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Geylang Serai Bazaar: Tradition That Keeps Up With The Times

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Tradition plays bigger part this year, while some stall owners combine heritage with modernity

The Geylang Serai Bazaar is back, awash with a colourful mix of Malay-Muslim tradition and contemporary food and lifestyle items.

For Mrs Lydia Matin, 26, and her husband, Mr Daniel Akil Matin, 36, tradition and modernity do not have to be separate.

Running the store Lydia Matin Apparels & Cosmetics at Marsiling Mall, the two have taken their business to the bazaar for the first time this year.

The bazaar, chockful with stalls like theirs selling the traditional baju melayu for men and the baju kurung for women, has proved a successful venture for the couple thus far.

"We are combining traditional cuttings with modern designs," said Mr Matin, who designs the clothes.

"Floral patterns and bright colours for men's clothes are things that you won't see in traditional styles."

Following controversy last year regarding the takeover of novelty or "hipster" food, the bazaar returns this year with a deliberate attempt to retain the nostalgia of Malay tradition.

Just across the Matins' stall is Baju Melayu Klasik, run by two sisters - Madam Ros, 60, and Madam Faridah, 58.

The two are no stranger to the bazaar, having sold traditional Malay clothing - since 2006 - only when the event comes around.

Said Madam Ros: "This year's bazaar is much better than previous years, with better lights and carpeting. They play the azaan (call to worship) and have places to makan. The organisers are Muslim, and they know what Muslims want."


Boasting around 500 stalls split between selling food and lifestyle items, the brightly lit marketplace features better walkways and ventilation compared with previous years.

According to main organiser Wisma Geylang Serai, food stalls are offering 60 per cent traditional food, while non-food stalls are selling 80 per cent traditional items.

This came following feedback from visitors that last year's bazaar featured too many stalls selling hipster food and not enough traditional food.

But with many stalls like the Matins' - owned by people determined to prove that contemporary and traditional do not have to clash - this year's bazaar seems to have played its cards to perfection.

Said Mr Matin: "There is definitely a demand for these modern designs. We are already selling out."