Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Glimpses of the Culture of Malaysia

Malaysian Culture: People
Malaysia is a country that is known for its rich and cultural heritage. Here, people strongly believe in respecting each other’s culture and religion. Here, one can find a good mix of Malay, Chinese and even Indian communities. The Malay people cover more than half of the population of Malaysia. As per the laws of the Malaysian Constitution, all Malays are basically Muslims and one can get a glimpse of the traditional Malay culture in the village areas.

The Malaysian culture also includes the Chinese and they were known to have adopted the Malaysian culture since the ancient days. With the practice of intermixed marriages there emerged a whole new group where the males were called as the babas and the females were known as the nyonyas. The Chinese therefore are the second largest group out here.
The Indians are the third largest group of people that form a major part of the Malaysian culture. The Indians had always visited Malaysia since the ancient days.

Thus we see how different races have formed a part of the culture of Malaysia. The unity in diversity can be seen in the celebration of various festivals by all races in Malaysia. Apart from this, there are also certain tribes that form the oldest inhabitants of Malaysia. This forms to be at least 5 percent of the total population.

Malaysian Culture: music and dance
Like in any other culture, music and dance make for an important aspect of the Malaysian culture. Owing to the vastness of cultures in Malaysia, even the dances vary widely. Influences of several cultures can be seen in the wide variety and versions of dance forms in Malaysia. However, it can be noticed that most dance forms in Malaysia have emerged from basic needs and have evolved into the amazingly mesmerizing dance forms of today.

The music of Malaysia is centrally based around the Gamelan, which is the traditional instrument from Indonesia that creates a muffled ethereal sound created by the strings. Among with the gamelan, the drums and the beats played create a beautiful mix of composition. The drums evolved out of necessity basically when in order to transfer news fast, huge drums (rebana ubi) were used to convey the message. Then again, the Malaysian culture has evolved indigenous beats for all occasions. There were different types of beats played for each occasion such as weddings, festivals, danger warnings and so on. These beats later got transferred into the music of the Malaysian culture. Rebana ubi are now used only ceremonially. There is held the Giant Drum Festival today in Kelantan, in the months of May or June.

One of the most renowned Malaysian dance forms happens to be silat that sought its origins from a martial art that used bare hands and body as fighting instruments. This dance form can be seen in Malaysian weddings and festivals mainly while the dancers dance to the drum beats and music created by other instruments.

One of the other dance forms of Malaysia which makes for a mesmerizing viewing experience is the candle dance. The dancer performs with burning candles on plates held in each hand. The beautiful and soft curves and arcs made by the dancer through her body renders he viewer in a hypnotic trance.

Another popular dance form in Malaysia, which has come from Sarawak, is Datun Julud and is a form of storytelling through dance. The dance is accompanied with Sape, a musical instrument that leads the beats in the dance and is accompanied further by clapping and singing.

Apart from the dance and music, Malaysian theatres too are extremely famous for their inclusions of music, dance and drama into one form. This art form utilizes stories, operatic singing and humor in the performance.

While the cultural heritage of Malaysia is uniquely wide and vast ranging origins to thousand of years back, it will be a mistake to consider the whole of Malaysian culture as traditional. With the changing times, Malaysian culture too has taken a turn to match to the new beats of modernity. Synthesizers and other new age instruments have come into play in the traditional music and dances of Malaysia.