As the wrath of the pandemic darkens, and as more and more Malaysian lose hope, it’s sad to witness the Merdeka spirit dampen. It is this landscape inspired by the sacrifices of the frontliners - doctors to the undertakers, from the police to the army and even the everyday man, woman and child, that gave the Tyffin Box team the idea to use the power of art to heal and unite.

The Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka by the Tyffin Box awakens all Malaysian's patriotic spirit within the turbulence; uniting us all. The rich melody and lyrics of the song is often a backdrop in many Malaysian historical and mythological theatre productions. It feels true to the current milieu and to the Merdeka 2021 theme - Malaysia Prihatin.

Inspired by their award-winning work with the ANKUR Under the Kayon Tree production, directed by Jyotsna Nithyananthan Prakash (Pianist and Music arranger of the Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka), the musicians and singers wanted to shine light on the “sprout” analogy – of the various people who came to settle here and how their seeds of culture, language and traditions have “sprouted” from this fertile soil, and has now grown into a strong tree; what we know as Malaysia today – a rich, vibrant, beautiful, diverse and melodious fabric. This was the foundation that inspired the Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka.

Literally meaning “the Ark of Independence,” Bahtera Merdeka was composed by Kassim Masdor and lyrics were by S. Sudarmaji. The Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka emphasizes the final verses, “Demi menunaikan, Sumpah dan janji...” These haunting final lines against today’s backdrop politically, economically and socially reinforces the plea for “Anak Malaysia” to give everything to stay true to our pledge, to unite with all our might to prosper our homeland.

“For a young specialist like me, it’s been moving to witness first-hand the extraordinary human resilience of frontlines from all departments to persevere. This pandemic has taught us that your health is indeed your most valuable wealth. Every Malaysian directly or indirectly has played an important role in helping the country ride these waves and the key to this is love and unity. We all have different stories, but the spirit is one,” said Dr. Rosvinder Singh, head of surveillance division at the state health department of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, and singer in the Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka.

“When I got the call from the team to be a part of this beautiful arrangement I said yes immediately, it will always be my passion to serve my country Malaysia and I show my love through this beautiful musical piece.”

In keeping to that theme, the Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka expanded just beyond the soulful music. The musicians invited fellow friends of the fraternity; and photographers across the country to share glimpses into the lives of everyday Malaysia.

“We called family and friends to join us, and the response has been overwhelming! Not one person denied us – which to us affirms the unity that expands beyond gender, race, religion, age and even social status. This is what makes Malaysia and what we hope this project illustrates – the beauty that is us, Malaysians,” said Pangasaasanii Gowrisan; co-founder of Tyffin Box and Violinist in the Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka.

“As a painter, I feel that images can purposefully express things that in some cases words fail. By creating a canvas that is enriched with colour and expression the burden of precision is lifted and the mind is allowed to interpret creatively.

"For me, Tunku has always been an inspiration and I'm proud to be Malaysian. I wanted to bring out the colours I see when I think of him and how he was part of the very foundation of Malaysia. While we’ve seen many changes and transformations, especially in the pandemic, I hope this piece will take us back to Bapa Merdeka and remind us what it is to be Malaysian,” said Miey Ali, artist.

While it all started from a place of pain, and as the haunting shadow of catastrophe lurks, Malaysians find ourselves looking for a place of hope, a place to unite people and the fire within to strive through. The team of Retelling of Bahtera Merdeka hopes their rendition will remind Malaysians to stay united as we move forward to the next normal… also, in keeping promises made to ourselves (…sumpah dan janji).

About Tyffin Box

Tyffin Box consists of Jyotsna Prakash on digital piano, Prakash Kandasamy on tabla, cajon & percussions, and Pangasaasanii Gowrisan on the violin. The trio is a product of the Temple of Fine Arts and have been performing together for the last 30 years. As performers and composers, they have won multiple awards in Malaysia, as well as, performed in Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, The US, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, London, South Korea and Taiwan – together, as well as in their individual capacities.

The Tyffin Box YouTube channel serves as a platform for them to present covers from Indian film songs – mainly Tamil and Hindi numbers, Malaysian productions, as well as, original fusion compositions. Their music is flavoured by a mix of Indian, Malaysian and Western elements, which is offered in their own inimitable style.

You can follow the Tyffin Box on YouTube and Instagram.