October 23rd, 2006

Deepavali day Shama competition at Bedok North , Singapore

Deepavali day Shama competition at Bedok North , Singapore

Deepavali is an ancient Hindu festival of lights, to symbolise the triumph of good over evil. In those
days when gods were on earth, it was easier to tell what is good or evil, especially when your
people write the book. Nowadays, what is good and what is evil is a bit more dificult to tell, especially
if we take into account the aftermath as well.

Deepavali fell on this year on Saturday 21 Oct for all Hindus and their friends around the world and in Singapore.

After a lapse of 20 years or so, I celebrated that day with a very old Hindu friend SK by having Deepavali lunch
with his family. Much of those time I was not even in Singapore, or he was not in Singapore. Our friendship
started one early morning around 3am about 40 years ago. That was at end of a hitchhiking trip in Malaysia and I was walking
back across the causeway linking Malaysia to Singapore. Those times the drivers were more friendly and mindsets a lot safer
to travel on the cheap by hitchhiking.

I had to take a leak and hopped off the road to do that and I noticed someone else had the same idea. That was SK.
No other cars were around and we end up walking and walking back and chatting away. Needless to say, we became friends
from that time. SK and I gone and did more stuff, much of that should not be written.

By an amazing coincidence that only fate can arrange, he became very close friend of CM, that guy who triggered me into
this bird world as I related in Tinkerbell Introduction. CM was there for lunch too. It was in the house of SK's late father, the
famed mystic and astrologer at Ceylon Road.

Singapore is a tightly controlled and organised society.

There can be some good in a tightly organised society too. So Deepavali is not just private celebrations amonge Hindus and
their friends. The Indian area of Serangoon Road were decked out with lights and decorations for both tourists and locals to
enjoy. Events were also organised for this festive occasion.

One such event was this shama singing competition on this evening. I read about this in one of the Singapore Internet
bird group site a few days ago. I asked CM if he liked to come as well. The last time I dragged him screaming and kicking
to a shama gathering was at Bishan. That Philistine complained and nagged that those shamas just go 'cheep cheep cheep'
and refused to join me this time. My wife Joy had other things to do, and since she is my cameraman and videoman, there
were no photos or videos.

So it was at 745pm that I got off the bus near Block 537, Bedok North Street 3. Immediately I knew where to go to. The singing
of the shamas could be clearly heard. They were a lot louder than the shama gatherings I went to in Jurong East, Bishan and AMK.
Their singings were as rich as I imagined a group of shamas to be. Perhaps those shamas at earlier gatherings I been to were not in
best singing form. But as this was a competition, maybe their proud owners prepared and primed their shamas.

This competition was in a shed fitted with hooks to hang the cages from. Next to it was a food center where food and drinks could be
bought. People were all around that competition area, sitting around tables loaded with coffee, drinks and beer and food. Some of them
brought their shamas for competition, many were people like me who just want to listen to them singing and to enjoy their territorial displays.

I was intrigued and I decided to use my Creative Zen V Plus MP3 to record. That old Creative Muvo Slim MP3 that I used to record some
of Yingshiong songs gave up the ghost after a month with me in Saudi Arabia. I had wanted to claim money back on principle
until I read warnings that Muvo Slim must not be kept above 40C. Considering the temperature in shade in Riyadh was 55C, I guess I
was lucky Muvo lasted a month before its innards and brains cooked and keeled over.

I primarily wanted those recordings to play back to Yingshiong. There were 48 competitors there arranged in
a rectangular space. I was trying to figure where is the best place to do the recordings.
So I walked around the perimeter. At different point, you will be near different
groups of shamas and will hear different variations of songs. Even at the same point,
there will be pauses from different shamas in their display
and singing, resulting in yet different variations. All the different points
sounded different and sounded good. So I hit on the obvious solution
to do recordings at different points.

In walking around, I found the judges stand and noticed the score sheets on the table.
I saw printed on top was "Kaki Bukit CC Bird Club".
So obviously this competition was organised by the Kaki Bukit Community Center
Bird Club. There were a few people walking slowly below
the cages in the cordoned off area with clipboards and paper, pausing every so often,
with focused attention and walking on. This was the first
shama singing competition I been to so I have little clue as to what they focused on.

So I decided to do what I know to do. Which was to switch on the recording function on the MP3 player
and placed it on the ground at a corner. I then stood away and enjoyed the songs and their visual display and
had a ciggie. Then I went back for the MP3 player to turn it off and restart
recording at another point and walked to the back again. This caught the eyes of others there.
They were friendly and I told them I was recording the songs
of the shamas and we started chatting. They said the recordings will not be pure
as people were chatting and cars can be heard in the background.
I laughed and agreed telling them that not only their voices, but my voice will also be recorded too.
After all, I was not just recording shamas singing,
I was recording a shama competition. And in such competitions, the ambience, the chatting away would
always be part of the background. Now and then, you will hear the voices of people discussing the merits
of this shama over another shama. Much of the background conversation was in Hokkien,
a dialect of Chinese, or in Chinese, or in Singlish, a unique Singaporean mixture of Chinese, Hokkien
and English peppered with terms picked up in our National Service Army days.
You will hear in the recordings at times a rhythmatic clappings by an owner to encourage his shama. You might
also hear a 'whoo whoo whoo' call from an owner to spur his shama. You will hear also cars in background, and
clinking of beer glasses. A shama competition is an affirmation of life. You might even hear
me joking, talking and laughing away as well.

