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Buqga Kan~pai: ~8pcts of Malay Culture

Buqga I~an~pai: ~8p~cts of Malay Culture

Molid. Taib Osman


KK 739 2896 4102 ISBN 983-62-0633-7

First Published 1984 Reprinted 1988 Copyright Mohd. Taib Osman, 1988

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronis or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Director General, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur. Negotiation is subjected to the calculation of royalty or honorarium.

Setting by: Syarikat R & S Typeface: Souvenir Text Type Size: 10/12 point

Printed by Percetakan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Lot 1037, Mukim Perindustrian PKNS Ampang/Hulu Kelang Selangor Darul Ehsan $12.00

PREFACE The papers included in this volume represent some of the essays which I have written for the various academic journals, both local and abroad. They are selected and brought together in this single volume so that the average reader will find them easily accessible than they would otherwies be, being spread over in many different journals and books. There are really two main areas that the papers deal with: literature and culture. As a scholar of Malay society and culture, it is unavoidable that I am interested in literature. It is an expression of culture for besides being a product which can give us untold pleasure in reading it, it also tells us a lot of things which otherwise would have been hidden in our study of the people producing and appreciating it. Raja Au Haji is a case in point. While reading his works like Tuhfat an Na/is or Silsi!ah Me!ayu dan Bugis can bring us an endless joy, at the same time these works tell us a great deal of Malay history and society in the past And in dealing with modern literature we actually see in it a manifestation of a society or culture in a state of change, because it is an interaction between the creavity and sensitivity of individuals and the social situations that occur around them. In short, I find literature a fascinating subject to study. The other half of the essays concerns various aspects of Malay culture. I begin by looking at Malay culture from its traditional setting. It is my belief that to understand the present situation, especially with regard to the pangs of change, one has to look at the element that gives society its sense of mooring. Social change has not been so drastic in the case of the Malays, and what gives them a sense of stability and comparative psychological security in the face of social change is their age-old traditions, which I

am glad, have not been thrown overboard in their entirety for the

sake of modernisation. Technological advancement is a must in this age, and the Malays are caught in the throes of it at the moment, but I do hope that they have not lost their soul in the process. The essays presented here therefore record the traditional aspects of the Malay society and culture as studied by one of them. And at the same time they also reflect the thoughts concerning the social change facing the society. I hope that the reader will find in them useful materials in one way or another. Kuala Lumpur Februari 81 Mohd. Taib Osman, M.A., Ph. D.


Preface Oral Traditions in Ulu Tembeling: Report of Fieldwork in Malaysia 2. Classical Malay Literature: A Brief Survey 3. Raja Ali Haji of Riau: A Figure of Transition or the Last of the Classical Pujanggas? 4. Modern Malay Literature: A Reflection of a Changing Society and Culture 5. Contemporary Malay Poetry 6. Sajakof 1972 7. TowardsThe Development of Malaysias N4tional Literature 8. Mythic Elements in Malay Historiography 9. MythS, Legends and Folk-Tales in Malay Culture 10. The Bomoh and The Practice of Malay Medicine 11. Patterns of Supernatural Premises Underlying the Institution of the Bomoh in Malay Culture 12. Myth, Ritual and Drama: With Particular Reference to the Nusantara Area 13. Some Observations on the Socio-Cultural Context of Traditional Malay Music 14. Traditional Music In Malaysia: Traditional Expression in Contemporary Society


1 18 41 67 87 95 105 125 138 148 162 178 197 207

15. 16.

17. 18.

A Place for Traditional Technology in Industrialisation Planning, Peninsula Malaysia Religion and Bureaucracy: The Development and Organisation of Islamic Religious Administration in Peninsula Malaysia Islamisation of the Malays: A Transformation of Culture The Concept of National Culture: The Malaysian Case


255 261 273


I. INTRODUCTION: The project to collect oral tradition materials or folklore in the upper reaches of the Pahang River was among the three projects of fieldwork approved by UNESCO for the study of Malay culture. This particular project was carried out from 22nd April to 9th May 1976 under the direction of the writer. II. ITINERARY: The team consisting of four fieldworkers and two assistants left Kuala Lumpur for Jerantut on 22nd April 1976 and spenTT~ night preparing for the journey up the Tembeling River. The next day, we travelled by road to Kuala Tembeling where the main Pahang River branches into two tributaries the Tembeling and the Jelai. From Kuala Tembeling we travelled by motorboat to Kuala Tahan, where the Taman Negara (National park) has its headquarters. We stayed at Kuala Tahan for four days, visiting surrounding villages such as Kampung Pagi and Sungai Tiang. From these riverine villages we collected some oral tradition materials (see Appendix) On 26th April we left Kuala Tahan by boat for Kampung Bantal in Ulu Tembeling where we established our base. From this base, we visited the neighbouring villages, namely, Kampung Pulau

Grateful acknowledgement is herewith made to Un~co for permission to publish this report 1

Besar, Kampung Cheneh, Kampung Mat Daling, Kampung Gusal and Kampung Sungai Kuching. At these riverine settlements, materials on folklore were observed, collected and noted (e.g. wedding customs and rituals in curing the sick) but some informants were also brought to Kampung Bantal when necessary. The team wished to stay here longer for there were a lot of materials still to be recorded and documented, but we had to leave Kampung Bantal on 6th May and we reached Kuala Lur?ipur on 9th May. 1976. III. THE AREA: CEOGRAPHICAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC OUTLINE. The Pahang River bifurcates at Kuala Tembeling with the Jelai and the Tembeling. The Tembeling and its upper tributaries flow from the foothills of the mountains which form the borders between Pahang and Trengganu on one side and Pahang and Kelantan on the other. According to local informants, the usual route from the Tembeling valley to Trengganu is by way of one of its tributaries, Sungai Lurut, over the saddle of a mountain known as Gunung Mandi Angin, and down the upper reaches of Sungai Dungun. (It is to be noted, however, that there is a discrepancy between the information given and the place names printed on the map. The map places Gunung Mandi Angin more to the north, and the mountain that separates Sungai Lurut and Sungai Dungun is called Gunung Diwangsa). During April and May, the water level in Sungai Tembeling is quite low. We had to drag the boat over the rapids between Kuala Tahan and Kampung Pagi and also over the sand bars between Kuala Sat and Kampung Bantal. However, the river usually floods its banks during the months of December and January: during these two months, river travelling on the Tembeling, for that matter on any river in Peninsular Malaysia is dangerous. There are many settlements on both banks of the river between Kuala Tembeling and Kuala Tahan, but beyond Kuala Tahan, the settlements are not only far-between but are sparsely populated. Apart from the main villages of Kampung Pagi, Kampung Kuala Sat, Kampung Bantal, Kampung Gusal and Kampung Mat Daling, most of the other villages marked on the map have only two to six households. The least inhabited point that we came across during our fieldwork, appeared to be Kampung Tembung where there were only two households. The population upstream beyond Kuala Tahan is totally native 2

Malay, with one settlement of Orang Ash (aborigines) at Sungai Kuching. Just downstream from Kuala Tahan, there is also a settlement of Orang Ash at Sungai Tiang. The Orang Ash of these two places are identified as belonging to the Semoq Ben group. At Kuala Tahan itself, there is a small group of Orang Ash belonging to the Bateq group. Their settlements are actually further inland in deep jungle, but they have a temporary post in Kuala Tahan because they work as guides to the tourists visiting the National Park. According to the !~st c~~u;, tere are about 2,iC,~ ~ in the area upstream of Kuala Tahan. The National Electricity Board is planning to have a hydroelectric dam built across the Tembeling a mile or two upstream of 1 When this plan materiahises, perhaps in the early Kuala Tahan. eighties, the area upstream up to the 400 foot level will be submerged under water. It is because of this fact that the work to collect the oral traditions in the area assumes added importance and urgency. Although the population will be resettled elsewhere, it is possible that the traditions which are embedded in their way of life and related to the physical environment around them would be lost or at least modified. The main economic pursuit of the Malay population in the area is planting rubber as cash crop. Rice is also cultivated but mainly for subsistence. As in the case of other Malay villages, fruit trees are a source of income only during the fruit season, that is, from July to September. Water buffaloes are reared not for own consumption (except on wedding celebrations and festivals) btit for sale at Kuala Tembehing. As transportation is very expensive on the river, the buffaloes are led down the river in batches of fifteen to twenty by two or three handlers who would take seven to ten days to accomplish their task. Rubber and other commodities such as rattan are usually brought downriver by means of bamboo rafts, for motorboats would mean an addition to the capital outlay of the farmers. However, the marketing organisation is to some extent

being taken over by some village coopertives, although some

indMduals continue to transport their produce to Kuala Ternbeling. It is difficult to assess the average income or the

average holdings of the people in the area until the socioeconomic data collected are anylised. Speciahised vocations such as boatmaking and sugar refining are also observed. Gathering of jungle produce such as gambler and tree-gums, although presently pursued on a small scale by the Malays, is still an important occupation among the Orang Ash. 3

From the interviews, it has become clear that the web of kinship is finely woven among the people of the area, especially among those who bear the hereditary tithe of Wan. In fact the important famihies of the area belong to this class of people, and are often addressed as Engku. a term reserved in Malay for those of royal blood. Most of those in position of leadership the Penghulu (the administrative head of the Mukim of Ulu Ternbeling) and the influential political leaders are both Wan and are related. In Kampung Pulau Besar, for instance, there are seven households, four of which are Wans: they can trace their descent to Wan Ismail who was one of those local chiefs that helped Tengku Ahmad to found the present Pahang ruling house in 1863. The dose-knit kinship system is explained by the fact that the area is comparatively a closed one, although its traffic with Dungun in Trengganu should not be overlooked. In the kinship network of the area many of the families do have ties with people in Dungun. Some of the families are actually first generation migrants from Dungun into the area. Another item of information which needs verification is whether the settlers along River Sat, a tributary of the Tembehing, have close relationship with the people of Lebir River in Ulu Kelantan. It appears that from the upper reaches of Sat River one can cross over a saddle in Gunung Gagau and reach the Lebir River in Ulu Kelantan.

IV. ORAL TRADITION MATERIALS COLLECTED A detailed list of the items collected is found in the Appendix. This
section however discusses the nature of the materials collected, their significance to the anthropological study of the area, and plans for further fieldwork. Two assumptions were made before beginning the fieldwork: frist, the area would yield a good crop of oral tradition materials and secondly, it was culturally an isolated area. The first assumption was borne out to some extent, but the second one was found to be not very true. The close contact with Dungun in Trengganu or with Ulu Kelantan through Sat River has brought to this area traditions which are identifiable with those two sources. Broadly spea*

For administrative purposes in Malaysia, a state is divided into districts under District Officers, and the districts are further divided into Mukims under Penghulus.A number of villages (kampung) make up a Mukim. The Mukim of Ulu Tembehing is in the district of Jerantut.

king, the materials collected can be classified as narratives (mainly folktales and local legends), folk beliefs and folk medicine, folk songs, dances and games, genealogiesand historical reminiscences, and material culture. (a)

Folk Narratives Tales: All together we managed to put on tape 15 tales: 7 are classified as long and 8 as short tales. The long tales are usually sung to a particular tune. Some of these tales have been collected before, but never so completely recorded as this time. The longest tale which came to about 15 hours of recording was Awang Malim Dewana. This tale was related by a 65 year old woman Fatimah bt. Arif of Kampung Mogol who originally came from Dungun, Trengganu. She learnt the tale from her father. From her we also recorded two other long tales, Raja Kuang and Burung Si Agut, a number of short tales about Sang Kancil (a wellknown character in Malay animal stories) and about Pak Pandir (a proverbial character of a fool in Malay folktales). She has in her reportoire other tales but we did not have time to record them. Another story-teller was a sixty-five year old man, Abdullah bin Mat from Kampung Cheneh. He was a local man born in Kampung Kuala Sat. He recited two long tales, both with tune, and a couple of short ones, also about Sang Kancil or Pelanduk and Pak Pandir. The long ones were Raja Muda Cik Sandang which he learnt from his brother-in-law, a Dungun man, and Bujang Gading, a tale which he learnt from an Orang Ash convert (i.e. converted into a Muslim), Tahir by name, who also lives in Kampung Cheneh. The latter could not be contacted. From Ti bt. Mohd Endut we managed to record two tales with tune called Mak Busu Sungai Mengkinang and Malim Anak China. (Because of lack of time, the last one had to be told partly by direct prose and minus the usual story-telling frills). About 40 years old, Ti is from Kampung Bantal. She learnt her stories from her father when she was a young girl of 14, Ti was also one of the women in Kampung Bantal who performed the 5

Tan Pulau and sang the nazam and the folk songs werecorded. Other raconteurs we recorded from were not as accomplished as the three above. Talib bin Awang Kechik of Kuala Tahan told in plain prose two short tales: Empat Pemuda and Tekun Tebu; dan Pawang Nong of Kampung Pagi related Saudagar Abdu!lah dengan Anak Angkat dan Anak Sendini. An important observation to be made here is that the long tales which are sung and told in a stylised manner need accomplished raconteurs to recite them, and they are not meant only for entertainment. Ti informed us that she intoned her tales while working with other women in the rice-fields and the last time she recited Malim Anak China was during the previous rice harvest. Abdullah bin Mat also told us that mostly he recited his tales when he was camping out in a group either on a fishing expedition or garhering jungle produce upstream. It is clear that story-telling among the people of Ulu Tembeling is closely associated with group work, besides being a form of entertainment. Another observation is that story-telling is confined to the older generation. Ti at 40, is about the last link that the present has with the tradition of stylised storytelling. Much as we tried, we could not persuade anyone below 40 to tell stories, even the anecdotal short ones, which some of them claimed to have heard at one time or another from their elders. Most of our informants in Ulu Tembehing were reserved. However, Wan Hashim, who since his younger brothers death (Abdul Jalil), has taken over the political leadership of the area, is a sophisticated informant when it comes to the recent history of Ulu Tembeling. His great grandfather, Wan Ismaih, was the main supporter of Wan Ahmad when the latter descended on Ulu Tembeling from Trengganu and made a claim to the throne of Pahang in the early 1860 The prime interest of Wan Hashim and other members of his family seems to be the assertion of their leading status in the Ulu Tembehing community. A letter of authority from Sul6

tan Ahmad giving Wan Ismail the right to settle in Ulu Tembehing is used as a kind of legitimacy for his familys leading position in the area. Thus informants like Wan Hashim and members of his family would provide versions which tend to highlight the role of Wan Ismail. However, their accounts are not at variance with the history textbooks on Pahang. Other historical events which took place in Ulu Ternbeling, such as the retreat of Datuk Bahaman and Mat Kilau after their armed struggle with the British in the early 1890s are not well-remembered by the present generation. Our attempts to get personal memories of the events from the old people drew a blank because the oldest man in Kampung Bantal, Bomoh Mat Pitah (see below), who claimed himself to be 97 years old, was only a young boy when the events took place. He culd only remember that he and his family were taken to Kuala Tembehing because Ulu Tembeling was in difficult times of war. However, we managed to collect a number of local legends pertaining to place-names. Although the origin of some of the place-names has been forgotten, many of the older generation can still relate stories explaining how the villages, settlements and landmarks derived their names. Some of these stories are legends, while others refer to their geological formations. Thus Pulau Besar (Big Island) was actually an island at one time, but because of the sediments deposited by the meandering Tembeling after so many floods over the years, the village is no longer an island, but a high ground with the river on one side and a marsh (paya) for planting rice on the other, joining it with the mainland. Kampung Bantal is not actually a bantal meaning pillow, but rather bantai, that is, to flog. The metamorphosis from bantai to bantal is most likely because of the local pronunciation of the word where the final (ai) and (al) are indistinguishable. There is a story behind the name Bantai: it tells of some Minangkabau men (according to some versions, Dayak) who successfully flogged to death a huge snake which was preying on people and animals alike as they pass by on the river. 7


Religion, Folk Beliefs and Folk Medicine Except for the Orang Ash at Sungai Tiang and Sungai Kuching, all people in Uhu Tembehing are Muslim Malays. The larger villages like Kampung Pagi, Kampung Bantal and Kampung Mat Dahing have mosques where the Friday congregational prayer is said, even if the daily prayers are not offered there. The smaller settlements have suraus (small prayer house). As in the rest of the state, the Mukim of Uhu Tembeling comes under the administration of the Pahang Religious Affairs. Department. The sub-administrative centre for religious affairs is Jerantut where there is a District Kadi (Religious Judge). For the Mukim of Ulu Tembehing, there is a Wall Hakim. who represents the Kadi. But whilst the Kadi has wider functions than just being a registrar of marriages, divorces or reconciliations, the function of Wali Hakim in Ulu Tembeling seems to be limited to officiating at marriages, divorces or reconcihiations. He sometimes delegates his functions to the imam of a village if there are no complications. For instance, the bride has a wall (guardian) to give her away in marriage. In such instances, the imam gets half of the fee due to the Wali Hakim. The delegation of function is done because of the difficulty of travel, but if the case warrants his presence, for example, when the bride has no wall, then the Wall Hakim, has to officiate personally. The collection of the religious tithe (zakat/fitrah) is not done by the Wall Hakim, but by the Amil (collector) who works under the village headman (Ketua Kampung or Tok Empat). From the interviews conducted with the local people, it appears that matters like family squabbles, which would normally be referred in Malay community life to religious leaders, are referred here to the village headmen (Ketua Kampung or Tok Empat) or to the Penghulu himself. I do not see this, however, as a gap between religious and temporal leadership but rather as a complementary arrangement. If there is any manifest friction, it is between the religious view on one side and some practices which we may call folk beliefs and practices on the other. The realm of folk beliefs and practices covers a wide

spectrum of activities, from magical practices and curing of the sick to games which invoke the aid of the spirit world. The friction is not unusual in Malay society where the official religion of Islam is irreconcilably opposed to the recognition of the spirit world. Thus folk beliefs, which represent the ohde~ stratum of the Malay belief system before the advent and acceptance of Islam, are looked upon with an ambivalent attitude. The tendency is to rationahise or syncretise, at least in interpretation, the two elements. Thus the Wall Hakim is also a Pawang Tanah (Shaman who propitiates the guardian spirit of the land before it is used for cultivation or habitation); his incantations and explanation of the concept of propitiating the guardian spirits of the land are coloured by Islamic notions. However folk beliefs especially those elements connected with the art of curing the sick, still manage to hold their own despite oppositions both from the religious quarters and from the modern-minded as represented by the local school teachers. There are a government health clinic and a maternity centre at Kampung Bantal, but the local medicine man, Mat Pitah, is still called upon to administer to the sick. During the fieldwork I had the opportunity to sit in on one of his curing sessions. Much of the folk belief materials were noted down and recorded from my long talks with him. One obvious feature which surfac2d during our conversations was his sensitiveness to the issue of opposition from the formal religion (Islam) to what he stood for. He resolved this by insisting that the evil spirits or other maverick spirits were also the creation of God; they, however, originated from Azazil, an angel who refused to submit to the form of Adam (Lembaga Adorn) as the finest creation of God. The items that I managed to gather from this particular informant included various incantations, love magic, the art of curing the sick, main puteni and main dewa (trance dances used as a kind of psycho-therapy). (c) Folk songs. Dances and Games There are two distinguishable types of songs recorded, 9

the religious chants (dikir and nazam) and the secular traditional ones which have survived among a group of middle-aged ladies in Kampung Bantal. The nazam, which is a song in praise of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, is sung in a group. Although there is a book placed in the centre, it is only used-as a prompter, for the ladies sitting around in a circle usually memorise the verses which are in Malay. There is a leader who sings the leading verse and she is echoed or chorused by the others. Two recordings were made of the nazam, one at Kuala Tahan and the other at Kampung Bantal, both chanted by a group of middle-aged ladies. The nazam incidentally is not accompanied by any musical instrument. The other type of religious song is the Dikir Pahang, which was performed by a group of six men in Kampung Bantal. The verses are in Arabic but the performance is similar to the nazam, that is, one leads and the others chorus to the accompaniment of the rebana (drum), with which the singers measure the beat and rhythm of their singing. It is a popular form of past-time at weddings and gatherings and has religious connotations because the verses are, like nazam, songs of praise for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). More interesting are the folk songs used to accompany a work-dance known as Main Pulau. This form of past-time is almost moribund, but a few middle-aged ladies still remember the~songsand the dance. Main Pulau was usually perfomed when the ladies got together to work on the paddy nursery-beds or to weed the paddy fields (merumput). In other words, they sang and danced while weeding the paddy-fields or tending to the nursery beds. According to oUr infQrmants, competitions used to be held between different working groups. The earliest to finish the chore would rush to a pole and grab the sweets and cakes which decorated the pole. Being a work-play rather than an actual dance, Main Pulau is performed by a number of ladies who encircle the plot on which they are going to work. Equipped with sickles (kni or kiut), they would sing, dance and work their way to the centre of the circle, where the leader who leads in the singing 10

(mengadi) works. Once they reach the centre, they will end their song and dance with a yell. There are many songs and dances that go into a Main Pulau, but the players have to begin with Me~ ngambil Indung (fetching the Indung) and end with Kembali Indung (sending back the Indung). In between there are a variety of songs and dance-steps, some of which are almost alike. I managed to record 30 different songs for Main Pulau from the group of women in Kampung Bantal. Each song is usually made up of pantuns and the chorus (see Appendix). Two performances of Main Pulau were given by the ladies, and excerpts were recorded by cine-camera and tape recorder. Some informants confirmed my suspicion that Main Pukzu had its origin in the ancients Malay belief of Semangat Padi (padi spirits) because of the rule that it must begin by fetching the indung and sending it back at the end of the performance. However, some informants would insist that indung was a human and that the play had nothing to do with the old animistic concept of the Malays. It is significant that those venturing this view belonged to the religious-oriented in the community. In fact they were the same people who did not show enthusiasm when the bomoh, Mat Pitah, performed for us an almost forgotten Malay past-time of old Main Lukah or Tori Lukah (the fishtrap dance). Underlying this attitude is the usual conflict in Malay society that exists between the puristic teachings of the formal religion of Islam and the beliefs and practices inherited from the distant past followed and performed for pragmatic ends such as curing the sick, divining lost objects or ones future, influencing the dispositions of others as in the affairs of the heart, etc. Main Lukah or Tan Lukah which was mentioned earlier was performed by the bomoh, Mat Pitah. He did two performances for us which were photographed by cine-camera. Skeat in his Malay Magic2 mentions about Main Lukah and its other variants like OIek Mayang. Personally I never expected to find anyone who can still perform Tori Lukah, not only because it is


an old Malay past-time but more so because it involves an invocation of the spirit to animate the fish-trap to dance, the practice of which is frowned upon by strict religious teachings. This explains why, as I have said above, some members of the community in Kampung Bantal were not enthusiastic about it. Another type of response was from the village school-teachers and the younger set who had been to secondary schools outside the community: their attitude was to test the vilidity of the claim by the bomoh that the fish-trap danced because it was animated by the spirits invoked rather than by one of the bomohs assistants. According to Mat Pitah, the fish-trap (lukah) to be used for the dance had to be constructed from special bamboo and rattan. In the performance some music must be played and for the dance that was put on for us only a drum (gendang) was available. Traditionally the musicS would consist of gongs, serunai (flute), rebab (stringed instrument) besides the drum. There must be singing too while the trap dances, handled by two people. Mat Pltah explained that the music and singing would encourage the spirits to dance the Lukah vigorQusly. The lukah is first of all dressed in a 1oose Malay shirt (baju gobang), a sarong is tied up like a turban at the top. A stick is put thtough the upper part to form a pair of arms. The Bomoh then reads an incantation over a burning, incense, and then places the lukah over it so that the smoke envelopes the body of the lukah. Then together with the help of another person, the bomoh holds the bottom of the lukah. Soon the lukah begins to move by swaying from side to side as the music and singing are in full swing. Another handler then takes over from the bomoh, who is now free to conduct the movement of the lukah. He does this by shouting instructions to the lukah to bend right or heft (liuk kin; liuk kanan) while hitting it with a whip made up of five fine long strands of lidi kelapa (rib of coconut leaf). The whole atmosphere ismeant to be swathed in an air of magic the inanimate lukah is animated to dance by the spirits


at the behest of the bomoh. although there are two handlers handling the bottom of the Iukah (Mat Putih explained that this was necessary because the Iukah has no legs to dance on its own). While the smoke from the burning incense billows and while the musician fill the air. the Iukah dances. and the audience. some in utter amusement, respond noisily by shouting encouragement to the dancing fish-trap. It was a game of old, but the magic (in another sense) still holds for the present-day audience. A few pantuns (Malay folk poems) were also recorded from the story-teller Abdullah Mat. Being a man of many talents, Abdullah also played a short bamboo flute called locally buluh seredam. We recorded a short rendering of his skill on the flute. As for childrens games, we could not detect the traditional ones being played. The favourite game is of course the perennial football. However, it was interesting to observe that among younger children of six to twelve, the craze was to build cars from boxes and wheels, complete with headlights and licence plates. The nearest point where one can see contraptions like motor cars will be Kuala Tembehing, but the children must have seen them in their visits downriver. (d) Material Culture Apart from the tape-recorder, the camera was used to record aspects of the traditions pertaining to material culture. Modern technology is not unknown to the people of Ulu Tembeling, but because of the remoteness of their settlements, much of their creativity depended upon traditional technology which must have been handed down from generation to generation. Boat-making, especially the dug-outs, is one of the skilful trades to be found in Ulu Tembehing. The dug-out is actually the chief means of transportation on the river. It is interesting to note that the bigger boats which take outboard motors have as their foundation the dug-out. This is because the boats plying the Tembehing have to reckon not only with rocks at the rapids but also sandbars. Therefore they must have strong solid keels to 13

overcome these treacherous obstacles. There are two or three shipyards where the motorised boats can be built, but the art of making dug-outs seems to be quite widespread. In the place where processed timber has to be brought all the way from Kuala Tembehing, planks and tiles are a luxury. Almost all the dwellings are therefore made of roughly hewn timber with the bark of the kapur tree as the walls. The homes are usually of a simple structure with the main building a rectangular block raised about four to five feet above ground-level. Attached to the main structure is the kitchen, also a rectangular block, but much smaller in size compared with the main house. There are variations, but what has been described is the basic pattern of the dwellings in the area. Other artifacts that have been noted include implements connected with rice-cultivation, a sugar-press made entirely of wood, boats together with the technique of boat-building, and musical instruments.

Conclusion: The Ulu Tembehing area, because of its comparative isolatedness, and being off the mainstream of socio-cultural development in Malaysia, still retains some of the Malay traditions which elsewhere have disappeared or have at least been eroded by modern practices. Some of these traditions still vie strongly with the new institutions brought into the community. Thus traditional medicine continues to live side by side with the Government Health Clinic, and the nazam and dikir are still a living past-time inspite of the radio. But some have become almost moribund, like the main puteni, main lukahor main dewa. These traditions survive as long as their present carriers are alive, although they are seldom practised today. But in the long-run, traditions which have been handed down orally for generations are still to be found in Uhu Tembehing. Almost three weeks were spent recording and documenting these traditions but there are a lot more which await the collector and the researcher. A few more field-trips to the area are therefore necessary. And these will have to be carried out before the whole area is inundated when the hydro-electric dam is 14

completed. While economic progress will eventually overtake the people of Ulu Tembeling, it is important for the posterity to have on record their ancient traditions as part of their cultural history.

1. 2. This project has since been abandoned. Skeat W.W.. Malay Magic: Being An Introduction to the Folkfore and Popular Religion of Malay Peninsula, London, 1896.



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The Background Literary historians dealing with Malay Literature have found it convenient to divide Malay literary works into two categories: the traditional or classical on the one hand and the modern or new literature on the other. By traditional or classiced literature they mean the literary styles characteristic of the period before Western civilisation made its impact felt on the life of the Malays. It is true that the Malays had come into contact with the West since the 16th century with the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese in 1511 AD. However, it was not until the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the present one that Malay society and culture had experienced a massive socio-cultural change as a result of Western domination. Before that time, contact with the West had been kept on the fringe. Except fot the early English colonies like Penang, Malacca and Singapore in the 19th century where contact with the West had made possible the writings of Abdullah Munshi, the so-called father of modern Malay literature, the rest of the Malay peninsula had still not felt the direct influence of Western civilisation. However, the subsequent westernisation of the society provided only the setting for the growth of a new literary idiom, for the first seeds of the new literature did not come from the West but from the literatures of Egypt and Indonesia. Westernisation represents but a phase in the history of the Ma18

lay people; before that the Malays had already gone through penods in history during which the influence of foreign civilisations had left indelible marks on their culture. For more than a thousand years, beginning from about the first century A.D. or even earlier, Indian civilisation had exerted its influence on Malay society and at the sama time helped to formulate various cultural traditions of the people, including literature. The use of Indian scripts like the Palava and the Nagari, the assimilation of numerous Sanskrit and Tamil words into the Malay language, the adoption of Hindu, Buddhist and Sivaistic religious thoughts, law, social and moral codes, ceremonies and rituals, some of which are still manifest today, reflect the extent of cultural borrowing and the process of acculturation prevailing at the time. Then, beg~nning about the thirteenth or the fourteenth century of the Christian era, another civilisation, that of Islam, came to exert its influence on the Malays. Brought into the Nusantara via Persia and India, Islam did not only introduce a new religious faith, but also brought in its wake the Islamic cultural influences from Persia and India to the Malay area. Being receptive to foreign influences, the Malays soon adopted for themselves new ideas and values in the various aspects of life. But the adoption of the new religion and its attendant cultural influences did not eradicate entirely the cultural elements of the pre-Islamic period. The cultural heritage of the pre-and post-Indian periods survived in parts and continued to live side by side with the new order. The situation is best reflected by the fact that words of Sanskrit derivation like puasa (fasting), neraka (hell), syurga (heaven), and agama (religion) had been retained to denote ideas and pratices brought by Islam and adopted by the Malays as part of their way of life. Perhaps the most important contribution of Islam to Malay culture is the Arabic script, popularly known as the Jawi script. Almost without exception, traditional Malay literature including those of Hindu provenance inherited from the preceeding period had been written in this script. One of the oldest Malay manuscripts known to have been preserved since the fifteenth centry is the Malay version of the Indian epic, the Ramayana. Known as Hikayat Sen Rama, it was written in the Jawi script. It can safely be said that classical Malay works which have come to us in the form of manuscripts were mainly the product of the Muslim period. But as a whole, it reflects a rich blending of diverse cultural traditions which made up the fabric of traditional Malay culture. However, this characteristic may lead one to see only the borrowed

elements, and we are prone to share Sir Richard Winstedts view when he said, Anyone who surveys the field of Malay literature will be struck by the amazing abundance of its foreign flora and the rarity of indigenous growths This view is quite misleading, for classical Malay literature is actually a manifestation of a process of acculturation. What is interesting to observe is how foreign narratives have been adopted according to the literary taste of the indigenous culture and how the ideas conveyed by works of foreign origin fitted into the local social fabric. Classical Malay literature can be said to have two types of traditions: the written tradition and the oral tradition. The focal point of the traditional society before the advent of Western domination had been the royal courts or the pre-industrialised urban centres. It was at the royal courts that the bards and the scribes could be maintained to write or adapt from foreign sources scholarly works on religion, compile the histories or sejarah of the ruling dynasties, and copy works on Islamic law, history and theology, and the colourful romances featuring Persian, Indian and local dramatis personae and settings. If written literature was the product of the royal courts, the oral tradition flourished among the rakyat, the common people in the kampung (villages) and ulu (upstream). The oral tradition of the Malay rakyat like the oral tradition and the folk narratives ofother peoples, was handed down from one generation to the next without the aid of writing. Like the written literature, the oral tradition also reflects the blending of the different civilisations which have made an impact on the common culture of the Malays. Perhaps it is in the folktale that the blending seems to be more harmonious and colourful. We can easily recognise those folktales which must have been brought to the shores of the Malay Peninsula from distant places, but they soon underwent a process of what the scholars of folktale would call oicotypification, and they became, for all intents and purposes, Malay folktales. Folk Narratives While written literature flourished in the royal courts, the simple folks in the kampung had the storytellers to entertain them with tales which had been handed down orally through the ages. In the days when entertainment like the cinema was unknown, or even now in remote villages where the modern way of life has still not made a deep impression on the villagers, the story-teller was 20

and is an important person in village life. Aptly called the Pengupon-lana or the soother of cares, the story-teller entertained his listeners with tales about beautiful princes or princesses, adventures of princely heroes, pranks played on other animals by the minikin mouse-dear (Sang Kancil), the foolish antics of the simpleton Pak Pandir, or the escapades of Pak Belalang who outwits his king for his own advantage. W.E. Maxwell who witnessed the art of story-telling among the Malay kampung folk in the late nineteenth century had the following to say of the Malay storyteller: A small reward, a hearty welcome, and a good meal await the Malay rhapsodist wherever hegoes~andhe wanders among the Malay villages as Homer did among the Greek cities. Without doubt the art of oral story-telling is gradually disappearing in the Malay Peninsula, but it still survives in the Malay villages as in Kelantan where the Tok Selampit still plies his trade accompanied by his stringed-instrument called the rebab. Hundreds of tales have been collected during the past twenty years or so through efforts by individuals and interested institutions. Mr. Zakaria bin Hitam of Kuantan, Pahang, for example, has collected over the past years, more than a hundred traditional oral tales from all over the state of Pahang. And through the efforts of people like Mr. Zakaria, the tales which otherwise would have disappeared for good are now preserved in writing. Some of them have been published, thus making the tales accessible to a wider audience. A survey of Malay folktales would reveal a motley collection of types not unknown to the oral tradition of other nations. Some are quite similar to tales found in the cultures of the peoples with whom the Malays had come into contact at one time or another. This is an outcome of cultural borrowing, but such tales as they become the property of the Malay story-teller show that they have undergone and -been subjected to a thorough process of adaptation or local colouring. There are also many narratives in the form of aetiological tales explaining the origin of things, legends and myths relating to the pre-Islamic beliefs of the Malays. The most well-known and widespread narratives are the folkromances, a name first given by R.J. Wilkinson. The folk-romances would normally come under the term m~rchenin the gene21

