Near the end of 2008, the local Chinese TV station, Channel 8, broadcast The Little Nonya, a period drama about the Peranakans, also commonly known as the Straits Chinese. They are a mixed race between the Malays and Chinese and lived mostly in Malacca and Singapore. I think Penang too but I am not quite sure. The influential families are probably in Malacca.
Nonya is the term for the Peranakan lady. The Peranakan man is known as a Baba. They typically speak Malay and Hokkien, a chinese dialect.
The drama was a big hit and many who do not normally follow local dramas tuned in. I think I saw the first episode, missed the entire middle section, and caught up at the last few episodes. Although I was missing a lot of details and side plots, I could still get the storyline.
The ending resulted in a controversy. A lot of people expected a good ending where the heroine gets her man. But she didn’t. If I was the screenwriter, I would probably had chosen the same ending.
Anyway, drama aside, the theme song 如燕 (loosely translated as Like a Swallow) was fabulous. I thought it captures the essence of the culture and era. It can immediately affect the mood of the listener. The chinese lyrics is so poetic, like a graceful lady sashaying, just like a nonya in her kebaya (traditional costume).
Some have suggested that the song could be used to teach mandarin. I agree. If I was a secondary school student, I would learn mandarin just to understand this song.
The song writer is a veteran who keeps a very low profile generally. He had written some very good songs in the past but MIA for quite a long while. Now, he is back. I hope he makes lots of royalties from this song.
Thanks to social media, I could find the video clip of the theme song at youtube. I am embedding the video clip.