di mana dia buah hati saya?

as much as i find it disturbing that some people do not know simple nursery rhymes, i find it utterly SHOCKING that some people do not know malaysian folk songs.

so as a sociolinguist, a culture enthusiast and for the love of cempedaks, a true malaysian, here is my community service effort in spreading the love of local folk songs to the tech-savvy generation.

chan mali chan

dimana dia anak kambing saya?
anak kambing saya yang makan daun talas
dimana dia buah hati saya?
buah hati saya bagai telur dikupas

chan mali chan, chan mali chan
chan mali chan, ketipung payung

di mana dia, anak kambing saya?
anak kambing saya main di tepi sawah
di mana dia, cinta hati saya?
cinta hati saya yang pakai baju merah

di mana dia anak kambing tuan?
anak kambing tuan di atas jambatan
yang mana dia si bunga pujaan?
si bunga tanjung dihujung dahan

kalau nak tahu anak kambing saya
anak kambing saya di dalam bilik
kalau nak tahu intan payung saya
intan payung saya yang kecil lah molek

di mana dia anak kambing tuan?
anak kambing tuan yang bulunya kuning
yang mana dia buah hati tuan?
buah hati tuan yang putih lah kuning

here are the lyrics to the folk song chan mali chan, of which most malaysian know the tune of, but do not know the words to. culturally attributed to both malaysian and singaporeans, chan mali chan is a hilariously cheeky song, which teases stanzas between men and women.

the verses of chan mali chan are structurally a four part rhythmic pantun. the first two lines of the pantun is called the pembayang and the last two line of each pantun is the message that the poet really wants to get at. the pembayang lines of the song chan mali chan refer to anak kambing, suggestively because the lamb is symbolic for its mischievousness and friskiness.

this symbolism is compared to the poet’s buah hati in the message lines of the poem, who is apparently playing hide and seek with the poem. it should be inferred here that the man in the song is looking for the woman who is hiding (and is deliberately letting herself be found!).

in the first stanza, the woman’s skin is described to be as smooth as a peeled hardboiled egg. in the second stanza, he calls her the love of his heart and describes her as the lady in red. in the third stanza, she is likened to be a flower which is hard to get because she is located right at the hujung dahan.

ketipung payung in the chorus and the final stanzas of the song is a term of endearment. like i said, it is a teasing courting love song. in the malay culture, metaphors such as ketipung, payung, intan and bunga tanjung are used as references to someone lovely and precious.

the colours yellow and white mentioned in the final stanza refer to something being royal, but not in the monarch sort of way, but that something to be considered heavenly, royal, gorgeous, beautiful, pure and divine.

so here is my very brief overview of chan mali chan. gosh, it has been ages since i have written proper literary papers. i hope ya’ll are humming the song in your heads. i know that its so kampung, but i bet that this would make an awesome campfire song. every malaysian should know how to sing chan mali chan.

29 thoughts on “di mana dia buah hati saya?

  1. wow philters…the thing is that my mom was a teacher, and my mom’s been teaching my niece and some other kids in singapore at the condo below the nursery rhymes..and most kids have never heard of Chan Mali Chan. Need to get those old-timer teachers…

  2. you know what? by popular request, i’ll look into ‘bangau oh bangau.’:D so check back here in a coupla days alright;)

  3. wasn’t aware you would reply thru your blog/web. i have found the lyrics to bangau oh bangau. let me know if you wish to have the lyrics. thank u.

  4. Hi Philters,

    I am so proud that someone has taken on the challenge of deciphering what our Malay fol songs mean. thanks for Chan Mali Chan. Any similar explanation for Rasa Sayang, Burung Kakak Tua, Jong Inai and Suriram?


  5. Hey, you wouldn’t happen to know any malay kids nursery rhymes?
    I’ve been asking around and searching for some, but cannot come up with any at all.
    Thanks :D

  6. See you again at rainforest music festival this year 2007!!!!!!. The Kapas Island Pirate King will be back in the iban LONGHOUSE at Semtubong Cultural Village Kuching Sarawak,,,,,,,as such will be missing from Capt’s Longhouse Kapas Island.


  7. I’m from Singapore. This song was sang quite a bit in the 70s in Singapore. Even the non-Malay speakers knew this song but nowadays its almost forgotten among the younger generation.

    This song is also about cross-cultural love. The person singing is a Malay man with a Chinese girlfriend named Chan. He is making fun of the fact that his girl cannot pronounce her “r”. That’s why he says “Mali” to her instead of “Mari”.

  8. hi philters,
    thank u so much 4 dis explaination..u help me to figured out about it..i`ll used it in my university assgment..thanks so much…

  9. can someone tell me where can i find these malay folk songs, like chan mali chan, Lenggang Kangkong, Nona Nona…

  10. Pingback: Chan Mali Chan « Awak boleh faham sayakah?

  11. This is great! I recently gave birth and as a daughter of a baba living in Australia, married to an Aussie, I really wanted my daughter to learn some peranakan and chinese songs, nusery rhymes etc … I’ve been trawling the internet and this was all I could find.

    I remember the tune well … brings back memories … at the same time feel sad that it’s dying out and as so little has been recorded, they may soon be lost forever.

    Thank you for these lyrics … any more???!!!

  12. wow i know you wrote this ages ago but ive only recently needed to find out what the song meant and this was nothing short of incredible.


  13. Hi Philters,

    I just came across your entry. Really illuminating! :)

    Do you mind giving me an english translation of the lyrics to Chan Mali Chan. And in the meantime do you mind emailing as I’ve got more I’d like to discuss with you.

    Will appreciate it very much. :)

    Thank you.

    AJ De Silva

  14. Pingback: Chan Mali Chan (Hoi! Hoi!) « Sinfonia da Vita, Op. 1

  15. Crying Man’s Cross-Cultural Love between a Malay Man and a Chinese Woman interpretation of this Malay Pantun-Song ” Chan Mari [Mali] Chan !” tak makan belachan kah ? makes Malaysia/Singapore [Sri Temasek] Merger once again a Big Possibility !Elok Bunga Tanjong Tanjong Tak Pagar !

    Gerald Heng Sr.
    Metrowest Boston,MA.USA.

  16. hi there,
    found your website while searching for “chan mali chan meaning”. Thanks for the illuminating explanations. just so u know, i will be sharing this with students & teachers and will of course duly credit you!

  17. hi hi. We are studying folk songs around the early period of 1843 – 1940s. Please if you have time, give me a few names of songs around these period? Or point me in the correct direction. Malay. Chinese and Indian community songs will be great to know. thank you very much. Sharon Choo

  18. suddenly felt like listening to ths song. Been 20 yrs I last sang this..those times were genuine. .I like to follow. Plz circle me with updates

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s