The voice of his people
Article from the Sun daily by S. Indra Sathiabalan (posted on 21 Jan 2020)
THERE are several different ethnic groups that make up the Orang Asli community, each with its own unique language, culture and celebrations. In 2015, the Orang Asli community was recorded at about 0.7% of the total population of Peninsular Malaysia.
Despite their small number, its members are gradually making inroads into various fields, and even have their own voice in the mass media.
Vicky Eluq Achom, 26, is one of the several Orang Asli radio presenters working at RTM’s ASYIKfm (known as Radio 7 from 1959 to 2005), which broadcasts from 8am to 10pm daily. Segments on ASYIKfm are conducted in the Temuan, Temiar, Semai and Jakun dialects.
Vicky is one of four Semai speakers on the station, regularly hitting the airwaves on Tuesdays between 7pm to 11pm. He usually kicks off with the news and then proceeds to entertain viewers’ song requests. He also fills in for other Semai presenters when required.
When theSun caught up with Vicky recently, he said that although there are some similarities between the four languages, it is not enough for him to try his hand at speaking any of the others over the airwaves.
Vicky explained that there are two major Semai communities in Malaysia, one in Perak (where his mother hails from) and the other in Pahang (where his father comes from).
Interestingly, Vicky’s father Achom bin Luji was a presenter on Radio 7 from 1975 to 2005.
“It is like a legacy thing,” said Vicky, explaining that over a year ago, he was approached by RTM producer Kathy Bah Takoi, who was looking for someone to conduct a segment in the Semai dialect.
Vicky worked for a while in the e-commerce industry after university, but preferred to pursue a career in the arts.
Aside from his duties on ASYIKfm, Vicky also works for a graphic design company, Asli Kraf Sdn Bhd, which specialises in producing unique Orang Asli-inspired souvenirs, and regularly takes part in events to showcase his designs, which are based on his cultural background.
He was also one of three Orang Asli artists featured on Bernama TV to promote the Selangor International Indigenous Arts Festival which was held at the Botanical Gardens in Shah Alam in August last year.
What does this radio station, ASYIKfm, mean to you?
“It is a means to deliver useful information, especially those that are relevant to my community.
“It also encourages us to develop our full potential and skills without forsaking our culture.”
Do you see ASYIKfm as the voice of your people and culture?
“Yes, especially where my father is concerned. He is still remembered from his time on the radio among the members of my community.
“My father was shocked that I was given this job. He himself did not think that his legacy would continue.”
Growing up, what was it like hearing your father on the radio?
“At that time I thought my dad’s voice sounded different on radio. I only really paid attention when I started going to school.
“I even followed him to the station.”
Are most of your listeners from Perak and Pahang?
“There are [even] some from Selangor. There are also some from other ethnic groups who understand a little bit of Semai.”
More and more members of the Orang Asli community are becoming more visible these days. What has been your own experience?
“When I introduce myself as an Orang Asli, people are surprised. I was born in the city but I speak Semai at home.
“I know my roots and culture. I just look a little different from my forefathers.
“I get comments like: ‘You don’t look like an Orang Asli at all.’ It is a bit confusing sometimes. People still have their perceptions.”
What do you want to tell those who do not know about ASYIKfm?
“I just want them to know that there are many Orang Asli communities, each with their own food, culture and language.
“You may not have learned much about us in school but this [radio station] is a nice introduction to us.”
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