Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Largest Stamp Mosaic in the World"

Hongkong Post set the New Guinness World Record for the 'Largest Stamp Mosaic'. The Guinness World Record has confirmed that the Stamp Mosaic, measuring 6.45m wide and 3.97m high, with over 69,000 used stamps donated by Hongkong Post staff and 98 overseas postal administrations, created by Hongkong Post on 30 August 2005 is the largest stamp mosaic in the world.

This extraordinary and unprecedented result was achieved through the dedication and teamwork of all participating staff and their families. This successful attempt has gained another World Record entry for Hong Kong and the avant-garde initiative demonstrates not only the team spirit and creativity of Hongkong Post, but also the solidarity among postal administrations.

In celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Post Office Trading Fund, for the first time in Hong Kong, over 1,480 Hongkong Post staff and their families participated in affixing the stamps and created this gigantic stamp mosaic during their spare time. It took almost a year from design to complete. The last piece of the mosaic, depicting the General Post Office with gold-foiled stamps, was inserted jointly by the HKSAR Chief Executive, the Honourable Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen, GBM and the Postmaster General, Mr. Allan Chiang, at the celebration reception on 30 August 2005. The Stamp Mosaic is exhibited for public viewing in the Counter Hall, 1/F of the General Post Office and is also a major attraction for local and tourists alike.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Royal Anthem of Thailand

Thailand is one of a few monarchies (like Denmark and Sweden) that have a separate anthem for the royal family, as opposed to the national anthem for the citizens. The Thai royal anthem is performed during state occasions and public meetings, as well as when a high-ranking member of the royal family is present for a function.

"Phleng Sansasoen Phra Barami" (A Salute to the Monarch), the royal anthem also served as the third anthem of Siam (as Thailand was then known) from 1888 until the 1932 coup. The music was composed by a Russian musician, Pyotr Schurovsky for lyrics written by Prince Narisara Nuvadtivongs. The lyrics were revised by King Rama VI in 1913.

Above is a stamp of Prince Vajiravudh who later became King Rama VI. He was the sixth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1910 until his death. Vajiravudh is known for his efforts to create and promote Siamese nationalism. His reign was characterized by Siam's movement further towards democracy and minimal participation in World War I.

The Ruins of Kobe, Japan

I've always wondered why some Japanese tourist "like" to visit some "ugly" places in our country. The are amazed at the dirt and squalor of Smokey mountains, entertained by the "moon-crater"- like quality of our roads, and admire our filthy cheap products. On a trip to a beach resort in Mactan, we had to traverse a bumpy, rocky off-road trail. A Japanese companion mused, "We never have these kind of roads in Japan. This is enjoyable! Like riding bump cars!"

In order to fully appreciate beauty, one much experience the ugly. One cannot really fathom ugliness without a first-hand encounter with beauty. I had this experience when I visited Kobe, Japan- a mesmerizingly beautiful city. Imagine, a ruin - a sordid reminder of the earthquake that struck Kobe several years ago- turned into a Museum and a Memorial park. This is the only part of Kobe that is "dirty" because it was never rehabilitated after the quake. The dilapidated structures (harbour, roads)- which looked ugly to us, is a common sight in our country- but not in Japan. Japan is a super clean country, almost sterile, where dirt and garbage is an uncommon sight.

Everything is in order- no traffic, no pollution, no gambling, and the people are generally friendly. If I was born here, I would surely squirm at some, (or should I say most), sights in our home country on first encounter. Travel is an experience, and the Japanese traveller venture into these "ugly" places in our country to experience something they have'nt experienced before- and what a "dirty" experience it is.

I am amazed at Japan's super-sterile invironment but i would not want to live in this place. Sometimes, fun is lost in being too "clean". I want a place with dirt, a place with excitement...Come to think of it, dirt is fun!!!!!!!

The National Anthem of Costa Rica

In 1852, Costa Rica did not have a national anthem. However, when the United States and the United Kingdom accredited their diplomatic representatives in Costa Rica, President Juan Rafael Mora Porras, wanted to host a welcome ceremony for the missions. A decision was made that a national anthem for Costa Rica should be composed for the occasion, and the president requested Mr. Manuel María Gutiérrez, Director of the Costa Rican National Army Orchestra, to compose the music. It was told that Mr. Gutierrez would be incarcerated for a month if he refused.

