepers, while sipaku refers to ferns. Moreover, Geylang is also a well known area in Singapore.

This arrangement has a certain laid-back quality, and section A can be sung in a more relaxed manner, with a little rubato in tempo. Section B calls to mind a sunny, tropical beach on a lazy day. The song culminates in section C, the reiteration of the first chorus. Yet, the dynamics of the entire song never reaches forte. It is a homage to the gentle ways of the Malay people, in a time when life was simpler.

Also available in TTBB.


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