[This article was originally written by SOSCILI. To read this article in BM, click here!]
Ah yes, Hari Raya Aidilfitri is finally here! And you know what that means – food, family, festivities, froadtrips and fireworks! Ok maybe that last one is technically illegal laa, but you know what they say: what happens in the kampung, stays in the kampung (Cilisos does not condone main mercun yeah!).
And for some of you more hardcore mercun fanatics, you’d probably have heard of the ‘meriam buluh’ before, also known as the bamboo cannon. While also considered an illegal firework, it’s still a fairly common sight in kampungs during Hari Raya celebrations.
But this one kampung in Perak takes things to a whole new level, with cannons bigger and badder than any ol’ bamboo shoot.
This Perak village has been firing Hari Raya cannons since 1937
Nestled in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, Perak is this village known as Kampung Talang. This village is pretty well known for its love affair with the ‘Talang cannon’, which is brought out every year during raya nights every year since 1937.
According to Soscili’s sources, in those days, they would use bamboo that was up to two meters long, and buy about 600 grams of calcium carbide that would be used to make the thing go boom. It was cheap too; the carbite was sold to just about anyone in the village, and you can get enough with just 25 cents. The cannon would then be wrapped with a gunny sack and tied up for safety reasons.
For most of us, if you look at calcium carbide, you’d probably think that it’s a rock, and you’re kinda right in some respect. It’s normally in the form of a rock salt in room temperature. The chemical is often used in heavy industry, with its main uses being in the production of steel and acetylene, but is also commonly used in toy cannons and homemade firecrackers.
Now because this village has been firing off cannons as a yearly tradition since the 30s, the villagers have actually banded together to give their blessings to those working the cannons, and in return they promise to not go too far and endanger the villagers. And in fact, the village has apparently even gotten the relevant authorities to approve the yearly cannon fest since the 60s as well.
These days tho, Kampung Talang’s amateur cannoneers have upgraded a bit. Since the 70s, the main Talang cannons are now made with metal. These 15mm thick pipes are stronger and more durable, lasting more ‘shots’ while also producing a nicer explosion.
And as for the actual Hari Raya celebration…
The whole village comes together for a cannon party all the way til dawn
The whole party mood lights up by the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Besides the villagers, Kampung Talang usually also hosts some members of the public who are there for the show, some of them there since 10 in the morning! As for the villagers not preparing the cannons, they also sometimes get in on the act by selling foodstuff to the visiting public.
But of course, the star of the show are the cannons. There would be several teams from several different villages, all gathered in different spots around the village, with a team captain leading each group, kinda like a Hari Raya artillery battle.
“Each team member contributes to the cost of the carbides and the paints for the cannons. A team can probably go thru a 25kg box of the carbides throughout the night, with each box having roughly 25 smaller packs of carbides,” – Asri Kamil Sabden, one of the team captains, as quoted by Kosmo
By the time the show starts, each team begins to fire their cannons. One by one, each team takes turns lighting up a whole array of homemade cannons. They would also have a team member in charge of telling the other teams that they’re ready to fire using torches as a signal. This all follows a predetermined plan too. Once the cannons are lighted up, the cannon show will go on, apparently all the way til dawn.
In fact, some of the cannons might just be older than you! According to Asri, some of the cannons are using the same metal pipes bought from 1987, altho of cos they have been fully repaired la. And these guys may be amateur artillerymen, but they still make sure that everything is safe and the festival goes on without a hitch. They also close off the main stage to prevent any of the onlookers from getting too near to the cannons.
This may be perhaps one of the riskiest Hari Raya celebrations out there, but it also quite possibly one of the most thrilling. For many in Kampung Talang, they see this as part and parcel of the Raya celebrations, and the latest generation of villagers continue to take part in the Talang cannon festivities as a way of continuing the local cultures.
“The cannon firing activities during these Raya nights are one of the ways we villagers preserve the generations of tradition here in this kampung. We were raised with the sounds of the cannons going off during nightfall at Raya. Without these cannons, it just wouldn’t be Hari Raya Aidilfitri to us,” – Asri, as quoted by Kosmo