Mai Phen Rai

Posted by : foongpc | Sunday, March 25, 2012 | Published in


Do you like to watch musicals?

One of the best musicals I have seen is not a Western musical but a musical from Singapore. It's called 'Chang & Eng The Musical' based on the real life story of conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker.

Staged in Istana Budaya KL way back in 2002, it was one of the first few musicals I have watched and remains one of the very best I have seen. It's also the longest running musical in Singapore.

Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham, this musical did not boast of any outstanding dance choreography or awesome special effects, but what impressed me was the interesting storyline, the music and the stage design.

Image courtesy of

Very briefly, the story is about Chang and Eng, the conjoined twins in 19th century Siam (now Thailand) who first gave birth to the famous term 'Siamese twins'. They were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilage. Although modern surgical techniques would have separated them easily, it was not medically possible at that time.

As such, the twins had to get on with life 'joined' together. Do you know how tough that is? When they were older, an American merchant discovered them and paid their family to take the twins to America to be shown as exhibits.

Later, the twins became American citizens, adopting Bunker as their new surname. The funny thing is, they fell in love with two sisters, Sallie and Adelaide Yates, married them and started a huge family! Can you imagine how they did that - both still joined together? A foursome perhaps? LOL!

Chang & Eng family portrait courtesy of Corbis Images

Aside from the very interesting storyline, I simply love the music! Composed by the multi-talented Ken Low, who shockingly died 2 years ago of complications from pneumonia at the age of 49, (read the news HERE), the music was so addictive and enjoyable. I even bought myself a CD after watching the musical!

The artists who played the major characters in the musical also did very well. Kudos must be given to the two actors who played the conjoined twins in the KL musical - Singaporean Robin Goh and Filipino-Australian RJ Rosales. By the way, RJ Rosales passed away mysteriously last December (I was totally shocked and devastated!) at the age of just 37. Read about it HERE.

Famous Singaporean celebrity Selena Tan did well as Nok, the mother of the twins although I thought her voice was not powerful enough. And who could forget the Midwife Of the West played to perfection by our very own Adibah Noor?

Anyway, one of the songs I love from this musical is Mai Phen Rai, sung by Selena Tan. It was touching, yet inspiring. It was sung during a scene when the twins were about to leave America, and they were fearful of leaving their mother behind. Here's the music taken from YouTube. (Lyrics provided below)

All this time, now our lives have been difficult,
Lord did you intend it this way?
My little sons, they did not ask to be born this way,
But if it's what you wish for me,
Please give me strength,
I'll hope and pray,
I'll love them more each and everyday...

Please don't cry, don't be sad,
Leave your tears behind,
Take your fears and throw them all away,
I can see, what you hide from me,
When you feel that no one's ever on your side.

Mai Phen Rai, means never mind my dear,
When you feel alone and lost and cold inside,
Mai Phen Rai, remember this my dear,
That my love will always be here by your side.

They might say you're different,
They might say you're strange,
But in my eyes I can see that you are special,
People are all different, they're fat or thin or tall,
It's what you have inside that matters most of all.

Mai Phen Rai, means never mind my dear,
You must look beyond search for one's better side,
Mai Phen Rai, will make it easier,
Just remember you are special in my eyes.

Mai Phen Rai, means never mind my dear,
When you feel alone and lost and cold inside,
Mai Phen Rai, remember this my dear,
That my love will always be here by your side.

Ooh.....Mai Phen Rai.

How do you like this song? It almost brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it. So touching coming from a mother to her sons. Of course, only Asians would understand this. I doubt the idea of the sons leaving the mother would touch a majority of Westerners - and probably that would explain why this musical would do well only in Asia.

I have been listening to this song a few times recently and one fine afternoon, decided to play it on the piano. So, here's the my piano version of Mai Phen Rai. As usual, please excuse the minor slips.

Hope you like it! : )

Music by Ken Low
Piano arrangement by Foong PC
This recording is copyrighted.