Kuda Kepang -
Malaysian Dance and Theatre

It is said that it was created by the Wali Songo or Nine Saints, who were instrumental in spreading the religion of Islam in the Indonesian island of Jawa; for the dance dramatises tales of holy wars won for Islam. However, it is also believed to have totemistic origins.

The dance, now popular in the state of Johor, is usually performed by nine to 15 dancers, all garbed in traditional Javanese clothes. The dancers are usually all men, though women dancers are not uncommon these days. However, seldom, if ever, will you see both genders performing this dance together.

 

Malaysian Music and Dances

Traditional music is centered around the gamelan, a stringed instrument from Indonesia with an otherworldly, muffled sound. The lilting, hypnotic beats of Malaysian drums accompany the song of the gamelan; these are often the background for court dances.

Malaysia's earliest rhythms were born of necessity. In an age before phone and fax, the rebana ubi, or giant drums, were used to communicate from hill to hill across vast distances. Wedding announcements, danger warnings, and other newsworthy items were drummed out using different beats. The rebana ubi are now used primarily as ceremonial instruments. The Giant Drum Festival is held in Kelantan either in May or June. Similarly, silat, an elegant Malaysian dance form, originated as a deadly martial art. The weaponless form of self-defense stripped fighting to a bare minimum. Silat displays are common at weddings and other festivals; the dancer will perform sparring and beautiful routines to accompanying drums and other musical instruments.