ral classification of folktales, but they show distinctive Malay style of story-telling. They are narratives which have as their dramatispersonae princes and princesses on the one hand, and villains of the piece genies and giants on the other. A typical Malay folk-romance has a princely hero who holds the centre of the stage. Usually, the hero is a prince or heir to the throne of a certain kingdom. Right from his birth he is endowed with not only good appearances but also with superhuman magical powers. Then an incident happens which sets him off on a journey of adventure. Perhaps it is the prophecy of some evil astrologers that he will bring ill-luck which causes him to be driven out of his fathers kingdom and sets him off to redeem himself. Or, it is because of a dream he has of a beautiful princess that he goes on a journey looking for her. His adventure is pregnant with wondrous incidents; perhaps he has to fight his rivals for the hand of his princess, or he has to overcome obstacles to achieve whatever he sets out to do. His feats are usually so vividly described by the story-teller that they easily can enthrall the listeners. A typical example of a Malay folk-romance is an oral version of the story of Rama which was written down by W.E Maxwell, late in the 19th century, in Perak, from a well-known penglipor-lara of the past, Mir 1-lassan. This oral tale of Rama undoubtedly shows cultural borrowing, but in structure and in inspiration, it belongs to the Malay folk tradition. Thus it even differs from the written version, the Hikayat Sen Rama which keeps close to the original plots of the great Indian epic. The Malay written version of the Rama epic is undoubtedly a product of the court culture for it conveys the essence of the social order prevailing at the time, that is a feudal society, in which sense of loyalty, patriotism, heroism, the warrior code and other moral dictums were cherished. Mir Hassans version, on the other hand, is not exactly the story of Rama. The few plots which can be recognised as the plots to be found in the Ramayana are interpolated so as to accomodate the style of a Malay folkromance. In this folk version, the hero is not Rama but rather his son who assumes the shape of a monkey. Undoubtedly, the hero is reminiscent of Hanuman, the monkey hero of the Ramayana. Driven out of his fathers kingdom, lest he brings shame to his parents because of his monkey form, the hero starts on his adventure which includes some of the familiar plots in Ramayana, such as the hero helping his father Rama to rescue Sita from Rawana and the burning of Rawanas castle. In the main, however, the plots of the tale fit into the scheme of a Malay folk-romance. For example, it is


during the adventure that he first meets a princess who finally becomes his bride when he later assumes the human form. And as in a typical Malay folk-romance, the hero then becomes a king and lives happily ever after with his queen. The names of the characters for example, are a hotch-potch of various literary traditions as such names would suggest: Tuan Puteni Sa-Kuntum Bunga, is a local rendering of Sita and Shah Numan is obviously of Persian derivation. But Sen Rama, Rawana, and Raja Laksamana are obviously drawn from the Ramayana. Names of places, for example, are either indigenous, such as Negeri Tanjung Bunga or corrupted from the written version, such as Kachapuni for Langkapuni. The setting for the tale is unavoidably local in touch: a Malay royal court with its retinue for Raja Sen Rama and a garden of mango trees and coconut palms for the garden Rawana. With all the attempt by the raconteur to conjure up the image of sophistication for the princely world of the tale, the picture of village simplicity is projected instead. The grandeur of a royal wedding, for example, has the local village dignitariesthe lebai (local priest) and the haji (one who has gone to pilgrimage in Mecca) attending. Anachronisms, such as the use of pistol in battles or the display of the white flag as a token of surrender are also to be seen. Obviously, these are later additions because such objects or symbolism were not to be found in the Malay weltanschauung before the 18th or 19th century. A Malay folk-romance therefore blends together indigenous as well as foreign literary elements into a tradition which has been accepted by the Malay folk as its own. Besides the folk-romances, there are the humorous tales about a dull-wilted simpleton, that proverbial character Pak Pandir (Father Folly as Winstedt calls him), the luckless priest, Lebai Malang, and stories of the antics of Si Luncai and Pak Belalang who outwit others to further their own ends. There are other characters, like Mat Jenin and Abu Nawas, which obviously originated from the Muslim civilizations of Arabia and Persia. The antics of Pak Pandir or the lucklessness of Lebai Malang would undoubtedly entertain any audience. Imagine, for example, Pak Pandir leading back a sickle at the end of a string just because his wife, Mak Andeh, describes a buffalo as a thing which eats grass; or the indecision of Lebai Malang whether to go to a funeral where he can get a present of cloth or to a feast where fine food is served, but in the end he gets neither. The stories of Pak Belalang and Si Lunchai are definitely foreign importations. Th~ episodes have many parallels


in the tales of other nations. There are also many animal tales in the repertoire of a Malay story-teller. Perhaps the most well-known is the trickster motif in the tales of Sang Kanchil, the mouse-deer. Tales centering around a wily animal character are perhaps the most popular animal tales in the folklore of the world: Sang Kanchil of the Malay folk-tales is a counterpart of the famous animal characters like the rabbit and the fox of the Western and American traditions. So well-known is this character Sang Kancil that amongst Malays it symbolises people who, duminitive in stature, display extraordinary sharpness of mind. A host of other animals also feature in the animal tales of the Malays, but none is more popular than Sang Kanchil. There are many other types of tales which are shorter and perhaps which are not entirely for the purpose of entertainment, but rather they reflect the way of thinking of the simple folks or reflect the remnants of past beliefs. There are the tales of origin which explain the origin of the world or the origin of mankind. At one time in the past they were the components of the religious system of the people, but now they form part of the folklore of the people. Aetiological tales are tales which explain certain phenomena in nature; for example, why a tiger has stripes, or why a certain rock is cleft in the centre, or why the gum of the angsana tree is red. Why the python is not poisonous, for example, is explained in the story of how the python, which at one time was poisonous, vomitted its poison into the sea because it was outwitted by a prince. And the poison was then swallowed by the sea snake: that is why the python is no longer poisonous while the sea-snake is. Thus, Malay folk narratives are not different from the folktales of other peoples in the world. They represent a rich literary heritage from the past which connot be simply ignored either by the scholar of Malay literature or by the practising Malay writers of the present generation. To the latter, the traditional oral tales provide ready-made symbolism, both in content as well as in language, which can be recreated into a new idiom in literary expression. The Epic Literature Epics and romances which must have been derived from the Indian civilisation or from the period of Indian cultural influence continued to from a part of the literary tradition of the Malays after they had accepted Islam. According to Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals,. which is believed to have been first written in the 24

period of Muslim Malacca Sultanate, when the famous hero Hang Tuah talked of his prowess. he liked tc~be compared to Laksamana, Ramas brother in the great Indian epic of Ramayana. Thus the name of Laksamana stuck to Hang Tuah; and from that time on, Laksamana came to be the Malay term for admiral of the fleet. There are many other instances where the Ramayana had been a source of inspiration to Malay literature as well as tc~Malay life generally. Episodes and motifs from that great epic are to be found in many Malay works and folktales. In Hikayat Acheh which tells the story of the Achinese King, Iskandar Muda, who reigned during the earlier part of the 17th century, an episode in the Ramayana is used as a comparison to the mythical origin of the Sultanate of Acheh. In Malay wair and pantun, the two forms of traditional Malay poetry, it is not unusual to find the poet invoking the characters found in the Ramayana. So well-known is the story of Rama among the Malays that even today, Rama and Sita are generally regarded as the epitome of beauty and the example of faith and love. Magical incantations recited by the pawang and bomoh (village specialist in magic and folklore) invoke the names of Rama and Sita for such purposes as making one look appealing to the opposite sex. Spells which are supposed to endow one with martial skills also invoke the name of Laksamana. A circle invested with occult power by a pawang to protect those inside it is called the ~Circle of Laksamana. This is reminiscent of the episode in the Ramayana when Laksamana attempts to protect Sita from Rawana. It is safe to say that the epic has greater meaning in Malay culture than just literary. Besides the Ramayana which has given Malay literature one of its oldest known written texts, Hikayat Sen Rama, the great epic Mahabarata too has given rise to Malay works such as Hikayat Pandawa Jaya, Hikayat Pandawa Lima (stories of the war between the pandawas and the koravas), Hikayat Sang Boma and Hikayat Sang Samba (the story of Bhima, the son of Bhumi, the Earth). There is a strong probability that these works were derived from Javanese literature, a literature rich and well endowed with classical works. Hikayat Sang Boma, for example, could have been derived from the Bhamakavya of the Javanese literature and so also the various hikayat of the pandawas. Perhaps the appeal of the epic is universal. The heroic deeds of the characters would always fire the imagination of man. But as far as the epic stories of Rama, the pandawas or Sang Boma are concerned, they fit into the picture of the Malay royal court in the past. A king leading his 25

army into battle, the unstinted loyalty of the warriors towards their king, the heroic feats of the king himself and his warriors would be an inspiration to the court and its retinue. The Malay versions of the epics however is in prose. But the poetic beauty of the epics is still to be seen in the description of scenes depicting the grandeur of royal courts, the army arrayed for battles or the gods and demigods of the Indian pantheon locked in mortal combat, using weapons with super-natural power. The popularity of the epic of Rama an& the other Indian epics was undoubtedly looked upon with concern by the propagators of the new religion Islam. In fact, a religious work written by a Gujerati Muslim theologian in the service of the Sultan of Acheh in the early seventeeth century condemned the Hikayat Serf Rama as heretical. Sri Richard Winstedt can not be far wrong when he said, The first task of the (Muslim) missionaries was to substitute for the Hindu epic tales of the heroes of Islam... Legends of heroes in Muslim garb are perhaps the earliest of the literature brought in with the advent of the new religion. Mythic narratives which account for the origin of the Malacca Sultanate draw quite extensively from the Muslim legend of Alexander the Great (Iskandar Dzulkamnain). This dynastic myth which traces the ancestors of the kings of Malacca to Alexander the Great was later taken up by other Malay Sultanates which can trace their descent from the Sultans of Malacca. Islam had come to the Malay world not from its birthplace Arabia, but from Moslem-India which had by then absorbed the cultural traditions of Moslem-Persia. Thus, when Islam finally readied the shores of the Malay Archipelago, it did not come only as a new religious faith, but it brought with it the rich culture of the Indo-Persian traditions. One of the types of literature thus brought was the heroic legend legend of heroes drawn not only from the history of Islamic territorial expansion but from traditions dating to pre-Islamic period. The legend of Alexander is an example. Called Iskandar Dzulkarnain, Alexander is given a Muslim colouring. In the Malay version of this legend, Hikayat Iskandan Dzulkarnain Alexander is portrayed as a propagator of Islam and a king who conquers the world from where the sun rises to where the surrsets. Alexanders adventure over the surface of the earth is basically little different from the adventures of the heroes in the Indian epics: Alexander is made to fight the giants and other supernatural beings, a fact quite familiar to the heroes of classical Malay literature. But Hikayat Iskandan Dzulkannain also serves the royal Malay court in a different way. It also expounds the ethical


code of kingship with Islamic bias. For example: at one time when Alexander was drunk with the spoils of his world conquest, he was chastised and put on the right path as a just king by the ubiquitous prophet, Nabi Khidir, who appears again and again in various Malay hikayat. In this way, Alexander was made to be an example for all good kings to follow. This code of conduct is further stressed in later works of a more theological character. Thus the Islamic legend provided new meanings to an existing institution, that is kingship in Malay society. According to Sejarah Melayu, on the eve of the Portuguese attack on Malacca, the warriors of Malacca requested from Sultan Ahmad, the last king of Malacca the Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah, so they could be inspired by Muhammad Hanafiah in facing the Portuguese the next day. Sultan Ahmad proposed to give them Hfkayat Amir Hamzah instead, saying: Id give the story of Muhammad Hanafiah, but I fear they will not be as brave as he: if they are like Amir Hamzah it will do, so I give the story of Hamzah. But the warriors got Hikayat Muharntmad Hanafiah in the end. And judging from the story of the battle as related by the author of Sejarah Melayu, the warriors of Malacca fought their adversaries like the heroes in the two hikayat. These two hikayat are further examples of the heroic legends brought with the advent of the new religion Islam. Amir l-lamzah is actually a Persian hero belonging to pre-Islamic period while Muhammad Hanafiah can be considered.a hero within the history of Islam. But whether the heroes were pre-Islamic or not, it did not matter for they had been introduced to the readers of the Malay hikayat as heroes of Islam. However, the heroes of Islam did not entirely replace the heroes of the Indian epics in their popularity. In fact, the heroes continued to live side by side in the traditional Malay milieu. Although the epics of Rama, Amir Hamzah or Muhammad Hanafiah are well-known to the Malays, none is more cherished than the indigenous epic, Hikayat Hang Tuah, because it is an epic born out of the golden age of the Malay history, the glorious period of the Malacca Sultanate in the fourteenth century. Hang Tuah is the Malay national hero of the classical period, because he is the embodiment of traditional Malay values which, however, are being questioned today by the younger generation. The epic of Hang Tuah is made up of not only the episodes which relate his prowess in battles against his countrys enemies or his adventures as emissary of his king to foreign countries as far as Constantinople, but also of elements suggestive of his undivided allegiance and loyalty 27

to his feudal master. In the famous episode which has been reenacted over and over again in contemporary Malay dramatic plays, we find Hang Tuah fighting his closest friend, Hang Jebat, in order to redeem his Sultans honour, even after the Sultan had treated him unfairly. The tragic episode is so well-known In classical Malay literature that if Hang Tuah is symbolic of the traditional feudalistic values, Hang Jebat is, on the other hand, symbolic of rebellion against established order. It is not surprising that it is in Hang Jebat that the younger generation of Malays today have found a new symbolism: that is one representing change as against conservatism. So the episode itself can be interpreted as one portraying a conflict of values in Malay society. But as the epic was serving thern values prevailing at the time, it was 1lang Tuah who triumphed over Hang Jebat. The emphasis of the hikayat, besides the question of socio-cultural values, is on the heroic deeds of Hang Tuah as an indigenous person. Perhaps this is the one factor which makes it the most significant product of classical Malay literature. The Sejarah or Histories Historical writing to the Malays in the past was not meant only to be a recording of events, but also a form of literary art. Thus the tradifional Malay historiography is somewhat different from historical writing today. The Malay histories or sejarah consist of dynastic chronicles of the different Sultanates or just recordings of events which caught the fancy of the writer of the past. The earlier historical writing are mostly concerned with the events and happenings in the royal courts. The royal courts were in fact the hub of the Malay society, which in the past was organised into city-states. At the royal court, the scribe who was in the service of the king would write little of the actual events, but more of his interpretations of the events and happenings, concerning those closely connected with the court. In some works, one gets the impression that there was probably a revision made at the time of writing on past events. Whenever a revision was made during the reign of a particular ruler, the scribe would see to it that his patron would overshadow his otherwise illustrious predecessors. These earlier historical writings consist of works such as Hikayat Rajaraja Pasai, which is an account of the Pasai dynasty, covering the period from the beginning of the 14th century until the time when the Majapahit forces of Java overran the country in about the middle of the same century, Sejarah Melayu or Sulalat us Salatin which gives an account of the Sultanate of Malacca during the 15th century, Misa Melayu which describes a period of the reign of the Perak


Sultans, Hikayat Acheh which relates the genealogy of the Sultanate of Acheh, but devotes most of its pages to glorify Sultan Iskandar Muda of Acheh and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa which begins with the legendary kings of pre-Islamic Kedah and ends with the Muslim rulers of the state. Some are quite lengtb,i like the Silsilah Kutoi or the Hikayat Raja-raja Banjar dan Koto Ringin, which describes the history of some states in Borneo, but others are fragmentary like the histories of the Sultanate of Langkat in Sumatera or those of Pahang and Trengganu. These fragmentaryworks usually deal with certain events and do not give a good picture of the history of the state in question. So itis to the lengtby works like Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai, Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Acheh that we turn to ifwe want to have an idea of the Malay histonograpby of the past The most common feature of the Malay historiography is the genealogy of the dynasty traced to its origin. Usually the origin of a dynasty is shrouded in mythologies involving mythic kings of the past. The genealogy of the Malacca kings, as has been said above, is traced in Sejarah Melayu to Iskandar Dzulkarnain or Alexander the Great. In fact, Sejarah Melayu begins with a lenghty account of the ancestors of the kings of Malacca. While Alexander was on his journey, he married the daughter of a great Hindu King, Raja Khida Hindi, and it was from this matrimonial alliance that the ancestor of the kings of Malacca came about. This ancestor, Sang Sapurba, landed on a Mount Siguntang Mahameru in Palembang from an undersea kingdom. When he landed the padi on Mount Siguntang turned into gold and the stalks turned into silver. Such was the sign of greatness of the ancestor of Malacca Kings. In Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai, in Hikayat Acheh or in Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, we get the same characteristic. The origin of the Pasai dynasty, for example, is traced to the alliance between a prince who was carried about on the head of an elephant and a princess who was found in a bamboo stalk. Somewhat similar is the ancestorship of the sultans of Acheh; and in the case of the kings of Kedah, their ancestry is traced to king Merong Mahawangsa who managed to reconcile the prince of Rome and the princess of China, representing the West and the East, after the great bird Garuda, had put them asunder. These are undoubtedly legends, and in some cases well-known legends in Indian literature. The legend of the bamboo princess is quite well-known in southeast Asia, and the legend of the Elephant prince, usually called the tale of the Sagacious Elephant, is found in Kantha Sanit Sagara of the Indian literature. But the mythological origin of the dynasties in the Malay histories had 29

a purpose. These dynastic myths give an aura of divinity to the Sultanate. The rakyat (subject) was thus imbued with a sense of respect and worship towards his king. In Sejarah Melayu this is further stressed in stories describing the divine power of the Malacca Sultans. The possession of this divine power, which is the prerogative of the monarch alone, is called daulat in Malay, and th~curse for going against is called tulah. Thus, for example, according to Sejarah Melayu when the Emperor of China suffered from a skin disease, he was told by his Mandarin, Your Highness, the cause (of the disease) is that the Raja of Malacca sent you his obeisance Your Highness must drink the water used by the Raja of Malacca for washing his feet or this sickness that afflicts Your Highness will not be cured Such is the manner in which the writer of the Sejarah Melayu portrays the divinity of his master. And Sejarah Melayu also stresses on the loyalty of the rakyat in serving his sultan. Time and again the cry that it is not in the character of the Malay rakyat to rebel against his king echoes in the stories of Sejarah Melayu and the other Malay histories. The histories also serve the pride of the city-states. Hikayat Raja raja Pasai, for example, tells how the great hero of Pasai, crown prince Ibrahim Bapa, scared off two warriors from India who came sjloiling for a fight at the court of Pasai. In Hikayat Acheh, when Iskandar Muda was still a boy, he put to shame the challenger from Portugal in horse riding and challengers from other countries in matches of weaponery skill. And it is again in Sejarah Melayu that such things are depicted more vividly. In Sejarah Melayu, not only the king, who was sup~osedto be the overlord of the other Malay kingdoms, but the gentlemen of Malacca as well were above any outsider in physical contests or in battles of wit. It is his skill in portraying all this that we admire the writer of Sejarah Melayu as a literary artist rather than a historian or a chronicler. Then, there is another type of histories which became quite popular in the 18th and the 19th centuries. Unlike the dynastic histories, the latter type reflects a truly literary effort because it is usually written in verse, usually the syair form. There is at least one known text, published by WE. Maxwell, which is in another verse form called pantun berkait. These syairs relate events which must have taken place during the life time of the poet. The one in pantun berkait which has just been mentioned records the event of Raja Hajis attack on the Dutch in Malacca in the 18th century. Judging from its tone, it must have been written by a Malacca Malay with Dutch sympathies. Belonging to this category are such 30

works as Syair Perang Makasar which records Speelmans attack on Macassar in 1666 AD., Syair Perang Banjarmasin which describes the war in Banjarmasin (South Borneo) between 1858 AD. and 1863 AD and Syair Inggeris Menyerang Kota which tells of the English occupation of west Java in 1811, and in which Raffles is referred in the same way as a Sultan in usually referred to by the word baginda. It would appear that only such events as wars and battles caught the imagination of the poets; but the collection of this type of literature reveals a myriad of events which had given the Malay poet of the past an inspiration to show his poetic skill, from events such as a Governor-Generals party at his palace to the wedding of a Kapitan China. Islamic Religious Literature The royal Malay courts in the past did not only maintain scribes to compose histories and romances but also, during the Islamic period, had in their employ theologians who acted as spiritual advisers to the Sultans. In Sejarah Melayu, for example, we get accounts of the theologians from the West coming to Malacca to advise on or to teach matters concerning the new religion. And according to Sejarah Melayu too, it was a favourite sport of Sultan Mahmud of Malacca to tease the theologians at the court of Pasai by sending missions across the Straits of Malacca to pose them with tricky questions on theology and Sufi thoughts. Having theologians at royal courts as spiritual advisers who also engaged in literary writing was by no means an Islamic innovation. It was an extension of an institution founded in the Hindu-Malay courts of the pre-Islamic days, as was clearly seen in the courts of Javanese Kings. When Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese, cultural leadership in the Malay world went over to Acheh, which by the second half of the 16th century was an up and rising kingdom. A stream of theologians from places like Gujerat began to flow toward Acheh. It is the writings of those theologians serving the court of Acheh which enable us today to know of yet another type of writing belonging to classical Malay literature. Perhaps, the most celebrated theologian of this period was Sheikh Nuruddin Al-Raniri, a Gujerati, who arrived in Acheh in 1637 A.D. A prolific writer, he wrote and translated a great number of works dealing with Islamic history, theology, and jurisprudence. His best knowm work is the one called Bustan-us-Salat,n (The Garden of Kings) which was 31

written in 1638. This book does not only deal with the subject of religion, but it is also meant to be a guide or example on good and just kingship. The third chapter, for example, expounds the ethical code of kingship which includes the moral duty of kings towards their subjects and the religious duty of the kings towards God. Another work of similar style was Taj-us-Salatin (The Crown of Kings), which must have been derived from Persian sources. The period of Achinese supremacy was also a period when mysticism or sufism as a form of theological and philosophical thinking in Islam came to be very popular. In this particular field, it was the local people who came to the fore as authors of sufistic writings. Going through their works, we come across names like Hanizah of Barus, Shamsuddin of Pasai, Abdul Rauf of Singkel, Abdul Samad of Palembang and many others. At one time some of the works were considered heretical by the theologians at the Achinese court so they were ordered to be burnt. The most famous of the Sufis of the period was Hamzah Fansuri, the poet-laureate of Acheh. Although some of his works were written in prose, it was in verse form or syair that he proved himself to be a great writer. His numerous syair verses present his mystic thinking in beautiful imageries. At the time when the greatness of Malacca was just a memory and at the time when the inroads made by the Westerners wt~regathering momentum, it was at the court of Acheh that Islamic religious thoughts and writing flourished. With Islam also came the stories of the prophets belonging to the Islamic tradition. Some of the stories antedate Islam itself, but they came to the Malays as part of the Islamic tradition. The story of Joseph, known in Malay as Hikayat Nabi Yunuf, for example, is one of the oldest known texts in Malay literature. It is known to have been in existence as early as 1604 AD. The spread of Islam among the Malays brought along with it not only works of theology and Sufi thought from the Moslem lands to the north, but also popular works for easy propagation of the new faith. A popular form of religious propagation is to be seen in the naratives about the Holy Prophet Muhammad. These stories tell of the miracles by the Holy Prophet, thus emphasizing his special powers (mujizat). Works like Hikayat Mujizat Nabi, Hikayat Nabi Bercukur, Hikayat Bulan Berbelah and Hikayat Nabi Wafat are some of the many meant to convince the followers, not through strict dogmatic teachings. but through popular appeal. It is usual to find exhortations to read or listen to these works because reading or listening to them would have the reward equal to circumambulating the 32

Kaabah thirty times. Belonging to the same category are works on magic and medicine derived from popular Islamic sources, most probably Persian in origin. Two examples of these are Kitab Tajul-Muluk and Kitab Mujarrabat Melayu which can still be obtained today in Malay bookshops. The tradition of writing, copying, translating and editing with commentaries works on the Islamic religion is perhaps one of the most important traditions in classical Malay literature. In the period before the middle of the nineteenth century, the religious texts, which are known as kito.b in Malay, existed mainly in manuscript form. The kitabs were copied either by scribes in the employ of the royalties and ruling chiefs or by students in pondok schools which were, until recently, the main centres of religious learning among the Malays. Thus works on Muslim theology, jurisprudence, philosophy and history can be regarded as the main intellectual expression in classical Malay literature. It is significant to note that the introduction of the printing press and the establishmeht of publishing houses in the nineteenth century first served
the market for religious literature rather than other types of writings. Even in the first half of the twentieth century, a greater portion of the Malay book market was confined to works on every aspect of the Islamic religion.

The Romances The classical antecedents of todays modern Malay novels are the romances or romantic hikayat. Although most of the romances deal with adventures of kings, princes, sea-captains (nakhoda) and merchants (khoja), some belong to what we may call moral stories. Unlike the folk-romances of the oral tradition which display much indigenous originality, most of the romances which have come down to us in manuscripts form indicate foreign inspiration or origin. The most indigenous to the Malay area, and the most popular, are the Javanesepanji cycle. The basic story of the cycle revolves around the love between a prince, Radin Inu Kartapati of the kingdom of Kuripan, and a princess, Galuh Chandera Kirana of the kingdom of Daha. The cycle is made up of the adventures of Radin mu Kartapati who is in search of his betrothed, Chandera Kirana, and those of Chandera Kirana herself in the disguise of a male dancer known as Panji Semirang. There are many other names. Some of these variants are also known by other names such as Hikayat Chekel Waneng Pati, Hikayat Panji Vv~1a Kesuma, Hikayat Raja Kuripan, Hikayat Panji Kuda Semirang, Hikayat 33

Charang Kulina and many others. Some of the variants were also rendered into syair form as narrative poetry, such as Shair Panji Semirang and Shair Ken Tambuhan. The romances derived from the Indian sources still retain their original names like Hikayat Marakarma, Hikayat Jaya Langkara and Hikayat Indera Putera The local story-tellers who rendered these stories into Malay had been quite free with their renditions that the ultimate products have been transformed into tales quite distinguishable from the original ones. It is a common feature to find the episodes of the different romances being juxtaposed among themselves. Some of the works even have alternative names; thus Hikayat Marakarma is also known as Hikayat Ahmad Muhammad. In the process of rendering the foreign derived romances into Malay, it is possible to say that the local writers had been recreating these works into Malay romantic hikayaL This is especially true in cases where the story is recomposed in verse or syair thus transforming a prose hikayat into a narrative poem. Some of the original sources of these hikayat are not easy to trace. Partly this is due to the fact that there had been an intermixture of Indian, Arabic and Persian literary traditions even before the narratives came to be introduced to the Malay world. Tales like Hikayat Bayan Budiman and Hikayat Kalilah wa Daminah, which are actually cycle-stories emphasising morals and good-conduct, had been circulating in many variants in India, Persia and Arabia. It would be interesting to study the origins of the hundreds of Malay romances, but it would not be as interesting as the study of the adaptation of these narratives into Malay hikayat and what literary and socio-cultural values have been emphasised in their transformation. -It is in the romantic hikayat that we find the crystallisation of Malay prose literary conventions: the stylistic features, plot structures and also the themes. It is clear that romances like Hikayat Lang-Lang Buana, Hikayat GuI Bakawali, Hikayat isma Yatim, Hikayat Bakhtiar, Hikayat Bustomam and numerous others are so well-known that they provide ready-made images and comparisons as to human conduct and behaviour, concept of beauty and magnificence, human strength and frailties and so on. The romances are not based on the kind of reality that we find in a modern novel for they often deal with the marvellous and the wondrous; but this is to be expected for they were meant primarily to entertain. What differentiates the classical Malay romantic hikayat from the modern novel there34

fore, is the fact that the former contains less plausibilities and probabilities than the latter in terms of the stories they tell. It is interesting to note that the sea-captian (nakhoda) and the merchant (Khoja) are the main characters of the romances besides the usual kings and princes. Perhaps this is because of the fact that these two classes of people almost shared the social status of kings and princes, and such social distance made it possible for them to be part of the imaginative world not readily accessible in real life to ordinary people, except only in romances. Of all the literary genres, the romantic hikoyat has been sadly neglected by scholars. Very little has been said about them, except to refer to their diverse origins. Even their contribution to Malay literary styles, technical concepts of plot structure, character development and other literary aspects has never been looked into. Equally important is the study of the romantic hikayat as a carrier of social values, ethical as well as aesthetical, and world-view. Classical Poetic Forms Of classical Malay poetry, perhaps the most well-known is the pantun. A pantun is a quatrain with the rhyming scheme of a-b-a-b or even a-a-a-a. For example: Pulau Pandan jauh ke tengah, Dl balik Pulau Angsa Dua, Hancur badan dikandung tonah, Budi yang balk dikenang juga. There is a peculiarity of the pantun which has been the subject of an unending discussion amongst scholars of Malay. This concerns the connection between the first two lines and the last two lines of the quatrain. Some scholars maintain that the first two lines are suggestive of the message conveyed in the last two; but others are of the opinion that there is no relevance of the first two lines to the message conveyed by the last two except to provide the rhyming scheme. It would be a long discourse to go into such discussion; but suffice it to say that the most important part of the pantun is the last two lines which convey the actual message. Essentially, pantun is folk-poetry; it is meant to be recited orally or sung aloud. The pantun, it is to be observed is the basis of most Malay folk-songs, like the popular Rasa Sayang Eh or the Dondang Sayang of Malacca. It stresses much on assonance, rhyme and cadence on the one hand, and on the appropriateness of


the message to the occasion in which it is recited on the other. There are well-known stock-pantuns which are quoted at appropriate accasions for relevant purposes. Such pantuns function more like proverbs. For example, when someone wishes to show gratefulness, he merely recites the follcxving pantun: Pisang emas dibawa belayar, Masak sebiji di atas peti, Hutong emas boleh dibayar, Hutong budi dibawa mati. The last two lines which convey the actual message say: If gold is owed, it can be repaid, But if it is gratitude, it is carried to the grave. But being folk-poetry, the pantun can be freely composed as one likes, but the form has to be adhered to. Anyone can compose a pantun or recite it as he likes. It can also fit into any occasion because the message conveyed by a pantun can be a universal truth as usually conveyed in stock-pantun or it can be a personal message of the reciter. The massage can be anything from a reflection of an irony of fate in life to an expression of ardent love, or from aserious note of advice to a light-hearted teasing. And in conveying these messages, the pantun is not always straight-forward, but is usually disguised in appropriate imageries. For example, to express an irreconcilable parting, we have:

Orang be!ayar lautan ambung, Patoh tiang timpa kemudi, Putus benang boleh disambung, Patoh arang sudah sekali. The message conveyed by the last two lines is: A break in thread can be rejoined.
But a break in charcoal, it is final.

Or, to express lost love, we have: Sungguh dalam Sungai Sedayu, Tempat raja pergi bermain, 36

Bagaimana bunga tok Iayu, Embun jatuh di tempat lain. The message is: Why shouldnt the flower wither, The dew falls on another. Or, the lamentation of ones fate in not being able to get what one desires, we have a well-known stock-pantun which says: Asap api gulung gemulung, Anak buaya terlampai-lampai, Hajat hati nak peluk gunung, Apakan daya tangan tok sampai. And the message reads: The intention is to embrace a mountain, But what can I do, my arms are not long enough. Many scholars have tried to discuss the origin of the pantun: some have traced the pantun form to simpler forms of folk-ditties and jingles. R.O. Winstedt,1 for example, has suggested that it is from simple riddles based on sound suggestions that the pantun has evolved into a comparatively more sophisticated form. An example of this simple form, which has been erroneously referred to as a two-line pantun by Winstedt, is to be seen in the following: pinggan tak retak. nasi tak dingin engkau tak hendak, aku tak ingin. when translated, it means: The plate is not cracked, nor the rice cold, If you dont feel like it, neither do I. Others have suggested that the origin can be traced to a peculiar type of language usage. It is a kind of euphemism, where an idea is 37

not expressed directly but by sound suggestion. For example, the word ribu which means thousand is conveyed by a word with almost similar sound riwu, which is a kind of fern. Or, as practi-

sed by people in some parts of Sumatera, a bridegroom gives to his bride a fish called belanak, but all the time meaning beranak, which means to bear children. It appears that the principle of sympathetic magic prevails in the use of language illustrated here. The relationship between language and magical notions is found in most cultures, but to say that the origin of pantun lies in the magical use of words needs further investigation.

The so~called two-line pantun and the full four-line pantun, however have the usual characteristics to be found in folk or oral poetry: the simple rhyming scheme of the basic structure; cadence which suits oral recitation; mnemonic device in the first part being formulaic expression; rich but simple imageries; and their proverb-like function. Bearing this fact in mind, it would not be far-fetched to say that there is no such thing as the two-line pantun being the forerunner of the four-line pantun; all the forms happen to be oral or folk-poetry. Another form of traditional Malay poetry is the syair. Although the word suggests that it is of Arabic origin, which in the original has also some connection with poetry or singing, the Malay verse form which goes by the name Syair is somewhat different form the Arabic verse. Syair in Malay poetry means a long poem made up ot four-line stanzas or quatrains. Unlike the pantun form, each stanza of the syair is rhymed a-a-a-a; for example: Dengarlah kesah suatu niwayat, Raja di desa negeri Kembayat, Dikarang fakir dijadikan hikayat, Dibuatkan syair serto berniaL Whereas the pantun is complete in a quatrain, the syair conveys a continuous idea from one stanza to the next. In each stanza there is a unity of idea from the first line to the last line, and the idea is continued into the following stanzas. Thus the syair can be a narrative poem, a didactic poem, or a poem used to convey ideas on philosophy or religion, or even one to describe a historical event. The syair verse which is quoted above is an introduction to a wellknown syair narrative called Syair Bidasari. Old Malay literature abounds in syair narratives; it is not uncommon to find two versions of a story, one in prose form which has been referred to as 38

the romantic hikayat and the other in syair form. The syair is a literary effort of an individual poet; and as such, unlike the pantun, it belongs to the written tradition. But it is perhaps more appropriate to say that it is partly-written and partlyoral in character because the syair is meant to be recited aloud to a certain tune. This is especially true in the past when literacy was a luxury and a privilege afforded only by a few. The syair is known to have been written as early as the 17th century. This is evident from some of the manuscripts containing the syair which have survived to this day. Hamzah Fansuris syair are among the earliest known. As a mystic, he used the ~yair to put forth his Sufi thoughts as can be seen in the following examples. Satukan hangat dan dingin, lInggalkan loba dan ingin, Hancur hendak seperti hIm, Mangkanya dapat kerjanya hicin. Sir Richards Winstedt had attempted to translate the stanza into English in a poetic way: When heat and cold have become the same, with greed and desire each an idle name, and yourself is the wax resolved in the flame, and smooth in the end youll find lifes game. The following is another example of Harnzah Fansuris style: in this particular stanza, which is quite simple in form, the mystic poet relates his experience in seeking God. Hamzah Fansuni di dalam Mekah, Mencari Tuhan di Kaabah, Dan Barus ke Kudus ten!alu payah, Akhimya dapat di dalam rumah. When translated, it would mean: Hamzah Fansuri in Mecca, Looking for God in Kaaba, From Barus (his birth place) to Purity (the pinnacle of mystic experience) is very difficult, But finally finding Him at home (meaning the poet himself). The syair has been for a long time a popular form of composing long poems in Malay. It has been almost the sole vehicle for conveying narratives or continuous idea in poetry. But today, the syair 39

is not a popular poetic expression anymore as young writers prefer the blank-verse called the sajak. But in the period before the outbreak of the Second World War, the syair was a common feature in Malay newspapers and popular literature. Other forms of traditional Malay poetry include the irregular verse forms called the seboka and the gurindam. There is no sharp distinction between the two structures: but the content of the seloka is usually of a lighter vein, whereas the gurindam is usually didactic in nature. The advent of Islam also introduced into the world of Malay literature Persian verse forms like the masnawi, rubal and ghazal, but they are very rare and not widely known, except in works translated from Persian sources.