Non of them ever been into the Internet and had never knew I existed. I pulled out some photos I
printed, of Yingshiong and Tinkerbell. They were stunned
to see YS flying free in the apartment and landing on me and the
beauty of his wings spread out. And of Tinkerbell riding on bike with me and flying out
in the mountains and forests and fields in Taiwan. I told them I had no s
ecrets and wrote what I did and what I know from my own experiences and they
could all go and read and decide if they like to do that if they so choose.
I handed out Tinkerbell and Yingshiong calling cards to them. I moved about to
different places to do different recordings. So when those guys spoke to me, it
was a pleasure to know new friends and to talk to them. Again, those photos
were shown to them as it would be impossible for them to believe what I said without
those visual images of YS flying about the apartment and landing on me.

I was touched by their response to me. I told them I could not train their birds, as
only they can do that themselves. It was not just the training, it was most
important to gain the trust and the bond with their birds and that must be done by
them. One of them was very much into jambuls, another kind of songbird. I
had to sadly declined his offer to give me some of his prize jambuls with their
cages as he wanted to see how I train them. Another wanted me to take his
Greater sulphur crested cockatoo and was sorry that I declined as I will be leaving Singapore again.

I greeted an official looking guy who turned out to be Mr Noordin who of course, was one
of the Kaki Bukit CC Bird Club( referred to as KBCCBC) official. He enjoyed
the photos of YS and Tink. He kindly did his best to explain to me the competition. I suffered
from information overload as he went on to tell me how the shamas
were judged. The quality of the song, the intensity of the song, the purity of notes,
the warbling and variation, the stamina of the bird, the length of the tail, the power
of the display were all taken into account. He told me there were three judges, periodically
making their rounds and awarding scores. The lights were specially installed
for this competition. He told me the efforts that his KBCCBC Chairman Mr Lee and the
rest of the team put in behind the scene to bring this competition about. I looked
at the people there enjoying this competition and assured him all those efforts were good
and they should be proud of it and I appreciated this competition very much.
Mr Noordin was wonderful enough to take my recorder right into the center for one
of the recordings at my request.

Not all the shamas performed well. Perhaps their form was off that night. Perhaps their
proud owners entered them for the pleasure of entering the competition,
and giving pleasure to those that came to watch, listen and enjoy. There was one particular
shama that caught my eye. The tail was so short that at a glance
one might assume that to be a female. But the color and gloss was wonderful and clearly
a male. The territorial performance was vigorous and very alert.
The singing was very good and the owner must be very proud. Noordon earlier told me
that short tail shama came from Brunei. Enough of the shamas there
sang very well as you can hear from the recordings I made.

I stayed until the end of the competition. Mr Noordin introduced me to his KBCCBC
Chairman Mr Lee and I thanked him for the work his team put in for our pleasure. He
then introduced me to Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, the MP for Marine Parade GRC and his
team. They were rather surprised to see from my photos of YS and Tinkerbell
that I kept my birds a little bit differently from other people. I told them I enjoyed this
competition and will be writing on it for my friends here and around the world.
Dr Faisal laughed when I told him my website have visitors from around the world, and one
of the few places that Arabic speakers and Hebrew speakers meet in peace.

It was late when I got back. It was on the next day that I played those recordings on my laptop
very very softly as Yingshiong was out in the living room. Regretfully, the Zen
MP3 could not get the high notes giving scratchy sound as you can hear for yourself. I then
increased the volume and went out to see YS with expectation that YS will be singing in competition.
To my surprise, YS did not sing in response. I was worried if he was sick. But he was agitated
and flew about landing on places that he normally did not land on. He
flew into the kitchen and refused to come out. He was turning his head about flying and perching
and flying and perching. He then flew out of the kitchen to the living room
getting more agitated and flew into the bedroom. He was trying to locate where other shamas were.
Then he flew into the PC room. Instead of his usual perches, he perched
near the speakers. I tried to drive him off but he refused to leave, evading my hand and landing back again.

It then struck me that he was not going to sing, but he was looking for his rivals to kill. When
I played his recordings, he would sing back in response. Perhaps
he knew that those were his songs, and he knew the shama competitions were not his songs and
rivals. His earlier flying about was serious attempts to kill.

Then when I thought he was not singing, he burst out into territorial mode. I wrote before
that his territorial singing was so loud that I could hear him far away. But
this morning, he sang with intensity that was shocking to me and painful to my ears. He
went on and on in a terrifying display and attacked my small Creative speakers.
I drove him off the table and he continued in extremely loud singing until I was worried
for his throat. I switched off the sound to get him to stop his loud singing.

Eventually he quietened down. With bribes of millis and crickets, he was led out
of my PC room back into the living room before he returned to his flight room
at my cue.

Recordings of shama competition here



Note: Normal weight range of shama is 28 - 32 grams
from the information below .



If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.

Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust


or to WWF or other conservation bodies of your choice

MM - mixed mash , from YSM 60%, Claus (food for insectivore birds)
20% and Sinlin 20% (local commercial food for shama)

YSM - Read "making of Yingshiong mash"

suri - Read "Conditioning clicker day 3 - and some tips on suris"

milli - read "Found the perfect treat and Yingshiong first "step up""

Yingshiong songs are in

She made more toys and took photos of those new toys for YS and the way YS was playing with them.

You can see that in folders

Yingshiong beady toys


The descriptions and captions of those photos will be lost if you use the slideshow, so it may be better if you see those photos one at a time.

If you liked the photos of Tinkerbell and Taiwan, most of those photos were taken by Joy with my camera.

For even more photos ot Tinkerbell and Taiwan, you should check out Joy's other folders in


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