Ethnic Harmony in Sounds and Steps


Traditional dance of an Iban enthic
Traditional dance of an Iban ethnic

THE Sound of Borneo — a musical concert held in Bintulu recently — featured a variety of ethnic dances and an array of musical instruments played by the people of Borneo.

Themed Sharing Differences, it was was opened by Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing on June 29 as part of the statewide programme to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of Sarawak’s Independence in Malaysia.

The concert showed not only older timers have an inclination towards traditional musical instruments but also the younger generation lured to learn more about such instruments by their exceptional characteristics embodying the cultures of the ethnic groups that have remained largely unaffected by modernisation.

According to organising chairman Bujang Budin, the aim was to showcase traditional Borneo music from Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Kalimantan, representing ethnic groups like Malay, Melanau, Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Kadazan Dusun and others.

It was also to bring them together through diversity in traditional music, he said.

Bujang, the Bintulu District Officer, hoped that in consonance with its theme Sharing Differences, the concert would be able to encourage ethnic groups in Borneo to live in peace and harmony through music-sharing and appreciating ethnic diversity.

The show should imbue a sense of pride among the ethnic groups because it emphasised ethnic diversity to keep traditional music alive now and in the future, he stressed.

The Sound of Borneo attracted nine groups from Sarawak and one from Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, while two, comprising 57 members, were specially brought in from Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia, with names like Perguruan Kijang Berantai Sanggar Gita Esha Khatulistiwa and Sanggar Tari Spectrum Pontianak.

Rain threatened to spoil the show on the first night for local performers but miraculously, when the first group came on stage, the weather cleared up. Among the entertainers were the Orang Ulu Kayan-Kenyah group from Sungai Asap Belaga, the Kayan Tubau Belaga group and the Punan Kesut group from Punan Rumah Nyipa Tingang Kuala Pandan. Their repertoire covered bergendang Iban, betaboh, ngajat Iban, Malay classical music, bermukun and Bidayuh music.

The following night for international performers drew an unexpected large crowd. A small boy from Kalimantan Barat captured the hearts of the audience with his natural aptitude for solo dancing.

A well-known musical group, Sayu Ateng from Kuching, was also featured on “international night” together with 17 musicians from Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu, and a predominantly non-Malay teen-age gamelan group from SMK Bandar which enthralled the audience with traditional Malay instrumentals.

According to Ismunandar, choreographer of Perguruan Kijang Berantai Sanggar Gita Esha Khatulistiwa, all his musicians and dancers are teenagers who performed items like Tari Lenggok Dara, Tari Belampas and Tari Rentak Kapuas on the final night.

He said encouraging youths to learn traditional music was not only good for development of the music itself but their participation would also give them confidence to face the challenges of life.
Ismunandar pointed out that if not the young generation, who else would preserve traditional music to ensure it would not disappear with the old generation someday.

“The Sound of Borneo is suitable for preserving and promoting our priceless ethnic music. At the same time, we can learn other ethnic cultures through their music and dances apart from promoting our own,” he said during a rehearsal with his group at their Kampung Assyakirin homestay.

The homestay programme was part of the Sound of Borneo initiative to expose local cultures to visitors who would, in turn, have the opportunity to promote their own during their stay.

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Posted on January 14, 2009, in Articles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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