Unfortunately Don Manuel Maria Gutierrez ran out of time and as a consequence was imprisoned at the Cuartel de Armas, where he looked through a small window out onto the Plaza Mayor. Feeling inspiration, he was able to finish the composition and on the 11 of June, 1852, at the Palacio Nacional, the national anthem of Costa Rica was heard for the first time alongside those of the United States and England.

In 1903, a contest was held for composing the lyrics to the anthem, which was won by José María Zeledón Brenes. Despite having the words and anthem officially composed and in common use, they were not declared as the official national anthem until 1949.

The National Anthem of Argentina

The lyrics of the Himno Nacional Argentino (the national anthem of Argentina) were written by Vicente López y Planes, and the music was composed by Blas Parera. This song was adopted as the national anthem on May 11, 1813, three years after the May Revolution (Revolución de Mayo). May 11 is therefore Anthem Day in Argentina.

On May 24, 1812, Vicente López attended a play presented at the Casa de la Comedia, Buenos Aires, titled El 25 de Mayo, which retold the story of the May Revolution that happened two years earlier. The play, written by Luis Ambrosio Morante, concluded with an anthem sung by the actors. López felt inspired and that same night wrote the first verses of an anthem that would replace Morante's, for which Blas Parera had composed the music.

The General Constituent Assembly, the autonomous government of the time, approved the new anthem as Marcha Patriótica (Patriotic March) on May 11, 1813, and commanded Parera to compose a new music. Some authors say that Parera accepted, but after many days no result was presented. Finally, he refused, being a Spaniard himself, as the lyrics were offensive to Spain, and he feared the reaction of the King. He was jailed by the Assembly and forced to compose under threat of execution. In a single night he finished the partiture, by simply copying the musical score he had composed for the theatre play. He was then released and later he abandoned the country forever, living for many years at Rio de Janeiro and later in Spain, where he died.

The finished song was first played on May 14, 1813 at the home of the aristocrat Mariquita Sánchez de Thompson, and presented publicly on May 25 of the same year. It was then known as Canción Patriótica Nacional (National Patriotic Song), and later simply as Canción Patriótica (Patriotic Song), but in an 1847 copy it appears under the title Himno Nacional Argentino, retaining that name until today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The National Anthem of Mexico

After independence from Spain in the early nineteenth century, there were many songs popular with the public that were an attempt to be a national anthem, but none succeeded. Finally, in 1853, President Santa Ana announced a nation-wide contest for the lyrics for a new national anthem. One of the entrants, an accomplished poet named Francicso González Bocanegra, was originally not interested in running. However, his fiancée was confident in his skills and, under false pretenses, lured him into a room of her parent's house and locked him inside, refusing to let him out until he wrote an entry for the contest. After four hours, using the pictures in the room of the epics of Mexican history as his inspiration, Bocanegra finally won his freedom by slipping a ten verse poem under the door. (Only the first, fifth, sixth, and tenth verses officially make up the anthem.) His fiancée and her father approved of the submission, and so did the judging committee, his entry won unanimously.

After the contest for the lyrics came the contest for the melody. This contest was won by Jaime Nunó Roca, a Spaniard from the small Catalan Pyrennes town of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, who was conductor of the National Band. The anthem was first presented in September 1854 for the nation. Shortly after his work was adopted as the national anthem, he left Mexico to spend the rest of his life in Buffalo, New York, United States, and sold the anthem to a music house in that country. When he visited Mexico in 1901, he was given a state reception, a medal, and money. He passed away in 1908, but in 1942, shortly before the national anthem was officially adopted, his remains were flown to Mexico and given a state funeral in the Hall of Heroes, where Bocanegra was also buried.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The National Anthem of the Dominican Republic

José Reyés was inspired to make this anthem after noticing a published copy of the Argentine anthem. Reyés believed that his country should also have an anthem, so he invited his friend Emilio Prud'homme to write the lines while he composed the music. Soon after Reyés managed to get his anthem published as well; it was well-received by the public and soon grew in popularity. The title of the national anthem, "Quisqueyanos valientes" (Valient Sons of Quisqueye), refers to the original native inhabitants' word for Santo Domingo island.)

