2. Many years ago, composer Ibu Sud wrote Nenek Moyangku Seorang Pelaut as a cheery song for children.
Growing up, I felt strange listening to this song, because I wasn’t comfortable with the sea. Afraid, even. The Indonesian word for ancestor is ‘nenek moyang’--containing the word ‘nenek’, meaning grandmother. As our idea of legacy and identity automatically becomes feminine, I wondered what Ibu Sud was trying to tell her many children as a woman songwriter.
Ibu Sud wrote over 200 songs, mainly for children, from the tail end of the Dutch occupation in Indonesia until the end of her life. Her real name was Saridjah Niung, and she was born into a seafaring family. Her father, Mohammad Niung, was a sailor of Bugis descent who lived in Java. And my grandmother was also a Bugis, a tribe in South Sulawesi well known for their distant voyages and breathtaking ship engineering.