TRADITIONAL MUSIC, POP MUSIC AND DANCE IN MALAYSIA

MUSIC IN MALAYSIA

Malaysia's multi-cultural and multi-racial heritage is most prominently exhibited in its diverse music and dance forms. Middle Eastern music is popular with Muslim Malays. Malay music is influenced by Islamic prayers and Middle Eastern and Arab music as well as music from Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Europe. Traditional Islamic-style music endures mainly in Kelantan. Most Malays like pan-Asian pop.

Ingo Stoevesandt wrote in his website on Southeast Asia music: “Like in Indonesia we face an interesting culmination of cultures in Malaysia: Several forms of musical experience get mingled as it is the Gamelan ensemble combined with traditional instruments of the Arabian peninsula or the call of the Muezin sharing the plucks of the flat indigenous sape guitar.[Source: Ingo Stoevesandt from his website on Southeast Asia music *-*]

“The range of living music in Malaysia is diverse, it seems as diverse as the different forms of life that the Malaysian people live right beside each other, with well grown modern cities next to stoneage nomads. We meet Western symphonic orchestras right beside Gamelan ensembles, the classical pianist as well as the Keroncong artist, a Chinese orchestra as well as the irritating and fascinating sounds of the divers ethnic groups called Orang Asli. *-*

“Religious music is an important part of traditional and actual Malayian music. Islam shows generosity to the indigenous music by supporting and developing local art forms, not without infiltrating it with own instruments like the lute “Oud” or their own musical theory. Right beside each other we find the Buddhist temple next to mosques and hear the singing and chants of the monks. Traveling outside of the bigger cities, folkloristic music dominates the rural scene, where we hear lullabies and working songs. The vocal tradition is in the center of the folkloristic music, instrumental pieces are more seldom. *-*

“Today, Malaysia’s strong economic situation involves the increasing numbers of Western visitors, tourists as well as traders and investors. Cities like Kuala Lumpur offer a wide range of Western amusements, including the joy of opera and theater, symphonic concerts as well as chamber music, modern Rock concerts as well as Techno parties. *-*

Traditional Malaysian Musical Instruments

Instruments used in traditional Malay music include the rebab (an Arab-style fiddle), gendang (an Arab-style doubled headed drum), rebana (an Arab-style frame drum), Chinese-style tawak gongs, the harmonium from India and Western-style violins. The tong is a Kayan instrument similar to a Jew’s harp.

Malaysia has two traditional orchestras: the gamelan and the nobat. Originally from Indonesia, the gamelan is a traditional orchestra that plays ethereal lilting melodies using an ensemble of gongpercussion and stringed instruments. The nobat is a royal orchestra that plays more solemn music for the courts using serunai and nafiriwind instruments.

Rebana Ubi: In the days of the ancient Malay kingdoms, the resounding rhythmic beats of the giant rebana ubi drums conveyed various messages from warnings of danger to wedding announcements. Later, they were used as musical instruments in an assortment of social performances. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Kompang: Arguably the most popular Malay traditional instrument, the kompangis widely used in a variety of social occasions such as the National Day parades, official functions and weddings. Similar to the tambourine but without the jingling metal discs, this hand drum is most commonly played in large ensembles, where various rhythmic composite patterns are produced by overlapping multiple layers of different rhythms.

Gambus: Brought to Malaysia by Persian and Middle Eastern traders, the gambus or Arabian oud is played in a variety of styles in Malay folk music, primarily as the lead instrument in Ghazal music. Carefully crafted with combinations of different woods, this instrument produces a gentle tone that is similar to that of the harpsichord.

Sape: The sape is the traditional flute of the Orang Ulu community or upriver people of Sarawak. A woodcarving masterpiece with colourful motifs, the sape is made by hollowing a length of wood. Once played solely during healing ceremonies within longhouses, it gradually became a social instrument of entertainment. Typically, its thematic music is used to accompany dances such as the Ngajat and Datun Julud.

Some of the smaller sultanate courts still have their own gamelan-like, percussion-dominated musical traditions and court dances such as the solemn yet sensual ayak-ayak dance. Performances are, however, at present extremely rare, being mainly restricted to court festivities such as royal marriages or the sultan’s birthday. As mentioned in connection with mak yong, no recordings of these unique traditions seem to be available.

