Seri Langkat – Jamal Abdillah & Amelina (Lyrics)

Posted on December 27, 2009

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Seri Langkat Kuala Tungkal, amboi                     Seri Langkat Kuala Tungkal, oh my
Padi pulut enak rasanya, sayang                        Glutinous rice it’s so delicious, my love
Kalaulah kail, kalaulah kail panjang sejengkal        If one’s fishing line, if one’s fishing line can only go so long
Janganlah laut hendak diduga                             Don’t even think of challenging the sea

Amboi, Seri Langkat                                       Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                       Oh my, Seri Langkat

Dayunglah sampan menuju pulau, amboi                     Let’s row the sampan towards the island, oh my
Bila sampainya daku tak tahu, sayang                         The time of arrival I know not, my love
Ombak dan badai, ombak dan badai takkan kuhirau      Wave or storm, wave or storm concern me not
Asalkan sampai tempat kutuju                                    As long as I reach the place I head for

Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat

Buahlah betik dalam perahu, amboi                   A papaya lies inside the boat, oh my
Enak dimakan di hari petang, sayang                 Delicious eaten in the afternoon, my love
Hidup di dunia, hidup di dunia kalau berilmu        One’s life on earth, one’s life on earth if laden with knowledge
Jadi sanjungan setiap orang                            Will be admired by all

Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat

Seri Langkat lagunya ini, amboi                         Seri Langkat is this song, oh my
Bunga melati di dalam hidup, sayang                  As the jasmine flower in life, my love
Bagaikan sifat, bagaikan sifat si batang padi        Like the character, like the character of a paddy stem
Makin berisi tambah merunduk                          The heavier it gets the lower it bows

Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat

Seri Langkat Kuala Tungkal, amboi                     Seri Langkat Kuala Tungkal, oh my
Padi pulut enak rasanya, sayang                        Glutinous rice it’s so delicious, my love
Kalaulah kail, kalaulah kail panjang sejengkal        If one’s fishing line, if one’s fishing line can only go so long
Janganlah laut hendak diduga                             Don’t even think about challenging the sea

Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat

Dayunglah sampan menuju pulau, amboi                     Let’s row the sampan towards the island, oh my
Bila sampainya daku tak tahu, sayang                        The time of arrival I know not, my love
Ombak dan badai, ombak dan badai takkan kuhirau      Wave or storm, wave or storm concern me not
Asalkan sampai tempat kutuju                                    As long as I reach the place I head for

Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat

Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat
Amboi, Seri Langkat                                        Oh my, Seri Langkat

Seri Langkat
Seri Langkat

This could very well be my all-time favourite song, this classic rendition of the old Malay tune Seri Langkat by Jamal Abdillah and Amelina, her sensuous elegance and supple voice perfectly matched by his deep, old-world masculinity. Seri Langkat is presumably a destination, and those familiar with the Malay language will recognise easily the ancient charm the mere whisper of the name evokes.

Like most traditional tunes, this song is composed of pantun verses, where the first two lines act as ‘hints’, while the last two lines contain the actual messages the speaker intends to relay. There is usually no direct connection between the ‘hints’ and the ‘messages’, although occasionally one can make subtle links between the two. Seri Langkat can be classified as an old school Malay love song, which means there’s very little expression of love, at least not the kind we are used to nowadays. Malay love songs are very different from the wildly passionate, heart thumping if-I-don’t-see-you-for-even-one-day-I-will-die verses common in Middle Eastern poetry, a contemporary version of which is beautifully (if a bit comical) rendered by Lebanese singer Fares Karam in his video Khetyar 3al 3ekaza below.

Old-world Malay couples express their love and adoration through gentle teasing and offering kind advice using pantun verses playfully traded back and forth. It speaks of an innocent, bygone era when social rituals such as courtship were laced with poetry, usually avoiding in-your-face romanticism. It is really only in modern times that Malay love songs contain overt love themes, which I find a little too emo and mushy.

The pieces of advice contained in the song are mostly universal and easily understood, for example “one’s life on earth if laden with knowledge; will be admired by all”. In contrast, the fourth pantun is more culturally-specific. “Like the character of a paddy stem, the heavier it gets the lower it bows” refers to the way a paddy stem gradually bends lower as the rice grains develop and become heavier at the top. It alludes to how a person should behave; the more knowledge they gain, the humbler they should be.

Whenever I come across the word padi I go back in time to my Malay Language class in high school, where my teacher Puan Nooriza told us that apparently there were only three words that are of pure Malay origin – padi, paku and babi (paddy, iron nail and pig). This is of course an exaggerated claim, but I think it is a potent symbol of the Malay world’s long and proud tradition of openness and acceptance of foreign cultures, our ability to include and meld them into our own and become all the richer for it.

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