In 1822, three years after the agreement with Sultan Hussein Shah had been signed, Stamford Raffles started the design on Singapore’s urban planning. One of the platforms of the design was settlements for the many ethnics in Singapore into separate district. The result, the division of Singapore to the following districts: the Chinese ethnic in Chinatown, the Malay and Bugis ethnic and Arabic merchants was in Kampong Glam, and the Indian ethnic was on the banks of the Singapore River. While Europeans build their area stretching from the northeast to the southwest of the Singapore River. The heritage of Raffle’s system still lives on to this day.
Chinatown today with all its’ heritage architecture which is still maintained well is one of the main destination of tourists who visit Singapore. The reality of course is different than what it was in the nineteenth century. Chinese ethnic cultural wealth and all it’s history in Singapore is now presented as something romantic for tourists. In 2004, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) launched the “Uniquely Singapore” brand. This tagline was used to promote Singapore as a unique tourist destination where modern lifestyle lives hand in hand with multicultural traditions and customs. A portrait that is still true to this day. Maybe this point of view is too vulgar but that was exactly what I felt when I stayed in Chinatown. Of course, the narration on tourism wasn’t the only narration in Chinatown. There were still many dimensions of life here.
This recording is a recording ouf sounds in Chinatown on Saturday night, 23rd March 2019. The Five Footway Festival was going on at the time. A festival that celebrated the historical and cultural wealth of Chinatown. The following is one of the advertisements about the event that I quoted from a website that explained the agenda in Singapore https://honeykidsasia.com/10-things-to-do-with-the-kids-this-weekend-in-singapore-23-24-march-2019/ :
Chinatown is an absolute treasure trove of history, culture and shopping opportunities, so it makes sense that we’d want to celebrate its rich heritage at the Five-Footway Festival. Take a walk around Chinatown and travel back in time with old-school games, street food, samsui women and Chinese opera! Fancy a trim? Head to a streetside barber, or purchase some souvenirs to take home. Tuck into a hearty bowl of rickshaw noodles to end the day.
In this recording you can hear the hustle and bustle of people on that weekend night in Chinatown. I recorded the sounds with my handy recorder while walking. There was techno music from bars and cafes that was played through speakers. These bars and cafes were crowded with customers. Then I kept walking toward a small stage in one of the corners of an alley in Chinatown, where the festival was being held. It was showcasing a Chinese Opera show which music, singing, and dialog was so unique. Tens of people were watching in front of the stage. This was the depiction of the atmosphere in Chinatown that night. Sounds from the Chinese Opera mixed with sounds of techno music from bars and cafes as if forming two worlds from different times. On my way back to the lodge, a volunteer approached me. He asked some of my time to fill in the evaluation form for the festival.