On the surface, Selangor might look like just another typical Malaysian state located next to Kuala Lumpur that is already well developed. However, despite its progress, the ethnic groups residing in the state still hold on to diverse cultures and traditions, adding vibrancy and colour to Selangor and making it an interesting destination for travellers to discover.

In view of the ethnic diversity and richness that Selangor possesses, the state government’s Committee for Youth Development, Sports, Cultural and Entrepreneurship Development and Selangor State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN), together with Citra Ugik and Gaya Travel Magazine, collaborated in organising a four-day and three-night familiarisation programme called Rentak Selangor International 2018 from 1 until 4 March 2018, which intended to increase public awareness towards Selangor’s cultural diversity, especially the ethnic groups’ traditional performing arts.

Being the third ‘Rentak Selangor’ event held by the state government, the programme in 2018 was participated by selected media, bloggers and social media influencers not only from Malaysia and Indonesia but also South Korea and Japan to discover what Selangor has to offer, not only in terms of tourism attractions but also traditional performing arts and musical heritage.

Which Traditional Performances to Watch in Selangor?

1. Poja Dance

Poja dance

Poja dance

The Poja dance is a popular Bugis dance that symbolises the predominant local culture of Selangor.  The movements of this dance intend to revere the ruler and usually performed for the sultan during leisure. The usage of fragrant flowers symbolises the good deeds that the sultan has done for the people and the country. These days, this dance is performed not only for the pleasure of the royals but also for the public as a welcome dance.

Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494)

2. Madduppa Bosara Dance

Madduppa Bosara

Madduppa Bosara

The Bugis community in Selangor, whose ancestors originated from Sulawesi and are now assimilated with the local Malay population, are welcoming towards their guests. The Madduppa Bosara, which means ‘the act of holding trays that carry the wadah (container)’ filled with food to be served to guests. The movement of the dance resembles the traditional act of the Bugis serving food when welcoming guests to symbolise their gratitude and respect. At the end of the dance, the dancers will approach the audience, untie the bosara (tray) filled with kueh (traditional local pastries) and invite the members of the audience to savour them.

Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494)

3. Batara Dance

This dance portrays the connection between human and the Lord of all universes. It then evolved into a performance that expresses the commoners’ love and loyalty toward Ulul Amri or local ruler (king or sultan) whose role is always to safeguard the state and its people. This dance expresses the commoners’ respect and gratitude towards the ruler, befitting the ruler’s role back when he was venerated as ‘The Shadow of God’ and ‘Khalifah’ on earth.

Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494)

4. Bunga Tanjung Dance

Bunga Tanjung

Bunga Tanjung dance.

Bunga tanjung (the flower of Mimusops elangi, also known as Spanish cherry) has been recognised as the official flower of Selangor ever since the founding of the royal house of Selangor in 1700s. This flower is appreciated for its aesthetic and sentimental value. The Bunga Tanjung dance is performed by women to represent the gracefulness, politeness, gentility and preciousness of the Malay ladies, similar to the delicate, fragrant and beautiful nature of the Spanish cherry, which grows high up on the trees.

Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494)

5. Makan Sirih Dance

Since welcoming guests wholeheartedly is an integral part of the Malay culture, Makan Sirih is a Malay classical dance often performed to welcome and appreciate those who are present during an auspicious occasion. The betel leaf, which has been a significant part of Malay culture since ancient times and introduced to them by the ancient traders from the Indian subcontinent, is to be chewed with areca nut mixed with spices and even tobacco, believed to promote dental health. The dance signifies deference and respect to the guests by offering them a sheaf of sirih (betel leaf) nicely presented in tepak sirih (special betel leaf case) for chewing, which is a way for the host to strengthen bond between the guests.

Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494)

Read also: Grooving the Traditional Way: Rentak Selangor 2.0

6. Rampaian Tari Melayu Tradisi

The Rampaian Tari Melayu Tradisi combines three types of classical Malay dances that have been passed from generation to generation: zapin, joget and asli. The zapin was derived from the Arabic word zaffan, which is more focused on the movement of the feet, developed and adapted into Malay culture. The joget is believed to be influenced by the Portuguese, which is a joyful and performed during happy occasions. Tarian asli is created to suit the beat of traditional Malay songs since time immemorial.

Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494)

7. Kuda Kepang

Kuda Kepang

Kuda Kepang

Kuda Kepang (flat horse) is an all-male dance originated from Java whereby each individual dancer straddles on a flat horse made from braided strips of woven bamboo, generally colourful and decorated with bead and sequins, and painted with bright colours. Even though the initial steps of this dance portray a troop of riders riding on horses, the dancers eventually break away on their own when they go into a trance due to the mantras they chant while dancing. When these dancers are in trance, they seemed to be possessed by animal spirits like monkey, snake, elephant or bird while displaying extraordinary abilities like ripping off the thick coconut husk from the shell using their teeth and hands, climbing up high trees, chewing on flowers and even flaming cigarettes and glass shards.

Contact: Wak Rahman (+6 013 607 7025)

8. Wayang Kulit & Gamelan

The Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet play) is an ancient form of Malay theatre using lights and shadows to entertain the public through story-telling. Believed to have originated from Java since the pre-Islamic times, the Wayang Kulit is led by the Tok Dalang (main puppeteer), who competently manoeuvres the puppets to nod, speak, laugh, walk, dance and fight. Each story, though entertaining and popular among adults and children, bears its own lessons. This performance is normally accompanied by Javanese gamelan are music. The word gamelan itself means pounded upon, referring to the unique percussions that form the Javanese gamelan ensemble.

Contact: Wak Kusnan (+6 013 609 2625)

9. Urumee Melum

Urumee Melum

Urumee Melam being performed within the grounds that front the steps leading up to the Batu Caves.

The Indians are well known for their vivacity and merriment, well reflected in their traditional music and dances. Their music is often played in full blast, accompanied by infectious beats that make listeners want to jump up and join in the performance. The Urumee Melum is one of the most vibrant and essential Indian traditions in Malaysia. Its performance is widely believed to possess deep sacred power since it is associated with the ‘calling of the spirits’ during religious rituals.

Contact: Mr Vicky (+6 016 203 8390)

10. Mah Meri

Mah Meri

Mah Meri

Mah Meri is one of the 18 tribes of aboriginal people living in Peninsular Malaysia. The Mah Meri is also known as people with scales or sea gypsies because they used to live near the sea before being chased away by pirates. This tribe is famous for its expertise in crafts especially wood carvings, leaf origami and weaving. The tribe’s culture is also rich with traditional songs and dances. This tribe lives around in Carey Island in Selangor. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the members of the Mah Meri community who performing Mayin Jo’oh, a traditional dance to invite the spirits of their ancestors to join in the festivity. The programme participants were then invited us to dance together and play the traditional musical instruments like the tuntog (bamboo stampers), jule (viola), tambo (double-headed drum) and a-tawa (brass gong). The participants also tried their hands at leaf-weaving. After lunch, the participants were take to the Muyang (ancestors) house, now used as a place of worship and praying for the dead.

Contact: Puan Maznah (+6 010 252 2800)

This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 13.3. Read the magazine for free HERE.

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