1. Winstedt R.O. A Histoi~ of Classical Malay Literature, Oxford Univ. Press: Kuala Lumpur. 1960.


It is undeniable that the nineteenth century was the watershed that divided the socio-cultural history of the Malay world. Before the nineteenth century belonged the classical period which was characterised not so much by the external influences of Indian, and later, Islamic civilization, but by, to my thinking, the social structure and the cultural values and expressions of the indigenous civilizations. For nearly two thousand years the socia structure was generally characterised by great-little traditions of the citystates on the one hand and the more homogeneous but relatively isolated socio-political organizations of the inhabitants of the interior.1 But by the nineteenth century, the polity of the city-states began to crumble and in its place we find the encroachment of the colonial society. While certain features of the traditional society were retained, such as the nominal political structure of the feudal courts or the traditional economic pursuits of the peasantry, it was beyond doubt that the twentieth century saw the transformation of the indigenous society into one much imbued by western influences and domination which ultimately culminated in the founding of independent states whose socio-pilitical structures show little vestiges of the traditional polity, although in some respects, certain traditional elements like the arts or philosophy (e.g. the concept of mesyua~ ah and gotong-royong) were revived and blended into the modern structure. The installation of the Yang Di-Pertua Agong in 41

Malaysia, for example, used traditional symbolism in legitimising an entirely new and western inspired institution, the constitutional monarchy. In the history of Malay writing, the nineteenth century too was the dividing line. While it is true that a really meaningful change did not materialise until the 1920s and 1930s when the seeds of the present-day nxels, short-stories and sajak were shown,2 the transformation of the traditional style and approach into certain new traits was already to be seen in the nineteenth century. A great deal has been written about Abdull~has the innovator of Malay writing in the 19th century. He has been variously described as the fatherof modern Malay literature, the first Malay journalist, a chronicler or even a historian. The focus has so far been on the innovative features of Abdu!lahs writing. His Hikayat Abdullah and Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah are regarded as the forerunner of modern prose because in them one finds the departure from the classical style, not so much in the style of language but more in the attitude towards and the way he sees in his subject matters. The Hikayat and the Kisah are not yet the modern shortstories or novels, but they represent a different kind of literary genre from those found in the classical literature. They project a different world-view and ethos. Unlike the traditional history or sejarah, which the Hikayat and the Kisah approximate in content, both of Abdullahs works present their subject-matter in a personal and critical manner. It is understandable that this should be so, for while the histories were nurtured in the milieu of the traditional society of the city-states, Abdullahs works could have been possible only because he was a part of the embryonic colonial society which the English East India Company was establishing in Penang, Malacca and Singapore in the 19th century. Another factor which may have contributed to the kind of world-view and ethos one finds in Abdullahs works is the fact that the period was the beginning of the technological and industrial age. Abdullah was perceptive enough of the possible consequences the scientific and technological inventions such as the steamship, cartography, surgery, printing and others would bring to the world traditionally dominated by superstitions and blind faith in the feudal values. It was his close association with the Westerners and his praise of them and their civilisation in his writing that earned him the title Abdullah Paderi among his contemporaries and Anglophille among later appraisers of his works. What have not been dealt with, and dealt with justification, are


the traditional dispositions to be found in Abdullahs writing. Apart from the syair and pantun which he was fond of composing or his familiarity with classical works, the way that he looked at the world around him does not indicate that he was entirelywon overby the new civilization which he realised was right at the doorstep of the Malay world. He might have been impressed by the technology and the orderly system of the English law and administration, but he remained a traditional moralist based on the precepts and philosophy of the Islamic humanistic ideas. It is without doubt that there was a discrepancy between the much-publicised pratices of the Malay feudal lords and the injunctions and exhortations of such books on kingship as Tajus-Salatin or Bustan-us-Salatin, where the emphases had been on just and humanitarian government. The first fact has been often focussed upon by Western scholars, and in this respect, Abdullah was no less critical of the Malay feudal elite during his time. The ideals as expounded in the books of law and statecraft are often regarded as useless documents. However, the same moral precepts are to be detected in the histories like Sejarah Melayu or Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai, where just and able rulers are shown to be morally superior to the weak and unjust. The ethos was not pronounced as such, but the implications were there. Abdullah, on the other hand, was expressedly more critical, but he was striking the familiar chord when he criticised the indulgent and indolent feudal princes, while praising those who practised strain and judiciousness. The moralisirig streak, therefore, is very much a traditional character of the Malay classical writers or pujangga, and in this respect Abdullah was continuing a tradition which has been enriched by the humanistic teachings of Islam. It is in the context of examining the transformation of classical world-view and ethos in Malay writing that we have to consider Raja All Haji of Riau. He was almost the contemporary of Abdullah. Like Abdullah he also experienced and perceived the sociocultural change brought about by the advent of Western civilisation, although in his case it was the Dutch rather than the English who introduced the new order of things. However, his works are often looked upon as still bearing the hallmark of the classical traditions the histories and the syair. But on closer scrutiny we will find that while the foims are traditional, the views and values which are manifested in those works also reveal a mind not quite consonant in eveiy respect with the traditional world-view and ethos which had


produced such historical works as Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai or Merong Mahawangsa. Raja All Haji is better known as a historian, and his contribution in this role, through his Tuhfat al-Nafis and Silsilah Me!ayu Dan Bugis had been evaluated to some extent by the historians.3 The contention here is that Raja Ali Haji was more than just a historian in the modern sense: he was, perhaps more so than Abdullah a pujangga of the old order. He was, in fact, the last of the pujanggas. While the Malay Sultanates had continued to exist in the different parts of the Malay world under the aegis of the colonial powers, the figure of the pujangga was missing. The pujangga was the figure of an intellectual in the classical setting: he was not only a writer or a historian, but one who provided the intellectual stimulation to the court he was serving. The intellectual climate in Malacca and Pasai which was dominated by religious polemics as described in Sejarah Me!ayu, or the contributions of Sheikh Nuruddin Al-Ranin and Hamzah Fansun at the court of Acheh, are some of the glimpses we get of the intellectual activities and influences in the past. Raja Ali Haji, through his works, still shows the mark of the traditional pujangga of the old Malay feudal court, but at the same time he also displays sensitivity towards the new kind of world-view and ethos Besides the two historical works, Tuhfat-al-Nafis and Silsilah Melayu dan Bugis, he had left to posterity an assortment of poetic works, syair, and gurindam, and two works on Malay language, Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa and Bustan-ul-Katibin There is also a mention of a book on morals or proper conduct (adab) in his Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa (pg. 92). Raja All Haji, whose real name is Raja Haji Ali bin Raja Haji Ahmad, was a member of the Malay-Bugis royal house of Riau. He was the grandson of Raja Haji, Marhum Teluk Ketapang, who died attacking the Dutch in Malacca in 1784 A.D. His lineage is further traced to Daing Chalak, one of the five Bugis warriors who dominated the western part of the Malay world in the eighteenth centuiy.4 It is not known eactly when Raja Ali Haji was born, but by calculating the dates mentioned in Tuhfat-al-Nafis, it is most probable that he was born in 1809 A.D. It is also not known exactly when he died but it could be between 1869 and 1875 AD.5 Both Raja All Haji and his father, as mentioned in the Tuhfat, were senior officials in the sultanate of Riau during their times. According to him, the haj pilgrimage that his father, Raja Ahmad or Raja Tua, made, and in which he also took part, was the first that the


Malay nobility from Riau performed. He has been described as an author and religious expert. It is easy to see from his works that he was not only knowledgeable in religious studies but wellversed in Arabic too. His family background also shows up in his works: while he was charitable towards the Malay side of his family line,6 he was proud of his Bugis ancestry that despite his protestations for objective truth in his Tuhfat and Silsilah, the Bugis bias is very much in evidence. It has been pointed out by Virginia Matheson that the Tuhfat represents a synthesis and collation of works which are quite identifiable,7 but is beyond doubt that Raja All Haji had not only tooled it together into a meaningful whole as a history but had embellished it with his own touch. The same can be said of the Silsilah. Not only is it based on the Kitab daripada tangan saudara kami yang saleh yang kepercayaan dan iaiti.i Sayid Alsyarif Abdu! Rahman Ibnu Said Alsyarif Kasim Sultan Pontianak bin Sayid Alsyarif Abdul Rahman Al-Kadiri and othersources which are also mentoined in the Tuhfat,it is embellished with lengtby syairwhich reflects both his skill and imaginative bent in poetry writing. So notwithstanding the fact that the Tuhfat, and the Silsilah were based on other works, in their final forms which have come to us, they must beregarded as the works of Raja Ali Haji. The Tuhfat, and the works on which it is based, has been dealt with already by Virginia Matheson, but the Silsilah has not attracted that much attention. For example, a text published by the Al-Imam Press in Singapore in Hijnah 1329, which contains some pen sketches of the old palace of Sultan Sulaiman and sea-battles between Raja Kechik arid the Bugis, has not been mentioned an~vhere!~ There is no other way to describe the Tuhfat, which should be regarded as Raja All Hajis magnum opus, except that it is a historical work But it is a historkal work not entirely in the traditional Malay sense of history as represented by Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai or Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. The first feature one notices which deviates from the traditional historiography is the preponderance of dates. Although the use of dates is not exceptional in the traditional historical writing for some of the works that the author used carried dates, their use in the Tuhfat, nevertheless, is significant, not so much because they are used, but more so because they represent a new kind of world-view with regard to the concept of time in Malay historiography. It is a general feature of the traditional histories that there was an ab45

sence of dates. The referrence to any concept of time is done in very vague manners such as zaman dahulu kala or at best ~Mtha reference to the reign of particular rulers. There is definitely to be detected a sense of chronology and corcern for the realationship between event and time. So often in the Tuhfat Raja All Haji refers to different time sequences according to the different sources that he was using. Coupled with the element of time in historiographical writing, we also find in the Tuhfat the use of different and varied sources. According to Dr. Kratz, there were at least 20 known works dealing with the various events during the time, some were in the form of genealogies, others were in the form of chronicles, but they were mainly confined to specific events.9 It is only in the Tuhfat and the Silsilah that we find works aimed at providing a comprehensive historical picture. Virginia Matheson has shown that Raja Ali Haji must have used his source materials very skilfully, for he emphasised on chronology rather than location as the central thread in his narration of events.This again reflects the attitude and concept towards time in history, a fact not found in the earlier histories. The Tuhfat and Silsilah however were traditional histories in the sense that they were motivated by the authors sense of family duty to preserve for the posterity the history of his ancestors. This is comparable to .the introduction by Tun Sri Lanang to the Sejarah Melayu, the writing of which was also prompted by the acquisition of a hikayat from Goa. The late A.H. Hill has described in the preface of his edition of Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai that the truth as conceived in the traditional Malay historiography was subjective truth rather than objective truth as espoused by the modern historian. I have tried to explain the phenomenon by showing that the Tuhfat contains the least mythical elements compared to the earlier Malay histories, not so much because it represents a later point on a timescale in Malay historiographical writing, but rather because there must have been a shift in the function of historical writing in Malay society.2 For example, it was no longer necessary for Raja Ali Haji in the Tuhfat or the Silsi!ah to perpetuate the myth of semi-divinity of the Malay rulers becau ~e of the already changing situation of the time. It was during this time, that the Malay Sultanates, including the sultanate of Riau and Lingga had not only declined but were at the mercy of the colonial powers. In fact the last pages of the Tuhfat picture graphically the gradual decline of the Sultanates and the ascending power of the Dutch and the English in the 19th century. As I have pointed out before, the mythic world46

view had given way to a. critical world-view and therefore the history that one finds in the Tuhfat reflects a new world-view although in content and form it still represents the traditional genre. His evaluation of the source materials may not stand up to the critical standards of present-day historians, but at least there seems to be an attempt at objectivity as the following can testify: Demikianlah tersebut di dalam sejarah yang sebelah Siak. Maka sangatiah bersalahan dengan sejarah dan siarah yang di sebelah barat pihak Johor Maka hal ito pun tiada aku berani mengesahkan sejarah Siak, dan tiadapula aku berani mengatokan ghalat sejarah dan siarah yang disebelah barat pihak Johor ito, kerana keduanya ito pekerjaan yang telah lalu masanya beratus tahun daripada masaku. Allah Suhhanahuwa Taala yang lebih tahunya akan hakibatnya. Antoha. It is difficult to deny the fact that Raja All Haji professed to be objective in his approach. As I have observed before, his prayer that his account of history would be spared of errors and mistakes (Pada ha! mengharapi aku akan Allah Taala yang mengampuni daripada tersalah pada segala tawarikh dan perjalananriya: Ya Tuhanku, perkenankan oleh Mu akan pintak hamba Mu) could easily be the prayer of a modern historian. However, the difficulty is, how to reconcile his professed stance with the fact that he was almost blatantly biased towards the Bugis role in the events narr~ted in the Tuhfat or the Silsilah? As Virginia Matheson has pointed out, Raja Ali Haji had been discriminative in the use of his sources, choosing the accounts which gave the bias to the Bugis. over others, and he might have even altered the Siak source which 3 The bias towards the should be, logically speaking authors family lineage is alsoanti-Bugis. to be seen in Sejarah Melayu as pointed by Winstedt when he suggested that the work tended to put the Bendahara line in a better light.4 Perhaps it is simply human nature to favour ones family line. But I am more inclined to give it a sociological explanation in that traditional Malay histriography was a process of myth-making: to uphold the.legitimacy of a ruling house or even tojustify the position of a ruling family. It is in this respect that Raja Ali Haji was still a traditional Malay historian where family honour and the question of legitimacy was the uppermost consideration. In Both the, Tuhfat and the Silsilah, this question is encapsulated in the long and protracted struggle between the Bugis family and Raja Kechik of Siak. The Tuhfat and the Silsilah, are to my mind motivated by Raja 47

All Hajis familiar feeling and consideration. However the personal views in his historical works are interesting. Describing the character of Sultan Mahmud of Lingga until the time has was deposed by the Dutch, for example, is a distinct exercise in objectivity inspite of the fact that the Sultan had close ties with him. Abdullah is more poignant in portraying the pathetic figure of Sultan Hussein Shah of Singapore when the Sultan found out what it was like to lose his authority and sovereignty.5 However, the main thing is that both the authors axe quite perceptive of the actual meaning of the incident: the passing of an old order into a new one and neither of them apparently showed great personal loss. They described the incidents rather philosophically- While Raja Ali Haji sometimes intrudes into the narrative, he usually maintains his anonimity, even if he mentions his own name. While the events in both the Tuhfat and the Silsilah cover an extensive time period as well as space, it is significant that Raja Ali Haji paid a great deal of attention to Raja Kechik of Siak in the Silsi!ah who among all the other personages was outstanding in one respect, he was the thorn in the side of the Bugis hegemony in the western Archipelago. The Bugis bias in him is clear, for inspite of the impersonal and objective stance he takes in most part of his works, his portrayal of Raja Kechik in the Silsilah where his literary inclinations are at their best, is very biased almost to a personal level. While the Tuhfat summarises the protracted struggle between Raja Kechik and the Bugis by listing the ten battles fought, the Silsi!ah dwells quite at length on the subject. The historical significance of the struggle between the two factions is pushed to the background by the literary treatment of the events, especially when they are embellished in the syair. The plight of the Johore rulers was protrayed in a pathetic manner, showing their impotence agaiRst Raja Kechik and subsequent equally pathetic approach in getting the Bugis warriors to redeem their honour. But more literary are the syair in the Si!silah which romanticise the events, such as the Bugis warriors taking leave of their wives, the futility of Raja Kechiks warriors in facing Bugis military prowess, the treacheries of Raja Kechik and the description of ceremonies and feasts. The vestiges of the traditior~al historian being a literary pujangga rather than a chronicler are therefore clearly seen here: this trait of traditional approach to historiography vies with the professed objectivity of the author. In fact, the literary inclinations


are even carried further to the extent that the author offers some ribald humour in his syair. In the traditional histories, even if the historicity of the events are suspect, one can always get a glimpse into the nature of the society and culture. Tuhfat al-Nafis is no exception. In fact it shows deeper insight into the workings of the traditional social fabric, while at the same time, especially in the last part of the work, suggests the breaking up of the social order. Social stratification in society is not to be seen only in status differentiation, but even in the conduct of war. For example the rajas are allowed to retreat in the face of defeat as to be seen in the remark made by the Yang Di-Pertuan Muda. Biarlah Raja Abdullah itu lepas kerana segala raja-raja itu sedaulat. Apa boleh buat terkena dalam peperangan~ It is undeniable that the protracated war between the Bu,gis princes and Raja Kechik of Siak had many special features inherent in it, but the relationship between the raja class among themselves or the relationship between the rajas and their followers are clearly reflected in the events narrated in the Tuhfat or the Silsilah. Loyalty to the feudal master, especially at the suffering of the common people is no longer taken for granted as to be found in the older sejarah. Such relationship draws the following observation from the author: Hura-hara antara orang-orang kecil 7 But the most peritu kerana tuan penghulu bersalah-salahan. ceptive part with regard to the portrayal of Malay society and

culture is reserved for incidents of culture contact and the changing political situation. The graphic description of old Batavia as the author visited it brings into focus a new kind of world in the Archipelago as compared to the royal court of Riau.8 The enquiry by the Dutch Admiral as to why Sultan Abaul Rahman of Lingga shed tears at his installation is laconic: in a few words the age-old Adat which should be taken for granted is suddenly brought into a different light.9 But more significant is the portrayal of the impotence of the Malay power before the ever expanding powers of the Dutch and the English. Both Abdullah and Raja Ali Haji dealt with this theme. While Abdullah tended to blame the nobility for their effete leadership and the masses for their ignorance and reluctance to educate themselves, thus bringing into sharp focus the changing situation confronting the Malay society, Raja Ali Haji in the last pages of the Tuhfat accounts for the events in the traditional manner of the Malay historian, unminding of the social implications of the events but doggedly relating the events as they happened. Even while portraying the last vestiges of power left in the 49

Malay rulers, he still clings on to the chiche, Seperti adat raja-raja yang besar, when narrating such events as the meeting between the rulers or between the rulers and the Europeans. Admittedly Abdullah was not basically a historian but a chroniciler and a social commentator, while Raja Au Haji was more of a historian and a writer. It is in this respect that Raja Ali Haji appears to be a figure of the classical pujangga while Abdullah shows up more as a figure of transition in Malay letters. It is significant to note that out of so many manuscripts which are known to have survived to this day, there is a remarkable absence of works dealing with language. Except for Kitab Terasul, which is about the closest one can get to works dealing with language, there is no work in the classical period which can be described as a grammar or dictionary. However, such works on Malay in European languages since the sixteenth century are wellknown to us, including treatises on grammar, literature, poetry, spelling and dictionaries. Perhaps there was little self-consciousness among the native Malays about their own language for it was something taken for granted. Or perhaps the knowledge of writing was the privilege of only a few, the pujangga at the royal courts, so that writing and proper usage of the language were a rare commodity confined only to a few. It is equally significant to note that linguistic interests began to surface in Malay letters only in the nineteenth century, a period which also saw other intellectual expressions such as the interest shown in the technological and socio-political advancement in the western countries, The most significant new element in the intellectual activities in the late nineteenth century, besides literature, was more attention paid to the secular aspects of life as opposed to the religious domain, Abdullh had voiced his views on the subject of language learning, language usage and the structure of pantun. However, there was no attempt on his part to write a grammar or even compile a dictionary although he was actively engaged in teaching the language to his European friends. In fact, it was with his help that those friends of his could compile dictionaries and write treatises on the Malay language. The end of the nineteenth century saw activities that seemed to put iinguistic interest in the Malay language on a-firm footing. Not only were works on language and dictionaries published, such as Pemimpin Johorand Beneh Pengetahuan by Muhammad Ibrahim Munshi, Abdullahs son, or Kamus Mahmudiah and Pemimpin Pengetahuan by Sayid Mahmud bin Sayid Abdul Kadir, but a society for the promotion of


learning and teaching linguistic knowledge of Malay (Pakatan BeIajar~Mengajar Pengetahuan Bahasa) was also founded in Johor in 1888.2 It is without doubt that the nineenth century saw an awakening of interest in the Malay language by the natives themselves, although some of them were not really indigenous Malays but were of Arab or Indian descent. We can attribute the blossoming of linguistic interest in the nineteenth century to a sociocultural change taking place in the Malay world. And it was Raja All Haji who can be given the credit of attempting the first work on grammar and dictionary by a native Malay. The treatise on grammar called Bustan-a!-Katibin or the Garden of Scribes has been adequately commented upon and translated into Dutch by van Ronkel in the Tijdschrifj voor Indische Tal!-Land~enVolkunkunde in its 1901 issue.22The manuscripts are also listed in van Ronkels catalogue of Malay Manuscripts in the Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen. 22 catalogue has since been updated by a team working for Projek Inventrisasi dan Dokumentasi Kebudayaan Nasional which has come out with a new catalogue of Malay manuscript collections at the Central Museum in Jakarta, Katalogus Koleksi Naskhcih Melayu Museum Pusat (1972). 2.~ There are two entries for Bustan Al-Katibin based on the van Ronkels catalogue, but given new numbers and placed under Kelompok VII: Aneka Ragam: 21. BUSTAN AL-KATIBIN I MI, 844 (dan NW. 218). 33x21 CM 56 hal., 20W., huruf Arab, baik. Kitab bacaan dan tatabahasa Melayu (lihat, TBG j ilid XLIV hal. 512581). Ditulis di Penyengat, 20 Syaban 1273. 22. BUSTAN AL-KATIBIN II MI. 845 (dan W. 219), 21 x 16 CM., 88 hal., 14 hr., huruf Arab, jelas Cat: KR. hal. 461, sama dengan I, tetapi paragrafnya tidak bernombor: tanggalnya: Riau. 18 Dzulk 1267. Although the catalogue says that the writing is clear, I have found that both the items are in bad shape because the ink on the pages have become imprinted on other pages. As a result, it is difficult to read the writing, especially the first manuscript, which was written in 1857. According to van Ronkel, it is not actually a manuscript but a lithographed copy, which was sent by Van der Tuuk to the Director of the Batavia Society in 1868. Some parts of this manu51

script are still legible, but otherwise it is almost illegible. The second manuscript is in a worse condition as it is already illegible for most part. The first manuscript is apparently earlier that the second one, but it is doubtful if it is an original copy. It is probable that the Bustan al-Katibin has been copied many times over despite the fact that it was once lithographed. This practice is quite usual: even in the period before the Second World War, many of the lithograph or even printed Kitab and Syair were copied in handwriting in the homes of wealthy Arab and Jawi Peranakan families in Singapore and Penang. It is not known whether other copies of the Bustan Al-Katibin exist, but one has recently been acquired in Riau.24 It is evident from the xeroxed copy sent to me that it is a separate manuscript from the two in the Museum Pusat. My discussion of the Bustan al-Katibin here should not repeat what has already been done by van Ronkel three-quarters of a century ago. I feel that a critical edition of the text should be attempted, if not for its linguistic significance at least for its historical value as the first attempt by a native Malay to put his language into a grammatical form. As already pointed out by van Ronkel, Buston al-Katibin is not actually a work on Malay grammar but rather the application of Arabic grammar on the Malay language. It is difficult to say whether the author was trying to fit Arabic grammar into Malay language of vice verse. The main portion in this work comprises a Mukaddimah followed by 31 Fasa! or subject-matters and concluded by three Pesan or advice. In the first manuscript in the Jakarta Museum the colophon is followed by three pages of an exposition on the good and bad points of composing syair, pantun and gurindam, a blank page with only the word Syair written on top of the page, obviously representing an attempt to compose a syair which was never fulfilled, and lastly a page which is entitled Inilah Ikat-ikatan Dua Belas Puji~ It is not clear whether or not the treatise on poetry and the last page were the work of Raja Ali Haji. It is a well-known fact however that Raja Ali Haji was very fond of poetry: he had not only written the syair, but had composed gurindam and pantun berkait. In fact, it is very interesting to note that the Ikat-ikatan Dua Belas Puisi is not called a syair nor a pantun, but ikat-ikatan, for as to be seen in the Appendix, it does not conform strictly to the syair form but approximates the form of pantun berkait. In pantun berkait, the first two lines are like the first two lines of the pantun (erroneo52

usly called pembayang maksud) in that they have no direct bearing in meaning on the last two lines which convey the message (maksud), but the second line is repeated in the succeeding stanza as its first-line, just as the last of the preceding stanza is repeated as the third line. In this particular instance, the form is like pantun berkait in the rhyming scheme, the repetition of the second and last lines in the succeeding stanza, but there is no pemboyang maksud. On the other hand it is like the syair because the idea in each stanza runs continuously from the first to the last line. In content, it deals with a gift of a silver ink-well from the Dutch government to the author, and this called for an expression of gratitude in response to the honour (Kumia raja muliakan kami). Judging from the content of the poem and bearing in mind the fact that Raja Haji was probably a well-known personality in Pulau Penyengat at the time, it is perhaps not too far fetched to suggest that the poem was the work of Raja All Haji himself. In the main part of Bustan al-Katibin, Raja Ali Haji does not only deal with linguistic analysis of the language, but dwells also on such subjects as the value of knowledge. The introduction, as in most classical works, is interspersed with Arabic pharaseology which is translated into Malay. And this is apparently the form that the author prescribes, especially for letter-writing. After the usual introduction of Bismillah:ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, there follows the usual Arabic phraseology in praise of Allah and the Holy Prophet Muhammad, his family and his companions. Then follows in Arabic the name of the author and his intention of writing a book on language, with the following Malay translation, Inilah suatu kitab yang simpan bagi orang yang berkehendak ato.s mengena!sega/a hunifMelayu dan suratannya dan aku atorkan dia atas suatu mukaddimah dan beberapa pasa/ yang satu khatamah~ Then follo~ in Arabic the name of the book and the Malay translation, aku namai akan dia Bustan al-Katibinyakni perkebunanjunitulis bagi kanakkanak yang hendak be/ajar And the introduction ends with, Berrnula harap aku akan Allah Taa/a memberi manafaat dengan dia bagi orang yang membaca be/ajar akan dia: Amin! The Mukaddimah which is rather lengtby contains among many things a discussion on the advantage of knowledge, the way knowledge is acquired, the relationship with ones teacher and so on.

Bustan al-Katibin represents an attempt to analyse the Malay language into some kind of linguistic rules, and it was an obvious thing that the Arabic grammar was used as a means to achieve


this. In this case not only because the author was well-versed in Arabic but also because the Malay language itself, especially in the written form, had been much influenced by Arabic usage.25 The learned, the intellectual elite of the time, were invariably conversant with Arabic for the most dominant intellectual activity during the classical period was religious studies. Besides the narrative hikayat and syair and the sejarah (histories), most of the written works had been of religious nature in one way or another. A cursory glance at the catalogue of the manuscripts in the Museum Pusat, Jakarta, for instance, reveals that the longest list is in the group of religious works, surpassing even the hikayat and syair. And many of the religious works were actually translations on renderings of works in Arabic. Thus the Malay language in its writteri form was much influenced, in practice, by the Arabic language. Nevertheless, this fact does not mitigate the criticism levelled at the work by von Ronkel that Het Werk van Radja Ali is geen Maleische spraakunst The Malay idiom was utterly lost in Raja Ali Hajis treatment of the language, for the examples that he presented were not Malay but Arabic rendering of Malay. It is historically and culturally significant that this work appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century when the classical polity was giving may to a new social order spearheaded by European expansion into the Malay world. Beginnings, such as the use of native terms (e.g. nama is used besides the Arabic ismu or perbuaton for Arabic fiil) besides the Arabic ones, are to be observed, although some of the attempts are clumsy and unintelligible (e.g. nama yang melerrgkapi pada jenisnya dan yang melengkapi pada malamnya). However, such problems are not preculiar to Raja Ali Haji for even Zaba in his Pelita Bahasa Melayu had to resort to equally unwieldy terms. Raja Ali 1-laji can be said to be the last of the classical pujangga, and this fact is reflected in his Bustan al-Katibin While he was, in a way, introducing a new element in Malay letters by attempting to draw out a grammatical system for the language, he was in actual fact defending the classical style. In this respect Abdullah, in a different milieu, had inadvertently broken the shackles of the classical style. In the last Fasal of the Bustan al-Katibin, for example, Raja Ali Haji expounded the model for letter writing. According to him: Bermu!a perkataan pada surat perkinman ito, maka hendaklah dimulai dengan Bismi!lah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim: kemudian dengan A!hamdulillah, yakni memuji-muji akan Allah Taala, mana-mana


yang munasabah, dan yang layak pada pekerjaan dan maksud di surat yang dikirimkan ito. Kemudian maka selawat akan Nabi kita serta keluarganya dan sahabatnya. Kemudian baru!ah diiringi dengan salam takzim, dan mana-mana layaknya dan pakitnya, dan orang yang berkim dan pada orang yang dikinmi ito, maka hendaklah diinngi dengan doa mana-mana yang layaknya dan yang munasabahnya. Kemudian barulah datangkan perkataan yang menceraikan perkatoan puji-pujian dengan perkatoan yang dimaksud iaitu/ah wabadah atau nama badu. Dan ter/ebih baik dan ter!ebih simpan daripada menyebutkan daripada kalam almazkutdan ter!ebih fasihat lagi pu/a daripada diberi akan makna What is to be observed here is the paraphernalia that went into letter-writing, a convention which had been commented upon by Abdullah and which had not survived into the twentieth century except in Malay courtly practices and in very special instances. However, as a comparison, the anonymous author of a book, Ilmu Kepandaian, published in Singapore towards the end of the last century, had criticised the long-winded practice of Malay latter writing.26 The book which contains short essays on such subjects as the world was spherical, the function of the library, map-making, street-lighting by electricity, newspapers, welfare homes, printing, history books and air purification, represents an effort to introduce a new kind of knowledge, secular knowledge that is, to the contemporary Malay reader, and therefore its criticism of the time-wasting conventions of Malay letter-writing was consonant with the type of world-view it was trying to promote in Malay society. The point that is being made here is that the Bustan al-Katibin still represents the classical world-view as far as language usage is concerned although the attempt to work out a grammar for the language in itself represents an innovation. Raja Ali Hajis other work on language is Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa. It was written in 1858 but not until 1928 that was it first published by the Al-Ahmadiah Press in Singapore. From the title page we find that it was written in Pulau Penyengat, Riau in Hijarah 1275. The work, however, was not completed, for the dictionary went as far as letter ca (~). It is observed that the title page indicates the work as Penggal Pertama, implying that there were other parts of the work. In actual fact, as stated in the letter sent by the publisher to Zaba dated 9th January, 1930, the published 55

work represented all that was extant. However the question of Penggal Pertama can be explained by the fact that it was the publishers hope to get Zaba to complete the work (Maka besarlah pengharapan kami mudah-mudahan dengan ihsan tuan atau lainnya dapat kiranya pada masa yang lapang tuan menjalankan ikhtiar mengadakan sambungannya supaya kaum kita dapat menjadikannya tempat rujukan pada perbahasan yang dimusykilkannya atou dapat mereka ito memandang dan mengerti akan cukup lengkap perbahasan sendiri beratos-ratus tahun yang dahulu). Zaba on his part, however, was rather critical of the work. In the notes that he wrote on the back of the above letter, Zaba made the following points: he did not agree with the approach of the work, which he considered fell short of being a kamus ( kerana banyak melarat jika demikian bukan lagi kamus bahasa namanya); too many ofArabic rules and terms used for grammar etc., whereas the Malay language had its own sturcture kaedah Arab dan sebut-sebuton Arab banyak dipakainya pada nahu dan lain-lain, pada ha! bahasa Melayu ada adatnya sendiri). It was regretable that the work was not completed, for otherwise it would have been a great work nevertheless; it was good of the publister to publish the work without any changes to the original text for then the reader would be able to fathom the authors feeling and knowledge ( dengan demikian dapat pembaca-pembaca menganggarkan bagaimana dalam hati pengarangnya. dan ke pihak mana lebih i!munya dan cenderung hatinya).

and lastly Zaba in vague terms stated that the idea of compiling a dictionary had been with him for a long time and God willing he would embark on the work (akan saya mulai men ghadapkan din kepadanya) as soon as he had finished the book which was being printed at that time. Zabas view of (Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa did not change when he wrote Modern Developments for Winstedts A History of Malay Literature some years later. However, he conceded that, With all its defects the book was perhaps the first Malay attempt at lexicography and deserves to be treasured if only as a curiosity 27 Notwithstanding Zabas view, Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa is a useful landmark in the cultural history of the Malays. Although it was not published during the authors lifetime, it representd a new element in the classical literary activity. The development of native Malay lexicography in the modern sense saw its beginnings in the nineteenth century, and Raja All Hajis attempt to compile one is


of some significance. The work, however, is not a dictionary in its entirety. True to its title, a book of linguistic knowledge, it begins with a chapter on grammar using the Arabic model. The content of this part is more or less the same as tobe found in Bustan al-Katibin, but with some elaboration, especially in the examples. The Mukaddimah, after the usual Arabic phraseology of praise to the Prophet, states: Yakni mi satu pendahuluan: ketahui olehmu orang yang menuntut bahasa Melayu bahawa sesungguhnya sekali-kali tiada boleh dapat kenyataan segala maksud bahasa Melayu dengan sempurnanya melainkan hendaklah dengan i/mu yang tersebut yang akan lagi datang di dalam kitab mi. Then the chapter deals with the three categories of Arabic grammar: ismu the noun; fiml, the verb and huruf. The noun is dealt with under the various categories in Arabic such as msmu nakirah and ismu makrifah ( ~ ~l ) which is further divided into five subcategories ismu dhamir ~ ), ismu al-alam ( ), ismu isyarah ( ~L~II ), ismu musu/ ( J,~y ,~ ), and ismu Idhafah ( ). It is interestingto note the authors own view on the subject of grammar:
.~ ~