A motion in the National Congress was made in 1897 by deputy Rafael Garcia Martinez to give the song official status, but the president refused to sign the bill into law, possibly because of Prud'homme's disagreement with President Heureaux's dictatorial government. It wasn't until 1934, many years after Heureaux's death, that President Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina officially adopted the song as the national anthem.

The stamp above features the anthem composer and lyricist together on a stamp issued to celebrate the Centenary of the National Anthem (1883-1983). Below is a stamp with parts of the Prud'hommes's lyrics of the National Anthem.

The National Anthem of Uruguay

Adopted in 1845, "Orientales, la Patria o la tumba!" is a typical example of a Latin American epic anthem. The original poem had eleven verses. These type of anthems are very operatic in nature, not only does the opening of this anthem resemble Verdi's style, the chorus and the solo part resembles a Donizetti or Bellini opera.

The version of the anthem usually performed starts with the chorus, then the first verse, then the chorus again, however, most lines are repeated several times within the song, making the song quite long (another feature of "Latin American epic anthems"), Uruguay's anthem is often performed at well over 3 minutes, four or five minute performances of the commonly sung version are not uncommon.

Both the lyricist (Francisco Esteban de Figueroa) and composer (Jose Debali), who composed the music several decades after the words were composed, also wrote the anthem for Paraguay. "Orientales", mentioned in the lyrics and the title, is a common name for Uruguayans, and it can be literally translated as "people of the East"

Francisco José Debali (July 26, 1791 – January 13, 1859) was a Hungarian-born composer who emigrated to Uruguay in 1838. He authored the national anthem of Uruguay and, possibly, the tune to Paraguayos, República o Muerte, which became the Paraguayan anthem.

As ethnic Hungarian, his original Eastern order name was Debály Ferenc József. His Christian names were later in Uruguay translated into the Spanish version, but his surname is known to be spelled as Debali, de Bali, Debáli, Debály and Debally.

He played the oboe. In 1820, he went abroad to pursue his musical career in the Kingdom of Sardinia. There, in Alessandria, he married Magdalena Bagnasco, from Genoa. They had several children, some of which were born in Uruguay. After a short stay at São Paulo, Brazil, which he fled because of a yellow fever epidemic, Debali arrived in Uruguay in 1838. Here he was the director of the orchestra at the Sala de Comedias in Montevideo from 1841 to 1848.

In 1845 he composed what would be adopted three years later as the Uruguayan national anthem, to a text by Francisco Acuña de Figueroa. It was played for the first time in public on July 19, 1845.

The Anthem of the Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands

The Pitcairn Islands are a remote British colony in the South Pacific, famous for being the site where the mutineers from the HMS Bounty landed. The islands' population have always been very small (currently numbering around 50), yet, aside from the official anthem of God Save the Queen (which is not heard often on the islands), there have been, and continue to be, many unofficial anthems in use in the colony.

In Diana Jolliffe Belcher's 1871 book "The Mutineers of the Bounty and their Decendants in Pitcairn and Norfolk Island" it is reported that a local poem by Rev. G. H. Nobbs was set to the tune "Rousseau's Dream" and was considered by Pitcairners to be their anthem at the time. It is not known for how long this was considered as their anthem, however. Also, in 1856, several Pitcairners resettled on Norfolk Island as Pitcairn had become too small. The local anthem now in use on Norfolk Island (under Australian administration), Come Ye Blessed, is also referred to as the "Pitcairn Anthem", and more than likely was brought to the island by the Pitcairn settlers, suggesting that this anthem was in use on Pitcairn at that time. It is a hymn whose lyrics are directly quoted from the New Testament of the Bible (Matthew 25:34-36, 40).

Currently, the song "We From Pitcairn Island" (to the tune of the hymn "The Royal Telephone") is used as an unofficial anthem at gatherings and the like. Other songs, such as "The Goodbye Song" (written by Pitcairner Amelia Young) and the hymn "In The Sweet By and By" are considered unofficial "Pitcairn songs" at gatherings as well.

The above is an issued self-adhesive stamp (part of a set of 3) from Norfolk Island in 1994 with lyrics of "Come Ye Blessed", Norfolk's anthem which is also known as Pitcairn anthem.