Nose Flutes of Sarawak

The indigenous people of Sarawak in Malaysia use a nose-flute called a silingut, on which music is performed for personal amusement. According to flutefocus.com: “Similar to other cultures’ ideas concerning nose breath, the indigenous Sarawak people attached significant importance to nose breath, meaning that that type of breath is supernatural, mysterious, and possesses spiritual importance. They played the nose-flute in accompaniment to various ceremonies like funerals for which they used the instrument to communicate with those who have passed on. Similar in function to the Native American flute, the nose-flute among the Sarawak was employed in a courting context, as a means of communication between people in love. [Source: flutefocus.com +++]

“Nose-flutes are utilized by many cultures throughout the world. There are numerous types of nose-flutes: globular, tubular, transverse, and end-blown. Sound is produced by blowing into the sound-producing opening on the flute by way of the nostril, rather than through the mouth. The player closes off one nostril and uses the open nostril to blow air through the flute. Among the cultures of Malaya and Borneo, the player would obstruct one nostril with a piece of textile or a wad of tobacco. +++

“Usually, however, early peoples played flutes using the mouth as it is more efficient than using the breath from one nostril. Those who played the flute via the nostril did so for specific reasons. There are several theories surrounding why the flute is played with the nostril instead of the mouth. Among Polynesian and Melanesian peoples, the breath as it comes out of the nose is said to possess the person’s soul. Therefore, the breath that is emitted from the nose has more supernatural intensity, energy, and significance than that coming from the mouth. +++

Pantum, Ghazal and Other Styles of Traditional Malaysian Music

Traditional forms of Malay music include nobat (court music), asli (folk music), zikar birat (Sufi-style Bahasa Malay chants performed to percussion), and rebana (a style of group drumming with long drums performed at weddings (this one seems to have disappeared). Dangbut is a strongly percussive dance music popular in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Pantum is centuries-old style duet singing sometimes done capella sometimes accompanied by drumming. It developed out of Islamic devotional singing in which passages of the Koran were sung. It is said that a Malay pantoum is an elaborately structured as a sonata. These days pantum has become quite commercialized. It is used in advertisements and in comic routines on televisions. [Sources: Rough Guide to World Music]

Ghazal is a style of a Malay music known for it mournful singing. Often accompanied by guitar or electric keyboard and drumming, it is often performed by blind musicians on the streets. Popular ghazal singers include Kamariah Noor and Hamzah Dolamat.

Dondang Sayang is a sort of Malay music with a lot drumming, rhythm changes and classical duet sings played with non-Malay instruments such as the Indian tabla, harmonium, gendang, violin and oud

Rongeng is a style of popular folk music from Malacca. Played with the rebab, fiddle and brass gong, it has been described as Southeast Asian gypsy music. The singing is often slow and ballad style. It is accompanied by the joget dance. Zapin is a style of accordion-based Malay music.

Nobat (The Royal Ochestra)

The word 'nobat' originated from the Persian word 'naubat' which means nine types of instruments. The Nobat is the royal orchestra which has been used for centuries in the Malay States especially during installation ceremonies. Among the musical instruments of the Nobat are the Gendang (drum), Nafiri (long clarinet), Serunai (flute) and a Gong. The Malay States which have a Nobat are: Perak, Kedah, Selangor and Terengganu. [Source: malaysianmonarchy.org ]

The Nobat of the State of Perak consists of the following: 1) Gendang Nobat (Nobat drum), is commonly known as Gendang Nyenyalu; 2) Nafiri, a long clarinet is played at the start of a song as the introductionl 3) Gendang Nenghara, a drum carries the melody; 4) Serunai, a flute which accompanies the song; and 5) Gendang Penengkah, a drum brings rhythm to the song.

Among the musical instruments mentioned above, the Gendang Nobat is the most highly regarded instrument. It is given an exalted place and used only for royal purposes. However, HRH the Sultan may order the use of the Nobat in any ceremony or in a funeral. The level of respect enjoyed by the Nobat depends on the number of instruments used. As for the Royal Nobat of Perak, only five out of nine instruments are used in a ceremony.