Ketahui oleh mu, hai sekalian orang yang menutut, banyaklah aku tinggalkan bicaranya pada i/mu nahuiai, tiada aku sebutkan di sini, sebab tiada maksudku hendak memanjangkan akan dia. Barangkali terlebih amat sukar bagi orang yang baharu belajar memahamkan akan dia pada ilmu Arab, akan tetapi apatah dayaku daripada sangat loba aku hendak memperbuatkan kaedah mi yang diperpegang oleh orang yang berkehendak akan membetulkan perkataannya dan suratannya, jika aku bukannya ahli itu seka/ipun pada yang demikian itu. It is equally interesting to note that the knowledge of linguistics or grammar is called ilmu Arab, and the enunciation of the grammar in the book is undoubtedly Arabic fitted into Malay. As in Bustan al-Katibin, even the examples sound Arabic rather than Malay. In certain illustrations, as in the case of nama gelargelaran as part of his discussion on noun, the author provides the various titles to be found in Malay life of his time, such as Sultan, Raja, Menteri, Baginda, Yang Dipertuan Besar, Yang Dipertuan Muda Tuan, Daing, Encik, Wak Batin, Patinggi and so on. The section on flml or pethuatan (verb) follows that of 57

noun. Again it is based on Arabic where fiil is dMded into fill lazim and fiil mutadi. The examples, as in his Bustan a!-Katibin are not idiomatically Malay, such as telah memuku! si Zaid or telah menyumpah si Zaid, when illustrating fiil lazim. The section on huruf shows the kind of Arabic categorisation which does not entirely fit with Malay. For example, the category of words under jar include prepositions as well as quantifiers: dengan, daripada, kepada, hingga, pada, demi, bagi, beberapa, atas, seperti, selama-lama and astathni or kecuali. In the category of other than jar, it includes interjections and conjunctions: hai, oi, and weh; melainkan: bahawa dan bahawa sesungguhnya or bahawasanya; seolah-olah; tetopi; wai kiranya; mudah-mudahan: tiada; hendaklah; jangan; jika or jmkalau. In explaining tiada, the author points out that there is a limited sense in using the negative in Malay compared to Arabic where it has two, three and four rules regarding its use. This draws his comment; Maka sangatlah miskinnya bahasa Melayu mi jika dibangsaka denga bahasa Arab
71 71 -

The interogative includes adakah, betapakah, beberapa, kerana apa and apa. However he categorises siapa, manakala, manamana and di mana as ismu bertanya. His explanation of the interogative, however, is perhaps the closest he got to Malay categonsation: adalah ito iaitu bertanya pada: betapakah itu iaito bertanya daripada hal; berapa ito bertanya daripada bi!angan; kerana apa ito iaitu bertonya daripada sebab; apa ito bertanya daripada zat; siapa ito iaito bertanya danpada batang tobuh; manakala ito ialah bertanya daripada masa; di mana ito bertanya danpada tempat; mana ito iaito bertonya daripada ketentuan. He categorises words such as bahkan, ya, supaya, and maka as hurufjawab, that is because these words define what has been said before. Dan, maka, kemudian, atau and tetapi are categonsed as huruf mengikut following the Arabic terms. Thus one example of using tetopi follows the Arabic usage: tiada datong akan dikau Si Zaid tetapi Si Omar. And he conveniently explains the interjections lah, oh, wah, nah, amboi and tah as huruf Melayu yang berguna masing-masing dengan gunanya dan tempatnya kerana segala hurufyangterdapat ito iaitu jadi perencah (sic)pada beberapa perkataan Melayu The explanation that follows makes use of interesting examples, as in the case of amboi when the author states jika amboi ito


melebihkan, dibesarkan sedikit suara dan amboi pada mengurangkan ito dikendurkan sedikit suaranya dengan halus The derivative floun such as ketiadaan, kekayaan and perjalanan or duplicated words such as berbunuh-bunuhan are explained as the nun phenomenon, when huruf nun dibunuh. One of the flaws of Raja Ali Hajis grammar is his failure to recognise the basic feature of the language, that is the system of affixes The word istimewa pula is explained as huruf yang melebihi daripada maksud yang dahulu while syahadari as datang ia pada perkatoan yang dahulunya dengan perkataan yang kemudian terkadang datang ia pada menyatakan perkatoan yang /agi akan datang Raja Ali Haji makes the distinction between a complete sentence, an incomplete sentence and a complement in a sentence by using the term perkataan~kato-kata and kata respectively. The three are made up of ismu, fiil and huruf. Then he proceeds to demonstrate the construction ofthe sentence, beginning with the subject followed by the verb. His first example is given in Arabic: Zaid qaim or Zaidyang berdiri (which should be idiomatically Zaid berdiri). The rest of the introduction thus deals with the sentence following the Arabic model rather than the Malay.

The first chapter of the lexicon, which is the main part of the work, deals with words beginning with alif, and it begins with a lengthy exposition on Allah. This is followed by Ahmad, that is the name of Prophet Muhammad as mentioned in the bible; an explanation on the companions of the Prophet; an explanation as to the origin and nature of man, including the question of afterdeath; a discussion on the ways of the world with emphasis on such dispositions in man as avarice and arrogance and their opposites such as sense of justice and humility; and a long exposition of the after-world. It is only with the second chapter onwards that the book really takes the form of a lexicon. As pointed out by Zaba, the curious arrangement of the words is by first and last letters. Thus the first set of words are those beginning with alif and ending with hamzah, and then followed by a set begining with a/if ending with hamzah but defined by ta (alif dan akhirnya hamzah yang mati dipukul ta). Such an arrangement seems to follow the pronunciation of the spoken word rather than a consistent system of spelling. Thus hamzah really represents the glottal stop, and therefore a~ word has to be spelt in more than one way. And this is aggravated by the fact that the vowel is often not used in preference for 59

the diacritical signs, which, however are in turn often left out anyway. For example:

4 The lexicon contains many ordinary words that one can find in any ordinary dictionary today, but it is useful in explaining those words which have fallen into disuse today or terms which are peculiar to the Riau-Lingga Archipelago especially words of Bugis origin. In the explanation to some words, Raja Ali Haji makes use of his historical knowledge to illustrate further their meaning Thus for the word Upu, the author does not only explain what it means (nama anak raja-raja Bugis di negeri Luwok) but he goes on to relate the history of his ancestors, the five Bugis princes who dominated the Riau-Johore empire in the eighteenth century. He even mentions Tuhfat al-Nafis in this connection (bacalah sejarah dan siarah Melayu serta Bugis dalam Kitab yang bernama Tuhfat al-Nafis). The word tengku for instance, is given a long explanation by tracing its usage from the time of Sri Tn Buana of Palembang to the time of the author, especially in making the distinction between tengku, ungku or raja as applied to those whose descent was from the Bugis warriors and those who descended from the Johor royal lineage. It is characteristic of Raja Ali Haji to stray from his subject matter or to elaborate it unncessarily. For the word berani, for example, he has a long syair composed to illustrate what it means. In explaining the word tarak which means a religious ascetic or a pious person, he takes the opportunity to condemn those, who in the garb of pious teachers, take advantage of their wom~i disciples. He even provides a long syair relating a story of how a young man in the guise of a girl turns the tables on the offending religious teacher. The syair leaves so little to the imagination that it sounds really vulgar.28 The main flaw of the section on grammar, and this view holds tnie of Buston al-Katibin also, is that it fails even to recognise the basic features of the Malay language, especially in the use of the affixes. In the lexicon, the derivative forms are given under a particular word and are explained by providing examples of their usage. It is clear that Raja Ali Haji was able to provide apt examples for the derivative forms, but little else besides that. Usually the examples are in the form of direct speech (seperti kata seorang: si anu ito sudah di60

incitkan orang dan negeri or kato seseorang kepada seseorang seperti katanya: incitkanlah si anu dan sini lekas-lekas ) The word forms are apparently based on pronunciation. The penultimate ,~,, or the sound ,~/ is given a special diacritical mark ~ thus distinguising it between the word ambik ( ~ ) meaning to take and embek - ) which is the bleating of a goat. In transcribing certain words which normally would have initial Raja Ali Haji spells out the weak form which undergoes an elision of the * in the spoken language. Thus words like hambat is given as ambat, hendcip as endap or hela as~eIa.However, both forms are also given side by side lIke( ) and although in term of the arrangement they are placed under alif. However, putting the work in the context of its time, the least we can say for Raja Ali Hajis effort is that it is a pioneering piece of work. It has its flaws, but that is to be expected for apart from the works of westerners at the time which might not have been accessible to him then, Raja Ali Haji had hardly any model to work upon. This paper has tried to discuss Raja Ali Hajis contributions to Malay letters, especially in historiography and linguistic knowledge. It has not dealt much with his contribution in classical poetry. Apart from his Gurindam Dua Belas and the rendering of Syair Abdul Muluk, which is also attributed to his sister, Raj Saleha,29 his poetic compositions are to be found Interspersed in his prose works or elsewhere. Zaba thought that his syamr was of third-rate guality. Admittedly Raja Ali Haji excels in lighthearted and even naughty compositions and this seems to be his forte. But among his poems these are also the moralising ones. There may be other works that he had written, but at least one work is mentioned in Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa (p. 92), that is a work on adab (moral or proper conduct) called Thamarat-al Mihmah (Fruits of Importance).3 Taken as a whole, his contributions to Malay letters are quite significant. He was creative and was quite perceptive of the signs of the times as could be seen in his pioneering work in grammar, lexicography and treatment of historiography, but he was not that innovative to make the transition from the classical style and conventions to new ones. To the very end he kept close to the polity into which he was born and in which he grew and participated fully. He was not, therefore, a figure of transition when compared to Abdullah, for truly, he was the last of the classical Malay pujanggas. 61

APPENDIX The poetry on the last page of the Bustan a!-Katibin in Museum Pusat Jakarta. Inilah Ikat-ikatan Dua Belas Puji Tempat dakwat perak yang khalis, Kurnia guberneman raja bangsawan, Patut dipakai di tengah majlis, Menjadikan sedap di mata tuan-tuan. Kurnia gubernemen raja bangsawan, Kepada seorang fakir .maulana, Menjadikan sedap di mata tuan-tuan, Sebab perbuatan terlalu kena. Kepada seorang fakir maulana, Diam di Penyengat di Kota Lama, Sebab perbuatan terlalu kena, Patut dijadikan zaman dan nama. Diam di Penyengat di Kota Lama, Tarikh dal-ra-ghin tahun Islami, Patut dijadikan zaman dan nama, Kurnia Raja memuliakan kami. Tarikh dal-ra-ghin tahun Islami, Dzulkaidah konon nama bulannya, Kurnia raja memuliakan kami, Patutlah dimasyhur akan namanya. Dzulkaidah konon nama bulannya, Menerima dia di balairong seri, Patutlah dimasyhur akan namanya, Raja yang murah lagi jauhari. Menerima dia di balairong seri, Han Sabtu pukul sembilan,


Raja yang murah lagi jauhari, Iaitulah raja bangsa Nederlan. Han Sabtu pukul sembilan, disambut dengan beberapa mulia, Itulah raja bangsa Nederlan, Perintahnya lalu ke tanah Hindia. Disambut dengan beberapa mulia, Dipasangkan meriam duapuluh satu, Perintahnya lalu ke tanah Hindia, Nederlan konon namanya tentu. Dipasangkan meriam dua puluh satu, Dipukulkan nobat berderang-derang, Nederlan konon namanya tentu, Khabarnya bangsa berani berperang. Dipukulkan nobat berderang-derang, Hingga sampai ke balairongseri, Khabarnya bangsa berani berperang, Banyaklah sudah mengalahkan negeri. Hingga sampai ke balairongseri, Selesailah pekerjaan te~imamenerima, Sudahlah banyak mengalahkan negeri, Kerajaannya tentu masyhurlah nama.


T~e general characteristics of the indigenous civilisation before the onset of European domination have been outlined by Prof. W.F. Wertheim in his Indonesian Society in Transition (pp. 2 8)- The emphasis by Wertheim ias been on the diversity of the different types of civilisations the polity of royal courts surrounded by land-based peasantry as in Central and East Java, the harbour principalities on the pesisir and the hinterland of the harbour principalities populated by the peasantry of the ladang type of cultivation. To these I would add the inhabitants of the interior who were technologically inferior but who would have much more cohesive socio-political structure. The polity of the three types described by Wertheim can also be described in term of great-little traditions as first suggested by Robert Redfield (in his Peasant Society and Culture, Chicago 1956) and applied to the Javanese civilisation by Clifford Geertz (see his The Religion of Java, New York: The Free Press, 1969, pp. 227 231). 2. 3. See Mohd. Taib Osman, Kesusasteraan Melayu dan Peruhahan SosioBudaya, Dewan Bahasa, Vol. XVIII, No.8 (August 1974). See Matheson, Varginia, The Tuhfat al-Nafis: Structure and Sources, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-en Volkenkunde. Deel 127 (1971). or an unpublished paper by Dr. Ulnch Kratz, Sumber-sumber Sejarah Riau Sekitar Tahun 1511-1784, which was prepared for Seminar Sejarah Riau at Pekanbaru in May 1975. The Tuhfat itself provides a detailed genealogy of the Johore-Bugis alliance beginning with the marriages between the Bugis Upu and the Johore princesses up to the time of Raja Au Haji himself. See Muhammad bin Anas, Geographical Notes to the Tuhfat al-Nafis or a Malay History of Riau and Johore, unpublished acc, ex in the Department of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1958, pp. ix-x. The influence of Raja Ali Haji in political-administrative matters and also in religious learning in the royal courts of Riau-Lingga is also well summarised by Muhammad bin Anas (pp. x-xii) The picture of the Johore royal line in the Tuhfat as well as the Silsilah in respect of their alliance with the Bugis Upus cannot be said to be flattering, especially the portrayal of the helplessness of the Johore royal family against Raja Kechik of Siak. In the Tuhfat, Tengku Tengah said Jikalau tuan hamba berani tutupkanlah kemaluan beta anak.beranak, adik-beradik; maka apabila tertutup kemaluan beta semua maka redalah beta menjadi hamba raja Bugis, jikalau hendak disuruh jadi penanak nasi raja sekalipun, redalah beta. And in the Silsilah, the Bugis-Johore alliance is described in the following terms: Yam Tuan Besar (i.e. the Johore-Ruler) jadi seperti perempuan raja, jika dibennya (i.e. the Bugis Yam Tuan Muda) makan maka baharulah makan ia, dan Yam Tuan Muda jadi seperti laki-laki~ However, the general picture of the Johore family in the works is that it forms the base of the civilisation into which the Bugis were absorbed, just as the Manchus were sinicised when they conquered China.





7. 8.

9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.

15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21.



24. 25.

26. 27. 28.

See Matheson, ibid. The Silsilah was published by the Al-Imam Press in Singapore on 21 Rabi al-akhir 1329 Hijrah and later was published by the Johore Ggyernment Press at the command of the Sultan of Johore in 1956. It has recently been edited (minus the syair) and published by Pustaka Antara in Kuala Lumpur in 1973). Kratz, ibid. Matheson, ibid, p. 389. Hill, A.H. Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai. JMBRAS, XXXIII. 2 (June, 1960) p. 25. Mohd. Taib Osman, Mythic Elements in Malay Historiography, lnggara. No. 3 (1968). Matheson, ibid. p. 389. In discussing the various texts of Sejarah Melayu, Winstedt believes that the Johore revision kills off this son (Raja Radin son of Sultan Mansur Shah) and fabricates a Raja Hussain son of a Bendahara lady who becomes Sultan Alauddin. (A History of Classical Malay Literature Kuala Lumpur Oxford University Press, 1969, p. 159). See Hikayat Abdullah, the chapter Darihal Tuan Crawford dengan Sultan Hussain Shah negeri Singapura. Winstedt. R.O. (ed) Tuhfat-al-Nafis, JMBRAS, X.2. (1932) p. 121. Ibid, p. 191. Ibid pp. 223 227. Ibidp.233. See Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad, Modern Developments in JMBRAS, XVII. 3 (1939). Ronkel. Ph. 5. van, De Maleische Schriftleer en Spraakkunst getiteld Boestanoe I Katibina. Tiidschrife voar Indische Taal-, Land-en Volkunkunde, deel XLIV (1901). Ronkel. Ph. S. van, Catalogus der Maleische Handschriften in het Museum van her Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetens-chappen, Verhandelingen von het Bataviaasch Genootschaap, LVII (1909). Katalogus Koleksi Naskah Melayu Museum Pusat (Projek Inventarisari dan Dokumentasi KebudayaanNasional, DirektoratJenderal, Kebudayaan) Dep. P and K 1972. Acquired by a linguist in Universitas Indor~esia,Jakarta, Drs. Harimurti Kridaleksana. Even Raja Ali Hajis prose is heavily Arabised. See Ismail bin Abdul Rahman. The Arabic Influence in the Tuhfat al-Nafis, unpublished acc. ex. in the Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1959. This particular publication is found in the Malay collection of the National Library in Singapore. Modern Developments, p. 143. Demikianlah sehari-hari, Lepas Isya sampai dinihari, Lepas seorang, seorang diberi, Lebai berkehendak banyak yang lan.


Mak Iebai mendengan khaban yang pelik. Loklok dipanggil ke dalam bulk. Senta tiba zakan dibelek. Membuang kain minta dicolek. Mak Iebai dijimak oleh si muda. Kembang kempis penut dan dada. Dengan lebai sangat benbeda. Sepenti kambing dengan kuda. (Kitab Pengetahuan Bahasa p. 303) Attributed to Raja Saleha by Raja Au Hajis close Dutch fniend. H. van de Wall. 4~Lft

29. 30.


1. Introduction The growth and development of modern Malay literature went through three distant phases: the first stretches from about the middle of the nineteenth century to the second decade of the twentieth century, the second from the 1920s to the outbreak of the Pacific War, and the third from 1945 to the present day. The modern tradition is new and is still developing, but it is clearly distinguishable from the classical style. The changes that overtook traditional Malay society started with British colonial expansion into the Malay peninsula. Beginning with isolated settlements in Penang, Malacca and Singapore between 1789 and 1823, British dominance in Malaya was complete by the first decade of the present century. The first phase of modern Malay literature thus coincided with the early period of British rule in Malaya. The second period was during the time when Malay society was receiving the full impact of British dominance which brought with it westernisation. The Japanese occupation between 1942 and 1945 saw little literary activity, but it was a period which provided the climate in which new perspectives towards literature were nurtured and later found expression during the post-war period,the third phase in the development of modern Malay literature. Post-war Malay literature is characterised by an unprecedented awareness of the younger generation of Malay writers of their two-fold mission: to elevate Malay writing to higher stan67

dards of literary achievements and, through their writings, to be committed to the socio-political issues prevailing at the time. 2. The First Phase: The Beginnings The nineteenth century was one of great significance to the history of the Malay Peninsula. It was the period in which Malay society felt the early impact of modern Western civilisation. At the beginning of the century life still went on as before in most parts of the peninsula, but in places like Penang, Malacca and Singapore where by 1824 A.D. the English East India Company had replaced their Malay and Dutch rulers, contact with the English had begun
to introduce significant changes to local life. The process of colonial expansion accelerated towards the end of the century. so that by

the first decade of the 20th century, the whole of the peninsula had passed into British dominance. The passing of the traditional society is also reflected in literature. The break from the classical literary tradition was neither sharp nor immediate; the classical prose the hikayat and the traditior~a1poetry syair and pantun continued to be popular well into the 20th centuty. By the 1850s, the first signs of innovation were to be observed. The person accredited as the innovator of Malay writing is Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi. He is said to be the forerunner of modern writing because his works had broken away from the conventional style and ideas of classical works. Abdullah did not introduce the novel, nor did he ever experiment with new verse

forms, but he had introduced a new approach to writing. The innovation is more on the ideational level rather than in literary presentation. For the first time we get works which effect self-conscious2 However, about Abdullah been described as his autobiography.

ness and ego-centricism in Malay literature. Abdullahs major work was Hikayat Abdullah,



himself, we get only a glimpse of his early childhood in Malacca and little else besides that. Most of the work is about the personalities of his time, the officials of the English East India Company like Sir Stamford Raffles and Colonel Farquhar; the last Malay ruler of Singapore Sultan Hussein Shah; European and American missionaries and traders and Chinese merchants of the early Singapore days. It also contains accounts of important events like the founding of the Singapore Institution, the demolition of the old Portuguese fort in Malacca and the visit of Lord Minto, the Governer General, to Malacca. The Hikayat also relates Abdullahs own expenences like an operation performend upon him by an English

surgeon or his visit, at the risk of his own life, to an encampment of a Chinese secret society in the interior of Singapore. And interspersed in the work, one finds Abdullahs views and candid comments on the subjects that he wrote on. Hikayat Abdullah was completed in 1845 and published in 1849 His other works were the account of his voyages to Kelantan, his original essays on things and events he witnessed during his time and his translation of books on general knowledge. But his main contribution to Malay literature is the fact that it was for the first time that a genuine expression of socio-political awareness was found in Malay writing. The classical literature was a passive reflector of the social situation and served the functions assigned to it by the society. For example, the histories or sejarah were not merely chronicles of their times but served the function of upholding the social structure through the dynastic myths and stories calculated to infus~ absolute loyalty in the ruling houses. So it was with Abdullah that the modern tradition had its beginning: a tradition which is the outcome of socio-political awareness of Malay intellectuals. Another writer of significance during the same period was Raja Au Haji who belonged to the ruling hoqse of Riau. Raja Au Hajis writings, however, are nearer to the traditional Malay style than Abdullahs. While Abdullah was in a place where currents of modern Western civilisation were gathering force in the Malay world, Raja Ali Haji was in a place where the traditional Malay culture still held away. Being educated in Mecca, his writings were much influenced by the Arabic style of writings, including the use of Arabic vocabulary and phraseology. Raja Ali Haji was both a linguist and a historian, but it is as a historian that he is better known to-day through his two books, Tuhfat-al-Nafis, a work on the history of the Malay kings of old Singapore, Malacca, Johore and Pahang, and his Silsilah Melayu dan Bugis. Tuhfat-al-Nafls can be said to be in the tradition of classical Malay historical writings like the Sejarah Melayu or the Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai, but it shows significant innovations which reflect the fact that there have been some changes to the Malay view of history. Tuhfat-aI-Nafis gives more emphasis on the events and dwells little on those mythic elements whose m~ainfunction is to lend support to the feudal values and world-view of the traditional Malay polity. Silsilah Melayu dan Bugis, on the other hand, still retains the classical style, especially in the use of the syair to relate the events. It is therefore not an entirely historical work, but one 69

reflecting the poetic inclinationsof the author. It is in Raja Ali Haji that we get a reflection of the classical Malay world adapting itself to a new changing world. His attempt to write a Malay grammar (Bustan-uI-Katibin) and a dictionary (Kitcib Pengetahuan Bahasa) reflect the new awareness and self consciousness towards the Malay language. In the past, there had notbeen aMalay grammar or dictionary written by Malays themselves. Both Abdullah and Raja Ali Haji are mentioned here as representatives of the~p~jp4duting which modern Malay literature had its beginnings. There were others, but their contributions are not as significant. This period especially during the first two decades of the twentieth century, can be described as one in which new ideas were beginning to be introduced to the Malay society. Books on science, mathematics, geography and history were published for the secular schools established by the British, while translation of Western popular literary works were also introduced to the general reading public. However, the romantic hikayat and syair remained to be the main literary reading for the people, and this time these works were printed or lithographed.3 3. The Second Phase: The Foundation Years The real beginning of modern Malay literature is in the period between 1925 and the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1942. It was during this time that new literary forms like the novel or the shortstory dealing with real life characters set in contemporary background appeared on the Malay literary scene. It was during this period too that efforts were made to break away from the conventionally rigid forms of the traditional syair and pantun. The changes did not occur entirely as a result of a consciousness to create new styles in literature, but partly as an outcome of a non-literary factor, that is using literature asa platform to discuss and moralise on current problems, particula;ly those arising from the situation of social change. The first novel in Malay, Hikayat Faridah Hanum, was actually an adaptation from an Egyptian work. Published in 1926, it made a great impact on the Malay reading public. From the literary point of view, its innovative feature is that it tells a story about men and women in a modern society, even though the locale is Cairo in Egypt rather than Malaya at the time. The dramatis-personae, however, are still idealistically portrayed and the love theme is still as entrancing as that of the classical romances. However, the Malay reader at the time could easily recognise the 70

moral of the story intended for him by the author. The author was rather preoccupied with the question of morality among Muslims in the face of social changes fast overtaking the Malays as the result of rapid westernisation taking place in the Malay peninsula. Patriotism, emancipation of woman, the moral code of behaviour between courting couples are some of the questions entwined around the central love-theme which conveys the message that fidelity is the essence of a happy marriage The author of the novel was Syed Sheikh Al-Hady whose personality we get the not uncommon combination of the time a writer and a Muslim religious reformer. Hikayat Faridah Hanum was not only a literary work, it was also a mouth-piece of the reform movement known as Kaum tyluda (The Young Group) as opposed to the orthodox Kaum Tua (The Orthodox Group). Islamic reform in Malaya was actually an offspring of the same movement which swept the Muslim countries in the Middle East, especially Egypt, during the 19th century. It was through people like Syed Sheikh Al-Hady and his colleagues, Sheikh Tahir Jalaluddin and Haji Abbas bin Mohd. Taha that the reformist ideas of Sheikh Muhammad Abduh of Egypt came to be known and spread in Malaya. The inspiration in meeting the changes brought about by the West came mainly from the Arab world, especially Egypt. Unlike the English educated elite who left very little impact on the Malay literary works at the time, the vernacular and religious educated, especially those who had sojourned to Egypt and other Arab countries for higher education, were the people engaged in writing, translating and running local newspapers. The influence is shown by the fact that besides expressing their ideas, they also translated stories and articles which had appeared in the Egyptian newspapers and periodicals. During those formative years, the newspapers were instrumental in encouraging literary productivity. Often the stories were at first serialised in the newspapers before being published as novels. Very little of English and other European works were directly translated into Malay, many were retranslated from Arabic translations of the original. Again, it was the popular literature, the penny novels, thrillers and adventure stories rather than the classics of English literature that filtered to the Malay reading public at the time. The great English literary tradition had never penetrated the world of Malay writing. Of the few English-educated writers in the twenties and thirties, none had shown the tendency to learn from serious English literary works. The Malay Translation Bureau which was created as part of the


Sultan Idris (Teachers) Training College, the highest seat of learfling in Malay afforded by the colonial government at the time, published about thirty translations of abridged and simplified works of well-known English authors. These included Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, plays of Shakespeare, and Stevensons Treasure Island. The publications were part of the two series initiated by the Translation Bureau Malay Home Library Series and The Malay School Library Series. The first aimed at the general public, especially those who had left school and needed reading materials for their leisure hours and the second was for use in the Malay schools as readers and textbooks. The contribution of the Bureau towards the development of modern Malay literature is best reflected in the words of the director himself, We have spent the last one hundred years in producing reading materials for children.4 The Translation Bureau was a dismal failure in kindling an interest for serious literary works, it was only matched by its gross neglect to encourage literary creativity, especially in writing original works. In Indonesia, Balai Pustaka, which was the Dutch counterpart of the Translation Bureau, had already been encouraging the writing of original novels and poems starting from the early 1920s. The proto-type of the novel with local characters and background setting is Kawan Benar (True Friend). Set in the background of the town of Penang, it tells the story of how a wayward husband is returned to the right path, back to the fold of his f~mily, by a true friend. Kawan Benar was followed by a great number of novels with varying diversity of accomplishments: some were short and sketchy dime novels, while others, although lacking in good literary technique, could be considered as serious works. One common characteristics which underlined the novels at the time was that they tended to contain moralistic views of the authors.5 Besides the novels, short-stories teaturing local characters and background began to appear in the newspapers and periodicals by 1925. Actually short-stories had already appeared by 1920, but these like the earlier novels had as the background setting countries outside Malaya.6 With an increased number of newspapers and magazines appearing in 1930s, the number of short stories also increasecL7 In fact, short stories were a regular feature in the newspapers and popular journals. They were mainly written for the entertainment of the readers and subscribers of the newspapers and magazines in question, but like the novels, they were also a medium for expressing and moralising social and religious


issues. The question of literature as a creative endeavour was almost never raised. For the short-stories or the novels to be meiningful, they had to convey a message, either social, religious or political. Hence the prose fiction before the war appeared to be basically story-telling with a purpose, but without much concern for technique or aesthetics. The idea of literary criticism almost never existed at the time. Comments on the literary works were mostly confined to their contents and moral messages. The themes predominant in Malay prose between 1920 and 1942 reflect an awareness on the part of the writers for the socio-cultural changes then taking place in the country. Sometimes, the theme may be a straightforward love story, but the messages which are laced around the theme are clearly didactic in nature. Thus there were themes chiding outmoded parents for forcing their daughters to marry men of the parents choice themes popularly labelled as kahwin paksa or forced marriage. Themes dealing with the sufferings of women because their husbands took other wives, a practice allowed by Islam but with stringent conditions, were also popular. These themes simply reflect the view that some of the tr~ditional practices were outmoded: new values and perspectives would have to be instituted in the situation of social change. The view was not, however, one-sided. The writers also realised that modernisation had brought definite benefits to the country. They could see that materialistic gains could be derived from participating in the colonial economic system. And in this respect, the immigrant Chinese and Tamils had reaped the harvest, while the Malays had not enjoyed the benefits. But, in their message, they often stressed that advancement and progress had to be modified according to Malay and Islamic socio-cultural ethos. Urbanisation which was taking place in the country had brought many young village men to town. The writers, while not actually extolling the virtues of rural life, warned that life in town was full of moral traps and dangers. Thus many stories were told of how young men and women had come to grief through falling into the worldly temptations of town-life. As a group, those who engaged themselves in writing showed more consciousness towards moral rather than any other kind of social problems. And the problems were often viewed in the context of modernisation versus traditional and religious values. There were few works which may be said to dwell on political themes, and of these there were only a handful which dealt with the question of colonialism. Themes dealing with socio-economic pro-


blems were also few, and of these, they mostly centred around the comparative backwardness of the Malays in commerce which, in the eyes of the writers, was th source of wealth for the other races. Even from its early days, modern Malay literature has a characteristic in that there was little specialisation among the writers. Almost everyone of them would write novels, short-stories and poetry. However, Abdul Rahim Kajai, who is often regarded as the father of modern Malay short-stories was first and foremost a journalist. It was in his journalistic capacity that he wrote shortstories which are representative of the genre belonging to the prewar years: they are didactic in theme, dwelling on questions of echics, religion, and patriotism, and are romantic in approach. It is significant to note that his heroes and heroines in the stories bear names in pairs, such as Jamil and Jamilah or Rahim and Rahimah 18 Ishak Haji Muhammad is an example of the writer who, although English-educated and widely read in Western literary works, did not show that he was really influenced by Western literary traditions. Ishak was a rebel who preferred to work as a journalist rather than as a colonial civil service officer although he was trained to be one. His motive was to air his political views and life philosophy through his writings. FIitera Gunung Tahan (1937) and Anak Mat Lela Gila (1941), his two significant pre-war novels, carried difinite anti-colonial political messages under a thin veneer of fantasy and humour. In them he questioned the integrity and sincerity of the British in protecting the Malay states and regretted to see the impotency of the Malay ruling class. Of the Malay educated writers, mention must be made of Harun Muhammad Amin (who is better known by his pen-name Aminurrashid), Ahmad Bakhtiar and Abdullah Sidek. The three of them, as in the case of others belonging to the same group, were closely connected with Sultan Idris Training College. Harun and Ahmad were teachers at the college while Abdullah was a student there. This group of writers had their inspiration mainly from the Indonesian writers of the time. Nationalism can clearly be seen in the works of this group, but this sentiment was veiled and expressed in many diffirent ways. Ahmad Bakhtiar chose to invoke the greatness of the old Malacca empire by reliving the exploits of its heroes in a series of historical novels such ~s Keris Melaka. (The Kris of Malacca), Kurban Keris Melaka (The Victim of the Kris of Malacca), Panah Beracun (Poisoned Arrow), and Darah Di Selat 74