The National Anthem of Greece

The National anthem of Greece, "Ymnos Eis Tin Eleftherian" (Ode to Freeedom), is based on the "Hymn to the Freedom", a large 158 verse poem written by Dionysios Solomos, a distinguished poet from Zakynthos Island. It was inspired by the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire. During 1828, the eminent musician from Kerkyra Island Nikolaos Mantzaros composed the music for Solomos' hymn. Although King Othon (Otto) decorated both of them for their work (1845 and 1849), he did not replace the Royal Anthem of that time with the Solomos/Mantzaros hymn.

The anthem was a musical derivative from the German one, with a text glorifying Othon and his dynasty. After the overthrow of the dynasty, the new King George I and the Greek establishment decided to look for a clearly Greek work, both with respect to the poetry and the music. The "Hymn to the Freedom" was readily there - extremely popular since the Revolution times, often recited or sung during patriotic meetings and celebrations.

The Greek anthem is also used in Cyprus, which has a substantial Greek community.

The National Anthem of Portugal

At the end of the 19th century, "A Portuguesa," was written by the republicans Alfredo Keil (music) and Henrique Lopes de Medonca (words), upset over the British ultimatum to Portugal regarding Africa. Anywhere there was protests against the monarchy as a result, "A Portuguesa" could be heard. The song still echoes the original intent, the verses and especially the chorus speak of a call to arms, the third verse speaks of "insults" and "embarrassment" (which is how the Portuguese saw the British ultimatum), and the original last line of the chorus read "Contra os bretões marchar, marchar" (Against the British we march, we march!). With the success of the Republicans in ousting the monarchy and replacing them with a democratic government, "A Portuguesa" was approved as a national anthem shortly after in 1911, it is the first verse and chorus that is usually presented as the anthem.

In 1956, there were a number of variations of the anthem, not just in its melodic line but also in the instrumentation. Recognizing this, the government named a commission charged with determining the official version of "A Portuguesa." This commission prepared a proposal which, approved by the Council of Ministers on 16 July 1957, remains in effect to this day.

Alfredo Cristiano Keil, born in Lisbon, 3 July 1850, was a Portuguese romantic composer and painter. Son of Johann Christian Keil and Maria Josefina Stellflug, Alfredo was of German origin. Aside from being a composer, he was also considered the last important Portuguese painter in the romantic style. He studied in Munich and Nuremberg with the German romantic painters Kaulbach and von Kreling. Returning to Portugal, where he continued his studies, he became a well known romantic painter, being also the contemporary of the naturalist generation, with his melancholic intimate scenes and landscapes.

As a composer, he gained prominence with his operas "D. Branca" (1883), "Irene" (1893) and "Serrana" (1899), then considered the best Portuguese opera. He composed the music of "A Portuguesa", the Portuguese national anthem, in 1891, with lyrics by poet and playwright Henrique Lopes de Mendonça; it was adopted in 1911, after the proclamation of the Republic the previous year. Ironically, he had died in Hamburg on 4 October 1907, exactly three years before the first day of the Revolution.

The National Anthem of Pakistan

"Pak Sarzamin Shad Bad" or "Blessed be the Sacred Land" is Pakistan's National Anthem. A committee to select a national anthem for Pakistan was formed a year after independence in December 1948. A member of the committee, Ahmed Ghulamali Chagla, was asked to produce a composition. Mr. Chagla's background in music involves study in both western and eastern music, and characteristics of eastern music can be found in the anthem.

After some "test runs" which included performances for the Prime Minister, for a visiting head of state, for the Prime Minister's visit to the United States, and finally for the committee itself. It was then approved by the anthem committee in August 1950 and gained official recognition in December 1953. The words were composed by another member of the committee, Abu-Al-Asar Hafeez Jullandhuri, and officially approved in August 1954.

Ahmed Ghulamali Chagla was the musician who wrote the score for the national anthem of Pakistan in 1950. He was born in May 1902 into a prominent Karachi family. His father, Ghulamali Chagla was the third elected president of the municipality of Karachi, serving from 1921 to 1922. Ahmad Chagla attended the Sindh Madrassat-ul-Islam in Karachi and took lessons in classical Indian music in 1910 and western musical composition in 1914.

In 1948, Chagla was a member of the National Anthem Committee (NAC) of Pakistan, which had the task of creating a new national anthem to replace the earlier one written by Jagannath Azad. The impending state visit to Pakistan by the Shah of Iran in 1950, created an impetus for a national anthem to be ready with or without lyrics. The NAC examined several different tunes and selected a tune presented by Chagla which was submitted it for formal approval. Chagla then produced the musical composition in collaboration with another committee member and assisted by the Pakistan Navy band.

