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Rare Baba texts

Shakyer Sinyor Layla

Date of Publication : 1912.
Publisher : Criterion Press.
Place of Publication : Georgetown, Penang .
Pages : 111 pages

The "Shak-yer Sinyor Layla" is a Baba Malay adaptation of a famous Malay Syair known variously as the Syair Sinyor Kosta and Syair Silam Bari . The tale is a popular one, probably originating from an actual event set in the 17th century, but more noted for its simple plot and humorous characters. The age of this work is uncertain, as although the oldest existing manuscript of the Syair is dated 1806, the tale refers to Portugese/Dutch characters and could have well been composed during the Dutch or even Portugese occupation of Malacca.

The written text version of the tale however has been attributed to Sultan Badroeddin of Palembang, who was exiled by the Dutch to Ternate in 1821. He could have possibly been the first authorative figure to have set the Syair onto paper, rather than having to have had actually written the Syair per se , as the Syair has a composite usage of Malay that points it to a non-native speaker as the original author.

The main character, Sinyor Layla, is played out as a debonair Portugese/Dutch captain besotted by the beauty of Siti Layla Mayang, the Chinese concubine of a rich Chinese Merchant. Eager to have her for his own, Sinyor Layla engages the help of a matchmaker, the cunning Malay weaver , Mak Milam to aid him in his seduction. At first Layla Mayang sadly rejects Sinyor Layla, as she says her fate is bound to that of her owner, the "evil" Chinese merchant, Chaykua, a jealous and corrupt trader. Sinyor Layla refuses to accept her reasons and persuades Mak Milam, by paying her a small fortune, to change Layla Mayang's mind.

Enticed by further rewards, Mak Milam successfully changes Layla Mayang's mind and she agrees to flee with Sinyor Layla, under the condition that he rescues her immediately. Overjoyed at this news, Sinyor Layla prepares his ship for a speedy departure. Meanwhile, Chaykua extends an invitation to Sinyor Layla to attend a dinner party at his residence, being oblivious to the scandal occuring in his own house. Sinyor Layla takes the chance to get Chaykua drunk and while the merchant was thus inebriated, Sinyor Layla rescues Layla Mayang and flees to his ship and sets sail that very night.

Chaykua wakes up from his drunken stupor to discover that his concubine had fled with his guest, and in an understandable fit of rage, he angrily demanded the help of the local ruler to capture Sinyor Layla. Chaykua sails in pursuit of Sinyor Layla, and engages him in a fierce battle on the open sea. Naturally after a heated confrontation, which sees the defeat of Chaykua through the intervention of a sudden storm, Sinyor Layla and Siti Layla Mayang lives happily ever after.

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