Go A Hee, also known as ‘Min opera’ or ‘Hokkien opera’ within Southeast Asia. Long ago, due to their topography proximity to the sea, the distinctive feature of Southern Min people migrating overseas was shaped. Towards the end of the 19th century, the peak season of Southern Min people migrating overseas, large crowds of them migrated to Southeast Asia. Concurrent with the shaping of local Min overseas Chinese communities one after the other, conditions for the spread of Hokkien opera are furnished, thus Southeast Asia became an important region for overseas spreading of Hokkien opera.
Due to the language and tunes of Hokkien opera bearing regional characteristics and life-like, easy to understand, as well as having three-dimensional backgrounds and flamboyant costumes, in the 1920’s it was enthusiastically sought after by the Southern Min community, becoming a spiritual bond between Southern Min people who migrated overseas and their hometown. It also serves as a thanks offering ceremony in temple worshipping.
In the multiracial grounds of Malaysia, Hokkien opera experienced development transplant and climax, from the heyday in the 30’s prompting the forming of Hokkien opera troupes in several regions, at the same time attending international exchanges abroad; to gradually declining in the 60’s, only appearing as entertainment on religious ceremonies and festive celebrations. Hokkien opera faces various severe challenges: lessening of the older generation audience, lack of interest from the younger generations, no inheritance of the performance art, lack of support from the government, competition from overseas troupes etc.
There are now less than 20 Hokkien opera troupes who are still actively performing in Malaysia, however it comes as a comfort that there are still a group of passionate old opera artists who persist.
For instance this troupe from Batu Pahat, Sin Yan Hwa Hokkien Opera Troupe, 74-year-old head Tee Siew Foong (transliteration) learnt opera skills since a tender age, performing in several Singaporean troupes in her youth, and established Sin Yan Hwa Hokkien Opera Troupe using her two daughters’ names over 30 years ago. Madam Tee frankly states that when her stamina used to be good, she travelled long-term all around Malaysia in honour of invitations to perform, and she is grateful and fortunate to continue to maintain the opera troupe, pursuing a career in her passion.
Worth mentioning is another folk opera performance of Sin Yan Hwa Hokkien Opera Troupe: Bo Te Hee, also known as Puppetry. During grand events such as funerals, weddings, carnivals, and festive celebrations, Puppetry must be performed as a token of respect.
Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : April Rain from Felt Music
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