Forgotten Songs of RIT

by Kogyi Koung (Saya Dr. Koung Nyunt, A67)

First Song

It was one afternoon in the early May of 1963. Someone was singing a prewar semi-classic song from the second floor of RIT main building. In 1963, RIT buildings were relatively new and that semi-classic song caused a little bit of discomfort for the freshmen [equivalent to 3rd BE] located on the first floor. The song continued as, (. hmain: njou. njou. sain: lou. je . njou pja ji hmaung che . to: dan: kalei: nanbei: ga swe . e:di jwa be: kwe…)

The meaning is: Dull and gloomy cloud override at the horizon; Indistinct brown and dim bluish vision of a wood jetting out from that end is my village … *Note: The title of the song is ‘Htamin: mjein mjein sa: me’ i.e., “Enjoying the meal with relish” . The duet song was first performed by prewar famous singers Ou’ O: Ba Thaung and Sein Party. Later many other singers have rendered their own versions of the song.

We saw an old man singing the song while he was painting watercolor on a huge art paper. He was painting the landscape described in the song. Amazingly the picture was full of life and the song was telling the story. Everybody stopped in front of his office on the second floor and looking with wonder and singing with him.

After a while we asked him, “Sayagyi, who are you and which department do you belong to?” He replied, “I am U Tha Tun, Head of the Department of Architecture”. Oh, my God! How stupid that we, the freshmen of Architecture, don’t even know the head of our department. As time passed, we learned more about ‘The Great U Tha Tun’.

When we became senior students, U Tha Tun’s health deteriorated so much that Saya U Myo Myint Sein (Raymond, A58) stepped up as a ‘Kagemusha’ [Japanese for “shadow-warrior”]. UMMS, as acting head, took care of everything about the department. Young and energetic Saya UMMS found that it was not easy to steer the department as Captain of Architecture’s Flag Ship. There were lots of problems for a relatively young department in RIT.

One such problem occurred during our final year. Two of the most experienced Sayas of architecture left the department and went abroad †[for enhancing their careers].

They were (a) Saya U Sein Maung (with elegant mustache) has long experience in Rangoon City Development Corporation. He taught each and every detail of the development of Rangoon. (b) Saya M.B. Raschid (son of U Raschid, minister of many affairs under Prime Minister U Nu). He taught with all his professional experience and perfect pronunciation of King’s Burmese with ‘zagaboun’ proverbs. Sometimes he corrected our broken Burmese.

Saya UMMS, Head of the department, not only had lost his right and left hand men, but also there was a danger that the notorious Koung Nyunt and Kyaw Thein (both A67) might not finish their Architecture degrees.

After a long struggle, Saya UMMS stabilized the flagship of Architecture and its direction. A pioneer of the Architecture of RIT, Professor U Myo Myint Sein handed over the headship to Dr. Maung Kyaw in early 80’s. In the late 80’s Dr. Lwin Aung (A59) took over.

Second Song

For creative and original works, Architects cannot design during the office hours. It is also true [to a lesser degree] for the students of architecture. During the lectures and tutorial hours we [as students] have to follow what they have taught. After school hours [mostly after 4 or 5 pm], we start to create and test our design ideas. Note that for other students and staff of RIT, such periods are the pleasure and relaxation time.

There were only a few girls in Architecture, but the one in our studio is especially alluring beauty and glamorous face. She was so popular that she became known as the queen of the student-architects. We called her Ma Ma Q.

Most of the evenings many senior students and young eligible bachelors and/or sayas visit our studio. Some stay late into the evenings. At that time we sang a song named ‘Saga: ta’ kathou’ i.e., Language University, by Khin Yu May.

Because in the song, one part said ‘dage lar te. Ko Ko. kwe ja hmar ba lou lou’ i.e., really coming Ko Ko, out of sight he is sth in the air.

Ma Ma Q didn’t know the meaning, but the visiting Ko Kos were annoyed by our song. They politely requested us to stop singing. At that time the notorious KN and KT asked ‘hse’ kjei:’ i.e., extortion money about 2-3 kyats from the Ko Kos and went to U Chit tea shop. This continued for days and weeks.

When the Ko Kos are not visiting our studio, we sang the following song, instead of Ma Ma Q. i.e., Third Song. (Note. Extract from Shwe Kyi: nyo song by Daw Ngwe Myaing)
‘Diga nei. nya hpjin. lar ma te. so: joun ya hmar lar: akou ne. ne: te. Shwe kyi: nyo Shwe kyi: nyo Shwe kyi: nyo’
“To-night coming you said so, may I believe Ako.. Near the blessed golden crow, golden crow, golden crow…”

Editor’s note:

Thanks Kogyi Koung for “True story of RIT in 60’s”. I remember Sayagyi U Tha Tun frequently recite a limerick starting with “A wonderful bird is a pelican”. A limerick has 5 lines with the rhyming pattern: A, A, B, B, A.

The following three rhyming “words” are for the first, second and fifth lines:
(1) Pelican [a bird with a huge beak]
(2) Belican [belly can] => The pelican tries to eat as much as his/her belly can
(3) Hellican [hell I can] => I’m not a pelican, so how the hell can I eat as much?

Categories: Memories

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