Guest Lecture at UM to Outline Singapore Poem that Contradicts Historical Record

September 10, 2018

MISSOULA – An escalation in colonial policy in Singapore in the 1860s constrained non-European culture, but a recently discovered poem tells a different story.

University of Alberta Assistant Professor Julia Byl will share the unconventional historical record in her presentation “Confiscate Their Turbans Immediately! Music, Muharram and the Paracolonial in a Poem from Singapore (1864)” from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, in Liberal Arts Building Room 011 at the University of Montana. The talk is free and open to the public.

In 1865, a legal rationale was given that the Muslim procession of Murharram was shut down due to riots and “conspiracy” amongst its celebrants. Court proceedings were exhaustively covered in the newspapers.

The poem “Syair Tabut” by Malay poet Encik Ali invites readers to re-evaluate processions and policies of colonial Singapore. He describes the procession’s music and communal interaction even as he accuses the British of misdeeds.

Byl earned her doctorate degree in ethnomusicology at the University of Michigan and she was a postdoctoral Fellow at Kings College and Mellon Fellow at St. Olaf’s College. Her first book, “Antiphonal Histories: Resonant Pasts in the Toba Musical Present,” traces global influences on the musical traditions of Toba Batak peoples of Sumatra.

The talk is co-sponsored by the UM South and Southeast Asian Studies Program, Office of the Provost, Department of History and Department of Anthropology.


Contact: G.G. Weix, professor, UM College of Humanities and Sciences, 406-529-7191,