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The Vibrant Musical Culture of Malaysia: The Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions (SOAS Musicology Series 15)




The Music of Malaysia: The Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions (SOAS Musicology Series 15)




Introduction




Malaysia is a country with a rich and diverse musical heritage. Its music reflects its multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious society, as well as its historical and geographical connections with other regions and cultures. Malaysia's music can be broadly categorized into three main traditions: classical, folk and syncretic. Each tradition has its own origins, characteristics, instruments, genres and styles, but they also share some common elements and influences.




The Music Of Malaysia The Classical Folk And Syncretic Traditions SOAS Musicology Series 15



This book aims to provide a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the music of Malaysia, covering its history, theory, practice and context. It draws on various sources, such as historical documents, oral accounts, musical analysis, ethnographic observation and personal experience. It also uses a comparative approach, highlighting the similarities and differences between the musical traditions of Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia and beyond.


In this chapter, we will briefly introduce the main genres and styles of Malaysian music, as well as the sources and methods of this book. In the following chapters, we will explore each musical tradition in more detail, examining its origins, characteristics, instruments, genres, performance practices, transmission modes, social functions, cultural meanings and contemporary developments.


The Classical Traditions




The classical traditions of Malaysia refer to the music that originated from or was influenced by the courtly cultures of Malay kingdoms. Malay classical music is mainly found in Peninsular Malaysia (also known as West Malaysia), where it developed from the 15th century onwards under the patronage of Malay sultans. Malay classical music is characterized by its refined aesthetics, complex structures, sophisticated techniques and formal etiquette. It is performed by trained musicians who follow strict rules and conventions.


Malay classical music can be divided into two main categories: vocal-instrumental (muzik vokal-instrumental) and instrumental (muzik instrumental). Vocal-instrumental music consists of songs accompanied by various instruments, such as drums (gendang), gongs (gong), flutes (seruling), lutes (gambus) and zithers (kecapi). Some examples of vocal-instrumental genres are asli (a lyrical song form), ghazal (a poetic song form influenced by Arabic culture), zapin (a dance song form influenced by Middle Eastern culture) and dondang sayang (a love song form influenced by Portuguese culture).


Instrumental music consists of instrumental ensembles that play without vocal accompaniment. Some examples of instrumental genres are nobat (a ceremonial ensemble of drums, gongs and oboes), gamelan (a percussive ensemble of gongs, metallophones and drums influenced by Javanese culture), caklempong (a percussive ensemble of small gongs influenced by Minangkabau culture) and rebana ubi (a drum ensemble influenced by Indian culture).


Malay classical music has undergone various changes and adaptations over time, due to historical events, political shifts, social movements and cultural influences. Some of the factors that have affected Malay classical music are the colonial rule of the Portuguese, Dutch and British, the emergence of nationalism and modernization, the rise of Islamization and globalization, and the development of mass media and technology. Malay classical music has also interacted with other musical traditions, such as Chinese, Indian, Thai and Indonesian music.


The Folk Traditions




The folk traditions of Malaysia refer to the music that originated from or was influenced by the rural and indigenous cultures of various ethnic groups and regions. Malaysian folk music is mainly found in East Malaysia (also known as Sabah and Sarawak), where it reflects the diversity and identity of the local communities. Malaysian folk music is characterized by its simplicity, spontaneity, creativity and flexibility. It is performed by ordinary people who use their natural talents and resources.


Malaysian folk music can be divided into two main categories: vocal (muzik vokal) and instrumental (muzik instrumental). Vocal music consists of songs that express various emotions, stories, beliefs and values. Some examples of vocal genres are dikir barat (a call-and-response song form performed by a group of singers), lagu-lagu rakyat (folk songs that depict various aspects of life), lagu-lagu perjuangan (struggle songs that convey political messages), lagu-lagu kanak-kanak (children's songs that teach moral lessons) and lagu-lagu rohani (spiritual songs that praise God).


Instrumental music consists of instrumental ensembles that play with or without vocal accompaniment. Some examples of instrumental genres are kulintangan (a percussive ensemble of small gongs played by the Bajau people), sape (a plucked lute played by the Orang Ulu people), talempong (a percussive ensemble of small gongs played by the Kadazan-Dusun people), angklung (a percussive ensemble of bamboo tubes played by the Bidayuh people) and suling (a bamboo flute played by various ethnic groups).


Malaysian folk music has been preserved and promoted by various efforts, such as documentation, education, festivals, competitions and tourism. Some of the organizations that have supported Malaysian folk music are the Department of Culture and Arts (Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara), the National Arts Academy (Akademi Seni Kebangsaan), the National Arts Council (Majlis Kesenian Negara) and the National Department for Culture and Heritage (Jabatan Warisan Negara). Malaysian folk music has also been recognized and appreciated by international audiences, such as UNESCO, which has inscribed several Malaysian musical traditions on its lists of intangible cultural heritage.