Melaka (Blood in the Straits of Malacca). These works are nostalgically heroic appealing to the patriotism of the Malays. Harun Mohd. Amin developed the same kind of historical novels after the War, but during the period under discussion his contribution lay mainly in a number of short-stories and a novel, Melor Kuala Lumpur (1930). Abdullah Sidek wrote on a variety of themes, from a semi-nationalistic novel, Mari Kita Berjuang which is a simple story of how some unemployed young Malays turned a tract of jungle into a successful agricultural farm, to domestic themes like Iblis Rumah Tangga (The Home Wrecker-1938) and NasibHasnah (The Misfortunes of Hasnah-1940). Another representative group of writers consisted of those who turned out light literary pieces such as detective or adventure stories and tales of love, Shamsuddin Salleh was one such writer. His works included Bingkisan Rahsia (Secret Message), Rahsia Yang Sangat Rahsia (The Most Secret of Secrets), Pelarian Yang Cerdik (A Smart Fugitive) and Tiga Bulan Dalam Penjara (Three Months in Jail). These novels mainly dealt with the work of th~ police and secret agents in tracking down political activists. Mother writer belonging to the group was Raja Mansoer bin Raja Abdul Kadir. He was essentially a journalist and had experience in running newspapers both in Sumatra and Malaya. His works, although for light entertaining reading, are not entirely free from moral preaching. They bear such attractive titles as Satu Kali Cium Tiga Kali Tempeleng (One Kiss and Three Slaps 1936), Tujuh Kali Beristeri (Married for Seven Times 1935), Apa Sebabnya Aku Kahwin Dengan Orang Keling (Why I Married A Tamil Man 1936) and Cinta Berahi Seorang Pengarang (The Love Life of A Journalist 1935). While the classical forms of poetry, the pantun and the syair, still dominated the scene, especially in newspapers and periodicals, a new style in poetic expression had emerged by the middle of the 1930s. The main carrier of this new experimentation was the Malay teachers journal, Majalah Guru, whose contributors came from the ranks of the Malay educated elite, the Malay verna-~ cular school-teachers whose cream were the graduates of the teacher colleges, first in Malacca, then in Matang, Perak, and finally after 1922, the Sultan Idris Training College, Tanjung Malim, Perak. The experimentations with the new forms which later came to be known collectively as sajak were inspired by the new poetry in Malay popularised by the Indonesian writers in the 1920s and 1930s. The hall-marks of the sajak are that it is a free-verse and


that it is an intimately personalised expression of the poet himself. These characteristics thus offer a contrast to the rigid forms and impersonal messages of the classical pantun and syair. However, it was during the post-war years that the Malay sajak began to develop its distinctive qualities. In the early years of its development, just before the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1942, the sajak in Malaya still retained the vestiges of the pantun and syair structures, although the messages had become personalised. Thus the twenties and thirties were truly the foundation years of the development of modern literature in Malay. The Third Phase: Current Developments The three-and-a-half years of Japanese occupation of Malaya did not produce much literary output but it was during those intervening years that new meanings and attitudes towards literature began to take shape. It was really a period of sociopolitical awakening in most Asian countries, and Malaya at the time was no exception~ The awareness for ones own self-respect, stifled by decades of colonialism, manifested itself in many forms: political, social, economic as well as literary. One of the manifestations of Indonesian nationalism was the growth of a modern literature in Malay pruposefully directed towards promoting Indonesian cultural consciousness. Such a literature had already begun to take shape in the twenties and thirties. A closer relationship that developed between the intellectuals of Malaya and those of Indonesia under the auspices of the Japanese had opened new perspectives to the writers in Malaya. While literature, it was realised, could be a potent tool for socio-political ends, the values attached to literature were in themselves invaluable in evoking a cultural awakening among the people. In other words, there was a new realisation that literature need not be the handmaiden of socio-political motives all the time, for literature in itself promotes higher sociocultural values for society. So, while the literature of the post-war years continued to express the socio-political ideas and ideals of the writers, it also expressed an acute awareness for its own literary values and standards. The post-war literature was no longer incidental to the socio-political situation; it developed as a full part of the total reawakening in society. It was during this~ period that the Malay novel as a genre achieved its maturity, the short-story holding its own as a distinctive literary style, the sajak emerging as the poetic expression of the time and literary criticism becoming a lively forum not only for literary evaluation but also for discussion 4. 76

on trends and goals of literary creativity. A significant event which truly reflects the consciousness towards literature after the war was the formation of an organisation of young Malay writers in Singapore in 1950 called the Angkatan Sasterawan 50 (in short Asas50) or the Generation of Young Writers of the Fifties. In this organisation, young writers who mainly came from the ranks of vernacular school-teachers and journalists banded themselves to further the cause of modern Malay language and literature. It was more than just an organisation; it was a movement manifesting the new literary awakening among young Malays. Not only did the organisation stress on the development of language and literature, but it also expressed definite ideas of what new Malay literature should aim at, for literature, from the point of view of this group of writers, should be the guiding light for the betterment of society, and this is reflected by their slogan: Art for Society. Although its most active period as an organisation was between 1950 and 1954, the influence of the group lasted well beyond that and was far-reaching. It stalwarts like Asraf, Keris Mas, Tongkat Waran, Masuri S.N. and Samad Ismail were not only models followed by the younger generation of writers, but they also helped in moulding the growth of modern Malay literature into the shape it is today. Partly this was because some of them were at the helm of the important newspapers and periodicals which were the main media for creative writing. Besides providing the lead in creative works, members of Asas 50 were also active in writing essays and criticism, and were engaged in polemics on literary as well as socio-political matters.9 In the early post-war years, the novel had a greater appeal to the reading public. From about 1946 to about 1950 or 51, literary activity continued the patterns of the pre-war days with the novel as the main literary genre. Among the novelists was Ahmad Lutfi, who between 1948 and 1950 wrote a series of short novels which purpoted to carry social comments moralising on the ills besetting the Malay society at the time. However, the questions were confined mostly to the erosion of moral standards suffered because of such reasons as westernisation, poverty and liberal attitudes towards religious teachings. Ahmad Lutfi was a controversial figure. In spite of his protestations that his works contained moral teachings he found ready market because his novels usually included spicy episodes in the hotel-rooms and on the beaches which attracted young readers. However, the impact of Ahmad Lutfis novels like 77

Pelayan (Waitress), Subuh Di Tepi Laut (Dawn on the Beach), Bilik 69 (Room 69), Ustazah (Religious Teacher) and many others on Malay writing had not been much, for they represented the usual pre-war format of didactic works. Nationalism was fairly represented in the early post-war novels. Ahmad Bakhtiar continued his historical novel series with Perwira Bintan (The Warrior of Bintan), Hang Tuah Di Ayer Masin (Hang Tuah At Ayer Masin) and Rahsia Keris Putih (The Secret of White Kris). Others deal with nationalism in a modern setting, like.Seruan Merdeka (The Call of Independence 1947) by Salleh Ghani and Barisan Zubaidah (The Zubaidah Movement 1950), by Hamdan.The main characteristic of such works is the idealistic portrayal of characters: to make sacrifices for ones country seems to be the idealistic conception of nationalism. There were also novels pronouncing what should be the social, economic and political ideals for the country. Ishak Haji Muhammad continued writing after the war. Between 1956 and 1968, he wrote at least ten short novels which included Jalan Ke Kota Baru. (Road to Kota BAru 1956), Budak Beca (The Trishaw Rider1957), Pengantin Baru (Newly Wed 1958), Mata-mata Sukarela (Volunteer Policeman 1959), Norita (Norita 1966) and Anak Dukun Derarnan (The Son of Dukun Deraman 1967). Ishak deals with themes like the evils of gambling, unemployment, political development in the country and other topical contemporary socio-political issues. In style, his post-war works still retain the pre-war style, but they were not as incisive as his earlier Putera Gunung Tahan or Anak Mat Lela Gila. Another pre-war writer who became much more prolific after the war was Harun Mohd. Amin or Harun Aminnurashid. His works included Cinta Gadis Rimba (The Love of A Jungle Girl 1946), Dewa Lombong Minyak (The God of the Oil Fields 1947), Darah Kedayan (The Kedayan Blood 1947), Korban Kinabalu (The Sacrifice of Kinabalu 1947) and Dayangku Fatimah (Dayangku Fatimah 1948). All told, Harun has written about 20 novels, but the most successful are the historical romances, Panglima Awang (Awang the Warrior 1958) and Anak Panglima Awang The Son of Warrior Awang 1961).~which he spun from certain episodes of past history. These are followed by Tun Mandak (1963) and Wan Derus (1965) with slightly less success. Besides the old stalwarts, many new names had begun to appear. Most of these writers were young and were writing for the first time. But they brought with them new trends and realisations


with regard to nevel writing. Hamzah, one of the young novelists, tried to introduce realism to Malay writing with some success. His nov~.d,Rumah Itu Duniaku (That House is My World), for example, brings to the reader the stark realities of life behind the walls of a rich Arab home often sheltered from public eye and knowledge. The new Malay novel which appeared after 1960 has shed the romantic notions found in the earlier works; it often strives to portray life as it is. often life in its crude realities. Thus the novel Sauna (1961) by A. Samad Said is named after the prostitute who is the protagonist of the novel. Salina successfully portrays life in the slums of Singapore. where man has to live in sub-standard conditions and has to fend for himself amidst poverty, squalour and deprivations. Unlike the approach of the older works, the new novels do not intend to teach or moralise or even to offer remedies, but are confined to exposing the actual conditions of life, leaving to the reader himself to draw his own inferences. Thus Markasans Ta Ada Jalan Keluar (No Way out- 1962), for example, tries to portray human conflict within a family. It tells a story of a woman, who being deserted by her husbai~,has to resort to prostitution in order to support her children. But when the children grow up and realise the kind of life led by the mother, they desert her. Among the writers who wrote successful novels in the 1960s were Shahnon Ahmad, Arena Wati and Abdullah Hussein. Shahnons Menteri (Minister) deals with moral corruption gererally assumed to be rampant among politicians or even civil servants, while Rentong (Burnt to Ashes1965) and Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan (Obstacles All Along the Way 1966) deal with the miseries of rural economic life. His novel Protes (Protest1967) caused some controversy over certain religious issues that the author deals with socio-political issues. Terdedah (Exposed1965) is perhaps the most interesting because it attempts to deal with the individual rather than with social issues. Arena Wati has the distinction of winning the 1967 literary award commemorating the tenth anniversary of independence of the country with his novel Sandera. Before that he already had two significant works to his credit, Gelora (Turbulence1963) and Lingkaran (Bindings1965) besides numerous short-stories. Abdullah Hussein won a consolation prize in the same competition with his Interlok (Interlock), a novel dealing with the ethnic plurality of Malaysias population. Besides Interlok, he has to his credit Janganlah Jangan (Dont, Please Dont1964), Peristiwa 79

(An Episode 1965), Terjebak (Trapped 1965), Aku Tidak Minta (I Am not Asking1967) and Kuala Lumpur Kita Punya (Kuala Lumpur is Our Own 1967). Between 1960 and 1969, there were 211 literary pieces which can be classified as novels. But of these only about 140, or about 2/3 of the total, which can be regarded as works of reasonable quality. The figure compares very well with the period preceding it: between 1945 and 1958, there were only about 62 works which could be regarded as novels and they were written by about 11 authors. Another feature of the period after 1960 is the fact that many women had taken up writing. Khadijah Hashim, another consolation prize winner of the 1967 competition, has a number of novels to her credit although her forte seems to be the short-story. Besides Merpati Putlh Terbang Juga (The White Dove Flies Too), her other novels include Badai Semalam (Yesterdays Tempest 1968), Jalan Ke Kubur (Road to the Grave 1969) and Pelangi Pagi (Morning Rainbow 1971). Salmi Manja is another woman novelist who has written a number of works which include Han Mana Bulan Mana (Which Day and Which Month 1960), Dari Mana Punai Melayang (From Where Does the Pigeon Fly 1961), Hendak Hujan, Hujan SekalI (If It Rains, Let It Rain 1967), Rindv Hilang DiTapak Tangan (Longing Disappears in the Palm of the Hand 1968). Other novels by woman novelists worth mentioning are Seroja Masih Di Kolam (The Lily is still in the Pond1968) by Adibah Amin, and Meniti Pelangi (Treading the Rainbow1964) by Hamidah Hassan. It has been said that post-war Malay literature is a literature of the newspapers. This is to say that newspapers have been the main medium for literary activity besides the popular magazines. This is especially true of the short-story and the~sajak. Today there have emerged serious journals and periodicals which are devoted to the publication of literary works and polemics. These include Majalah Dewan Bahasa, Dewan Masyqrakat and Dewan Sastera published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, a government agency charged with the task of developing Malay language and litemture. Others include the Sunday newpapers, Berita Mlnggu, Mingguan Malaysia and Utusan Zaman, the monthlies Mastika and Dkzn, and journal~ of literary bodies like Penulis and Bahasa. These publications are supplemented by the popular magazines which invariably would carry short-stories and sajak among their other features. To get an idea how many short-stories and sajak are punlished in a single year, we can turn to the figures for 1971


and 1972. In 1971 there were at least 294 short-stories in the various newspapers and magazines written by about 115 writers. In the same year, there were about 1,200 pieces of poetry published. In 1972, however, there were more than four hundred shortstories and over 1,500 pieces of sajak published. The rise in 1972 was most probably encouraged by the Annual Literary Award instituted by the Prime Minister beginning in 1971, and also because there were many more publications coming into the market. However, the high figures are not commensurate with the standards as reflected by the number winning the awards. In 1972, prizes were given to 15 short-stories and 42 sajak, while in 1972, only 12 sajak and 12 short-stories made the grade. Like the novels, the short-stories in the early post-war years were romantic in approach, mostly dealing with romantic patriotism and nationalism. The change from romanticism to realism in Malay short-stories was a result of the change in conception towards literature. Writing in Hiboran of 7th January 1950, the writer Hamzah reviews in passing the development of modern Malay literature from the time of Abdullah Munshi and then observes, Only in the past few months do we observe a new trend in Malay writing the trend of realism. He then continues to exhort young writers to take up this trend and emulate the postwar Indonesian writers in this respect. In the same issue of the magazine, another young writer, Rusmira, also brings up the question of realism in Malay writing. Rtrsmira too suggests that contemporary Indonesian short-stories should be the model for the short-story writers in Malaysia. The views expressed only reflect the beginnings in the drift from the pre-war style of writing shortstories which emphasises beautiful language and romantic treatment of the theme to a more realistic and earthy approach. Some of the works scattered over so many newspapers and periodicals have now appeared in various collections. To mention just a few, we have Mekar don Segar (Young and Fresh1959), Dua Zaman (Two Eras 1963), Wanita (Woman1964), Pertentangan (Conflict 1968), Patah Tumbuh (Everchanging 1962), Di Tepi Jalan (By the Road Side 1960), Daun-Daun Berguguran (Falling Leaves 1962), Anjing-anjln,g (Dogs 1964) and Debu Merah (Red Dust 1965). The short-story as a genre shows the fastest development and improvement in Malay writing after the war. The protagonists of the new trend like Keris Mas, Awan-il-Sarkarn, Wijaya Mala and Samad Ismail dominated the short-stories in the fifties. With


them the outright sermons, the romantic treatment of heroes and heroines bearing similar names or the idealistic portrayal of human character and emotion were no longer in fashion. The new trend was dominated by the idea to present realistically and graphically the world of everyday life, especially the hard life of the under-privileged classes in society. Thus, there is a definite preference for themes which touch on the struggles of the underdogs : the unemployed in ekeing out a living in the cities, the exploitation of the poor by the rich, economic monopoly of the capitalists in urban areas, the stranglehold over the landless peasants by the landowners in the rural areas and the oppressive measures taken by inconsiderate government officials against the rakyat or common people. It is apparent that the short-story writers were still motivated by the desire to redress ills in society: but the issues had become more sophisticated and quite removed from the presciptions of moral behaviour of the older authors. The writers of the fifties had become aware of the social conflicts, but their awareness was confined to those aspects which they were familiar with. Most of them became writers after gravitating towards the big towns to seek employment. Their perception, although keen and incisive, was often confined to their own experiences and environment. Thus they could write with graphic details the life among the poorer segment of the Malay population in the towns, especially Singapore, where writers like Keris Mas, Usman Awang or Wijaya Mala had migrated to from their villages on the mainland. The writers thus portray very well the worlds of labourers, petty-traders, the unemployed but aspiring journalists or the life in the villages and rubber estates from where they had hailed. They could see for themselves the visible contrasts in real life: the luxurious houses and gardens of the European and Chinese businessmen or government officials as compared to the crowded slum dwellings, grand limousines as contrasted with the trishaws and bicycles and the difference between jobs in confortable offices with those done by labourers in the hot sun. The slogan of Asas 50, Art for Society, was unmistakenly mirrored in the themes which predominated as the short-story remained basically a medium for social criticism. The short-stories thus evolved over the years with new and younger writers trying their hand at writing with new perspectives of social issues. A well-known young writer at the end of the fifties was A. Samad Ismail whose cynical style exerted quite an influence over aspiring writers. Independence of the country 82

opened new vistas and horizons for the younger writers. Shortstories probing into new situations arising in the newly independent country began to appear after 1957. Themes dealing with the inability of ex-colonial expatriate officers or even local afficers to understand the changing situations and attitudes in independent Malaya were quite prominent. Satires and criticism were directed at the new rising classes of local officers who were replacing the expatriates, of politicians and parliamentarians who were full of pretensions and of the new-found rich and class-climbers who were quick to forget their past stations. There was also a slight shift to non-social themes among some young writers as exemplified by Shahnon Ahmad. His Babi Hutan (Wild-Boar) provides an example of a break from a persistent preoccupation for society and its issues. In this short-story, Shahnon displays a deep insight into the irony of human life. Set in the background of an aborigine community, the work relates the story of a young abongine man going out to hunt for a particular specie of wild-boar to be used as bride-wealth for a girl in another tribe. He hunts over the length and breadth of the country without success. Finally he tracks one down to his own clearing and kills it, but not after the animal had gored his own mother to death. Social themes were still dominant in the short-stories in the sixties, but the attempt to probe into man himself and themes which avoided the current social issues came more and more to the fore. Besides Shahnon Ahmad and Abdul Samad, the other writers who have left their mark in short-stories are, to mention just a few, Mohd. Affandi Hassan, S. Othman Kelantan, Ali Majod, Alias Ali, Anas I. Hadimadja, Azizi Hj. Abdullah, Yahya Ismail, Nora, Zakry Abadi and Mana Sikana. The women writers also deserve special mention. In the early sixties, the names of Salmi Manja, Anis Sabirin, Rokiah Abu Bakar and Slmah Mohsin were perhaps the best known in short-stories, but today their rank has been swelled by the addition of writers like Khadijah Hashim, Fatimah Busu, Zahrah Ariff and others. It is in poetry or sajak that the break from the past is most pronounced. Although the early post-war sajak still showed traces of the syair or pantun structure, that is four-line stanzas rhyming a-a-a-a or a-b-a-b, the shift to free versification was in full gear by the early 1950s. The two leaders in new poetry during the early years were Masuri S.N. and Usman Awang who is betterknown by his pen-name Tongkat Waran. Their poems written since the 1940s until today somehow reflect the development of 83

the sajak: from the romantic, idealistic and almost naive expressions in pantun-like poems, they have become bolder and freer in both theme and form. The change in Malay poetry is a reflection of the change in society and culture: from a closed feudalistic Malay society of the past to an open society which forms a part of the plural Malaysian nation of today. The development of sajak in so far as it concerns the choice of theme parallels that the short-stories. Romantic nationalism and melancholic expressions of fate and fortune predominated at first, but these were soon taken over by themes of the sufferings of the rural fishermen, and farmers or the urban workers and labourers. The influence of Asas 50 was clearly to be seen, for the sajak clearly expressed the concern of the poets for what in their minds were the injustices in society. Even when the influence of Asas 50 was on the wane by the middle of the 1960s, the preference for such themes still persisted, especially among the new poets who usually had their experimentations cyclostyled for distribution among themselves. By the end of the 1960s, the variation in themes had become evident, and the poets began to move away from the topical social issues. One can clearly see this by browsing through the sajak columns of Dewan Sastera and other serious periodicals which carry sajak. As in the case of short-stories, it is easier now to follow the development of the modem sajak because most of those poets who count have already published their hitherto scattered pieces in the form of anthologies. There are few exceptions: we are yet to see the works of Latif Mohidin, Muhammad Haji Salleh or Baharuddin Zainal published in collections. Masuri SN. has had pieces published in Awan Putih (White Clouds 1958), Warna Suasana (Colour of Situation 1962) and Bunga Putih (Bitter Flowers 1967); Usman Awang has his in Gelombang (Waves 1961) and Dun Dan Api (Thorns and Fire 1969); Rejab Fl. has his earlier works published in Kebangkitan (Emergence 1963); AS. Amins pieces are collected in Damai (Tranquility 1965); Noor SI. has his sajak in Setonggi Waja (The Steel Incense 1960); and Suhaimi Hj. Muhammad, who has been the most prolific has collected his poems in at least six anthologies which include Jalan Ke Kota Ku (Way to My Fortress 1959) and Tulisan Di Kamar Tidur (Writings in the Bedroom 1960). Some of the later ones include Terbit Matahari (The Sun Rising 1972) by Hadzrami AR., Kemarau Di Lembah (Drought in the Valley1967) by Kassim Ahmad, which also included some


short-stories, Duri Di Kaki (Thorn in the Foot1971), consisting of the later works of Rejab F.!., Laut Tak Biru Di Seberang Takir (The Sea is Not Blue at Seberang Takir1971) by T. Alias Taib, Darah Merah (Red Blood 1972) by Jihaty Abadi and Berputarputar (Round and Round-1972) by Capt. Muhammad Awang. There are also general collections of works by more than one poet, such as Modern Malay Verse (1963) which has English translation of the poems in it, Himpunan Sajak Dan Majalah Dewan Bahasa, September 19571967, which contains poems published in Dewan Bahasa over the decade, 1957-1967, or Laungan (Loud Yell 1967) which contains works by six young poets. The Future Literature in Malay has always been responsive to the sociocultural conditions around it: as a passive reflector of society as found in the classical literature, as a medium for socio;political expressions in the 1920s and 1930s and as a vehicle for sociocultural awakening in the post-war years. With the departure of colonialism and the gaining of independence for the country, no ethnic or cultural group in Malaysia can live in compartments as had been the case during the colonial times. The racial riots of May, 1969, have taught the peoples of Malaysia that socio-cultural integration is imperative for Malaysias future. While the various ethnic groups may continue to live as sub-cultures within the totality of Malaysian society, there is an urgent need to develop a national culture which transcends and integrates at the national level of the various sub-cultural groups. Literature can play a useful means in encouraging the development of a national culture, and literature in Malay can fulfill this role easily, not because it is a literature using the national language of the countryBahasa Malaysia, but more important, because it is built on a tradition indigenous to the country and has developed a vital modern tradition which fits into the needs of the nation. Starting from the early 1960s there already had been works which attempted to portray life beyond the confines of Malay society and to encompass the whole of the Malaysian social scene. The trend has become more pronounced: not only are Malay writers widening their horizon but more non-Malay writers and artists are now participating in literary creativity, including dramatic and other related arts, through the medium of Bahasa Malaysia, the national language. It is only a natural process therefore to find literature in Malay today transforming itself into a truly Malaysian literature. 85 5.

1. For classical Malay literature. see Mohd. Taib Osman. Classical Malay Literature: A Brief Survey, Asian Pacific Quarterly of Cultural and Social Affairs, Vol. III No. 3 (1971), PP. 51 70. Abddulah bin Abdul Kadir, The Hikayat Abdullah, trans. and ann. A.H. Hill. Kuala Lumpur (Oxford University Press). 1970. For an account of this period, see Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad. Modern development, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. XVII, Pt. 3 (1939). Abdullah Sanusi Ahmad, Pejabat Karang-Mengarang (Malay Translation Bureau) an unpublished academic exercise in the Department of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1960. p. 65. For a description of novels during this period, see Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad. Recent Malay Literature, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. xix. Pt. 1 (1941). For ctudv. of the short-stories before the Second World War, see Hashirn Awangs (2erpen Melayu Sebelum Perang Dunia Kedua (Malay Short Stories Before the Second World War) an unpublished M.A. dissertation in the Department of Malay Studies, University of Malaya. 1972. For an account of Malay newspaper and periodicals before the Second World War, see Muhammad bin Dato Muda Lingqi, Tarikh Surat Khabar (The History ofNewspapers). 1940. His short-stories have since been published in Collections Banyak Udang Banyak Garam (published by the Geliga Press, Singapore,) and Pustaka Kajai (published by Qalam Press, Singapore). See Memoranda Angkatan Sasterawan 50, Kuala Lumpur, 1962. For a comprehensive list of works published between 1945 and 1967. see Li Chuan Siu, Ikhtisar Sejarah Pergerakan dan Kesusasteraan Me!ayu Modern, 1945 - 65, Kuala Lumpur, 1967, pp. 509 521. See Mohd. Taib Osman, Towards the Development of Malaysias National Literature, Tenggara No. 6 (1973).

2. 3.





9 10.



We do not want to retain the old style (of poetry), we do not want to sing the seloka and the gurindam like our fore-fathers did; we want to create new forms which are worthy of the spirit of our time so said Armijn Pane in the August issue of the journal Poedjangga Baroe in 1933. Armijn Pane was one of those young Indonesian writers in the twenties and thirties who were consciously forging new traditions in Indonesian literature. The new form, generally known as sajak, came to be the main poetic expression of the modern Indonesian literary tradition since before the Second World War. The same words, so aptly expressed by Armijn Pane, could easily have been uttered by the young Malay writers after the Second World War, for it was in the post-war period that the new poetic style or sajak came to be the favourite form of literary expression besides the short-stories. For ages poetry had been mainly expressed in the form of the traditional quatrain called pantun or in the form of narrative poetry consisting of four-line stanzas known as syair. (There are also other traditional forms of poetry known as seloka, gurindam, talibun etc.). Although attempts to break away from these traditional styles can be traced back to the nineteen-thirties, it was not until after the Second World War that sajak came to be a dominant feature in Malay writing. The early influence came from Indonesia: the sajak of early Indonesian poets like Armijn Pane, Amir Hamzah, Rustam Effendi and Sanusi Pane became the first models for the young


Malay poets in experimenting with new verse styles. Sajak, however, does not refer to a particular poetic form; it refers to the free style of verse-writing. The term is normally used for modern poetry so as to distinguish it from traditional poetry. Thus the term sajak is almost synonymous with free-verse. It is not only in fQrm that the sajak differs from the rigid structures of the pantun and syair, but it is also in the underlying concept towards poetic expression itself. The traditional pantun, which in its original form is an oral poetry, is usually ready-made, like a proverb, to be quoted when an appropriate occasion arises. The syair usually relates a story or a philosophical thought using continuously four-line stanzas and extending sometimes over hundreds of pages. The .sajak, however, takes any form the poet wishes, according to the fanci~s of his own creative skill and expresses the personal and intimate thoughts of the poet himself. Looking at it another way, the sajak does not merely reflect a change in literary tradition; it, in fact, symbolises the change experienced by Malay society and culture as a whole, from a closed to a more open socio-cultural system. Any change is usually marked first by a transitory character. Similarly with Malay poetry, the early sajak clearly shows the traces of the pantun in structure. But the ideas expressed have become personal, reflecting the awareness of the young poets, not only of their own feelings and attitudes, but also of the new things and changes occuring around them. Above all, they seem to be conscious of thier own role in such a situation. They look upon themselves as a new generation consciously striving for a change, and change will come only when the old is discarded. This fact is clearly stated by Masuri S.N. when he wrote (in 1947) Angkatan Baru (The New Generation): Berlepas barisan angkatan baru Melangkah gerak maju sedia Merentak melebur ikatan dub Merentak putus belitan jiwa. Bangun semua, para peiwira Dan gunung terjun menurun Menuju laut idaman sukma Tiada peduli arab bersusun. TranslatiQn: (Unless otherwise stated, all translations from Malay are the writers own. He has tried to keep as close as pos88

sible to the original meaning). The New Generation steps out Stepping forward with readiness. To snap loose the bindings of old, To sever the knot that strangles ones spirit. Wake up. all braves From the mountain rush down To the sea which is the choice of the soul Ignoring all obstacles in the way. In structure the two stanzas quoted here are reminiscent of the pantun style, but in content it represents the young poets trying to break away from old traditions. This poem is straight-forward; the exhortation for the new generation to step forward is stated in a matter-of-fact manner. Gone are the floral imageries of the pantun. imageries based on common experience of men and age-old word symbols like flower for a damsel dan bee for the young lover. In their place, come images from the poets own thought and imagination. In a later sajak called Tiada Peduli or I dont Care Masuri is defiant and says that he does not care what others think of his own convictions and ideals. Here he defies those of the older generation who are sceptical of the new poetic experimentations of the young writers and those who do not share his ideas. This time I dont care; The anger at night of waning stars, Although others are indifferent, On one principle, whether clear or hazy, I stand firm. Gone are the influences of the Pantun structure in this poem, and the expression has become more individualistic and bolder. The second line shows some attempts at imagery, but the rest of the lines are straight-forward, although rather prosaic. The problem of sajak in its early years of development is in a way exemplified by this stanza by Masuri. The problem is twofold: on the one hand the modern sajak is often too prosaic that it tends to lose its poetic character, and on the other, the imagery can become too personalised that it becomes obscure in meaning. The question of obscurity in sajak was at one time a subject of an unending discussion among Malay writers and critics. However, the fault was not only on the side of the poets 89

but also on the side of the reading public. Now that the audience is
more familiar with sajak. the complaint is heard less and less. Modern Malay verse has only a few years behind it. but it has come to be the main poetic expression today. The number of young people trying their hands at writing sajak keeps increasing. The main media for sajak are the newspapers. journals and magazines. The three major Malay Sunday newspapers. Mingguan Malaysia. Berita Minggu and Utusan Zaman. have regular columns featuring two to four sajak in each issue. Monthly journals, weekly and fortnightly magazines also have special columns for sajak in every issue. A recent trend is to publish collections of sajak by an individual poet or by a number of poets. (A short list of these collections is given at the end of this article for those interested in modern Malay poetry). The young post-war Malay poets are not so much concerned about the technicalities of poetry writing as they are about things and events happening around them. Conscious as they are of their art, they do not write poetry just for the sake of writing poetry. To them poetry is an expression to present their thoughts and ideals thoughts and ideals which are more often than not related to the happenings around them, whether local or abroad. A modern Malay poet is not very interested in expressing his own personal emotions or problems unless they are related to wider social or universal questions. He is more of a thinker, directing his thoughts to the questions and problems of his society and the world at large. That is the reason why Malay poetry today appears to be a little too topical in the choice of themes. Take, for example. the sajak by Usman Awang written in 1949 called Jiwa Hamba or The Servile Spirit, which says in part:

Ponder a while in a moments silence. The soul is empty. without spirit.

In life, it is felt as if enslaved.

Only the voice rises high. The wheel turns, and time flies
Life on earth takes many shapes

As long as to live with a servile spirit It is certain that we are forever enslaved. If there is a desire for independence.
It cannot be achieved by words alone.


But try to surge forward, And throw far away the servile spirit. Remember the words, Of a great leader, And on the remains of Malacca Fort, We inculcate the spirit of independence.
This is an expression against colonialism, and it is clearly

expressed without trying to be too poetic. Before independence, themes like the one here were the favourite among the poets. Compare this to the hopeful tone of Samad Saids sajak called Pada Tanah Yang Indah or To The Beautiful Land, which also deals with the question of independence, but in a different time setting. To our bright eyes the first clear rays appear, and I crave the freedom of my love, In my yearning heart, as calm as the pool of love, I promise loyalty to defend our beloved land. Should violent storm threciten this fair land, I shall not retreat one step, nor admit defeat, Let a million bullets fly, seeking revenge upon their victims, for our beloved land my heart is constantly ready. As the days pass, love grows rich in my heart, An iron will grow, away with the colonialist Our love united, dark vengeance suppressed, how I long for the bright dawn to break. With all my heart I love my motherland, I pledge her vow to serve unto death.

Quoted from Modern Malay Verse, Pg. 83

After the country has won its independence, the young poets turn their attention to themes which reflect their deep concern for the conditions in the society. They display a sense of social justice. 91

They try to bring out the sufferings of the poor or they hit out at the opportunistic politicians. As an example we may take a poem by a writer who calls himself Zulastry Sebuah Pondok Buruk or An Old Dilapidated Hut.

The first stanza reads: Our house has no walls,

only a piece of roof. Night brings cold but we never weep

To tread the steps-one

side falls And friends walking in front, pretending not to notice.

Again, the message is clear, but the poem as a whole appears to be a little prosaic. A more sophisticated approach is to be seen in Kassim Ahmads sajak which is in the form of a dialogue between a mother and her son: Rest in peace, my son
Although our rice-fields are floode. This rain comes from God.

A blessing which pours down in deluge, And day comes, as if it does not bring light,

The toads have ceased to call Tomorrow will bring sunshine. And our padi will flourish again. Sleep. my mother sleep. We are insignificant people, We toil during the day,
Night brings us worries.

Tomorrow comes, ushering with it the sun, Then I shall go, Together with a thousand rebels, the sons of soil, 92

For so long we have lost our soul in servility,

Now we rise to live, though as rebels.

This is a voice of one who is at conflict with the existing order, and wants to rebel. The theme is still topical, but the style shows maturity. It is difficult to portray anything representative of the contemporary Malay poetry for it is actually wide and varied in theme as well as is style. But surveying the sajak from 1960 onwards, one is struck by the improvement shown in the craftmanship of poetry-writing and a maturity in the choice and treatment of the themes. Although the concern for social justice and the urge to expose the ills of the society are still evident, they are no longer expressed in a blatantly prosaic manner. Take for example a part of Balada Gadis Tani or The Ballad of a Peasant Girl by Dharmawijaya, written in 1967: Today and tomorrow are fraught with miseries,
but the wails and cries are lost to the

realisation that life is increasingly craving for humanity, and that those who are humane are only pretending. So, said the peasant girl to the world, that everything she enjoys and possesses is but a minute piece of the golden prosperity enjoyed by her beloved leaders in Parliament. Modern poetry in Malay has only a short tradition behind it compared to the pantun and the syair. But it has become a symbol of the dynamism of the new generation in creating new ideals and concepts in Malay culture today. The young poets realise that theirs is a role to lead and not to follow, and they are aware that as poets
they will leave their mark. This is aptly expressed by Hadzrami AR.

when he compares the poets with a river in a poem written in 1964 called Di pinggir Sungai Jelai or By the Banks of River Jelai. The great poets whose works like the flow of River Jelai Sacred, continuously flowing in all seasons. 93

On the banks of River Jelai The dusk yesterday was so peaceful This morning, it is enveloped in mist. The birds move from branch to branch whistling while swooping down for food And the fish dancing in the water. The practising poets live like the river Ever flowing toward the Eternal Sea. A selected list of anthologies of modem Malay poetry in the fifties and sixties.
Au Haji Ahmad (ed), Puisi Baharu Melayu (Zaman Permulaan), Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur. 1959. Au Haji Ahmad (ed). Puisi Baharu Melayu 1942-1969. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur. 1961. Kassim Ahmad, Kemarau di Lembah, Saudara Sinaran, Penang, 1967. Masuri SN., Awan Puteh, Pustaka Nasional, Singapore, 1966. Masuri SN., Wama Suasana. Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur. Masuri SN., Bunga Pahit. Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1967. Masuri SN., Setanggi Waja, Malayan Publishing I-louse, Singapore, 1960. Rice, Oliver & Abdullah Majid, Modem Malay Verse, 1946-61, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1963. Samad Halim (ed), Sajak-sajak Angkatan Baharu, Sinaran Bros., Penang, 1957. A, Samad Said, Liar Di Api, Federal Publications, Kuala Lumpur, nd. Usman Awang, Gelombang, Oxford University Press. Kuala Lumpur, 1963. A Wahab Au at al, Larangan, Federal Publications, Kuala Lumpur, 1966. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Himpunan Sajak Dan Majalah Dewan Bahasa Sept. 195 7-1967, D.B.P., Kuala Lumpur, 1969.


