Aneka Ragam Ra’ayat



From 1959 up till the early 1960s, Singapore's then Ministry of Culture (now known as the Ministry of Communications and Information) organised a series of free, open-air cultural concerts with a strong multi-racial theme. Known as Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat, or “People's Cultural Concerts”, these shows were held at various locations across Singapore. The objective of the government sponsored performances was to help develop a sense of unity among the people by promoting a better understanding and appreciation of the arts and culture of each ethnic group.1

History
When Singapore became a self-governing state in 1959, the newly elected government saw an immediate need to develop a sense of national identity among the people. It realised that to do that, it first had to help the different races develop a better understanding of each other's cultures. Hence, the Ministry of Culture came up with the idea of Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat.2

The first of these concerts was held at the Botanic Gardens on 2 August 1959, on a specially constructed stage near the lake. Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew officially opened the show. An estimated 22,000 people attended the event, which was recorded by Radio Singapore.3

Following the success of the first Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat, the Ministry of Culture organised similar shows in other parts of Singapore over the next few years. In October 1959, the ministry took the concept to rural Singapore for the first time. The show was held at Bukit Panjang Village before an audience of 7,000.4 It was a major event to the rural dwellers and many travelled from nearby villages just to see it. In the same month, the ministry also staged its first island show at Pulau Bukom Kechil. Some of the 3,000 people who attended had specially made the trip there from other islands.5

Between 1959 and 1964, the Ministry of Culture organised over 200 shows under the Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat banner.6

Description
The Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat was one of the ways thought up by the Ministry of Culture to promote cultural integration in a population made up of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. It was groundbreaking, because it was the first time that cultural performances by different races were featured in the same event.7

The purpose was to provide an opportunity for the different races to see, understand and appreciate each other's art forms. Until then, people were mostly ignorant of the cultures beyond that of their own community. The government hoped that the interaction of the different cultures would lead to the creation of a national culture and identity that could unite the people of Singapore regardless of ethnic background.8

The typical Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat programme was multi-racial, with all four major cultural streams – Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western – represented. Malay drama and ronggeng music, Tamil devotional songs and Indian classical dances, Chinese lion dance displays and Peking opera, and Western classical music are all examples of items that were included.9

The concerts were held in various locations across Singapore. Venues included the Botanic Gardens10, the City Hall steps11, Katong Park12, Hong Lim Green13, Geylang Serai14, Kranji15, Sembawang,16 Upper Serangoon17 and Pulau Tekong.18 The most popular shows attracted crowds of tens of thousands.19

The Ministry of Culture started the concerts as a weekly affair but soon began organising them for special occasions such as the State National Day, the first of which was 3 June 1960.20 Other occasions for which the shows were held included the Prophet Mohamed's birthday21 and National Loyalty Week22, both in 1959, the opening of a new maternal and child health clinic at Kranji in 196223, Malaysia Day in 196324, and the return of the Malaysia Goodwill Mission to Africa in 1964.25

Timeline
2 Aug 1959: The first Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat was held at the Botanic Gardens.26
4 Oct 1959: An Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat was held at a rural location for the first time, at Bukit Panjang Village.27
25 Oct 1959: An Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat was held at an offshore island for the first time, at Pulau Bukom Kechil.28
3–9 Dec 1959: Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat performances were organised as part of the programme for National Loyalty Week.29
3–5 Jun 1960: An Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat was held every evening as part of the State National Day celebrations to mark Singapore's first year as a self-governing state.30
17–21 Sep 1963Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat performances were staged as part of Singapore's Malaysia Day celebrations, which were organised to commemorate the merger of the Federation of Malaya with Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo to form the Federation of Malaysia.31



Author

Valerie Chew



References
1. 25 years ago. (1984, December 9). The Straits Times, p.19; Battle for heart and minds of the people. (1963, June 3). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lee: We'll breed new strain of culture. (1959, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lee: We'll breed new strain of culture. (1959, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The people's concert makes its rural debut. (1959, October 5). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Now people's concert makes island debut. (1959, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Oon, C. (2013, July 23). Home to local history. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Oon, C. (2013, July 23). Home to local history. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8.  Lee: We'll breed new strain of culture. (1959, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. 'Prodigies' for cultural show at park. (1959, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 4; A community centre puts on a concert. (1959, September 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Aneka Ragam Ra’ayat in Gardens tomorrow. (1959, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.  Folk dances on the steps of City Hall. (1963, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12 Concert at Katong Park tonight. (1959, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. $173,000 park: Opening by minister. (1960, April 22). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. All set for Singapore’s third cultural festival. (1962, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. More clinics soon for rural areas. (1962, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. All set for Singapore’s third cultural festival. (1962, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Dr Toh to open culture festival. (1961, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Dr Toh to open culture festival. (1961, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lee: We'll breed new strain of culture. (1959, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 4; Khoo, A. (1960, June 6). Wonderful Singapore. The Singapore Free, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Rally, fair for National Day. (1960, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. 30,000 at festival of music and fun in Gardens. (1959, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Inche Yusof to visit site of theatre. (1959, December 5). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. More clinics soon for rural areas. (1962, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Yong, J. (1963, September 16). It will be joy in the air, on land and at sea for S'pore. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Aneka show, 6 ‘lions’ to welcome premier’s return. (1964, February 27). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Lee: We'll breed new strain of culture. (1959, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. The people's concert makes its rural debut. (1959, October 5). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Now people's concert makes island debut. (1959, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Inche Yusof to visit site of theatre. (1959, December 5). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Rally, fair for National Day. (1960, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Yong, J. (1963, September 16). It will be joy in the air, on land and at sea for S'pore. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2008 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Law and government>>Culture and community>>Arts
Concerts--Singapore
Politics and Government
Special events--Singapore
Events