Members of the Nobat orchestra consist of people from certain families only called the Kalur people. In the past, the Nobat Hall was fenced with cock feathers and any one caught trespassing the area will be punished. The head of the Nobat and his assistant are given the titles Toh Setia Guna and Toh Setia Indera respectively.

Nobat of Perak State

According to the customs of the State of Perak, no Sultan is considered sovereign until he is installed accompanied with the sounds of the Nobat. Customs dictate that the frame of these drums be made of Jerun heartwood, and their covers made of Kulit Tumur. Now however, their frames are made of hardwood while their covers are made of goat skin. [Source: malaysianmonarchy.org ]

The Nobat group plays the following Nobat songs: 1) Raja Berangkat (Gendang Berangkat); 2) Puteri Mandi Mayang; 3) Rama-rama Terbang Tinggi; 4) Kumbang Si Kumali (Kumbang Kembali); 5) Arak-arak Atandis (Enteals) (Arak-arak Untandai); 6) Aleh-aleh Panjang; 7) Aleh-aleh Pandak; 8) Dang Gendang; 9) Lenggang Che Kobat; 10) Jong Ber-aleh; 11) Anak Raja Membasuh Kaki; 12) Gendang Perang; 13) Nobat Tabal; 14) Nobat Raja; 15) Nobat Khamis; and 16) Nobat Suboh.

The Royal Nobat of the State of Perak Are Played on the Following Occasions: 1) Private occassions of HRH the Sultan of Perak; 2) During the installation of Their Royal Highnesses the Sultan and Raja Permaisuri of Perak; 3) the birthday of HRH the Sultan of Perak; 4) weddings or circumcision ceremonies of the princes and princesses; 5) Procession for Air Bersiram Tabal and Berlimau Besar (subject to the order of HRH); 6) the traditional customs of Menjunjung Duli; 7) When HRH the Sultan of Perak departs to visit foreign countries (subject to the order of HRH); the funeral of HRH the Sultan or Raja Permaisuri of Perak to the royal mausoleum; 8) Royal state ceremonies held during the visits of other rulers to the state of Perak; 8) Welcoming the fasting month of Ramadan – three consecutive nights, i.e. 28th, 29th and 30th of Syaaban every year; 9) On the evening of 24th Ramadan, to welcome the night of the 25th of Ramadan and the evening of 26th Ramadan until the evening of the Eid Al-Fitr; 10) When HRH the Sultan performs the bersiram rituals on Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha mornings; 11) On three consecutive evenings, i.e. 7th, 8th, 9th of Zulhijjah to welcome Eid Al-Adha; 12) Upon the arrival of HRH the Sultan of Perak at the mosque to perform the Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha prayers, and upon his departure.

During the installation of His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, three Nobat songs are played namely, Raja Berangkat song which is played upon the arrival of Their Majesties at the Throne Room; Palu song when the regalia of installation are brought into the Throne Room; Raja Bertabal song after His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has read the document of the Royal Oath of Office; and Raja Berangkat song again when Their Majesties leave the Throne Room.

More on Norbat from Other States, See Separate Article CEREMONIES AND ETIQUETTE INVOLVING THE KING AND SULTANS OF MALAYSIA

Music of the Orang Asli

Ingo Stoevesandt wrote in his website on Southeast Asia music: “The term Orang Asli means something like the “original people” and is a collective term for all indigenous ethnic groups of Malaysia, separated into the official three “groups” Senoi, Negrito and Proto-Malay. In fact, 18 ethnic group are pressed into one collective term, and their cultural appearance is quite diverse.[Source: Ingo Stoevesandt from his website on Southeast Asia music *-*]

“Among the Orang Asli music, the Temiar music has become mostly recognized as “healing music” worldwide, but the reasons are questionable, because this “dream music” is often used and sold from the “New Age”and esoteric scene. It also shows a paradigm of the Orang Asli, as they still are classified as leading an “romantic existence” in the jungle, only dependent on the things which nature spends everyday, but this is far from reality, of course. *-*

