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Meenachi passing: Melaka loses dondang sayang iconic figure

G.Meenachi, an iconic figure among dondang sayang and pantun (traditional musical and poetic art form) aficionados, died at the Melaka Hospital yesterday. She was 91.

According to Meenachi’s fifth child, Amuda Pillay, 55, her mother breathed her last at 7.18 pm, due to old age.

She said that the family is still awaiting permission from the hospital to bring Meenachi’s remains home for the funeral.

“There are still some procedures that need to be done. For funeral rites according to the Hindu customs, the cremation ceremony should be held between 1 pm and 3 pm today. However, if we run out of time, we will do it tomorrow, after seeking advice from the temple,” she said.

Describing her late mother as the oldest ‘encyclopedia’ related to culture and customs for the community living in Kampung Chetti here, Amuda said that her mother passing is a great loss for the dondang sayang and pantun culture in Melaka.

“If it’s about marriage, work, death, birth or anything related to Chetti customs, they would refer to my mother on how to go about it.

Always paying utmost care to her appearance, Meenachi, according to Amuda, would dress in beautiful batik sarung with a matching top, and with her hair styled in a neat bun. She often instructed her children to dress appropriately too.

“My later mother’s talent in dondang sayang and pantun is natural, she could just do it spontaneously. Unfortunately, none of us inherited her talents and skills,” she said when met by reporters in Kampung Chetti today.

Meenachi, born on Jan 4, 1930, was a descendant of the Chetty community in Melaka and very fluent in Malay, but not proficient in Tamil.

From as young as 10 years old, she was exposed to the world of pantun and dondang sayang where she inherited artistic talents from her family.

Meenachi used to play the rebana before she started honing her skills in pantun, and subsequently received guidance from the famed dondang sayang activist, Baba Kim Teck.

Even at the ripe old age of 90, Meenachi was still able to recite pantun, but was not as active as before due to health factors.

For her priceless contribution in upholding the arts of pantun, Meenachi received recognition from the state government and Melaka JKKN, including the Dondang Sayang Art Activist in 2019.

Dondang sayang and pantun are popular traditional art forms in Melaka, and are said to have started in the days of the Melaka Sultanate around the 15th century.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency

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