The Syncretic Traditions




The syncretic traditions of Malaysia refer to the music that originated from or was influenced by the fusion and hybridization of different cultures and religions. Malaysian syncretic music is found in both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, where it reflects the religious and social diversity of the country. Malaysian syncretic music is characterized by its adaptability, innovation, experimentation and expression. It is performed by various groups who use their musical skills and creativity to communicate their beliefs and values.


Malaysian syncretic music can be divided into two main categories: religious (muzik keagamaan) and secular (muzik sekular). Religious music consists of songs that praise or worship God or other spiritual beings. Some examples of religious genres are nasyid (a vocal-instrumental song form influenced by Islamic culture), kuda kepang (a dance song form influenced by Javanese culture and animism), wayang kulit (a shadow puppetry song form influenced by Hindu culture) and boria (a choral song form influenced by Persian culture).



Conclusion




In this book, we have explored the music of Malaysia, focusing on its classical, folk and syncretic traditions. We have seen how Malaysian music reflects the diversity and history of the country, as well as its creativity and expression. We have also seen how Malaysian music has interacted with other musical traditions, both within and outside the country.


This book contributes to the understanding and appreciation of Malaysian music, both for local and international audiences. It provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the main genres and styles of Malaysian music, as well as their historical, theoretical, practical and contextual aspects. It also highlights the challenges and opportunities for Malaysian music in the future, such as preserving its heritage, promoting its identity, adapting to modernity and engaging with globalization.


We hope that this book will inspire readers to learn more about Malaysian music, and to enjoy its beauty and diversity. We also hope that this book will encourage more research and collaboration on Malaysian music, as well as other musical traditions in Southeast Asia and beyond.


FAQs




What is the difference between Malay and Malaysian music?




Malay music refers to the music of the Malay ethnic group, which is one of the largest and dominant ethnic groups in Malaysia. Malay music can be further divided into subgroups based on regional variations, such as Kelantanese Malay music, Kedah Malay music, Johor Malay music and so on. Malay music is also influenced by other cultures, such as Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese and Portuguese.


Malaysian music refers to the music of Malaysia as a whole, which includes the music of various ethnic groups and regions in the country. Malaysian music can be broadly categorized into three main traditions: classical, folk and syncretic. Each tradition has its own origins, characteristics, instruments, genres and styles. Malaysian music is also influenced by other musical traditions from Southeast Asia and beyond.


What are some of the musical instruments used in Malaysian music?




Malaysian music uses a variety of musical instruments, ranging from traditional to modern ones. Some of the traditional instruments are drums (gendang), gongs (gong), flutes (seruling), lutes (gambus), zithers (kecapi), oboes (serunai), metallophones (saron), bamboo tubes (angklung) and plucked lutes (sape). Some of the modern instruments are guitars (gitar), keyboards (keyboard), saxophones (saksofon), violins (biola) and drums (drum).


What are some of the musical genres and styles in Malaysian music?




Who are some of the famous musicians and composers in Malaysian music?




Malaysian music has produced many talented and renowned musicians and composers, who have contributed to the development and promotion of Malaysian music. Some of them are: - P. Ramlee: a legendary singer, songwriter, actor and filmmaker, who composed and performed many popular songs and films in various genres, such as asli, ghazal, zapin and bangsawan. - M. Nasir: a singer, songwriter, producer and director, who is known for his innovative and influential songs and albums in various genres, such as nasyid, rock and pop. - Siti Nurhaliza: a singer, songwriter and entrepreneur, who is regarded as one of the most successful and influential female artists in Malaysia and Southeast Asia, with numerous awards and accolades in various genres, such as pop, ballad and traditional. - Zainal Abidin: a singer, songwriter and activist, who is known for his distinctive and expressive voice and style in various genres, such as folk, world and fusion. - Adnan Abu Hassan: a composer, arranger and producer, who is known for his prolific and versatile works in various genres, such as classical, pop and film.


How can I learn more about Malaysian music?




If you are interested in learning more about Malaysian music, there are many ways to do so. Some of them are: - Reading books and articles on Malaysian music, such as this book or other publications by the same author or publisher. - Listening to recordings and podcasts on Malaysian music, such as those available on online platforms or radio stations. - Watching videos and documentaries on Malaysian music, such as those available on online platforms or television channels. - Attending concerts and festivals on Malaysian music, such as those organized by various institutions or groups. - Joining classes and workshops on Malaysian music, such as those offered by various schools or centers.


How can I support Malaysian music?




If you are passionate about supporting Malaysian music, there are many ways to do so. Some of them are: - Buying albums and merchandise of Malaysian musicians and composers, such as those available on online platforms or physical stores. - Following and sharing the social media accounts of Malaysian musicians and composers, such as those on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. - Donating and volunteering for the organizations and initiatives that support Malaysian music, such as those run by the Department of Culture and Arts (Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara), the National Arts Academy (Akademi Seni Kebangsaan), the National Arts Council (Majlis Kesenian Negara) or the National Department for Culture and Heritage (Jabatan Warisan Negara). - Participating and contributing to the research and collaboration on Malaysian music, such as those conducted by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) or other academic institutions. 71b2f0854b


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