“Among the Orang Asli, the “Negrito” always built an instrument to use it once and then throw it away. Their nomadic life made it impossible to carry around heavy gongs or instruments which are complex in structure and easy to break. Today, the nomadic life is over and this also regards to the appearance of Negrito musical instruments today. Besides from all “jungle stories” the shamanistic rituals found among the Orang Asli are one of the latest chances to study shamanistic traditions and philosophies. Here we find music that works as a “bridge to heaven”, with drums beating players into trance.” *-*

Pop Music, Hip Hop and Rock in Malaysia

Malay pop music began in the 1950s with P. Ramlee, a popular crooner who fused Malay donganh sayang with Cuban and Latin music and shortened classical songs and had them played with Western instruments. Other famous Malay singers include Zaleha Hamid, Sharifah Aini, Herman Tino and Sheila Majid. Roots musicians include Shequal and Zainal Abidin.

Modern Malaysian pop is influenced by pop from Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, American soft rock and other styles in Asia. The most well known Malaysia singer, Sheila Majid, who has a large following in Japan and Indonesia. The popular R&B singer Ning Baizur shocked Malaysians when she talked openly about her sexual preferences and taste in lingerie. Popular Malay group Shade sound likes an American doo-wop group from the 1950s.

In January 2006, Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council banned black metal music. It ruled that the strain of hard rock, which often uses occult imagery and lyrics, could cause listeners to rebel against religion. In a crackdown on so called metal heads, the conservative Islamic government of Kedah state arrested at least 700 teenagers said to be members of a “black metal cult” that listened to heavy metal music and allegedly desecrated the Koran, slaughtered goats and drank their blood and smoked cannabis. A government spokesman said, the arrested youths “will be given counseling in stages so they will repent and leave the group. Some of those arrested were required to take a health medicine normally taken by drug addicts.

The hip hop duo Too Phat is popular throughout Southeast Asia. They have a recording deal with the EMI Group’s Positive Tone label. The Malaysian hip hop duo Joe Flizzow and Malique are popular throughout Asia.

The largest Asian market for Japanese pop-music is Taiwan, followed by Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. These days Korean pop music (K-Pop) is very popular/

Dangdut

Dangdut is one of the most popular forms of pop music in Indonesia and Indonesian. It is a style of music that originated in the 1960s as an adaptation of Indian film music with some Arabic influences and still sounds like Indian film music today. It's name comes the rhythm played by the Indian-style tabla drum ( dang-dut-dang-dut-dang-dut-dang-dut-dang-dut-dang-dang). [Sources: Rough Guide to World Music]

Dangdut blast from taxis, bemos, cafes, markets and homes. Originally it was popular among the lower classes and associated with bars where knife fights were common. The lyrics were often about frustration and rage over the inequalities of Indonesian society. Now it is embraced by the middle and upper classes.

Dangbut is known for its sexy rhythms and emotive singing that speaks directly to Indonesians. Indonesia cultural expert Philip Yampolsky told the International Herald Tribune, dangdut "has a special power for Indonesians precisely because it is Indonesian not Western. There was a time when people symbolized their social aspirations with Western pop music. But that time has passed."

Dangdut thrives in Jakarta nightclubs attended by people from all walks of life. Describing one such place Jonathan Napack wrote in the International Herald Tribune, "The tabla drum clicks, synthesized flutes wail, a sultry woman sobs words of love. The ambience is opulent and sensual, reeking of perfume. Bollywood thrillers play on a projection television while bartenders in turbans pour beers. Men dance mostly with men, women with women."

Amelina became the self-proclaimed queen on dangdut at the age of 18. She has sold more than a half million records in Malaysia.

See Indonesia

Malaysia Pop Singers Arrested for Fighting and Exposing To Much Skin

In October 2009, Malaysian pop star Gary Chaw was arrested in Hong Kong after he was caught on film attacking a fellow singer in a furious rampage. Associated Press reported: “Gary Chaw was arrested for alleged common assault, then freed on bail while the case is investigated, police spokesman Lawrence Li said. Common assault carries a maximum penalty of one year's imprisonment in Hong Kong. [Source: AP, October 2009]

Chaw was filmed attacking Hong Kong singer Justin Lo in September outside a bar in Hong Kong's Central financial district. The footage, widely circulated online, showed him shoving Lo to the ground and kicking him. Chaw admitted to the attack at a news conference a day later, after the footage surfaced. "Justin did not try to injure me or hit back a single time. This was obviously not a fight. I lost control. I made the mistake that I feared the most," Chaw told reporters at the time. "I don't have any excuses. I don't have any reasons. I was plain wrong. I'm willing to accept full responsibility, full punishment," he said. Chaw started his career composing for stars like Hong Kong singer Aaron Kwok and Taiwanese girl band S.H.E. He released his debut album, "Blue," in 2006.

