MASTER STORY TELLER
Lee Dai Sor and Ong Teh were 3 veteran storytellers who kept their listeners enthralled with their tales in Cantonese and Hokkien. They could boast of having thousands of avid listeners who, eagerly lapped up their stories by the side of their radio transmission sets. However, with the promotion of the 'Speak Mandarin Campaign', this age-old tradition of story-telling has become a vanishing trade. Their stories had to grind to a halt with the official announcement to phase out dialect programmes on 31 December 1982. Lee buried his stories with him, when he dies on 22 March 1989 at the age of 76. Now, let us take a peek at the life stories of this story-teller, Lee Dai Sor...
Lee Dai Sor was borned in Singapore in 1913. His mother died from an infection when she had a stillbirth. It was a great blow for Lee's father. He returned to China, leaving Lee Dai Sor and his brothers totally helpless. It was then the principal, Ho Kim Wu, of their school, Yeung Ching who took pity on them and provided them free education and lodging. The young Lee worked part-time in the school's bookshop while studying.
In 1931, when Lee was 17, he could no longer afford to study but to work. He had done lots of kinds of jobs and the turning point of his career came in 1938 when he joined the RTM (predecessor of RTV) as a storyteller, a post he had held for the past 50 years. His debut programme was a 15 minute slot. He then started to concentrate on telling novels but left when the Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942.
He took up other jobs during the Japanese Occupation but was asked to join the radio station after the Japanese surrended.
What are the pre-requisities of a story-teller?
Lee Dai Sor said, "One must read avidly and be equipped with a wide vocabulary. One needs to have a ready knowledge of colloquial terms and folk literature. As you tell a story, you could spice it up with a few colloquial terms. It is definitely more interesting than telling a story straightforwardly It's not easy being a story-teller as the listeners can't see us. We could only use our voices to bring the characters to life. It's not exaggerating to say that we are telling to the blind."
Even after Lee left the radio station, he often went to community centres and clan associations to continue with his story-telling.