KUCHING: Sarawak Malay Drums (Gendang Melayu Sarawak) is one of the traditional musical instruments of the Malays in Sarawak that has been around for centuries and is still popular among the community to this day.
Music can generally be a tool in terms of interaction between members of society. Bergendang (gendang parties) is a form of performing art of the Malay community and became entertainment activity among the Sarawak Malays, especially on special occasions or official events.
Bergendang has being handed down from generation to generation and today, it still remains and is able to survive as one of the performing arts, which also attract the interest of other indigenous communities, including the young.
The bergendang activity has become part of the main event in the cultural arts festival calendar in the state. Interestingly, this activity indirectly can help strengthen the relationship between the various communities.
Gendang refers to a musical instrument that produces sound when struck either by hands or bats. Gendang exists in all cultures in the state, with a role that is almost the same in all races, but different in the form of the beat.
Historically, gendang and rebana became musical instruments during the traditional medicine ceremony for all bumiputeras. In addition, it has also become one of the musical instruments during the pencak silat event for the Malays and Melanaus, or the war for Iban.
The history and origins of gendang are closely related to the arrival of Islam in the state. There is a theory stating that gendang were first introduced by Arab traders who came to trade in Borneo. This is because there is some influence of Islam such as the ‘ratib zikir’, ‘hadrah’ as well as ‘burdah’.
In fact, the Gendang Melayu Sarawak is often played during an official ceremony in Astana during the reign of Brooke. It able to serve as a tool to unite people of various races in the state as it was well-received among the non-Malays as the Iban, Bidayuh and Melanau.
Now, there have been efforts to develop the Gendang Melayu Sarawak. Government agencies under the state and federal governments began to promote and implement various programmes to expose this performing arts to the public so that it remains and becomes part of the national heritage.
These efforts need the support of all parties and serious commitment. It is important to raise awareness, especially to the younger generation about the importance of recognising one’s own heritage.