In July 2007, Malaysia’s religious police detained a female Muslim singer at a popular club, saying too much of her back was exposed by a sleeveless blouse she wore while performing. Reuters reported: “Siti Noor Idayu Abd Moin, 24, has been ordered to go before a Sharia court at Ipoh in the northern state of Perak to face charges of “revealing her body” and “promoting vice,” the New Straits Times said. “I was surprised when the officers told me this top was too revealing,” Noor Idayu said after being released from a night’s detention on a bond of 1,000 ringgit ($290). “Sometimes I wear something similar when I go out in the day. This is sexy? I don’t think so.”[Source: Reuters, July 7, 2007]

The singer was picked up along with four members of her band, and subjected to repeated breathalyser tests by officials in futile attempts to prove she had drunk liquor, the paper said. “When I passed the test, the female officers seemed disappointed and asked me to do it again,” Noor Idayu said. “I did so willingly as I knew that I did not drink. Not once in my three years of singing in clubs have I drunk liquor.” “A Muslim woman is not allowed to serve or entertain a man who is not her husband in a place where immoral activities usually take place,” Jamry Sury, chief of the Perak religious police who raided the club, told the Star newspaper.

Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin

Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin is one of the best-selling and most famous artistes in Malaysia. To date, she has garnered more than 200 local awards as well as international awards. Having been in the local music scene since the mid 1990s, Siti has recorded more than 15 albums and staged 20 big scale concerts in the country and abroad. Today, she is also an album producer, a songwriter, a TV host and an entrepreneur. [Source: Hizreen Kamal, New Strait Times, March 22, 2013 |=|]

Hizreen Kamal wrote in the New Strait Times, “She won the hearts of the public after winning a singing competition Bintang HMI in 1995. She was 16. A year later, her eponymous debut album was released. Juggling work and school at the start, she almost pulled out of Juara Lagu in 1996. But she didn’t and her song, Jerat Percintaan (composed by Adnan Abu Hassan) won Best Song, turning the fourth of eight siblings into an overnight sensation. After this, there was no stopping Siti. By 1997, she had made a remarkable breakthrough in Indonesia and became well-known in many parts of Asia. |=|

“At 19, she established Siti Nurhaliza Productions (M) Sdn Bhd which acted as the official management production to handle and manage her schedule. She also made her first and biggest appearance on the international stage during the 1998 Commonwealth Games held in Kuala Lumpur, where she shared the stage with two international stars — Celine Dion and Rod Stewart — during the closing ceremony. It was televised in 70 nations and propelled Siti into the international arena. |=|

“She received one of her first international winnings in an international singing competition when she took part in Shanghai Asia Music Festival 1999 in China and won the Gold Award for Asia New Singer Competition. In March 2000, her first concert outside the country was at Harbour Pavilion in Singapore. It outsold Mariah Carey’s Rainbow World Tour which was scheduled five days earlier, even though the most expensive ticket price was much higher than Mariah‘s. |=|

Siti took part in Voice Of Asia 2002 in Kazakhstan where she performed one of her singles from her third album, Purnama Merindu, and grabbed the Grand Prix Champion title, the ultimate prize. She became the first non-Chinese artiste to be invited to perform at the 15th Golden Melody Awards, Taiwan in 2004. And in 2005, she was dubbed The Voice Of Asia, as introduced by Alicia Keys at MTV Asia Aid in Bangkok, Thailand, due to her powerful vocals and her outstanding achievements locally and internationally. The same year, Siti held a successful solo concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. British Press compared her performance to those of Celine Dion and cited her as Asia’s Celine Dion. |=|

“On October 24, 2006, she was conferred the title Datuk after receiving the Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang award from the Sultan of Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah on his 76th birthday. She also had her own self-titled 13-episode talk show in 2011. In September the same year, she released her first English album All Your Love, produced by her stepson, Adib Khalid. |=|

