JOHOR BAHRU: The Zapin dance, which is the identity and heritage of Johor, is still popular among Malaysians during social performances in the state.
The traditional Malay dance, accompanied by musicians playing the violin, gambus (short-necked lute), marwas (bongos) and occasionally using kompang (small drum), is a unique cultural experience that is also a hit with local and foreign tourists alike.
Its roots can be traced back to as early as the 14th century. It was performed to welcome guests during formal and informal events such as wedding receptions and other festivities.
Johor Zapin Association (Pe-Zapin) secretary and head coach Dianna Sulaiman said that even though these days music and dance with foreign influence “seem more like the thing”, the demand for Zapin is always still there, even during the month of Ramadan.
“On average, Pe-Zapin receives invitations to perform three times a week and 15 times a month from Fridays to Sundays. This is high demand and during off-peak seasons, we are tied with three to six months contracts,” she told Bernama.
In addition, Dianna, 44, said Pe-Zapin dancers performed at Paradigm Mall and Desaru Coast for the first and second day of Raya this year. The association signed contracts with them last year.
“During festive seasons, I will give a chance to the dancers to make the choice and adopt a rotation system but most dancers volunteer to perform as the Zapin dance takes only two to three hours, and not one whole day,” she explained.
Touching on the younger generations being more attracted to foreign cultural influences, Dianna said various efforts were needed to make sure they understand the culture, heritage, and authenticity of Zapin dance itself.
“With some people saying old Zapin was boring, Pe-Zapin has mixed the traditional music, song, and dance with the remix rhythm and fast-beat music to create movements that are beautiful to look at and more to date.
“We are also creating awareness at the pre-school level to instill a love for Zapin as one of the heritage dances,” said Dianna, a mother of three children, adding that there are over 20 types of Zapin, and each type varies by the movements and style of dance.
Among others are Zapin Melayu Johor, Zapin Lenga and Putar Alam (Muar), Zapin Pulau dan Tenglu (Mersing), Zapin Lapis Batu Putih (Batu Pahat), Zapin Parit Mastar (Pontian) and Zapin Selat Panjang (Kluang). – Bernama