Last month, I joined Rentak Selangor, a program focusing on Selangor’s musical cultures – the ensemble, history, people and more.

This year’s Rentak Selangor brought us to Kuala Selangor, a district in Selangor with a landmass of 1,194 square kilometres. Participants of Rentak Selangor chased after the “Beats Of Selangor” during the 4Days 3Nights program.

Rentak Selangor 2017

Selangor, through the years had seen major influx of various influences due to trade, interracial marriages or even political disputes. Some of the influences includes music and dance, rooted into the society and further flourished through generations.

This year, Rentak Selangor covers 5 different music heritage of Selangor that some of us might have forgotten.

Gamelan

I have heard Gamelan music a few times before. During Rentak Selangor, the group Seni Budaya Warisan Gamelan & Wayang Kulit of Kampung Parit 11 showcased the music to us.

Gamelan comes from an ancient word. In Bali, “gambel” and in Java, “gamel”. In definition, it means “to pound upon” – pouding the musical instruments.

Gamelan Instruments

Musical instruments involved in Gamelan are Bonang (double rows of gong chimes mounted on a frame), Gender (multi-octave metallaphone played with mallets), Rebab (fiddle), Gambang (xylophone), Siter (plucked zither), Suling (bamboo flute) and Gendang (drums).

Gamelan in Selangor came through Javanese settlers since late 19th Century. The group that performed for us are the 4th generation of the settlers.

Gamelan are usually played during formal and informal events like weddings or circumcision rites.

Wayang Kulit Jawa

Wayang Kulit Jawa or Java Shadow Play were also introduced to us by the group Seni Budaya Warisan Gamelan & Wayang Kulit. However sadly, the Tok Dalang (storyteller) was a little under the weather so we couldn’t see the performance.

One thing about the puppets used in Wayang Kulit Jawa is that they are flown directly from Java, Indonesia. All of them are of the Ramayana and Mahabharata tales. It instills the Hinduism elements in the story and puppets.

Wayang Kulit is a form of traditional Malay theatre that utilises light and shadow. The Tok Dalang will sit behind a white screen (“kelir”) and illustrate the puppets by talking and singing as he is accompanied by musical instruments. The musical instruments played are similar to the Gamelan, but only played by 7-8 members.

Wayang Kulit show can last for about an hour.

Kompang Jawa – Kompang Tiga & Kompang Kadaro

When Rentak Selangor included Kompang Jawa (Javanese Kompang) in the itinerary, I thought it would be similar to the Kompang that we have in Malaysia, usually played at wedding ceremonies. However, Kompang Jawa is slightly different than what I imagined.

Both Kompang Tiga and Kompang Kadaro were brought to Selangor by Javanese settlers in 1940’s. The art were handed down through generations. The group Seni Budaya Warisan Gamelan & Wayang Kulit were the one who demonstrated to us these two music.

Kompang Kadaro

The word Kadaro comes from Qadrah or Qudrat. There are 5 players in this group, 4 playing the Kompang and 1 on the drum (Bedok). The Kompang and Bedok are made of cow hide.

Kompang Kadaro are usually played at wedding ceremonies and baby showers. This group of musicians are usually found from Sabak Bernam to Bagan Datoh (Selangor).

Kompang Tiga

Kompang Tiga (Three Kompang) is a Malay percussion. It is said to originate from the days of the Wali Songo or Nine Saints from Central Java, Indonesia. True to it’s name, Kompang Tiga is played by 3 people. The Kompangs are made of goat hide.

Similar to Kompang Kadaro, Kompang Tiga is performed in wedding ceremonies, baby showers or circumcision rites. There are 3 types of Kompang used; Telon, Banggen and Babon. The 3 Kompangs are played concurrently, resulting in a beautiful melody.

Songs that they sing are based on Kitab Berzanji; a book of proses in praise of Prophet Muhammad pbuh, which is in Arabic. Some new students who are interested in learning more on the music of Kompang Tiga would go to Demak, Indonesia for classes.

This group of musicians are usually found near coastal areas from Sepang to Sabak Bernam (Selangor).

Kuda Kepang and Barongan

Kuda Kepang and Barongan would probably be my favourite of all 5 musical shows that I experienced in Rentak Selangor. We went to Homestay Haji Dorani, Kuala Selangor for this.

Kuda Kepang literally translates as Braided Horse. This is probably because the horses is made of braided strips of rattan or alternatively, leather. In Kuala Selangor itself, there are 25 groups of Kuda Kepang.

When we arrived in the day, the group leader, Wak Rusli and his team showed us the basic dance steps and music of the Kuda Kepang. We had fun taking photos with the “horses”, tried out the dance steps and even made some fun videos.

But when night time arrived, the atmosphere changed. We gathered in front of the Haji Dorani’s compound.

Before the Kuda Kepang performance begins, Wak Rusli who is also a shaman, did some “cleansing” on the props and “protection” of the compound. It is later followed by “cleansing” by the dancers before they took they places and started dancing to the music of the gong and bonang.

“Food” prepared

Wak Rusli has warned us beforehand that there might be “entrancement” happening to the dancers. Sometimes when dancers are in trance, they will behave animal-like by climbing trees, stretching and moving on the ground like animals or peel coconut husk with teeth. There were “food” prepared for the dancers when they’re in trance too like bananas, boiled eggs, flowers and others.

The dance lasted about 2 hours where most of the dancers fell into trance. Wak Rusli managed to “cure” them after that with some incantations. Those who was “cured” looked tired and helpless afterwards.

Lion Dance

Our final Rentak Selangor experience was in Shah Alam where we visited Wan Seng Hang Dragon & Lion Arts shop for Lion Dance.

Master Siow Ho Phiew have been making Lion heads and teaching Lion Dance for many years. He learned the art in China but has inserted his own unique technique into the dances to make it more tasteful. Master Siow’s students have won many awards at international level for free movement in Lion Dance.

There are two types of Lion Dance that comes from China – Northern Lion Dance and Southern Lion Dance.

In the making…

Northern Lion Dance are usually used as entertainment in the imperial court. The lion is more shaggy looking with a golden head. It’s dance are more acrobatic. Southern Lion Dance looks more elegant, acrobatic and entertaining. The lion has a variety of colour, a head with large eyes, mirror on forehead and single horn at center of head. This lion is usually used to exorcise evil spirit and to summon luck and fortune.

Malaysian Lion Dance are mostly influenced by the Southern Lion Dance.

Master Siow’s Lion Dance group’s inception was in 1986. Most of the students involved are Chinese, from Chinese schools. These students learn the Lion Dance for passion and not money. They’re usually not paid to perform.

Apart from Lion Dance school, Master Siow’s shop also makes Lion heads. The heads are handmade, handsewn and handcrafted. The insides of the head is made of aluminium and metal instead of rattan to prevent easy break. The lion’s fur is made of rabbit’s fur, which is very soft to the touch.

One lion’s head can cost between RM2,000 – RM3,000.

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This trip was in collaboration with Gaya Travel Magazine and Tourism Selangor, in collaboration with Selangor Youth Generation Development, Sports, Cultural and Entrepreneurship Development (UPEN).