The sajak in 1972 saw a marked increase in quantity, but to the panel of judges charged with the taks of selecting those works worthy of Tun Razaks annual literary awards (Hadiah Sastera) for the year, the rise in number was not matched by the quality of poetry produced. Hard as they tried, and with so many arguments among themselves, the judges could only arrive at a conscensus on thirteen out of some 1,728 pieces that they had to scrutmise during the year. The previous year, they recommended 42 poems for the award out of some 1,322 pieces. With last years experience of reading over a thousand pieces and a lot more the following year, the judges have found themselves on more solid ground to judge the work of our poets. Criticism levelled at the choice for last years awards also helped in moulding the criteria used by the judges. They have become perhaps more stringent and critical in judging the technique of the poets, both established and aspiring, known and unknown. Speaking generally, the sajak in 1972 displays little imagination or experimentation on the part of the poet. The trend pointed out by Samad Ismail in the short stories is also very evident in the sajak, that ~s, there is a strong tendency to imitate the styles of established or well-known poets rather than striking out for ones own original creativeness. The stamp of Usman Awang, Kemala or Samad Said is too apparent in most of the sajaks: sometimes one is left with the impres95

sion that the sajak is written rather hurriedly. A good proportion of the sajaks is to be found in the cyclostyled collections published by local writers groups. Usually, it seems that such poems are written during gatherings held at the seaside or at workshops for poetry writing. Some of these sajaks do show potentiality, but they usually remain unpolished and raw. Young poets tend to regard poetry as expressions spurted in moments of inspiration whereas they should realise that an important ingredient in poetry is deliberate craftsmanship. There is no real harm in using figures already used by other poets, like the seagull or camar used by Kemala, but if all that the poets can draw out of the animal kingdom for their imagety are the oft-repeated camar~ pipit or gagak~ then something must be wrong somewhere. Usman Awang, commenting on diction in the sajak of 1972, looks unfavourably at the common current practice of repeating the first syllable of the word to imdicate plurality. Thus pepohon for pohon-pohon~ jejarum for jarum-jawm and so on. One can understand Usman Awangs concern over the prevalent tendency to imitate the style of others, but it does seem that the style of repeating the first syllable of the word to denote plurality is coming to stay in Malay poetic style. What was once poetic license has now become a poetic convention, and who knows, it may even -one day find its way into daily usage because of its brevity. Two significant points need to be noted. First, out of the nine poets whose sajaks won the awards, three Mohammad Hj. Salleh, Rejab F.I. and Latiff Mohidin had won last year and two Kemala and Jaafa H.S. are well-known in the sajak circle. The rest are not actually newcommers, for although they have won for the first time, their names are often to be found in the sajak columns of the newspapers and magazines. It should also be mentioned that one of the winners, S. Mala, is from Sabah. The other point is that, all the thirteen winning sajaks are form publications known for their serious attitude towards literary products. The judges find that only in the major Sunday newspapers like Berita Minggu, Utusan Zaman and Mingguan Malaysia and in publications like Dian, Dewan Bahasa, Dewan Masyarakat, Dewan Sastera and Penulis, that one can hope to find poems of relatively high quality. One can go on pointing out the shortcomings of the sajak in


1972, but to flog the flaws is sterile and unproductive. Usman Awang, himself a practising poet, has dealt at length with some of the common mistakes made by the young poets in the Malay papers. One .may not agree with every word he says, but nonetheless he has provided some useful pointers for the young writers to take note of in improving their craft. It would be useful therefore to comment on some of the prizewinning poems. One of the cnticims levelled at the choice of sajaks for the 1971 awards was that most of those chosen were simple and could easily be understood. Certainly one of the criteria which the panel holds dear is that a piece of poetry is not a jigsaw puzzle nor a detective game. The poet, through his work, should be able to communicate with his audience. The piece of poetry may be simple, clear in message and purposeful, but it must contain the ingredients which make it an artistic piece of work. In theme, the subject need not be too philosophically profound, but it should not be too trite or common-place either. Take the poem by Latiff Mohidin, who alone won three of the 13 awards, called Sianak Rimba (Jungle Dweller): it is a short, simple and rather straightforward piece of work. Yet after reading it, one is left with an intriguing experience as to what has been said. di sudut muzium akhirnya kutemui wajahmu sianak rimba yang hilang. segempal him segenggam kapas kau sekarang berdiri di antara bukit sungai pohonan unggas keras dan kering berdiri di sudut muzium akhirnya di dalam lemankaco sianak rmmba lemas dan terasing. Irony seems to pervade in this piece of poetry: the incongruity of a jungle dweller, removed from his natural environment, standing 97

in a showcase at one corner of the museum. And the once energetic lively jungle-dweller is now reduced to a lump of wax and a fistful of cotton. In fact the poet is trying to tell us more than just that. He leaves us-with an impression of the inevitable, that-is change and modernisation will surely one day overtake the people of the jungle. But even then there is irony in it: the inevitable modernisation will make people wish for the original carefree world of the jungledwellers. The sajak appears simple, but it is one example where words are chosen and weighed so purposefully that every word is meaningful. The last line, especially, conveys a powerful impact with the words lemas and terasing. Another seemingly simple poem but a deep one is Batu-batu (Rocks) by Muhammad Hj. Salleh, a poet well-known for his dexterity in both English and Malay. At the moment, Mohammad is away in the U.S.A. working on his Ph. D in Comparative Literature. It is at Nevada that Mohammad was inspired to write his Batu-batu. The common eye may see only a pile of rocks, but what the poet discerns is more than that. He finds that there is an order in the pile of rocks, just like man living in an ordered society. Batu-batu mi ada masyarakatnyategik atau berbaring di kakilangit. mereka hidup dan mati dalam undang-undang batu. And to him the rocks seem to be alive, as they stand against the horizon, one on top of the other, surprisingly not in confused disarray but following some set rules. dengan alun dan ombaknya ketul-ketul tegak sendlrl megah mematahkan benang di antara langit dan bumi. And the rocks come alive for they seem to know that wherever they stand, they are in a position dictated by the natural laws of their own being. yang besar di atas yang kecli di bawah yang besar akan jadi kedil yang kecib akan bebih kecil yang iatuh dan atos pecoh 98

yang tertahan dengan hati batu, yang kecewa dan kecil di dalam bayang: mereka tau tempatnya, faham akan undang-undang wujudnya. Thus with such forthnghtness, Muhammad has not only been able to project some meaning, something to be thought of out of a pile of rocks and boulders, but he has also exploited the language in its simplicity by not at all trying to be pedantic. Rejab Fl. who, like Latiff and Muhammad, had won an award last year, wins this time with a simple poem, reflecting solitude, Kesepian. Right from the first stanza, Rejab draws our attention to the fact that solitude can be heaven as well as hell to man, but it is inevitably ever-present in our lives, kesepian adaIah sebuah syurga sebuah neraka berbunga kasih dan resah dalam kuntum-kuntum penghidupan. Solitude can be an antidote when one needs to think over proble~ns.It can bring peace to restlessness like the invigorating dew or soothing wind. kesepian adaIah kuntum-kuntum embun segar bayu kemesraan mawar kedamaian. There is a fair sprinkling of religious poems in modern sajak writing, and they are mostly found in religious orientated publications like Al-Islah and Utusan Kiblat. Even Warta Jabatan Agama Johor, the publication of the Religious Affairs Department in Johore, carries two to three sajaks in every issue. Most of these sajaks seem to be mere exhortations that they often lose their poetic qualities. However, among the winning sajaks of 1972, there is one which touches on religious sentiments. Most of the religious sajaks tend to be evangelical, but Melalui: Pikir, Mata, Telinga dan Lidah is free from the usual pretensions. The poem is written by Marhan, quite a familiar name in the sajak world. It is a- simple poem, but it tries to encompass what God has endowed man with: his mind, eyes, ears and tongue. The mind has the strength to make life in a society orderly and meaningful. The eyes, the ears and the tongue are given by God to 99

mankind. If they serve man well, then they too should be made to serve God. What is attractive about this poem is its tightness: every word conveys a definite meaning and every imagery evokes a clear picture. Thus the mind is like the twinkling stars in heaven (pikirku adalah bmntang-bintang yang mengerdip). And the perceptive eyes rove over the poles and heaven. mataku adalah arasy nan luas di perjalanan kutub dan ufuk And the sensitive ears are like a tape-recorder, taking in every conceivable sound, from the rustling wind and thunderous waves to the noises coming from every crack and crevice. Telingaku adaiah pita rakam di desir angin dan deru ombak menyehmnap dan meresap ruang-ruang yang terbuka The tongue can be of such strength and will, Ike fire and wind, burning and destroying even fortresses. Lidahku api dan angmn membakar dan meruntuh istana dan mahhlgal The religious sentiment that all which is endowed by God is in actuality for Him is simply expressed in the final two lines: Ilahi: Rabbi jiwaragaku untuk mu. Besides Latiff Mohidin who won three prizes, Jaafa HS and Kamala won two each. Both of them work with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and are active in literary activities. They both win for the first time, although their names are already well-known in literary circles. Jaafas winning poems are Diruang Yang Sempit Ini (In this Confined Space) and Satu Han Bernama Esok (One Day Called Tommorrow). The first poem deals with the poets cynical observation of the suffocatingly depressing atmosphere of a hospital ward. He talks of the loneliness of the sick, and he senses that the ultimate loneliness is death itself, when whatever one possesses or loves is left behind. tiada siapa yang berteman di sini telah ku hihat betapa-seorang lelaki pergl meninggabkan tangis kekasihnya namun dia pergi jua


He sees the shadow of death always stalking and lurking in the hospital ward, and he feels helpless and restless. bayang-bayang kematian semakln menglsl ruang yang sempit mi untuk menemul mereka yang klan lama terbaring dalam kebuhan dan resah gehisah tanpa rasa setla. The strength of the poem lies in the powerful way the poet conjures up the image of helplessness and foreboding in a hospital ward. The subject may at a glance appear gloomy and dark, but the skill of the poet does not make it so. In Satu Han Bernama Esok, Jaafa tries to project the world of tomorrow. He is fully aware of what is to come wher~ school-books give way to computers and students using automatic pens powered by electricity. Ya anak-anakku ke sekolah tanpa buku tapi mengepit komputer bersama pena otomatik digerak kuasa betrik. He also envisages that in days to come, the lives of men will be dictated by machines. It is the machines who will decide whom one should love or befriend. pemimpmn mereka adaiah mesin-mesin kira kata mesin dia kekasih diabah kekasihnya kira kata mesin itu setia itubah setianya The poet is neither worried nor apprehensive of the future. He accepts it as inevitable, and he is fully aware that the norms and values of today will give way to those of tomorrow. Thus family loyalty will no more be held dear by the future generation, and he is willing to accept this. satu han bernama esok aku akan relakan anak-anak untuk tidak menyapa kerana setianya bulan untuk setltls darak keluarga But personally to the poet, there is a tone-of-regret, for he fears that the world of tomorrow may lose its humanity or godliness. Thus he concludes his poem with a d~terrnia~ation that at the time love poems cease to have any meaning, hewuld still attempt to make his world sing. And in such a confusing world, he would still stand for godliness amidst the machines and cornputeis. tika puisi-puisi nndu enggan bicora apa kan kucuba juga mengajak duruaku mers~ars~n 101

dalam kabus-kabus pagi aku berdiri bersama sebuah komputer kunamakan iman mereka satu bentuk bakal kunamakan tuhan Kemalas two poems which won prizes are Laut (Sea) and Meclitasi (Meditation). In the former, which appeared in Dewan Bahasa (July, 1972), Kemala pictures the sea in its many aspects. The sea is first personified as a beautiful girl sleeping peacefully on her bed (gadis cantik tidur diperaduannya) and then as a virile youth mellowed with age (pemuda tangkas asuhan waktu). As a beautiful girl, the sea is the picture of eternal calmness, in spite of the waves rolled by the wind. Aku baut sisik-sisik riak ditubuhku lukisan detik dan tarian angin bersatu drgemersik angin saujana ketenangan mi And as a virile youth, the sea is a picture of force and energy, as it crashes against the rocks. gelegak ombak menjadi kata dew menjengkau ufuk muzik terdampar ke benteng karang lalu kenal din. In the third and fourth stanzas, Kamala talks of the sea in the light of the day and in the darkness of the night. During the day, we find the sea-gull singing, and the scene evokes the feelings for lasting eternal love. Siang pilihan menyimpulkan seloka camar berlabu sejarah kudukung bahasamu akulah laut pertama pemupuk cinta abadi The darkness of the night finds the sea churned into fury as it is possessed by the storm: Malam pertaruhan badai perkasa memeluk hadirku The reflections on the sea are carried on to the last stanza where the poet talks of the sea as a meeting point of many things. And finally, the poet finds in his heart an acute awareness or selfrespect. Kqsih sayang nenek tua, matanakal cucu bertemu di sini angin jauh mencani harmoni tergetar bibir di dalam tafsir di sini: di hati mi kekasihku merupakan harga din. 102

The other poem by Kamala is Meditasi (Meditation). It has many special qualities not found in other sojaks. It is a long poem published in a small booklet of 31 pages. The theme is a meditation on love which began at dawn one July morning. It is actually a rambling thought, although well sustained, traversing all kinds of experiences in love, touching on the famous love affairs in history Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, and on to Lord Byron. The actual message is quite elusive as the poet flows from one trend of thought into another, but the reader can see that the thread which runs through the whole tapestry is a comentary on love. Such a long poem will not easily find space in the newspapers and magazines, and that is the reason why such a piece of work is highly rated in modern sajak writing. Kamala had shown consistency throughout the long work, choosing the words carefully for poetic effects. The poem begins with love and ends with love. meditasi berm ula dan cinta tersimpul kini dalam suatu kesetiaan, suatu keindahan meditasi lalu diakhirnya menjadi ~alengkap dengan catatan yang kuasuh dengan jiwa tubus kudus pengenaban pengertian Cinta! Tiada lagi Gema Seruling (No Longer the Flute Resounds) deals with a subject one would think rightly belongs to the sociologist or the economist. But Ridzwan M.S. proves that such a mundane subject as the exodus of youths from the kampung, if viewed from poetic eyes, can be expressed in a beautiful way. It is the only sajak published by the newspapers to win an award this year, the rest are from the journals and magazines. Ridzwan pictures vividly the village scene deserted and lifeless without its young man. Sumunbendang kehilangan pondok surau sunyi sendini kahi-kahi mengahin sepi beberung piana ti imbau-mengimbau There is a constant worry in the village that without its young men, work will be at a standstill when the season for planting arrives.


Hati berkocak pabila musim tiba tiada siapakah membanti~ngtulang di sawah-sawah bendang However, the responsibility will be carried out by those remaining. And there is hope that the padi-field will be as green and the ripened rice will be as golden. Namum hakmilik adalah tanggungjawab untuk dibebai diteroka semogakan hijau dedaun padi kuning mebambai buahnya. The poet ends his poem on the hopeful note that the young men will return for the harvest, bringing with them tales of their experience in the city and longings for the loved ones left behind. mungkin entahkan esok busa rangmudakan pulang bersama gunau senda bensama cenita kota, bersama dedebar nindu di hati yang terusap belai dana melambai Semoga kan bebih meriah musim menuai Again, it is simplicity that makes this sajak attractive. One is heartened by the optimism expressed, for usually sajaks dealing with such a subject would rather harp on the darker rather than the lighter side of the subject. The tone of the sajak is light and the flow is lyrical. Ridzwan has been able to exploit the various aspects of the village scene to his advantage without tiying too hard. The village life without its young men is so aptly expressed right at the beginning of the sajak: the flute no longer resounds in the village, as its young men are away abroad. Desa itu tiada lagi gema serubing rangmudanya tebah diperantauan.


When Malaysians held celebrations on the 3lth of August last year, it was not as Independence Day as in the years since the Federation of Malaya achieved independence, but as National Day. We also no longer shouted the slogan Merdeka but Berjaya instead. Such changes are essentially symbolic, calculated to bring about changes in our perceptions, attitudes and emotional responses. The changes were made with a full awareness of the political developments in Malaysian society. The cry Merdeka was most appropriate during the struggle for independence, but new needs arose which made it no longer adequate simply to revive the memories of the struggle. It was necessary to develop new attitudes which woukLprovide a greater assurance for national viability. The need felt at present is to create what is popularly labelled the Malaysian Identity. This need, we must realise, is of the greatest importance, for it will bear eventually on the viability or otherwise of the Malaysian nation. The urgency of this need was never so clearly felt as after the occurrence of communal riots in May, 1969. Malaysias viability as a nation must be built upon two basic realities: (1) Although Malaysia is a young nation, she forms part of a historical continuity of this region involving the majority of the population, namely the indigenous population; 105

(2) As part of the same historical continuity, there exists a plurality of cultures within the nation, partly brought about by the immigrant communities. From the viewpoint of cultural anthropology, a culture is a system of symbols. Man, compared to the other animals, is the most efficient maker and user of symbols. Man communicates the most abstract things in the form of symbols. Thus symbols are often used to represent abstract ideas which in themselves are not visible or tangible. Many aspects of nations building are abstract in nature and therefore have to be conveyed through symbolic means. In the hustle and bustle of everyday living, such notions as nation or country are often forgotten, but men ultimately organise themselves to conduct their living within the sdcial units we call nations. The viability of a nation as a social unit depends much on the projection of its own identity. The question of national iden~ity relates to symbolism, because in itself it is not visible except through symbols. It is important, especially for newly independent nations to project such an identity externally as well as internally. Therefore, a countrys national identity is made visible through symbols such as flags and emblems and symbolic behaviour such as singing the national anthem or celebrating the national occasions.
The symbolic objects and behaviour not only make as aware of our national identity, but also enhance our emotional response to something which otherwise would remain abstract. Thus through the symbols, the abstract notion of nationalism can spur us to heroic deeds and sacrifices. One of mans symbolic modes of expression which help to promote national identity may clearly be seen in the arts. There seem to be two important factors which tend to restrict efforts to build national identities among newly independent nations. Firstly, the socio-cultural differentiations existing within a nation, and secondly, the unavoidable impact of the socio-cultural influences left by colonialism together with the influence of the universal culture imbued with western ideas and values. The two factors are related to the historical background ,f the country in question. The first factor can be found in almost all the newly independent countries which were once under Western rule. In Africa, for example, the national boundaries are often inherited from the 106

areas of influence of one or another of the Western powers, and within such boundaries are to be found ethnic groups and cultures which never had anything in common to justify the social unit into which they were put by the western colonialists. In the past, most of these groups were organised into individual communities such as tribal or other local groups. Even though there existed sophisticated socio-political units as those found in Dahomey or among the Ashantis, these were not widespread, nor did they have the basic concepts or administrative machinery which are essential to a modern nation of today. The presence of immigrant groups residing in some countiies poses more complex problems as these people create deeper socio-cultural differences within a nation. The second factor can be seen in countries where strong western influence had been in such ascendency that the local cultures tend to be valued less and less, except as museum pieces. One interesting example is Ireland where the English language is so strongly entrenched in daily life that efforts to revive the use of Gaelic by the nationalists proved to be a dismal failure. As a developing country Malaysia faces similar problems in her search for national identity and in attempts at nation building. The two factors mentioned above exist in Malaysia. It cannot be denied that Malaysia emerged as a nation based on the territorial area which once was part of the British Empire. Even before the advent of British rule there had already existed a local population consisting of groups which among themselves shared common historical, ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties. The indigenous population of the region has similarities and affinities with people beyond the confines of the political boundaries of Malaysia. The common ethnic and cultural ties identify an area which was once known as the Malay Archipelago and is now known as Nusantara. The social units which existed before the founding of modern nations like Malaysia, or Indonesia, were organised on kinship, local ties a~1d sultanates, which formed the most sophisticated type of sociopolitical organisation. Although the ethnic or cultural groupipgs differed from one another in matters of detail, they nevertheless shared many common traits and characteristics. Besides the indigenous population, there exist also sizeable immigrant communities who have their own characteristic languages and cultures. Although some have long settled in the Malay Archipelago, that is even before the colonial period the


majority of them migrated from their homelands in the wake of western colonisation. These immigrant groups did not assimilate with the indigenous population as they lived in separate communities, and having only functional relationships, generally very limited in volume as well as in frequency. It must be mentioned that those who have long been here, like the Baba Chinese and the Chettiars of Malacca, have already absorbed the local cultural elements during the process of acculturation. The same can be said of the Chinese in certain parts of Indonesia. But the majority of the immigrant population still retain their own cultures and way of life. As they form part of the bulk of the Malaysian population, their cultures too are to be considered as one of the many cultures which exist in Malaysia. In the context of such a situation, suggestions have often been made for the formation of a Malaysian culture by uniting the various cultural elements together. But this view is untenable as it does not meet one important condition in the growth of a culture, that is the question. of time. It is impossible to expect a Malaysian cultt~reto take shape within a very short time. What should be done now is to think out plans from which a culture can develop and grow into what can be accepted as a Malaysian culture in the years to come. At the present moment, astrong colonial influence still prevails and most of the dominant socio-cultural values still smack of western dictates. This influence is clearly seen in evaluations in the field of the arts: whatever comes from the West is regarded as superior, so much so that the local and indigenous arts are condemned to thrive as best they can among the village folks. As a developing country, Malaysias problem is not to establish whether or not there exists at the moment a national identity, but rather to make the effort and face the struggle to build up this identity. It must not be thought that the achievement of such an identity would mean that the country would have a single monolithic Malaysian culture. The concept of a homogeneous culture is only applicable to small, simple and isolated societies which hardly exist anywhere today. When the anthropologists analyse a simple or tribal society, a picture if a homogeneous culture emerges. In such a society, patterns of behaviour, world-view or weltanschauung, ethos and social organisation show a high degree of uniformity. In fact very little socio-cultural differences can be observed. Between individuals, there is little difference in behaviour, thoughts and the things communicated. Such a society stands in contrast to the 108

modern nation as a social unit: a modern nation forms a complex community consisting of smaller groupings. An individual can belong to more than one of these smaller groupings based on local or regional settlements, religious affiliations, ethnic groupings, social classes or even occupational categorisations. An individual can belong to more than one of these smaller groupings since they overlap. In the context of a nation as a whole society, the smaller social grouping can be termed subcultures or subsocieties. The countrys natural institutions such as the common educational system, government administrative departments, common financial, economic and legal systems, the army and the police and so on bind all the groupings and affiliations to the national whole. Other than these, the arts,political ideology, religion, sports, philosophies and the mass media which transcend the subcultures, can also act as a factor in binding the various subcultures into a single national community. The linking of various subcultures among themselves or between them and the nation as a whole occurs at various levels. The highest level of such socio-cultural integration can be said to occur at the national level. An anthropologist, Julian H. Steward, has suggested a way of looking at a complex society, that is by recognising the various levels of socio-cultural integration. He points out that the arts represent one of those cultural entities which might occupy a place at the highest level of socio-cultural integration i.e. at the national level. However, as it has always happened in the history of man, the arts which are highly valued or are recognised as the national arts have always been the product of the upper classes. And this has prompted Julian H. Steward to say, National culture is too often conceived solely in terms of those aestF~etic and intellectual achievements which in many societies are understood only by the upper classes and which may be little known to the illiterate, isolated folk communities. (see his book, The Theory of Culture Change University of Illionis Press, Urbana III. 1963, p. 73.) The history of Malay/Indonesian culture clearly illustrates the point raised above: the ars and a~hievementsof the upper classes, i.e. those belonging to the Kraton or the palace, had always been projected as the representative culture. The simple creations of the common people or the folk culture of the Nusantara regions had often been ignored until lately. If the arts of the contemporary upper classes (an entity still open to interpretation) were to be considered as representatives of the Malaysian culture, we may find 109

them unpresentative of a Malaysian identity. Such works may appear to have more international identifications than national ones, and moreover they still show characteristics of a colonial stamp. Therefore full consideration should be given to the kind of works which can play their part at the national level of socio-cultural integration. The concept of Malaysian national literature is only a part of the whole issue. Literature is one of the most important cultural expressions in linking the various subcultures in the prcess of socio-cultural integration at the national level. Compared with other forms of expressions, literature uses language as the medium, which is a form of communication par excellence in the life of a society. Although other forms of arts like painting, music, carving and dancing reflect the peculiar qualities of a culture, they perhaps do not evoke a high sense of indentification compared to literature. It is easier to identify the literature of a society or its relationship with the society to which it belongs, than to perform a similar task in the case of painting. The comparison may be just a matter pf degree, but since language is easily identified with a group of people, it follows that the arts in the medium of language evoke a greater emotional response. In other words, literary products prove to be more effective and play a more important role in socio-cultural integration at the national level than most other forms of art. The other reason why literature plays an important rule in this issue of national identity is because of the unique function of literature in society. Literature is not only a form of art, it is also a form of expression which mirrors and projects the social values, and the aspirations of the people. In literature which is handed down from one generation to the next is embedded, in symbolic form, the cultural values, and ideals of the society. Therefore it is important in the process of socialisatidn of an individual in the society. Socialisation is a social process during which an individual learns directly or indirectly to play his role in his society. It is a process of transforming a biological being into a social one. If we are fully aware of the fact that nationalism can be inculcated through socialisation, we should realise how literature can play an important role in promoting national consciousness. Therefore, the need to conceptualise what is a Malaysian national literature assumes greater importance, especially with regard to its own development, for such a literature can be a most important agent 110

in cultivating the Malaysian consciousness and identity in our young generation. The characteristics of the population in Malaysia, the historical background of the country, and the relationship with the neighbouring countries are some of the factors which have influenced the character of the literature found in Malaysia. These factors are important in discussing the concept of Malaysian national literature. The people of Malaysia are made up of the indigenous groups on the one hand and the immigrant groups on the other. The cultures of the indigenous groups are native to this part of the world. These cultures may differ from one another, but on the whol~they are cognate cultures sharing the same historical past, similar environments and the same bases in South East Asian civilisation. The immigrant groups, although they have been subjected to new environments and influenced somewhat by the local cultures and new relationships, still retain to a high degree the cultures of their countries of origin. The types of literature found in Malaysia reflect the character of the Malaysian population. The traditional literatures of the immigrant groups consist of those carried over from their countries of origin. Meanwhile there are also works written in the new Malaysian environment. Since these are written in the languages of the particular groups, they can hardly be recognised as Malaysian literature, even though their content has some relevance to this country. Besides the works written in Bahasa Malaysia which is the official and national language of the country, there are also other literary forms of expression of the various indigenous groups. But of these, only those in Bahasa Malaysia have shown greater vitality and have developed consciously in keeping up with times. However the literatures of the other groups, noticeably those of the Iban dan Kadazan, has shown glimpses of similar developments. As these writings are native to Malaysia, they are easily recognised as such. The literary scene in the country is very much influenced by the historical experiences of the people. The most recent experience is colonialism. An important heritage of this is the wide use of the English language in the country. Although the English language and literature were foreign to both the indigenous and the immigrant groups, they were the most influential means of linguistic and literary expression at one time. 111

During the colonial days the ability to use the English language was the main factor in determining a persons social and economic status. Being well-versed in English literature (or other aspects of Western civilisation) was enough to distinguish a cultured or learned person from an ignoramus. In fact, the English-educated elite occupied a special status which continued even after Independence. It was this elite group which struggled to maintain the status-quo of English so as to preserve their own interests. They even unabashedly tried to project their literary works as Malaysian national literature, even if their claims were made indirectly. The challenge from this group must be taken seriously, because such an attitude is quite prevalent still among Malaysians, that is to regard things connected with the West as superior to things local. Furthermore, since technological progress is often equated with western civilisation, there is a lopsided view with regard to measuring a civilisation primarily on the strength of its technological achievements. When such a view-point has become entrenched, it is natural for prejudices against local cultures to be sustained. For example without even knowing about local literature, it is already assumed that it is inferior to Western literature. Whether such a view-point is right or otherwise, the local literature is ignored by such people. That is the reason why the concept of a Malaysian literature must first of all overcome such prejudices. History before the period of colonialism i.e. before 1786 or 1819, represents a decisive factor in giving character to the development of culture generally and to literary activities in Malaysia and throughout the Nusantara. Malaysias own history is only a few years old, but the history of the indigenous peoples and their cultures in Malaysia goes back thousands of years. The factor dividing the different cultures in the area is the contact with external influences like India, the Islamic world, China and the West. There are groups which had very little contact with outside civilisations and therefore foreign influences have left very little impression on them. However, there are groups whose cultural developments are characterised by the acceptance of elements form foreign civilisations. Groups belonging to the first type usually dwelt in the intenor, while those of the second type lived along the coast. Hence the cultures, including the literature, of the groups belonging to the first type manifest little change and variation compared to those of the second type. These is no question as to which one is more mdi112

genous and which is not, for even though the cultures of the second type absorbed elements of foreign civilisations, the development of these cultures, e.g. Malay, Javanese or Balinese cultures. show a process of development shaped by indigenous foundations and environments. In actual fact, it is the character found in Malay, Javanese and Balinese cultures, that is, cultures developing through a process of borrowing and synthesis of foreign and local cultures, which should be made the model for the further development of cultures in Malaysia. In anthropological terms, such a process is known as acculturation, that is, a process of grafting foreign elements onto the receiving culture harmoniously over a long period of time. From the point of view of the development of culture, the historical background of this region should be regarded as a more important factor for consideration than the historical period beginning from the period of British colonialism or even the period beginning with the formation of Malaysia. This is because the civilisation in this region has crystallised over hundreds of years since the dawn of history in this part of the world. Admittedly. it is the Western civilisation which is the most dominant in the world today, and it is an important factor in shaping our own civilisation now and in the future. This cannot be denied as our own past experiences have shown. What, for example. is Malay culture today if we take away those elements which had been absorbed from the Indian civilisation and the teachings of Islam for hundreds of years? Yet, however extensive and however dominant the influence of outside civilisations may have been on the local culture, the resultant civilisation has been shaped by local cultural forces. A long penod of time must have passed before any meaningful fusion between the two acculturating cultures could take place. That is the model we must take when considering the possibilities of the growth of our civilisation in time to come. Hence the future development of Malaysian literature must be founded on the traditions already existing among the indigenous peoples of Malaysia and the literary products which had a continuous existence in the Nusantara region for hundreds of years, while at the same time this development should be open to suitable influences from the outside. With the exception of Thailand, Malaysias neighbours are excolonial territones. The political boundries of these states are inherited from the colonial territories. But the cultural and ethnic 113

affinities of the population of these states transcend these national boundaries. The vital factor to consider now is the fact that Indonesia and Malaysia have a common language as their national languages. The decision to adopt the Malay language as the unifying language for the peoples of Indonesia who have their xvn regional languages and cultures is perhaps the most momentous dicision made in the history of this region. It is spoken by over 120 million people who give meaning and value to their choice and use of the language. One of the results of this factor has been the birth and growth of a modern literature in this language. The development of this literature has a significant meaning in the development of the civilisation of the peoples of Nusantara. This literature is not simply a superior literature compared to the regional literatures or cultures, norjust the product of an elite, nor simply to tool to encourage the spirit of nationalism. It is in fact a manifestation of a force or energy for creating new bases upon which a new civilisation can be founded. This new civilisation will have to accept Western influences, but it has to be shaped by the matrix found in the indigenous civilisation of Nusantara. This view is thus opposed to the idea of developing a Nusantara civihsation based mostly on Western values and orientations. Although at this juncture, such ventures manifest attractive possibilities, their strength is based on materia! rather than spiritual orientations. A clear example of this is to be seen in an overbalanced and disproportionate emphasis given to science and technology, an emphasis on overwhelming economic wealth, or on values based entirely on considerations of utility. This is the viewpoint which would make us only look forward and not backward into our past history. On the other hand, the new civilisation which will arise, based on the local civilisation, will also satisfy material need for technology and science are not the prerogative of the West only, as has been shown by Japan. And such a civilisation has an advantage as it is also based on spiritual values. As an example, we can take the influence of modern Indonesian and Egyptian literatures on Malay literature in its early formative years. We note that English literature left little mark on anything at all of the artistic creativity of the Peninsular Malays at the time when there was a vacuum in literary productivity among them. What Happened was that, modern Egyptian and Indonesian literatures made their impact because they contain elements easily recogni114

sable in Malay culture where it concerns literary creativity. Although there were tendencies to copy some of the Western literary products, as it was a fashion during those times to regard things Western as civilised or modern, what took place was that English literary traditions found no reception in the cultural developments of the Malays at the time. On the other hand, the Egyptian and Indonesian literary products were accepted. As a nation, Malaysia has its own characteristics with regard to its indigenous population. It is inherited from the history of this region before and after the advent of Western colonialism. In the pre-colonial period, the pattern is best viewed from the cultures of the indigenous groups themselves; there are those which had absorbed a lot of foreign elements, like the coastal Malay culture, and there are those with a veneer of foreign influences. The indigenous groups in Sabah and Sarawak consist of the Kadazan, Dusun, Bajau, Sulu, Iban, Bedayoh, Kenyah, Melanau, the coastal Malays and so on. Although all the groups can be said to belong to a common cultural base, belonging to a common family of languages (the Austronesian), they have developed many distinctive cultural traits and items among themselves. Every group has its own traditions in literature (mostly oral), and these have functions in the context of their own cultures. What is meant is that, the literature has a function, in the anthropological sense, in the cultural life of the members. Literature is not regarded as merely the artistic creation of an individual to be evaluated by the critics. That is a phenomenon found only in complex societies, where social stratification as well as specialization (division of labour) are clearly to be seen. In those societies, the evaluation of the arts is strictly confined to only those having high artistic qualities, and referred to as Great Literature and Fine Arts. Literature which is directed at the public for commucial ends is not included in such categories, but called Popular Literature. In other words, in a complex society, distinctions are made between what is regarded as Literature with a capital L and Literature with a small 1. In societies where there is already self-consciousness towards Great Literature, the traditional literature which exists among the lower classes or groups in the outlying areas is often overlooked and bypassed. Even if it is given attention, it is studied as a part of the local culture or as folk traditions. Not much of the traditional literature among the indigenous 115