Unfortunately Chagla died in 1953, before the national anthem was officially adopted in 1954. His contribution to the national anthem was recognised by the government of Pakistan in 1996, when he was posthumously awarded the "President's Pride of Performance award", which was presented to his family on March 23, 1997.

Chagla was also an author, journalist, and writer, with most of his articles written prior to the partition of India in 1947. His works included a series of articles on classical Urdu poets such as Mirza Ghalib and Allama Iqbal and an article on the Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Latif, which appeared in the Illustrated Weekly of India in December 1937. He also composed music for a number of Urdu, Gujarati, Sindhi and English plays, and composed music on eastern and western instruments for various films.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Allure of Hangzhou, China

Hangzhou is a sub-provincial city located in the Yangtze River delta in the People's Republic of China. Located 180 kms south west of Shanghai, it has a registered population of 6.4 million people. As one of the most renowned and prosperous city of China for the last 1000 years, Hangzhou is also well known for its beautiful natural scenery.
It is one of the seven ancient capitals of China and the harmonic blend of the old and modern is impressive. I was captivated by the natural beauty of the West Lake, where I was treated to a unique visual cornucopia of dance and theater. It was something I had never witnessed before, and although similar to Singapore's "seaside spectacle", this one was truly unique. I am referring to the West Lake theatrical presentation. The whole 6 square kilometer lake was the stage, and the characters, a cast of hundreds, either walked, danced or flew on the lake or on objects on the lake. It portrayed important events in China's elaborate history and, even without dialogue, the story was effectively conveyed. The interplay of lights and sounds were stunning and the coolness of the night added to the chill in the spine one feels when something heavenly is experienced. A night forever etched in memory...what a spectacle!

China's anthem, written in 1935, was adopted when the communists took power in 1948. The anthem was also the theme song of the film, Sons and Daughters in a Time of Storm, which tells the story of those who went to the front to fight the Japanese invaders in Northeast China in the 1930's. The "March of the Volunteers", composed by Nie Er and written by Tian Han, gave voice to the Chinese peoples determination to sacrifice for national liberation, expressing China's admirable tradition of courage, resolution and unity in fighting foreign aggression.

During the Cultural Revolution, the anthem was forbidden to be sung and, Tian Han, the lyric writer was imprisoned. The song "East is Red" became the de Facto anthem. In 1978, after Mao's death, the "March of the Volunteers" was restored as anthem, but with different words, which mention Mao and the Party. The original lyrics was restored in 1982.

The National Anthem of Chile

Chile's first national anthem, commisioned by the government in 1819, was composed by Manuel Robles and written by Bernardo de Vera y Pintado and was first performed the following year. Falling into unpopularity by 1828, the government requested that Ramon Carnicer compose new music for the anthem, using Bernardo de Veras's text. Then in 1847, the government ordered the young poet Eusebio Lilio to write a new text to Carnicer's melody, to replace the old lyrics of de Vera Pintado, which contained violent references against Spain. While Lilio wrote new lyrics, he kept the chorus from the original anthem. Today, the chorus and fifth verse of Lilio's poem make up the official National Anthem of Chile.

Following the coup d' etat by Augusto Pinochet in 1973, the military junta dictated that two verses would be used along with the chorus, the fifth verse retained, and the third verse, which extolled Chile's army, was then added as the official second verse. When democracy was restored in 1990, the government removed the military verse and restored the anthem as it was before the coup. Today, supporters of the past military government still sing the third verse.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Malay Heritage Center Commemorative Stamp

To commemorate the official opening of the Malay Heritage Center on 31 May 2005, Singapore Post issued a set of four stamps depicting elements of the rich Malay heritage.

Despite its rapid modernization and economic advancement, the Singapore Government places great importance on the preservation and appreciation of the country's cultural roots and ethnic identities. A visitor in Singapore will always be impressed with the harmonious conglomeration of ethnic Chinese, Malay and Hindu races, and the blitzing development which catapulted Singapore to first world status in a generation. The heritage has been successful in its role in creating a sense of belonging to the nation.