Siti has collaborated with many renowned Asian artistes such as Cambodian singer Preap Sovath, and popular Indonesian acts Agnes Monica, Chrisye, Dewa 19, Gita Gutawa, Harvey Malaiholo, Krisdayanti, Marcell, Melly Goeslow, Padi, Peterpan and Rossa. Others include Taufik Batisah (Singapore), Wang Lee-Hom (Taiwan), Palmy (Thailand), Lam Trung (Vietnam) and Gareth Gates (UK) during MTV Asia Awards 2004. From 2011 and 2012, she recorded songs with Sean Kingston and Christian Alexanda from Australia, and Sami Yusuf (UK). She has also performed with Donnie Radford of The Platters last year for a charity event in support of Breast Cancer awareness. In January 2012, a documentary on her life was aired on History Channel.” |=|

Wedding Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin

It was big news in Malaysia when pop princess Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin got married in a ceremony that was broadcast on television. Associated Press reported: “Malaysia's pop icon sweetheart Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin, 27, married a businessman two decades her senior in a lavish wedding ceremony steeped in Malay tradition and broadcast live on television. Dressed in a white Malay costume with silver embroidery and encrusted with blue crystals, a veil and a tiara, Siti sat a distance away from divorcee Khalid Mohamed Jiwa while a Muslim religious leader pronounced them husband and wife. "I accept her hand in marriage, with the dowry of 22,222 ringgit ($6,061)," Khalid said, sealing the ceremony held the Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan mosque in central Kuala Lumpur, aired live on Malaysia's largest private network, TV3. [Source: AP, August 22, 2006 ^+^]

“Siti did not speak during the ceremony. Instead, a man appointed by her father stated her intent to get married. The wedding will culminate in a grand dinner reception on Aug. 28 in Kuala Lumpur and another reception in Siti's hometown in central Pahang state on Sept. 3 for family and fans. The couple's announcement of their marriage was also carried live by the network on a women's television program last month. The bride and groom's sides earlier exchanged about 16 gilded silver and gold trays of "hantaran" -- elaborate gifts like silver wedding rings and decorative items that serve as welcoming presents in Malay culture -- while representatives from both sides traded love poems and ditties. ^+^

“The pair had been the talk of the town for more than a year, but both had been tightlipped over their romance. Malaysian newspapers dedicated pages to news and features on Siti's wedding after the couple formally announced it. The wedding follows the finalization of Khalid's divorce from his first wife, Tengku Zawyah Tengku Izham. They have four children, ages 8 to 19. Siti, one of Malaysia's top-selling artists, has won numerous awards both at home and in regional competitions since she launched her career in 1996. She is a household name in Malaysia, but also has significant followings in neighboring Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. Her wedding has also generated interest in Indonesia, where the couple plans to host another reception. The reception to be held there is expected to be aired over a television station there. Details were not immediately available. ^+^

In 2013, Siti shared the stage last night with 10-time Grammy Award-winning American R&B musician, singer-songwriter and record producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds at the SapuraKencana Petroleum Malaysia Grand Prix Charity Gala 2013 at the Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. This was the second time that she performed “live” in a duet with an international star. Her first was with British star Gareth Gates at the 2004 MTV Music Award Asia in Singapore.

Siti is active on Instagram, an online photo-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as media sites including Facebook or Twitter. She has uploaded and modelled different styles of head scarves, and her fans have commented positively on them.

Devoted Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin Nurses Her Sick Husband

In late 2012, Datuk Siti Nurhaliza cancelled all her engagements to care for her husband after he injured in a bicycle accident in New Zealand. Hizreen Kamal wrote in the New Strait Times, “Everything came to a standstill for Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin in December 2012 when her husband, Datuk Seri Khalid Mohamad Jiwa (a.k.a. Datuk K), was involved in an accident while riding a bike with a friend in New Zealand. At the time, she was busy touring in Indonesia. She had other singing engagements planned for the months ahead, but nothing else mattered at that point and all she wanted was to be with her husband, who suffered a broken shoulder and arm and had to undergo multiple corrective surgeries. “Datuk K is recuperating well. He is at home and his condition has improved greatly since his operation in New Zealand. Even the doctors attending to him here said that they were happy with his progress,” said 34-year-old Siti recently. [Source: Hizreen Kamal, New Strait Times, March 22, 2013 |=|]