groups in Sabah and Sarawak has been collected so far, let alone studied. What is known comes from the notes of the ethnographers and anthropologists who have been studing the societies and cultures of the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak. The literature of the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak is no different from similar literatures of Nusantara. The various forms of literary expressions fulfil different needs in the social life of the people. Myths about Gods, supernatural beings, cultureheroes and sacred saints (kera mat) form the foundations of their beliefs or religious systems. Aetiological tales relating the origins of the world, flora and fauna in their environment explain the rituals and festivals connected with harvesting and so on. Proverbs, riddles, songs, dirges and customary sayings are not merely beautiful expressions, but are meaningful and provide the framework for desired behaviour in society. But more important, such literary expressions, whether narratives or otherwise, are manifestations of the peoples weltonschauung (world-views) and ethos (soc~al values) of a culture. The relationship between the realities of everyday life and the creation of literature is shown through symbolism. The symbolism is not only the language used for literary expression but also the characters and actions which reflect such values as good/bad, rough/fine or beautiful/ugly, and concepts such as sacred! profane, truth/falsity, cleanliness/dirtiness, nature/man-made as measured and conceived in that society. In short, to really understand a culture, one must unravel all the symbols expressed in literature, dances, songs, rituals and other forms of symbolic action in the society. So what we get in Sabah and Sarawak is that each indigenous group has its own traditional literature. Besides knowing his own literature, the native of Sabah and Sarawak may also have a knowledge of English literature because it is part of the school curriculum. Now when literature in Bahasa Malaysia is introduced to schools and colleges, it is not only known to the Malay students but also to other children. Besides, there is the Borneo Literature Bureau (now taken over by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Sarawak and Sabah Branches) which publishes traditional literature translated either into Bahasa Malaysia or into the other languages. When there is enough interaction between the various indigenous groups (and other groups as well), there will be enough opportunity for the literatures of each group to be made known to the others. In this context, with Malay as the traditional lingua 116

franca in the past and now as the national/official language of the country, there is every opportunity for literature in Malay to be known widely. Bearing in mind that the indigenous groups have the same cultural bases, it is not expected to be a great problem for the other indigenous groups to understand and appreciate the literature in Malay. Through social communication and education literature in the Malay language in Sabah and Sarawak developed on the same
lines as in West Malaysia which in turn is influenced to some extent by developments in Indonesia. It is undeniable that a new

literature in Malay has developed in Sabah, and to some lesser extent, in Sarawak, and in effect, it is part of the same phenomenon as the general development of modern Malay literature in the 20th century in West Malaysia. Many common features are to be seen in Sabah and Sarawak on the one hand and West Malaysia on the other: there are writers who consciously create literary works in forms distinguishable from the traditional ones; there are self-conscious discussions on these new forms of literature; there are organisations and groups involved in literary activities; and finally, the literary works are disseminated through the mass media, especially newspapers and magazines. And there is contact between the literature of Sabah and Sarawak and West Malaysia, especially through the writers themselves. Quite a number of writers from West Malaysia have settled down in Sarawak and Sabah since the Second World War. In this section, I try to discuss the relationship between the literatures of the indigenous groups and the literature in Malay, for the question here touches on the interrelationship between the indigenous literatures and the concept of Malaysian literature. One is reminded of parallel questions involving writers in Europe in the past. The rise of nationalism in Europe had caused the European writers to seek inspiration from works reflecting only the national identity and character of their respective nations. A significant point is that some of these writers had found inspiration in the traditions of the humble folk, the peasantry who lived away from the cultured centres of their nations. Irish writers like John Millington Synge and William Butler Yeats emerged as great authors in world literature because they were successful in capturing and recreating in new idioms the humanistic values of the folk traditions of the Irish peasantry. There was no question of their wanting to turn the clock back or inhibit the modernization processes of their peoples. Here lies the difference between using traditions to 117

seek out new meanings for the present and the attempts to revive them out of nostalgic and romantic notions of the glorious past. The literature in Malay will be further enriched and become meaningful if it were to take in elements equally indigenous from the literatures of the other indigenous groups. This would not mean that we are going back into past history. Rather we would recreate the indigenous elements by giving them new meanings and purpose in our efforts to build the new culture in Malaysia in the times ahead. In practical terms, efforts to introduce the traditional literatures of the Muruts, Kadazan, Dusun, Bajau, Sulu, Iban, Bedayoh, Kenyah and Melanau must be redoubled. The first step is to collect and transcribe the literatures, which at the moment exist mostly as oral traditions. The collection of oral narratives and other literary forms with ethnographical notes about them must be in the original languages and later archived. Efforts must be made to render them into Bahasa Malaysia, but such renderings must retain their original characteristics. And these renderings must be turned into school readers to be used as part of the literature courses in schools. In this way the social values and weltanschauung in these literary pieces can thus be transmitted to our younger generations, because among them will emerge new writers for the Malaysian literature of tomorrow. As for the writers of the present generation, they should not just look upon these traditional literatures as curiosities. They should try to draw deeply from these literatures and understand why they have survived all these years. In this respect, the writers in Sabah and Sarawak are in a better position to exploit the situation as the materials are much richer in those areas than in West Malaysia. That is really what is expected from the writers in the interests of the further development of Malaysian literature. The situation described above is the result of many factors which we have discussed. The picture we get is that in a new emerging nation there are to be found various forms of literary expression: literature inherited from the colonial period written in English, literature of the immigrant groups written in their own languages, the traditional literature of the various indigenous groups existing for hundreds of years, and literature in Malay which has developed fqr centuries and is now forging new and modern traditions. It is without doubt that the literature in Malay is the most logical choice to provide the foundation for the further development of National Malaysian literature. 118

This is not merely because Malay as transformed into Bahasa Malaysia is the national and official language of the country. The more important reason is that, compared to other forms of literature, it has the necessary advantages to make it the foundation for the future development of a national literature for Malaysia. It has a long history, a tradition nurtured within the environment of the indigenous peoples of the region, and this tradition develop and grows meeting the needs of the times, and most important, at this crucial stage, it is sensitive to the socio-political situation of the country. Besides, it has a close relationship with the literature of Indonesia, our closest and most important neighbour. The last factor is important in strengthening the spiritual bonds in Southeast Asia, which hitherto have been projected in terms of a common historical past and common cultural bases among the different peoples. The traditional literatures of the other indigenous groups have an important role to play in the conceiving of further developments of Malaysian literature because they too had grown and developed within the local environment. We have already discussed the interrelationship between the indigenous literatures. What should be emphasised is the fact that of all the indigenous literatures, only the literature in Malay has developed to a point where it has forged a 20th century tradition, the growth of which parallels socio-political developments in the country. Indirectly it has been stated that the national Malaysian literature has already existed, that is the literature wirtten in Bahasa Malaysia. But the role of the traditional literatures, either in Malay or in the other indigenous languages, in developing the new traditions of Malaysian literature has not been fully recognised or realised. To have a strong tradition as base is important in the development and growth of a culture. This does not mean that the culture will develop solely on what it inherits: a culture is dynamic and it changes from time to time. The tradition as the base provides the background which gives character to further development. At least, the traditional indigenous literatures provide the historical depth for the national literature, its origins, its development and its changes in a long path of time. Moreover, although Malaysian literature has already existed in works in Malay, the concept we must build for a national literature must not stop at that. As the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the national and official language of the land will not eradicate the other languages in the country, similarly the drive to develop a national Malysian litera119

ture does not mean that literatures in other languages will disappear. Besides literature, there are other culture expressions like songs, dances or drama which will continue to flourish in the subcultures because they fulfil the socio-cultural needs, have meanings and functions in social life of the groups. Similarly with the literature in English: although it is often regarded as the direct inheritor of the colonial literature, it still provides spiritual satisfaction to certain groups, including expatriates who, for some time to come, will still apparently be involved in business, industries and the plantations in the country. The short span of time since Malaysia achieved its independence is not sufficient to eradicate attitudes and view-points nurtured over the last hundred years or so, and moreover, we cannot ignore the dominating influences of the West today. Two view-points are often expressed when discussing national Malaysian literature or other arts. The first rejects as Malaysian literature and art forms those which are alien to the indigenous traditions. Such a view does not consider the fact that a culture usually enriches itself through borrowing and absorbing elements of other cultures with which it has come into contact. In our country at present, not only are the cultures of the immigrant groups in direct contact with the indigenous cultures, but we are all without exception exposed to the popular arts and entertainments which prevail all over the world today, such as pop music, abstract paintings, songs by the Beatles, Western popular literature and so on. If we can accept on radio and television dances, songs, music and film from countries as diverse as Germany, U.S.A., Britain and Japan, we should be able to accept the artistic expressions of those who live within our own borders. But it would be misplaced if such artistic expressions are projected as national Malaysian arts. What can be said is that the literatures of the other subcultures can contribute to the development of national literature which must, however, be based on literary products grown and nurtured within the environment native to this country. The second view is that the national Malaysian literature can be created by fusing the literary elements from various literatures. The most facile example ever suggested is a poem in a mixture of English and Malay. Such a view does not understand the nature of cultural developments, and treats culture like a chemical mixture or a rojak. The fusion of elements alien to one another needs a base 120

from a particular culture so as to give character to the resultant development of the fusion. In the history of Nusantara, we have observed that in civilizations referred to as the Indian period or Islamic period, there is an acculturation of foreign and local cultures, such that the end result displays its own stamp and mark. This means that the civilizations during those periods in history differ in character from the civilazations of India, Persia or Arabia during the same periods. Thus, it is only by having the base in the literature in Malay, and also by having the other literary traditions making their appropriate contributions that a traditional literature in time to come will develop its ow~stamp, projecting the Malaysian identity. The growth of a wholesome Malaysian culture, that is a culture which is able to create meeting points for the various subcultures of socio-cultural integration, will take a long time to materialise. The national system of education, given through the medium of Bahasa Malaysia, for example, will not leave any imprint until after 1983, that is if it is implemented as expected. But the span of time taken will be the crucial formative factor ultimately, and not a hindrance, for time will decide whether the seeds planted will grow into strong healthy plants with roots firmly implanted in the soil on which they grow. It is equally important that during this time we choose and select which seeds are worthwhile and which are not for it is these seeds that will give rise to the character of the national culture reflecting national identity. The concept of a national Malaysian literature is one of the seeds for this objective. Although each subculture and group in the country will have its own form of literary expression, what is the national literature is the one accepted by all as their own literature. Such literary products will link the peoples of Malaysia at the national level of socio-cultural integration, but the other literatures will live and function at the subcultural level of socio-cultural integration. In actuality, the seeds for the national Malaysian literature are already planted and growing, that is the literature in Malay. But further growth will have to be nurtured through a conceptual framework, far wider than we have at the moment, so that in future it will really provide a lingking system between the subcultures through works regarded as the Great Literary Tradition of the country. The development of Malaysian national literature must give rise to a high-quality literature which is not only rich and varied, but 121

also one imbued with the values, weltanschauung and aspirations of the people. Such a literature will not materialise if the writers themselves are alienated from the existing traditions, for these traditions form a bridge between what has passed and what is to come. In this context, the history of Malay literature from its origins to the ijresent day must be made the basis for the education of our budding writers and the intellectuals in our society. What is meant by literary history is not merely an exposition of its growth from one point in the time scale to another; it should be a picture of contribution and change in ideas, social values, art forms and writers aspirations, and all this related to the social conditions of the time. Besides that, the traditional literature of the indigenous groups should be widely disseminated through Bahasa Malaysia, and made compulsory reading in schools. Literatures in other languages, bearing Malaysian themes, should be translated into Bahasa Malaysia, so that these works will further enrich the national literature. The concept of a national Malaysian literature will not achieve the desired aims if the literary works do not reach the common people as widely as possible. Thus a literature in a language widely used by the people will have a better impact than one in a language whose use is limited to certain segments of the people only. As literature is a more effective transmitter of social values compared to other arts, it is an important agent of socialisation. It must be emphasised, therefore, that national Malaysian literature must be taught as an important subject in schools, that is, as a subject which will help in nurturing the awareness of a Malaysian identity in the younger generation. The concept of Malaysian national literature will have need for works which are sensitive to the problems of national development in the widest sense of the word. On the other hand, art becomes sterile and insipidif controlled. For a healthy growth of art, there must be freedom for the artists to create their works, that is, freedom bounded only by a sense of morality and humanity. Therefore, there must be a balance between the need to be sensitive towards national developments and the need to encourage a healthy developement of artistic endeavours. There must also be a place for popular literature, like detective stories, mystery novels, adventures and light romances. Finally, what can be regarded as the ideal Malaysian works would be those which in the context of the Malaysian environment could pass the test of being Great Literature. And to have this 122

tradition of Great Literature, there must be an elite which takes upon itself the task of preserving and nurturing highly literary and artistic values in the national literature. In other words, at the highest level, that is at the national level of socio-cultural integration, we get serious works of high quality which encompass the works found in the subcultures. One of the measurements needed for literature at this level is its sensitivity to the national issues and national development, especially in terms of spiritual development. In this respect, we cannot ignore the important contribution being made by the present literature in Malay in its role as the base for the future development of Malaysian national literature. The literature in Malay reflects the seriousness and sensitivity of the writers towards the upheavals and issues of the society at large. The themes chosen by the writers in Malay range beyond thOse found in Malay subculture only, but encompass issues and problems found in the Malaysian society as a whole. One can easilysee this through the sajak, short-stones or novels in Malay written since 15 or 20 years ago. For Malaysia, which is a developing nation with a population of many cultures, the need to project a national identity among its peoples in the years to come is a crucial problem. Artistic works can contribute towards the efforts to build up the identity. Of all the arts, literature seems to be most useful and effective: firstly because it uses language which is the medium of communication in everyday life, and secondly because literature can be an important socialisation tool for individuals in Malaysian society, as in literary works are to be found, in symbolic forms, the social values, Weltanschauung and life aspirations of the culture which gives rise to it. Thus there must be a thinking towards the development of Malaysian national literature. Factors such as historical background, the population character and relationship with the neighbouring countries have given rise to many types of literary works in Malaysia. But those works which are native to the soil should be the bases for further development of truly national Malaysian literature in years to come. The development of Malaysian national literature appears to be one of the many processes through which a new civilisation based on local cultures will rise in this part of the world. Of all the literatures of the various indigenous groups, the one in Malay seems to be the most logical one to be taken as a base for further development of Malaysian literature. This is not only because Malay has been chosen as the official/national language of the country, but 123

there are two other more important contributory factors. Firstly, if compared to the other indigenous literatures, it is the one which has shown continued development, since centuries ago, and at the moment it is forging a new tradition which is mindful of the needs of the country at the moment. Secondly, the development of literature in Malay has close connections with the development of modern Indonesian literature. The second factor is important in the sense that it shows a regional basis in developing a local civilization in meeting the challenges of Western concepts and values. The contributory role of the other indigenous literatures towards further development of the national literature must be emphasised. It is in this that we can see an interplay between the various indigenous cultures. The literary works of the indigenous groups reflect the various cultures native to the Malaysian social systems for ages. All the values and weltanschauung which can be gathered from the traditional works can be re-evaluated by present and future writers, in order to fulfil the needs of the time and those of the Malaysian society as a whole. A heavy responsibility will have to be borne by our writers of today. Those who~haveyet to learn to writeS in Bahasa Malaysia should try to have their works made available in the national language if they want their works to be in the mainstream of truly national Malaysian literatures. Those already writing in Bahasa Malaysia must continue with the tradition they have forged, but from now on they must widen their horizons. They should not overlook the traditional literatures of the other indigenous groups and must be sensitive to the other literatures found in the country. They should strive towards works of high quality, commensurate with the status of Great Literature in the Malaysian context For the intellectual elite, they must take seriously the literary works of their country. They should strive, either directly or indirectly, to work for a great tradition to be established in literature. And finally, the government tQo should shoulder some of the responsibilities in thinking towards the development of a Malaysian national literature as a contribution to the establishment of Malaysian cultural identity in the times to come.


In his introduction to a collection called The Variety of History: From Voltaire to the Present, Fritz Stern points out that history... varies as the life and spirit of different ages vary, and that is why at different times and in different countries diverse types of history have prevailed. To the modern academic historian, the Malay histories or sejarah would not properly be called history. The problem as seen by a modern historian is to assess how the Malay sejarah can provide historical information on past events. In this respect, works like Sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Acheh or Tuhfatan-Nafis may not be able to contribute in the way the Dutch or English factory or company records can. But the fact remains that the Malay histories were a socio-cultural expression of the Malay society in the past. They were not merely a literary expression: they were a distinctive genre in the totality of classical Malay literature. While the Malay sejamh may not tell us much of the history of the Malay states in the past, they can be useful source to enlighten us as to why and how they came to be written in such a manner. This paper attempts to look at the Malay histories not merely as a socio-cultural product of their time, but also as a psychocultural expression of the Malay historians of a bygone age. The authors of the Malay sejarah were individuals as well as participants of a particular culture.2 As Fritz Stern points out further, In the last analysis what will shape a particular history is the historians conception of the past, whether or not he has formulated 125

it, whether or not he is fully conscious of it. These conceptions,

compounded of tradition and temperament, govern the writing of history: The authors of the historical writings in Sterms collection are known, and this makes it easier to correlate the type of historical writing with the personality of the author, his purpose and the mood of his society and time. With the Malay histories, the task is definitely harder for the authors are almost wholly anonymous and hardly any external information is available of the authors themselves. With this limitation in mind, we are therefore forced to talk in general terms. What we are interested in is to examine the world-view and also the ethos of the writers of the Malay sejarah. The modern reader can at once distinguish two main kinds of information conveyed by the Malay histories. On the one hand, there are those irrational narratives which we today would-ordinarily ascribe to the realm of folklore rather than accounts of everyday happenings.5 These include such tales of princes and princesses coming out of bamboo clumps or foam in the sea, the genealogies of kings traced to figures like Iskandar Dzulkarnain, the legend of Wan Empo and Wan Malini, or tales of the sagacious elephant pointing out the future ruler of a state. On the other hand, there are episodes which to our critical minds today may be accepted as containing elements of truth or at least plausible in terms. of human action and situation. As narratives they are matter-of-fact and almost devoid of marvellous elements. From the point of historical writing today, such episodes may not even be accepted as historical truths, or they may be regarded merely as pseudo-history. The rigid criterion of academic historians would demand documentary substantiation of the facts related. In Malay histories, the shortcoming appears to be the trivial motivations that underlie the actions narrated. Wars are not usually waged for economic or political motives but for human reasons such as love, insult or jealousy. However, even in this category of information, we do get themes and motifsb which we can immediately recognise as unhistorical. One good example is the theme of how Sultan Mansur Syah got the better of the Emperor of China as recounted in Sejarah Melayu. While we may not find it very difficult to seperate the two kinds of information suggested here, it is admittedly difficult to make a clear-cut division between the folkloristic elements characteristic of the first type of information and the unhistorical themes and motifs which sometimes embellish the second type. The story of Sultan Mahmud wanting to marry the 126

Princess of Gunung Ledang in Sejarah Melayu and that of Iskandar Muda showing extraordinary prowess during his early years in Hikayat Acheh are two cases in point. These themes may appear folkloristic, but I am inclined to believe that they are more than that. They may appear to be allegorical and hyperbolic to us, but such tales were not strange to the belief-system of the Malays in the past, or for that matter, of the Malay peasantry today. I shall come back to this point later. Ihe two kinds of information can be clearly illustrated by Hika7 Structurally, the content of yat Kelantan which I once edited. thisSen hikayat can be divided into two parts. The first half of the hikayat is supposed to deal with the earlier period of the history of Kelantan, while the latter half deals with the history of the state about the beginning of the nineteenth century. What is significant is the fact that the two parts more or less coincide with the two kinds of information suggested here. The first half contains various tales about characters who purportedly once ruled Kelantan and the surrounding areas and who now live on in the oral traditions of the local people. Today, the names of Encik Siti Wan Kembang and Tuan Puteri Saadong are invoked whenever the local folk talk about the ancient history of their state. It is interesting to note that the episodes related by the hikayat in this section might not even stretch back to the sixteenth century, but they are shrouded in a mist which only those familiar with Malay histories can understand. It is equally interesting that place-names mentioned in the hikayat are still to be found in Kelantan. Landmarks like Bukit Marakand Kampung Mahligai, a hill and a village near Kota Bharu, the present capital of the state, are connected, in the local oral traditions, with Encik Siti Wan Kembang and Tuan Puteri Saadong. Thus the first half of the hikayat can tell us very little about the actual history of the state as a historian would like to have it. One thing is clear, however, the section has a close connection with the folklore of the local people. But as far as the folk are concerned, and this is implied in the hikayat also, such tales are historical. It is in the second part of Hikayat Sen Kelantan that we get accounts which we today may accept as historical Compared to the preceding portion, the stories here are not folkloristic but matter-of-fact. In this part of the hikayat, the author keeps to a straight-forward form of narration, recounting the events on a mundane level. Here we get events that are supposed to have occured during the reigns of sultans whose graves in the !anggar 127

(royal cemetery) at Kota Bharu today offer us tangible evidence that they once lived and ruled the state. In other words we cannot vouch that the happenings related in the hikayat actually took place, but at the same time it would be difficult to reject them as historically untrue. Some can even be substantiated by other reliable sources. The point is that while we are not going to examine the events in the light of present-day requirements of historical evidence, we have to accept the fact that they are a kind of information which we cannot reject as merely fictitious. However intertwined within this section are some episodes which we can easily recognise as unhistorical. Long Junus, whose grave we can find in the Langgar in Kota Bharu, is historically accepted as the founder of the present dynasty in Kelantan. Hikayat Sen Kelantan gives a long account of Long Junus to the time he became the ruler of Kelantan. One of the episodes about Long Junus tells us how he and his friend Long Jaffar helped the Sultan of Trengganu to thwart a Buginese princes design to take over the state through a cockfight. Long Junus and Long Jaafar provided the fighting cock for the Sultan of Trengganu and their cock won the fight. Grateful for this action, the Sultan of Trengganu helped to establish Long Junus as the ruler of Kelantan. This episode is quite innocuous of marvellous elements, but the motif of countries being won through cock-fights is a widespread motif not only in Malay histories but also in oral traditions. The unhistorical elements, however, warrant our attention. While they may not be exactly similar to the folkloristic information of the first type, they are nevertheless quite distinct from the matter-of-fact accounts characteristic of the second type of information. We can leave to the academic historians to deal with the second type of information in the Malay histories, for it is only this kind of data that can be useful to their purpose. The folkloristic narratives and the unhistorical themes and motifs, however, are central to the approach we have in mind regarding the Malay histories. We are not concerned with the use of the Malay histories as a source for historical study, but rather as a source to understand the histories not only as a socio-cultural product, but also as a psycho-cultural expression. Our critical mind can distinguish the two types of information given in the Malay histories. It appears strange to us that the duality in thought can appear side by side and at times intermingles. We would make the distinction today between the mundane reporting of everyday events in the newspapers and the marvellous fairy128

tales we tell our children or the impossible antic of the characters in the cartoon strips. But it does not appear to be the same with the way of thinking of the Malay writers of histories in the old days or even with that of the Malay folk who still tell and believe in legends recounting past events and explaining the origins of local landmarks. Our critical thinking today is circumscribed by our culture and civilization: that is to say our perception of things and event are based upon our knowledge and way of thinking. There are certain things which are acceptable to our minds and certain others which are not. There are limits to which we respond in either belief or disbelief. This is what, in Dr. David Bidneys words, the psycho-cultural attitude or degree of belief.8 Thus we use the word myth to describe the elements of belief held by others but not by us. Dr. Bidney suggests that the term myth when used in connection with belief refers relatively to any belief which we discredit, although acceptable to others in the past or the present.9 As I have said above, the second type of information conveyed by the Malay histories is acceptable to us: we can accept the plausiblity of the happenings even if they are not taken as historical truths. It is the folkloristic and unhistorical themes and motifs that we connot accept because of their irrational and absurd contents. But at the same time we recognize the fact that these themes and motifs are an expression which stands side by side with the second type of information within the totality of the Malay histories. We may thus call these themes and motifs mythic elements following Bidneys formulation. Our own belief-system may discount these narratives, but we cannot deny the fact that they are the products of the thoughts of men who belong to a particular culture and time in history. Bidney has also suggested that it is reasonable to look upon mythic belief as the product of precritical, critical and scientific thought. According to him: In precritical cultures animistic tales of culture heroes and of magic and epic cosmogonia and theogonic myths tend to prevail. In critical, prescientific cultures myths of the miraculous and supernatural gain currency. In scientific thought, there is a tendency to discount narratives of the miraculous or supernatural, but to accept secular myths instead. In our socalled scientific culture we have the secular beliefs of pseudoscience, such as the myths of racial superiority and the stereotypes of racial and national character. As mythic elements, the folkloristic and unhistorical episodes 129

can actually be looked upon from two points of view diachronic and synchronic. When we discuss such themes and motifs in the context of the Malay histories, we are viewing the question in a diachronic perspective. But if we bear in mind that similar narratives still prevail in the form of oral legends and tales among the Malay village folk, we are looking from a synchronic point of view. If we follow Bidneys postulation, the folkloristic and unhistorical elements are the products of precritical and critical but prescientific thoughts. History as known by the Malay folk differs from the history one learns in schools today. So, from a synchronic point of view, history as conceived by precritical and critical but prescientific thoughts still prevails in certain groups of the Malay society today. The mythic elements in the Malay histories are to be examined in a diachronic perspective because the Malay sejarah is a product of the society and culture at one point on the historical continuum. As we today would incorporate certain elements in the Malay histories into our own historical writing after subjecting them to the critical demands of the discipline, we can expect that the Malay histories too would represent a cumulative knowledge or tradition. The writer of the Malay sejarah not only wrote or compiled his work as an individual of his time but he also had access to the cumulative traditions of his culture prior to that time. If looked from this point of view, we may be able to explain the two types of information we get in the Malay histories. The folkloristic elements are the expression of the precritical traditions inherited by the Malay historian, while the second type of information, including the unhistorical elements embedded in them, is the manifestation of the critical but prescientific thought of his time and culture. The mythic elements in the Malay histories are as much the result of an interplay of cultural traditions and the personality of the authors as in the case of the second type of information referred to in this paper. The Malay histories that have come down to us had been written during a period which spanned over three or four hundred years as represented by Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai & one end and Tuhfat-al-Nafis at the other, and over an area from Kedah in the north to Borneo in the south. But within that period of time and that area of space, the Malay histories have displayed certain common characteristics which could only have stemmed from a more or less common culture. But the point in time is an important variable to note. Even a cursory observation can tell us that there are much more of mythic elements in I-Iikayat .Raja-Raja


Pasai slightly less in Hikayat Acheh and much less in Tuhfatan-Nafis. There is, it seems to me, a correlation between the quantity of mythic elements, particularly the folkloristic ones, and the time when a particular sejarah is supposed to have been written. And this in turn reflects the place of a particular sejarah on a hypothetical continuum where at one pole we have precritical thought and at the other self-correcting scientific thought. Thus we may have Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai nearer one end of the continuum and Tuhfat-an-Nafis closer to the other. Miraculous and ma!vellous themes and motifs permeate Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasat almost throughout. The folkloristic elements are particularly heavy in the earlier part of the hikayat, but in the latter section when the hikayat deals with Sultan Ahmad Perumudal Perumal and his son, Tun Beraim Bapa, supernatural and magical motifs are nonetheless abundant. Compare this with Tuhfat-an-Nafis. Raja Au Haji was the most critical of the Malay historians of old. When referring to the tradition which said that the ancestry of the Buginese princes could be traced back to Puteri Balkis, he could not help being sarcastic about it. He was so conscious of his task that his prayer, ~Mengharapi aku akan Allah Ta ala yang mengampuni daripada tersalah pada segala towarikh dan perjalananNya, can easily be a prayer of a modern historian. So, it is with Tuhfat-an-Nafis that we get a Malay history as a product of a critical self-correcting thought The mythic elements in the Malay histories are therefore to be viewed as a psycho-cultural product of the Malay historian of the past. These elements are drawn from the cognitive patterns of the culture as a whole and the perception of the historians as individuals in the society. The folkloristic themes and motifs are traditions which help the authors of the Malay sejarah to explain the distant past. The sources of these elements themselves would warrant a detailed research of their own, for there are recurrent themes and motifs which may also be found in other culture areas. Not all the folkioristic elements show pre-Hindu indigenous traits, there are some which must have arisen from a knowledge of Indian belief and narrative traditions. The motif of a being coming forth from a bamboo clump is a clear example. If we look at the structure of the Malay histories, we can generally observe that the mythic elements consisting of folkloristic themes and motifs usually precede the more historical elements of the second type of information we talk about in this paper. This we have seen in Hikayat Sen Kelantan A regular pattern emerges


when we examine these folkloristic elements. As has been said above, these themes and motifs seem to explain the distant past of the history of the state the author is dealing with. And that misty past does not only mean an array of personages to be related somehow to the dynasty which is actually the central theme of a particular work, but also events and places which have some bearing on the state in question. The antecedents of the kings of Malacca in Sejanah Melayu. range from Iskandar Dzulkarnain, Raja Nushirwan Adil and Raja Kida Hindi to the kings of Palembang and old Singapore (Temasik). Similarly the history of Pasai takes into account Merah Gajah, Puteri Betong, Merah Silu (Silau?) and Merah Hasum. Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa provides the starting point of the history of Kedah by bringing in Maharaja Rom and Maharaja China, the two great kings (and kingdoms) the old Malay historian must have been familiar with from ancient traditions. One of the common folkloristic elements to be found in the Malay histories concerns various place-names. Events are recounted as to how land marks which have survived to the time of the author came to bear particular names or certain characteristics. Themes and motifs concerning the events are often to be found in more than one sejarah. It is also significant to note that these themes and motifs usually fit the kind of expression of a precritical culture as outlined by Dr. Bidney. A comparative study of recurrent themes and motifs concerning the pre-historical figures, place-names and events in the various Malay historical works should be attempted. Such a study should reveal to us whether or not there was a common world-view in the precritical culture of the Malays inherited by the writers of the Sejarah. From my preliminary observation, it is possible to say that the first type of information was mainly derived from the oral traditions. the folkloristic themes and motifs which might have been picked up by the old Malay historian from the free floating oral myths, legends and tales current during his time in the Indonesian region. Apart from the fact that these narratives formed part of the world-view of the historian as well as that of his milieu, they also provided for him a sense of continuity for the dynasty and state he was mainly concerned with. The unhistorical themes and motifs seem to reflect a more sophisticated manifestation of the mythic elements. Bearing in mind that the histories were written during the Islamic period and that the new religion had become a force in the belief-system of the society, this type of mythic element shows a strong Islamic bias. Hikayat Acheh and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa are particularly 132

strong in this respect. The writer of Hikayat Acheh, for example, seems to take great pains to identify Acheh with the Islamic world at large. Thud we get accounts which reveal an apperception of the author towards this end. The stories of Mahkota Alam being not only known in the Islamic world in the west but respected and honoured as a great Muslim ruler indicates the awareness of the historian as regards the psychological attitudes and the sociopolitical situations of his times. In Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, the second part which deals with the Islamic period offers a sharp distinction from the narratives concerning the earlier period which contain folkioristic traditions which in turn show a great deal of Siamese influence. The teaching of Islamic popular beliefs through the miraculous appearences of a Wali Allah, Sheikh Abdullah, before Sultan Mudzaffar Syah could have been conceived only through the sharp perception of the author and his familiarity with traditions prevailing in the Muslim civilization. The personality of the old Malay historian must have been developed in the melieu in which he worked. Besides the Islamic bias, the unhistorical themes and motifs also reflect the fact that the Malay historian was especially aware of other socio-political forces at work during his time. Many scholars have suggested that the histories had a definite function in upholding the political institutions of the Malay society in the past. To a great extent, they were a device to prop up the charismatic position of the rulers and the nobility. This was the case with Javanese historical works. The Javanese court hi,torian or pujangga had a definite role to play within the structure of the old Hindu Javanese society. He was not merely a writer; he was, as D.F.K. Bosch puts it a seer, kings adviser, court poet, chief justice, astrologer, supreme authority in religious affairs, initiate and keeper of the holy tradition.12 The Javanese court historian was invariably a Brahmin. He was Lentral to the system of social control in the Hindu-Javanese society and culture by providing the magical sanctions for the maintenance of the charismatic position of the royalty and the sanctity of the priestly class. In the situation where the seat of power kept changing hands, he was indispensable. This fact has been well summarised by the Dutch historian B.H.M. Vlekke, when he said, Each time the centre of power shifted to a new place, the claim to legitimacy was sanctioned by the new kings pujangga, the poet of the court, who wrote the miraculous tale of the kings descent from mighty rulers eminent in their magic power. 13


Although the Malay sejarah may not display the kind of polish found in the Javanese Praraton or Negarakartagama in serving the ruling class, the fact that they contain some similarities in this respect is undeniable. Whether or not there were histories written in the Malay royal centres during the Hindu period is a question which will elude us forever. But there is enough evidence, as far as literary sources go, to show that there was a conscious attempt during the Islamic period to promote some kind of social organization. Besides the histories, other literary sources seem to more than confirmthis view. The old Malay laws that have come down to us in texts like Hukum Kanun Melaka or Adat Atjeh indicate what is implied in the histories is set out clearly in the codes of law. Whether or not these law codes were, in practice, effective or prevailing is not the question; the fact remains that the codes of law categorically institutionalise the class distinctions between the rulers and the ruled. And what is to be gathered from the literary sources is further supported by some aspects of Malay culture still prevailing today the hereditary titles and honorifics of the nobility, the court ceremonials and the awesome regard for daulat and the fear of ktulahan It is in the light of the socio-political function of the histories that the unhistorical themes and motifs as mythic elements can become meaningful. The difference between the Malay histories which are concerned with political entities such as the state or the dynasty and those works which deal with particular events lies in the fact that the former reflects a greater degree of emotional involvement on the part of the authors towards their subjectmatters than in the case of the latter. The close identification between the historian and the social system in which he works or which he supports explains some of the mythic elements in his works. Two dominant themes appear to be the glorification of the dynasty or state and the loyalty towards the ruler. Bravery and prowess in battles, being able to outwit others when the prestige of the state is at stake and the grandeur of the historians own master in comparison to others are some of the common themes. Utmost loyalty to the ruler is implied in themes where princes and warriors are willing to die rather than rebel against their rulers. Seen in the light of their socio-political functions, the episode of Tun Beraim Bapas unflinching suicide in Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai, the hyperbolic narrative of Iskandar Mudas superhuman feats while still at a tender age in Hikayat Acheh and the story of Malacca warriors outwitting the Siamese invading forces by lighting up


the coastline with burning torches in Sejarah Melayu can thus become meaningful. These mythic elements therefore reflect the awareness and perception of the Malay historians of the sociopolitical forces and conditions prevailing during their time. They are a product of a critical mind but not that of a self-conscious critical thought characteristic of our own culture and time. It has been suggested that some of what we call unhistorical episodes in the second type of information may well have been a subterfuge used to mask the real intentions of the writer. Assuming that the feudal system prevailing in the traditional Malay society was intolerant and oppressive, some of the unhistorical themes and motifs may be said to be disguised expressions rebelling against the ruling class. It may even be the writers intention to censure the conduct of his feudal master. The story of swordfish invading old Temasik in Sejarah Melayu, for example, has often been suggested as an allusion to the incapacity of the Sultan in repelling Majapahits invasion and more generally to the ineptitude of the ruling class as a whole. Similarly, the tale of Sultan Mahmuds futile venture to marry the fairy princess of Gunong Ledang is said to be a reminder to the rulers that they were after all mere mortals. Many such themes can be given similar interpretation. The fall of Malacca and Pasai to the enemies, for instance, is often said to be attributed to the weakness in the personal characters of Sultan Mahmud and Sultan Ahmad of Malacca or those of Sultan Ahmad Perumudal Perumal of Pasai. This, however. is only implied but not explicitly stated by the hikayats in question. This line of interpretation assumes that the narratives were consciously created for the purpose. Ethnographic analysis of myths and folktales have shown that the narratives are not only overt expressions of a culture but are also the manifestations of covert and latent attitudes in the society. The trickster motif in the American Indian myths and tales does not usually reflect the system of values but provides a psychological release for members of the society. The public recital of such tales and myths offers the members a licence to express latent feelings normally forbidden by the values held by the society. It may not be exactly similar in the case of the satirical or allegorical themes in the Malay sejarah, but the fact that such themes play almost a similar role is conceivable. But this assumption does not affect the argument presented here that the unhistorical themes and motifs are part of the world tiew of the old Malay historian. In fact it should strengthen the contention made above that the themes and motifs are the product


of a critical mind. In other words, although the episodes can be said to be a conscious creation of the author, they remain to be mythic from our point of view. But, most importantly, they are consonant with the systems of beliefs and values prevailing in the authors culture. Just as our present day myth-makers make use of what Bidney calls secular beliefs of pseudo-science, the old Malay historian was also a myth-maker in some respect using elements within the cognitive-patterns of his culture and time. Literary scholars may prefer to use the term imagination to describe the mythic expressions found in the old Malay history, but I would prefer to stick to Bidneys use of the term psychocultural expression for the main reason that the Malay sejarah was not merely a literary effort but one that was central to the ideology of the traditional Malay society.

