The serene voice penetrated the wooden walls that were not tight, breaking through the darkness and silence of the night a village on the outskirts of Ranai city, Natuna Island, Riau Islands. The simple, secluded stilt house on the hillside “Laksamana” is like incense blowing smoke or the gurgling of prayer beads to communicate with the Creator. Every night, when people rushed to their beds, the house echoed the verse of poetry accompanying istighfar and various prays for forgiveness, safety, mercy, added good luck, to long life.
With sadness, Syafii Abdurrahman, the house owner, sang it while kneeling before the Almighty. In his twilight years, he appears to be more devoted to the Forgiver. Gardening, raising chickens, and occasionally treating sick neighbours are daily jobs that he seems to do perfunctory to fill his busy life and get rid of his bitter and dark memories. Compensation for the six hectares of his coconut plantation which he had evicted for the Ranai airport in 1963 which he had not received, the two hectares of his clove plantation in Sedanau (island west of Natuna), which a nobleman on the island reclaimed, and the eviction of his house on the shores of Ranai in the late 80s he slowly forgot. “My life is like a fairy tale; it makes no sense when you think about it,” he said in 1995.
Tragic, indeed, Syafii’s life. However, he also keeps the sweet story of his youth when he was lauded by his fans as the most popular performer in Mendu theatre (the folk art of Pulau Tujuh, including Natuna) in the 1950-1960s era. As the role of the God Mendu (the central character in Mendu’s theatre), he was very handsome, especially young women at that time. “Where he performs, the audience is always flooded,” said Bakar, a friend of his fellow Mendu player.