Featured in the 60 cents and 2$ stamp are the original music score of "Majulah Singapura", Singapore's National Anthem by Malay composer Zubir Said, and the replica of the Bugis Prahu, a shipping vessel used by Malay fishermen in the past. The grace and beauty of Malay performing arts are captured in the 1$ stamp.

Ludwig van Beethoven- The Only Anthem Composer Japan Honored with a Stamp

You heard it- not Hayashi Hiromori, Japan's national anthem composer, but Ludwig van Beethoven, the aurally-challenged musical genius from Germany. While in Osaka, I ask our tourist guide, Hirumi, if their national anthem or composer was featured in a stamp, and the answer was a blatant no. This really baffled me. Japan, with their fervent patriotism and "Kimigayo", supposedly the oldest anthem in the world composed during the 10th century- and not one single stamp to honor it. Which led me to think.... of a joke. What's hard and long and stinks all over? Beethoven's last movement..ha ha ha. Sorry idol, just a joke. Incidentally, Japan is an anally obsessed nation. You'll never find any country in the world with citizens obsessed with their toilets. There's a toilet with warmed pads, sound-proof toilets and a toilet that sings the national anthem- you have to stand up when you're doing your thing...yeah really?!

Hayashi Hiromori wrote the music to their anthem, but it is not known who wrote the lyrics. They first appeared in a Kokinshu, a collection of ancient and modern poems dating from the tenth century. From very early times, the poem was recited to commemorate auspicious occasions and at banquets celebrating important events. The anthem was first performed in the imperial palace on the Meiji Emperors birthday on November 3, 1880.
The Japan trip was truly a learning experienced-I learned to sing a Japanese song and I learned to count in Japanese....I wasn't able to eat a single raw thing there though, which I do weekly here at home. Hmm..ironic?

The Philippine Anthem Brouhaha

Brouhaha -"A confused disturbance far greater than its cause merits". The outburst of sentiments caused by balladeer, Martin Nievera's vocal rendition of the Philippine national anthem during the Pacquiao-Hatton boxing match in Las Vegas last May 3, 2009, is unnecessary. It stems from the National Historical Institute's (NHI) claim that the singer broke the law by altering the patriotic song's interpretation which should be based on Julian Felipe's original score. On a personal note, one should not be punished for singing the national anthem with pride and from the heart- which Mr. Nievera did. Unlike the visual arts, music is a dynamic art and subject to various interpretations depending on the emotion of its interpreter. I believe this law should be revised. To avoid this incident, the Pacman is volunteering to sing the National Anthem in the next fight.

Julian Felipe was born in Cavite City, Cavite on July 28, 1861. A dedicated music teacher and composer, he was appointed by Emilio Aguinaldo (a general and politician who became the first president of the RP), as director of the National Band of the First Philippine Republic. He died in Manila on October 2, 1944. A bust of Felipe can be seen in Cavity City and Makati City (where the photo above was taken).

Julian Felipe was featured in Philippine stamps twice, the first on July 26, 1972 as a definitive stamp as part of the Revolutionary Heroes Series II. The second was on September 3,1999, as a commemorative issue of the Centennial of the National Anthem. In this issue, he was featured together with Jose Palma, the anthem's lyricist.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The National Anthem of Indonesia

"Indonesia Raya", Indonesia's national anthem, first appeared as a Nationalist Party song in 1928 and published in "Sin Po", a weekly Chinese-Indonesian newspaper of that same year. The Party was working for Indonesian independence from Netherlands. The anthem composer, Wage Rudolph Soepratman, introduced the song in a youth convention in Batavia (now Jakarta), to support the idea of a united Indonesia. Under Dutch colonial rule, the anthem was forbidden to be sung, and after a successful independence declaration in 1945, the song was adopted as the national anthem.

This miniature sheet featuring the national anthem was issued on October 2008 in Jakarta to commemorate the country's hosting of the 22nd Asian International Stamp Exhibition.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Singapore Philatelic Museum Visit

My first visit to the Singapore Philatelic Museum was a truly memorable experience. This museum- Southeast-Asia's first and only philatelic museum- is located in 23-B Coleman St., Singapore was formerly part of an Anglo-Chinese School completed in 1904. In 1970's the building became a Methodist Book Room until it was restored to become the present museum. This museum opened in 19 August 1995 to promote interest in and the appreciation of Singapore's philatelic history. Besides the permanent galleries, the themed galleries offer a host of themed exhibitions throughout the year. In one of these galleries, an exhibit featuring old postcards of Singapore were shown (That's me with a panoramic postcard of old Singapore at the bottom most picture).