She said putting her career on hold was something that she had to do. “It is a wife’s duty and I don’t have to think twice about it,” she said. Siti, donning a full hijab (head cover), she was all smiles when talking about Datuk K’s improving condition. “In the beginning, he could not use his right hand much due to the injury. This limited his movements especially when eating and bathing. Of course, he was a little frustrated as he’d always been an active person,” said Siti who was recently honoured with the On-Stage Award at the recent ntv7’s Bella Awards. During this time, he had to rely on her to feed him, help him shave, make sure he took his medication and other things. |=|

“After undergoing daily physiotherapy, his arm is now stronger and he is able to do almost all the activities on his own. His spirits are up and he goes to the gym regularly to tone his muscles,” said Siti, adding that all that workout had also helped Datuk K lose some weight. It must have been a trying time for her. Not one to complain and whine (she’s known for her undefeatable spirit and iron will) she saw her break from the industry as a blessing as it allowed her to spend more quality time with Datuk K. “His well-being is my priority. So I don’t see it as a burden,” she said. But she admits that one thing she misses is going on regular dates with Datuk K.“I cannot wait for him to be well again so that we can start going out as a couple.”

Now that Datuk K has fully regained strength in his arm, they have agreed that Siti should get back to work. “My schedule will start to pack again next month,” she said. “There are Secretaries Week performances, Tahajjud Cinta charity dinner and a trip to Legoland in Johor with lucky Simplysiti users.”

Siti decided to wear the hijab on her 34th birthday in January 2013. “I had always wanted to wear a full hijab since performing the haj (pilgrimage) with my husband in 2007,” she said. She has been wearing partial head covers at official singing engagements and other events. “This (wearing a hijab) marks a new beginning for me as a Muslimah and a wife. My husband loves my new look too,” she added. When asked if she planned to come out with her own hijab line, Siti said that while the idea sounded tempting, she was still unsure. “Normally, when I have a new design idea for a head scarf, I will draw it on a piece of paper and give it to them (local fashion designer duo Rizman Ruzaini who work on her ensembles for official functions). They will then incorporate it into their designs. So I guess, we will have to see how it goes,” she added.

Dance in Malaysia

Malaysia's multi-cultural and multi-racial heritage is most prominently exhibited in its diverse music and dance forms. The dances of the indigenous Malay, Orang Asli and different ethnic peoples of Sabah and Sarawak are unique and enchanting. As the Chinese, Indians and Portuguese settled in Malaysia, the traditional dances of their homelands became a part of Malaysia's culture and heritage.[Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Makyomh and menora are traditional forms of dance theater. The Malaysian dancing that is performed at western nightclubs resembles American square dancing. Some of the smaller sultanate courts still have their own gamelan-like, percussion-dominated musical traditions and court dances such as the solemn yet sensual ayak-ayak dance. Performances are, however, at present extremely rare, being mainly restricted to court festivities such as royal marriages or the sultan’s birthday.

The Portuguese of Melaka Farapeira: The Farapeira is a fast, cheerful dance usually accompanied by guitars and tambourines, performed by couples dressed in traditional Portuguese costumes. Branyo: Favoured mainly by the older Portuguese generation, compared to the Farapeira the Branyo is a more staid dance. Male dancers dressed in cowboy-like costumes and female dancers dressed in traditional baju kebayas with batik sarongs sway to the steady rhythm of drums and violins.

Malay Dances

Malay Mak Yong: Originating from Patani in Southern Thailand, Mak Yong was conceived to entertain female royalty, queens and princesses, when their men were away at war. Combining romantic drama, dance and operatic singing, tales of the golden age of the Malay kingdoms are dramatised in enchanting performances. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Kuda Kepang is a traditional dance brought to the state of Johor by Javanese immigrants. Dramatising the tales of victorious Islamic holy wars, dancers sit astride mock horses moving to the hypnotic beats of a percussion ensemble usually consisting of drums, gongs and angklungs.

