Minang’s Sound of Music & Dance
Culture consists of many aspects in each and everyone of us, whether it is represented in the form of arts, food, music & dance, heritage or even clothing. Although our little country is shared between different races, countless ethnicities that are well versed in at least 2 languages, we are still as one; that is the beauty of Malaysia. Visit your nearest Mamak shop, and you will see Malaysia right there. No matter how evolved we are today, we shouldn’t forget where we came from and who we really are on the inside. By heritage I’m a Minang woman, you wouldn’t believe me from the way I converse, but that is who I am, from Rembau, Negeri Sembilan. I’m proud to say that I’m familiar with my heritage and here to educate the public about the arts of my people. Similar to the other states in Malaysia, the Minangkabau ethnicity of Negeri Sembilan too has their version of traditional dance and music. Let’s first dive into dance shall we.
Just like ballroom dancing or any type of slow dancing, tarian Minang (Minang dance) has a certain poise and grace to it. Dancers need be synchronized with one another, creating a sort of chemistry. Unlike modern dance, each rhythm, movement and beat in the Minang dance combines into a tale, probably an old myth or perhaps a reflection of the lifestyles from another time. Some of the Minang dances consist of tarian lilin and tarian randai. In order to preserve this culture, cultural organizations would have a list of traditional bands, singers and dancers in their phone book as there is high demand for traditional festivities, cultural events and dinner-cum-cultural shows.
Tarian lilin (candle dance) is one of the most challenging dances as it involves grace, patience and synchronization.
According to tradition, this dance was performed for royal families. My mother told me she had to learn this dance back in her teens and believe it or not, she still remembers the steps today, which persona
lly is mind blowing to me as I’m stiff as a board, I can’t dance even if my life depends on it. Anyway, the candle dance consists of a group of female dancers, bearing lit candles atop saucers held in each cupped palm. This dance is meant only for women as it involves grace and poise. The dance steps involves gracefully swaying the arms whilst twisting the dancer’s body, balancing the candle in place. Sounds easy right? However there’s a catch, when this dance is performed, the dancer has to make sure that the candle doesn’t fall and stays lit.
Tarian randai is a unique form of art as it combines speech, dance, drama and martial arts. It is performed in a group, standing or seated in a circular position, led by a leader “Tukang Goreh” slowly forming into a wave pattern. At first, this pattern would resemble pencak silat but would later change into dance. The leader has the power to determine the performance’s atmosphere by literally changing the waves dynamically and aggressively. He can also shorten or lengthen the performance depending on the crowd. He’s like a traditional hype man if you ask me.
Let’s move on to music. Negeri Sembilan is the proud origin of Caklempong, Tumbuk Kalang and Bongai. Today, Caklempong is a common instrument in other traditional performances. It is a set of small and hollow kettle gongs, round in shape with a diameter of 15-17.5 cm each consisting a roundabout measured at 5cm respectively as a place to be hit using a pair of wooden sticks. The sound produces a static texture consisting of interlocking rhythms. Caklempong is usually played seated on the ground to create a more traditional vibe. FUN FACT, the caklempong is part of a ceremonial traditional orchestra “Nobat” which is limited to royal occasions, a big deal in the Supreme King’s Installation.
Tumbuk Kalang is Negeri Sembilan’s original musical instrument consisting of batang lesung (long wooden sticks) producing rhythmic sounds upon simultaneously knocking on the ground or wooden platform. History suggests that it is often played as a form of entertainment after a long day in the paddy fields. Today, Tumbuk Kalang is performed alongside gongs, accordions, the Rebana (malay tambourine) and modern instruments forming a traditional orchestra held in special events. FYI we are close to the end of today’s music lesson, but we can’t be done without talking about the bongai (traditional folk song), sung solo, duet or in a group. It can be simplified as a type of genre and beautifully delivered in the local dialect. Today, this genre of music is accompanied by violins, the Rebana, gongs and flutes. A lot of the above dances and music can be easily heard or seen in traditional Malay weddings and events. Don’t worry if you’re caught bobbing your head to the rhythms, they can be catchy.