Displays from private collections of renowned philatelist, travelling exhibitions and themed exhibtions to commemorate new stamp issues are also shown. The also have a stamp shop where I was able to buy the special commemorative booklet issues of The Singapore Story, Malay Heritage Issue and the 30th Singapore Independence Anniversary Issue (These all featured the Singapore National Anthem).

All of the Republic of Singapore stamp issues are available for everyone to see. Also on display are German forgery of a British stamp printed during world war II which intentionally has a printing error mocking King George VI.

The Singapore Story

This exhibition souvenir sheet contains a set of four stamps from The Singapore Story issue. This special folder is released in conjunction with Singpex '98 which was held at the Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Center from 23 to 26 July 1998.

The stamps depict some of the defining moments in Singapore's history. The stamps feature images from the turbulent years of riots and rallies before the 1955 and 1959 elections, the triumph of self-government, the merger and separation from Malaysia and finally the celebration of independence of a multi-racial nation.

The national anthem notes was featured on the 60 cent stamp and some parts of the anthem lyrics and notation on the 1 $ stamp. The anthem composer and author, Zubir Said, had written it on the basis of two words, "Majulah Singapura" or "Onward Singapore". The patriotic song was first performed on 3 December 1959 at the installation of the new head of state and introduction of the state flag. The anthem was used as a state song within Malaysia, of which it was a part, and was adopted as the national anthem in 1965 upon independence.

The Czechoslovakian Anthem -The Most Expensive Anthem Stamp Sheet

This is a must have for a complete anthem stamp collection. These artistically designed sheets commemorate the centennial of the composing of what later became the national anthem of the Czechoslovak Republic. The title of the anthem, "KDE DOMUV MÙJ?", is translated, "Where Is My Home?"

These are one of the most expensive anthem stamps in existence with market prices ranging from 100-500 Euros. They were printed in very limited quantities: only 12,900 of the 1k sheets and 9,600 of the 2k sheets. Because of their great demand, forgeries are not uncommon.

Kde domov můj? (Where is my home?) was written by the composer František Škroup and the playwright Josef Kajetán Tyl as a part of the incidental music to the comedy Fidlovačka aneb Žádný hněv a žádná rvačka (Fidlovačka, or No Anger and No Brawl). It was performed for the first time in the Stavovské divadlo (Estates Theatre) in Prague on December 21, 1834. The original song consists of two strophes . Although J. K. Tyl is said to had considered leaving the song out of the play, not convinced of its quality, it soon became very popular among Czechs and was accepted as an informal anthem of a nation willing to revive its identity within the Habsburg Empire.

Soon after Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, the first strophe of the song became the Czech part of the national anthem, followed by the first strophe of the Slovak song Nad Tatrou sa blýska. The split of Czechoslovakia in 1992 divided also the Czechoslovak anthem. While Slovaks have extended their anthem adding a second strophe, the Czech Republic's national anthem has been legally adopted unextended, in its single-strophe version.

A Unique Anthem Stamp

This stamp from Bhutan is actually an self-adhesive stamp shaped like a record and is playable. When place on a turntable it plays the Bhutanese National Anthem. I bought one from Canada at Ebay 3 years ago. Stamps in mint condition are hard to acquire and are quite expensive. The whole collection consist of 7 embossed record stamps of varying colors and designs.

Druk Tsendhen ("The Thunder Dragon Kingdom") is the national anthem of Bhutan.

Adopted in 1953, the music is by Aku Tongmi and the words are by Dasho Gyaldun Thinley. Tongmi was educated in India and was recently appointed leader of the military brass band when the need for an anthem rose at the occasion of a state visit from prime minister Nehru of India. His original score was inspired by the Indian and British anthems, as well as the Bhutanese folk tune Thri nyampa med pa pemai thri ("The Unchanging Lotus Throne"). The melody has twice undergone changes by Mr Tongmi's successors as band leaders.

The original lyrics were 12 lines, but was shortened to the present 6 lines version in 1964 by a secretary to the king. As the anthem is inspired by a folk tune, there is a choreography to it as well, originally directed by Mr. Tongmi.

These record stamps which plays the national anthem were issued in 1973.