Zapin: Islamic influence on Malaysian traditional dance is perhaps most evident in Zapin, a popular dance in the state of Johor. Introduced by Muslim missionaries from the Middle East, the original dance was performed to Islamic devotional chanting to spread knowledge about the history of the Islamic civilisation.

Joget: Malaysia's most popular traditional dance, is a lively dance with an upbeat tempo. Performed by couples who combine fast, graceful movements with playful humour, the Joget has its origins in Portuguese folk dance, which was introduced to Melaka during the era of the spice trade.

Tarian Lilin Also known as Candle Dance, it is performed by women who do a delicate dance while balancing candles in small dishes. Silat: One of the oldest Malay traditions and a deadly martial art, Silat is also a danceable art form. With its flowery body movements, a Silat performance is spellbinding and intriguing.

Chinese and Indian Dances in Malaysia

Chinese Lion Dance: Usually performed during the Chinese New Year festival, Lion Dance is energetic and entertaining. According to the legend, in ancient times, the lion was the only animal that could ward off a mythological creature known as Nian that terrorised China and devoured people on the eve of the New Year. Usually requiring perfect co-ordination, elegance and nerves of steel, the dance is almost always performed to the beat of the tagu, the Chinese drum, and the clanging of cymbals. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Dragon Dance: The dragon is a mythical creature that represents supernatural power, goodness, fertility, vigilance and dignity in Chinese culture. Typically performed to usher in the Chinese New Year, the Dragon Dance is said to bring good luck and prosperity for the year to come. Usually requiring a team of over 60 people, this fantastic performance is a dazzling display of perfect co-ordination, skill and grace.

The Indian minority in Malaysia cultivates its classical dance traditions to some degree, and the South Indian bharatanatyam solo dance, for example, is now taught and also performed in Malaysia. Indian Bharata Natyam: This classical Indian dance is poetry in motion. Based on ancient Indian epics, this highly intense and dramatic dance form uses over 100 dance steps and gestures. As mastery requires many years of practice, some children begin learning the dance form at the age of five.

Bhangra is a lively folk music and dance form of the Sikh community. Originally a harvest dance, it is now part of many social celebrations such as weddings and New Year festivities. Typically centred around romantic themes with singing and dancing driven by heavy beats of the dhol, a double-barreled drum, the bhangra is engagingly entertaining.

Dances of Sabah, Sarawak and the Orang-Asli

Sabah & Sarawak Ngajat: The Warrior Dance is a traditional dance of Sarawak's Iban people. This dance is usually performed during Gawai Kenyalang or 'Hornbill Festival'. Reputedly the most fearsome of Sarawak's headhunters, the tribe's victorious warriors were traditionally celebrated in this elaborate festival. Wearing an elaborate headdress and holding an ornate long shield, the male warrior dancer performs dramatic jumps throughout this spellbinding dance. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Datun Julud: The Hornbill Dance is a traditional dance of Sarawak's Kenyah women. Created by a Kenyah prince called Nyik Selong to symbolise happiness and gratitude, it was once performed during communal celebrations that greeted warriors returning from headhunting raids or during the annual celebrations that marked the end of each rice harvest season. Performed by a solo woman dancer to the sounds of the sape, beautiful fans made out of hornbill feathers are used to represent the wings of the sacred bird.

Sumazau is a traditional dance of Sabah's Kadazan people. Usually performed at religious ceremonies and social events, it is traditionally used to honour spirits for bountiful paddy harvests, ward off evil spirits and cure illnesses. Male and female dancers perform this steady hypnotic dance with soft and slow movements imitating birds in flight.

Another highly popular and entertaining traditional dance is Bamboo Dance. Two long bamboo poles are held horizontally above the ground at ankle-height. They are clapped together to a high-tempo drumbeat. Requiring great agility, dancers are required to jump over or between the poles without getting their feet caught.

The traditional dances of the Peninsular Malaysia's Orang Asli are strongly rooted in their spiritual beliefs. Dances are commonly used by witch-doctors as rituals to communicate with the spirit world. Such dances include Genggulang of the Mahmeri tribe, Berjerom of the Jah-Hut tribe and the Sewang of the Semai and Temiar tribes.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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