1. 2. Meridian Books Paperback. 1956. p. 13. Whether or not authors were merely compilers or copyists does not affect the arguments set forth in this paper. In the process of compliling or copying the histories, the writers must have been conscious of the task before them. I concur with Teuku Iskandars view that a Malay copyists is not a mere copyist he is more than that, he is an author himself. (The Malay Historical Writings in the First Half of the 17th Century. Journal of the Malaysian Branch. Royal Asiatic Society. XL 2/1967/41.) The Variety of Histon,, 13. Except for Raja Ali Haji. the other authors of Malay histories, including Tun Sen Lanang, purportedly the writer of Sejarah Melayu. will remain to be a matter of conjecture. Note that the use of the word folklore here is normative rather than neutral or technical. The terms theme and motif are used together for convenience. Theme would normally refer to the core idea in a complete piece of narration or an episode, while motif usually refers to a minimal unit in the narrative, such as the characters, objects and actions of the characters. The episodes of how Malacca and Pasai obtained their names, for example. can be said to have the same theme, but the motifs in them are different. Submitted as a dissertation for Master of Arts in the University of Malaya in 1961. Theoretical Anthropology (New York: Columbia University Press. 1960). p. 293. Ibid. P. 300. Ibid. p. 325. Many tales and legends have been published and passed as historical works.

3. 4.

5. 6.

7. 8. 9. 10. 11.


One good example is Tawarikh Gunung Reng by Mohammad Daud Jamil published recently (undated) by AlAhliyah Press, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. 12. Selected Studies in Indonesian Archaeology (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1961) p. 11. 13. Nusantara: A History of Indonesian (The Hague and Bandung: Van Hoeve, 1959) p. 52.


Myths, legends and folk-tales are traditional narratives passed on from one generation to another. In preliterate societies or in the folk segment of literate societies, such narratives belong to the oral tradition. It is true that myths, legends and folk-tales may exist in written form, but originally they were oral tales. As cultural phenomena. they are related to other aspects of culture, especially the beliefsystem, the world-view and ethos (or social values) of society. A sociological analysis of these narratives can tell many things about a culture, especially those elements which are not readily verbalized by the members of that culture. The validity of such an analysis is based on the fact that unlike modern forms of literature which are the creation of individuals, myths, legends and folk-tales do not belong to anyone but to the whole community. They are not usually subject to the whims and fancies of individuals: they are a social manifestation. Once they outlive their function in the culture, they become at best a culture lag, or they may perform a different function with new meanings and values attached to them. It should be realised, however, that the terms myth, legend and folk-tale are only a convenient tool for scholarship, for each particular culture may have its own names for the different types of traditional narratives. Some cultures may not even be so selfconscious; as such they do not have anything to indicate the differences between the types of oral tales. However, the terms are useful. The 138

same tale, for example, may be classified as myth in one culture and a legend or folk-tale in another when put in the context of its function in the respective cultures. There are no specific terms in Malay for myths, legends and folk-tales, except those of recent origin used by students of literature and culture. It is interesting to note the terms used by the Press in reporting this lecture of mine: cerita dongeng (old wives tales) for myth, kisah keperwiraan (tales about warriors) for legend and Cerita penglipur-lara for folk-tales. I do not favour the use of term dongeng for myths or even legends for the reason that it is charged with our own values and conceptions regarding them. However, the use of the term does reflect the change in meaning and function of traditional oral narratives in the Malay society today. The term for legend only partly describes that types of narratives, for not all legends are about the exploits of warriors. The term for the folk-tales is, however, quite apt; in fact the term penglipur lara (the soother of cares) is one of the terms known to be connected with the tradition of oral story-telling. It refers to the storyteller whose trade it was to entertain the village folk with marvellous tales. Sir Hugh Clifford has described the Malay raconteur of tales in the following terms: Bayan the Paraquet (i.e. the raconteur) was what is technically termed a Penglipur Lara Soother of Cares a class of men which is fast dying out in the Peninsula These people are simply the wandering bards and minstrels, who find their place in an independent Malay state They learn by rote some old-world tale, which has been transmitted by word of mouth through countless generations, and they wander from village to village, singing it for pay to the unlettered people. to whom these songs and stories represent the only literature which comes within their experience. Such minstrels are greatly loved by the villagers, who hold them in high honour, giving them hearty welcome, and the name by which they are known in the vernacular bears witness to the joy which they bring with them withersoever they go. And W.F. Maxwell has written th~ following: To the Malays. the skilful raconteur. who can hold his audience enfralled with the adventures of his hero and heroine, or with elaborate descriptions of the magnificence of the palaces and 139

courts of mythical Rajas, is the Penglipur Lara Such was the tradition of oral story-telling among the Malay folk in the days when radio and television were unknown. There are other terms, the presence of which lends further proof to the existence of oral story-telling tradition in Malay culture. In Kelantan, the term used for narrating oral tales is berbari, while the term for the story-teller is tok selampit or tukang selampit. However, all the narrative are either called hikayat, cerita, or kisah. From the terms alone, it is quite difficult to say whether the people are selfconscious about their conceptions of the differences in the narratives. Although words like sejarah, siarah or tawarikh, referring to narratives of historical nature, have been used, but mostly relatively recent, it is difficult to say categorically that judging by the usage of terms alone, there has been in Malay culture a self-conscious awareness as to different categories of narratives. But there is no question to the fact that the different categories are recognizable through their contents, their functions and places in the life of the people and the attitudes held towards them. However, myths, legends and folk-tales have to be viewed in terms of the continuity and change in Malay culture, for what can be termed a myth at one time may be recognised as a legend a few centuries later. At present, it is usually assumed that oral narratives are things of the past. With radio and television playing an ever increasing role as a means of communication, for entertainment or otherwise, we would expect that oral narratives too have outlived their usefulness or even their existence. At least for the time being, this does not seem to be so. The effects of radio, television and the cinema on Malay kampung life are quite profound, but in some areas, traditional forms of entertainment like wayang kulit, ston,~-te!1ing,berdikir or hadrah have continued to live with vigour. Berdikir or hadrah chanting of verses in praise of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), are either accompanied or unaccompanied by drums (rebana). This shows that the traditional arts and pastimes have still a place in the life of our folk-society. As for oral tradition, its continued existence, although to a less degree than before, is reflected by the recent collections made by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Language and Literary Agency), students from the Department of Malay Studies, University of Malaya and individual collectors. A wellknown collector, Encik Zakaria Hitam of Kuantan, has found a rich mine of Malay folk-tales in many areas of Pahang, even in the


kampungs (villages) around Kuantan. He has so far collected more than a hundred oral tales of various lengths and have published about one-third of them. Encik Zakarias efforts are praiseworthy: his published tales provide good reading materials for the general public interested in traditional forms of literature and to schoolchildren. The oral narratives have come to us mainly through writing. This is especially true of those belonging to the past ages. Our knowledge of the myths, legends and folk-tales which existed before the twentieth century is drawn from those which have been commited to writing. Myths, as narratives, are held sacred by members of a society. They tell the tales of gods and other pantheon, relate events in remote past, and are central to the belief system of the society. The main function of myth is to provide the basis for a belief system, which is most cases, but not always, are connected with religious beliefs. Of the Malay traditional narratives that have come to us, either in oral form which have been recorded by scholars, or in written form, there are many which can be recognised as belonging to the category of myth. Perhaps the easiest to recognize are those which I intend to call political myths. Such narratives are to be found mainly in Malay historical works of the past or what we may call the sejarah. These may appear to us now as legends for they no longer evoke a sense of sacredness which they once did. But taken in the context of the function they performed in the past, they should be properly identified as myths. Political myths formed the foundation for the traditional Malay political system. It is more accurate perhaps to say sociopolitical system, for the political arrangement was inseparable from the social order of the day. Such narratives provided the charater for correct social interaction and the legitimacy for political power. The narratives are usually about the supernatural origins and superhuman feats of the ancestors of a ruling dynasty in a Malay state. There are certain recurrent themes and motifs in such tales which show affinity with other cultures. The motif of the future king coming out of the foam in the sea or from a clump of bamboos is not peculiar to the Indonesian region. Similar motifs are to be found in Indian tradition. The political myths in the Malay sejarah draw their component elements from many cultures, but they have all come to be recognised as the symbols of the divinity of Malay kingship. As I 141

have pointed out in another place (See Mythic Elements in Malay Historiography) historians who wish to draw information from the Malay sejarah may straightaway ignore the first few chapters dealing with matters which by any stretch of the imagination cannot
be accepted as historical because they are usually about superhuman beings performing feats right out of this world. But to a student of culture, these tales provide a wealth of material on the symbolic expressions of a culture. An analysis of such political myths can throw a great deal of light into the social values and social organization of the Malays in the past. It can contribute a great deal too to a more meaningful stddy of the cultural history of the Malays than that which has so far been carried out. An important task is to make a thorough study of the symbolism to be found in such myths. The changes that have taken place in Malay culture have certainly change that function of the traditional narratives of the attitude towards them. Today we would regard the stories about the origin of crops, or about the origin of the worlds, as legends. But at one time they must have been myths, for they provided a framework for a religious system. Ralph Linton has warned that the reconstruction of the old Southeast Asiatic religion presents the most difficult problem of all. But studies have shown that to some extent it is possible to get a glimpse at the Old Indonesian religious system. Some aspects of this religion have survived in some of the contemporary societies of the area. Animistic beliefs must have been the core of this religious system. Contemporary Indonesian societies which have remained more or less untouched by foreign influences for the past two thousand years or so still subscribe to belief in spirits. Among those peoples who have changed their religious creeds in the course of their history, animistic notions are still to be observed in the beliefs and practices of the folk segment of their societies. The Malay village specialist, the pawang or bomoh, (medicineman), is still an important figure in Malay village life. The tradition which provides the framework of the pawangs craft is a link between the past and the present. It is the informal aspect of the Malay religion, that is using the term religion in an anthropological sense. It is not possible now to talk about a corpus of myths or a system of mythology supporting the institution of pawang and bomoh. But stories validating the practices of these village specialists are still told, and sometimes are to be found in manuscripts. These represent an


esoteric knowledge jealously guarded by the practitioners and are

only imparted if one is willing to take up the vocation. These tales are survivals of age-old myths; but as far as the practitioners are concerned, they are still mythic in function. for they provide the very things by which their beliefs and practices are validated and legitimised. Thus old myths in Malay culture survive today in certain traditions within the totality of Malay society. They provide the link between the past and the present. Although they no longer function in the same way they did in the past. they have survived in certain institutions inherited from the past. A knowledge of them is important in understanding the past, and an awareness of their survival today also helps in understanding those institutions and customs which have survived the passage of time and changes. In time of crises, these institutions are still used to ease the tensions experienced by individuals as well as the whole community. Such customs and institutions provide a convenient alternative in the action pattern of the modern Malay. With legends we get a different type of traditional Malay oral narratives. While myths properly belong to the past when they were central to the belief-system of the Malays, the legend is a living tradition. Legends are believed in, but they are not regarded as sacred. They lend support to the beliefs held by the people. but they do not form the bases for such beliefs. We have noted that some of those recognizable as myths at one time should now be classified as legends. We may call these demythised myths or mythic legends. The true form of legends consists of tales about persons, places or events which are considered to be true. Legends are not devoid of supernatural elements; in fact these are the very ingredients which make the narratives occupy a special place in a culture. The main characteristic of the legend is that it tells about extraordinary events, persons or places which are significant enough for the attention of the society. Another important characteristic of the legend is that it is usually anchored to a particular community or locality. There are legends which are widely known, and they are usually about national heroes or of events of national significance. Some of them may reach such a proportion that they are regarded as national epic. One such example is the epic of Hang Tuah. The most common type of legend to be found in Malay culture consists of stories about local landmarks and about persons and


events usually connected with those landmarks. These landmarks may just be ordinary phenomena of nature, a lake, a tree or a boulder on the seashore. But we can at once know that these objects have a special meaning to the local community. The tree may have white or yellow cloth tied to its branches, the boulder on the beach may have an anchak (sacrificial basket) placed on it at regular times or a particular lake is avoided by the local populace, even though it such an inviting place for a swim. A keen ethnographer can easily observe that the pattern of behaviour of the local community is regulated somewhat by these landmarks, and he wants to find out the reasons for this. Usually the explanation is to be found in the tale told by the members of the community. Such a tale would then be classified as a legend belonging to the tradition of the local community. Local legends are to be found all over the country, like the legend of Mahsuri in Pulau Langkawi, the legends surrounding Lake Cmi in Pahang, the legend of Gunung Reng in Kelantan or that of Hang Tuahs well at Duyong in Malacca. But objects around which local legends are usually found are those which stand out as extraordinary. Solitary graves, an isolated hillock or mound, an abandoned ancient cannon, odd-looking rock-information often have stories explaining their origin or connection with certain persons. It is significant to note that these legends often appear in the Malay newspapers, and this reflects the significant part they play in Malay culture. As far as the local community is concerned, their legend is a historical truth. Malay local legends are not merely the folks historical perception of past events, they are closely related to local beliefs, which form a part in the totality of the relationship with supernatural. One common characteristic of Malay local legend is that it is too often connected with the belief in keramat (saints). There are actually4various concepts of the keramat in Malay culture. At one end, we have the Islamic tradition of the wali or chosen religious person endowed with extraordinary powers like the famous Keramat Habib Noh in Singapore, and the other, the animistic concept of objects having magical properties. Local legends usually play the role of validating the beliefs in keramat by telling about local objects, landmarks or persons recognised as keramat. The point here is that, there is a close relationship between the narratives classified here as legends with certain


aspects of Malay beliefs and the subsequent patterns of behaviour relating to these beliefs. What is interesting to me regarding legends about old heroes is again connected with patterns of behaviour and beliefs to be found in Malay culture. A few years ago when a purbawara (stage play) based on the legends of a hunchback warrior who is believed to have once lived in Johor was staged, the actor playing the part of the warrior and other members of the cast fell unconscious. Rituals had to be performed in order for the play to run smoothly. This is not an isolated instance; it is quite usual to hear of actors playing the roles of legendary heroes being possessed by spirits. There are two points to be noted here: the first is that such herolegends are accepted as true, in spite of the supernatural elements present in them. In fact, it is such elements that characterise the legends and that which make them significant compared to other forms of traditional narratives. The second is that, there seems to be an idea of a link between the hero of the legend and those who want to keep alive the legend, either by telling it or by re-enacting the event. Thus rituals are held when the legend is recounted or reenacted. Perhaps this may explain why such an excitement was evoked by the re-emergence of Mat Kilau (a Malay warrior who fought against the British late in the 19th century. A man emerged from obscurity recently to claim that he was that warrior). For those heroes long gone and buried (and there is no chance whatsoever of their being resurrected), there is already a sense of communion between the dead and the living. So one can imagine the impact when the dead came actually walking in, as in the case of Mat Kilau. Although legends are usually local in theme, there are some which are widely known in different places. Such legends are known as migratory or wandering legends. But here again, the familiar theme tends to be anchored to a locality and is given a local character. The local community will swear that the event occurred
in their place, and they may even show the evidence supporting this

claim. It is only when one is aware of the existence of the same tale elsewhere that one realises that it is really a migratory legend. In Sungai Nal in Kelantan, in Perak River, in Brunei River, at the Batu Caves and in a cave near Muar in Johore, local populace can show what they claim to be a petrified ship belonging to a young man who was cursed into stone by his mother when he refused to 145

own her as his own mother. It is the same legend but known by different names in different localities. This legend is widespread and is well-known among the Malays. Considering this fact, it is difficult to say that it does not have any significant meaning in Malay culture. It does seem to be an expression of an important social value in Malay culture, and that is a value connected with mother-son relationship. It is important to note that in the versions so far known to me, it is always the connection between the son and the mother, except for one variant collected by a former student of mine in Negeri Sembilan. In this particular version, it is between the mother and daughter, and there is no petrified ship. The daughter sank into the ground, and to this day, the place where she sank is called Pulau Tengkolok, that is island (raised ground) in the middle of a flat riceland. It is also significant to note that this variant occurs in a society where women hold a special position. As I have said earlier, story-telling is still a living tradition among rural Malays, but it is not as popular as it used to be in the days when Hugh Clifford, Maxwell and Winstedt first brought to outside attention the role of Malay raconteurs. It is a limited activity now, but many more tales can be brought to light if collectors are painstaking enough to track them down. Many old people are reluctant to tell these tales because they assume that they are of no use to the present generation. They fail to realise that a rich cultural heritage will be irrevocably lost if these tales are not recorded for posterity now. The folk-tales in Malay culture have been brought to notice only when they have been put into writing. The tales about Sang Kancil and other animal stories have been recorded from the oral tradition. but they are known to have existed in manuscript. This fact reflects the interflow of elements between written and oral traditions in Malay culture. We can quickly go over the different genres of folk-narratives in Malay culture. First we have the animal tales of which perhaps the best known is the mouse-deer or Sang Kancil cycle. Then we have the cycles on proverbial characters like Pak Pandir and Pak Belalang. These tales belong to the category of funny anecdotes about simpletons. bornlosers and tricksters which although entertaining, can be quite incisive satires on human life. The type of folk-tales which borders on the legend is the aetiological tale. It tells of the origins of things. but unlike the legend, it 146

refers to general objects rather than to specific objects in a locality. But the most widespread are marvellous tales about extraordinary princes and princesses and their adventures. Winstedt has given the term folk-romances to this type of tales, which usually have complicated plots. Compared to the other types, these are rather lengthy. Some of these tales may take many nights to recite. In Kelantan, story-telling is accompanied by the playing of the rebab (a type of violin), while in Kedah and Perlis, Awang Batil narrates his repertoire of tales by beating a rhythm with his fingers on a metal bowl. From what I have gathered. a tradition like story-telling is also dependent on other forms traditional arts, especially the wayang

kulit (shadow play). Many tales that my students have collected show great affinity with stories used for wayang kulit.
Without doubt, the folk-tale is mainly for entertainment. In the past, even today to some extent, well-known raconteurs are paid to perform at weddings and other gatherings in Malay villages. The role of the folk-tale in Malay culture is quite clear. It is the same with the syair (narrative poem) which is recited aloud by a reader. But what is significant regarding the folk-tale in Malay culture is that there seems to be a degree of belief in the events and characters related in the tales. It is not the same kind of belief as in the case of the myth and legend, but a way of thought that the events and character could have taken place and existed somewhere in the past. It is quite similar to the observation made by Snouck Hurgronje early this century regarding the Achehnese attitude towards their traditional narratives. It appears that the people did not actually believe in the tales. but they did not discount the possibility that those recounted in the tales could have existed in the past or in another world. A story-teller. from whom one of my students recorded a tale in Central Pahang. had no special rites performed when he started on his tale, but he saluted (seru) the guardian of the place and the raja (king) about whom the tale was about. He truly believed that the hero and other characters in the story had lived once upon a time. And if he did not respect them, something untoward might happen, as those raja had extraordinary properties (tuah) and these might affect him adversely.


The literature on bomoh, the Malay specialist of folk medicine and spirit beliefs, and the practice of traditional Malay medicine is not lacking. From the time Walter William Skeat compiled his Malay Magic at the turn of the century, or since Dr. John D. Gimiette wrote his Malay Poisons and Charm Cures ir~ 19.15 2 there have been many books and papers written on the subject. 1-lowever, the subject seems to have been approached in many~ different ways. The colonial scholars, like Skeat, Gimlette and later Sir Richard Winstedt3 were collectors and compilers: they brought to the attention of the outside world the theories, concepts and materia medica of the Peninsular Malays. But as yet no original texts on Malay medicine which are generally known by the term Kitab Tib have been translated and published. Even among the Malays themselves, such literature was known only to the practising or aspiring bomohs, for it contained the esoteric knowledge open only to the initiated and the practitioner. Perhaps during the time of Skeat, Gimlette or Winstedt, the interest invoked by their works was more in character with the spirit of the time: Malay folk medicine was a fascinating subject, a part of the exotic mysterious Eastern world which provoked the curiosity of the West. It was after the Second World War that the subject of Malay folk medicine took a different turn. As medical services -were spreading to the rural areas, modern medical practitioners were confronted by the difficult task of selling their brand of medicine in the face of the 148

competition from the traditional knowledge and practice which had been in the lives of the people for centuries. The assault on traditional beliefs and practices regarding health and medicine was relentless.4 Today the acceptance of modern medicine in the villages is beyond doubt, but it does not mean the eradication of the bomoh or what he stands for. The question is more than just a displacement of one medical system by another, but rather one that is only explicable when one understands the nature of culture contact, that is between Malay culture, of which the institution of bomoh is an integral part, and the modern medical system. That is why in an earlier paper, I have posited that the acceptance of modern medicine only means an additional social institution among the Malays, an alternative medical system, besides the one that has already been in existense for centuries.5 And among the medical practitioners, too, there is a noticeable change in attitude towards the subject of bomoh and traditional Malay medicine. No longer is the bomoh regarded a rival and his beliefs and practices a stumbling block to the introduction of modern medicine. Instead there is already a positive approach towards understanding not so much the medicine itself but rather the attitudes and the perception of the people and their culture.6 This paper tries to avoid going over the same ground already covered by Skeat, Gimlette or Winstedt, except to mention in outline whenever it is necessary, for the basic ideas about sickness, their causes and remedies, have not changed these last few hundred years. Nor is it going to touch on the question of folk medicine uis-a-vis modern medicine. What this paper will do is to explain the nature of the institution of the bomoh and the practice of medicine as they are viewed and perceived from-within the culture itself. There are two general terms which are often met with when we talk about the traditional medical specialist among the Malays pawang and bomoh. While some people may use the terms interchangeably, the former usually refers to the shaman who is able to communicate with the spirit world and who conduct such rituals as opening virgin land, propitiating the spirits of the sea for the fishermen or the pacification of spirits which are supposed to haunt a place. The bomoh, on the other hand, usually refers to the specialist who tends the sick and cures illnesses. However, as the concept of illness is more often than not associated with the belief in the intervention of the spirit world, the pawang too is involved in curing rites, such as exorcising spirits which are supposed to have taken possession of a person.This explains why sometimes the two


terms are used interchangeably or that a specialist may function as both. There are also other terms used for those engaged in the art of curing the sick, such as the dukun, tok puteri, tukang urut, tukang bekam, tok mudim and bidan. The dukun, a term used in Indonesia as the equivalent of the bomoh in Malaysia, has come to be a specialised term for the bone-setter, while tukang urut is generally the masseur. There is a tendency to attribute the dukun with some magical knowledge, for his prowess in restoring the fractured bones and dislocated joints is not entirely due to his own skill, but to some extraneous power as well. The masseur, on the other hand, is employed to soothe the tired muscles and tendons, to restore virility to mans sexual organ, or to correct the nerves and blood-vessels of mothers who have just delivered their babies. Tok Puteri, together with his interpreter Tok Minduk, is a specialist in the shamanic ritual of curing the sick. However, this brand of ritual is confined to Kelantan, and the Malays of South Thailand. Tukang bekam is a specialist in blood-letting. Using hollow horns of the buffa!o or glass bottles, the practitioner draws the blood from behind the patients ears for complaints like headache or from other parts of the body where there are swellings. Tok Mudim is the village surgeon who specialises in circumcision. Then there is the bidan the village midwife, who is the expert in matters pertaining to childbirth. The bidan provides the pre-natal care, delivers the baby, and then looks after the mother as well the baby for a forty-four-day period. Finally, there is another practitioner who is also engaged in curing the sick, the keramat hidup However, this type of practitioner does not properly belong to the band of curers in traditional Malay medicine. He is on the periphery because curing is only a part of his repertoire. In fact the keramat hidup is a figure emerging from popular religion: he is more or less a living saint who is endowed with special powers, one of which is the ability to cure illnesses. However, the incidence of keramat hidup is rare and far between, for unlike the bomoh over whom no religious sanction has been known to be applied rigorously, the keramat hidup is not allowed to flourish by the religious authorities,, for his presence is suspiciously looked upon as a deviation from the true teachings of Islam.7 To understand the institution of bomoh and the practice of traditional Malay medicine, we have to look at them as part of the total belief-system of the Malays. Both date back to the dawn of history of the people, and in the course of time, some parts of the medical baggage have been abandoned while new accretions have


been added on. Basically, however, ,the world-view regarding sickness and its cure stems from the belief in the supernatural intervention of human life. Vestiges of the shamanic practices of the distant past are still very much in evidence, such as the rituals of main puteri. berjin or berhantu~ or the possession of familiar spirits, akuan. From the civilisations of India which had influenced the Malays for over a thousand years, from about the 1st century AD. to about the 12th century AD. the Malays must have learnt not only about certain efficacious medical materials (perhaps the use of henna and betel leaves), but also the mystical powers of the deities like Betara Guru, Sen Rama or Laksamana, whose names are often invoked in the incantations (mentern, jampi or serapah) of the bomoh. And from the Islamic civilisation (but not necessarily Islam as a religion) the Malays gathered further medical knowledge: the use of certain materia medica, the hot and cold syndrome, humoral pathology (the harmonious balance of earth, water, fire and wind), magical formulae and incantations, and verses from the Quran for the cure of certain specific diseases. Such knowledge is often compiled in books called Kitab Tib. The most famous book is Taj-uI-Muluk, while others goby different names such as Kitab MujarrabatMe!ayu. One Kitab Tibwhich I managed to acquire from Nik Abdul Rahman bin Nik Dir, the royal bomoh of Kelantan, is a 500-page manuscript dealing with 147 fasal or subjects. However, included, in the 147 are a few covering nonmedical knowledge, such as the way to identify lucky singing doves (burung ketitir yang bertuah) or lucky traits in a dog (pada menyatakan tuah anjing). The practice of medicine or magic (sihir) is compatible with popular religion, but some aspects of it do seem to be incompatible with the strict teachings of Islam, especially where there is soliciting with supernatural beings outside the otbit of Islam. Thus, one of the rationale used by the bomoh is to recite verses from the Quran besides folowing the ntualistic formulae. Finally, the contribution of modern medical knowledge cannot be over-looked, for it has become part of the medical world-view of the Malays to recognise the germs (kuman) as a probable cause of an illness, or the simple hygienic practices such as the need for good ventilation in the house. In short the medical world-view of the Malays as reflected in the differentvocations of the medical practitioner is one that has been built up through the course of their history from diverse cultures. However, the supernatural premises ofsuch world-view remain, although not all the medical conceptsand theones are based dn 151

the assumption of supernatural inteivention. Natural causes of sickness are recognised, and the cures and remedies for such causes are equally mundane, like the antidotes (penawar neutraliser) administered in cases of poisoning. But even in such circumstances, an invocation to summonthe aid of supernatural agents helps agreat deal in boosting the confidence of the patient. The ritual, in other words, may be regarded as having a therapeutic function or value.

The general term in Malay for illness is sakit~ Its use ranges from the feeling of pain as in sakit kepala for headache to ones state of being, either emotional or physical. Thus an infirmity resulting from old age is said to be sakit tua or when one is depressed or low in spirit, perhaps from longing or being in love, it is referred to, half jocularly, as sakit angau One area where the bomoh is often consulted is when a person suffers from an emotional or psychological disoder. In fact, one of the stock answers given when a person is asked why he does not consult a doctor is that one sees the doctor for physical illnesses such as cough, fever, fracture or dislocation, but for those diagnosed as caused by supernatural agents the proper physician will be the bomoh. As pointed out earlier the question of traditional medicine vis-a-vis modern medicine is not so much of the latter displacing the former, but rather that of two different medical systems existing side by side, offering alternatives as well as a psychological reserve when one is found to be inadequate or ineffective. It is also not true that there is a correlation between the rise in the acceptance of modern medicine and the decline in the belief of bomoh and pawang. In fact, the bomohs are no longer to be found only in the rw~al villages or kampungs; some have even built up a sizeable urban clientele, even in Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya. Some even come from the ranks of those who have received secondary and post-secondary education. To mention a few cases in point: one of my former students at the University used to assist his elder brother who is a bomoh in Kuala Krai, Kelantan, while a bomoh who practises in Petaling Jaya is a college-trained teacher. A study made by one of my former students on a well-known bomoh who is a retired major of the army, shows that the bomohs clientele is made up of urbandwellers and well-known personalities.9 However, it needs to be emphasised thaf the cli~nteleis not made up only of those seeking a cure to illnesses, physical or psychological, but aslo those with various personal problems and difficulties, such as those arising from love affairs, domestic disagreements or everyday working


life, like seeking promotion to higher offices. It is clear that the bomoh is not looked upon simply as the curer of illness; his function extends further than strictly medical chores. Moreover, it is the Malay world-view that sickness in not confined only to physical or psychological disorders: it also includes inexplicable disorders of the kind brought about by inappropriate or unethical behaviour. There are basically two types of causes to illnesses or disorders: the natural causes as manifested in such disorders as fractures, dislocations or sprains; wounds and cuts; tiredness or general debility because of over-work or old age (this may include impotency, which may also be brought on by supernatural means e.g. witchcraft); food, which is either too much of hot food or too much of cold food; the wind (angin), that is too much wind in the body (and this may even be caused by taking windy food); poison which also include santou, the fine hair from the bamboo which when taken will affect the gullet and the digestive tracts; poisonous blood (darah kotor) which may manifest in headaches or boils in the skin; or the imbalance of the four elements in the body earth, water, fire and wind. As already said above, the introduction of simple hygiene books to vernacular schools for the past 80 years or so has brought to common knowledge the concept of germs (kuman) as the cause of disease. Illnesses such as the common cold, influenza, etc. are simply attributed to the germs. Malaria, for example, which at one time was believed to have been caused by supernatural agents, is now widely known as to be caused by the Anopheles mosquito. This is on example where modern medical knowledge has become part and parcel of the peoples medical world-view. And the cure for these naturally caused disorders varies according to the concept of the causes. Thus too much wind would require its reduction in the body; the taking of poison requires an antidote (penawar), a dislocation or fracture would need the attention of the bonesetter; wounds and cuts would first of all require bleeding to be arrested; the imbalance of the body elements would have to be redressed so as they can be irj harmony again. Even the idea of quarantine in combating epidemics is not new to Malay medical concepts. It is in the supernatural causes that we find a greater variety of concepts and notions. High on the list are disorders caused by what may be called unethical or inappropriate behaviour. It is part of the belief-system of the Malays that certain behaviour may bring retribution or sanction from supernatural beings. It is not


unusual to hear people saying that one is afflicted by an incurable or lingering illness because Allah has chosen to show his displeasure, and in such cases, the sufferers only recourse is to undergo repentance (taubat) and seek His pardon. However, such diagnosis is said only in very special circumstances. This is just to illustrate how inextricably bound the notion of medicine is with religious belief. It should be explained that the notion of supernatural sanction or retribution for inappropriate behaviour even predates the acceptance of Islam among the Malays. There was, for example, the notion of ketulahan~which means a curse which befalls an ordinary person who dares to transgress the sanctity of the royalty. Another term for the same idea is ditimpa daulat which refers to ones suffering ,e.g. from an incurable skin disease (kedal) because he dares to break the social barrier or disobey a royal command. In other words, the idea of sickness is so much related to ones station and behaviour in society that its causes stem from not observing the right conduct expected. And the sanction comes from the supernatural powers within the belief-system of the people concerned. The belief in spirits is paramount in the concept of sickness. From the simple transgression against the spirits which are believed to be around us (tersampuk, tertegur) to the possession of a person by a fimiliar spirit (polong or pelesit) the cure can only be effected by the bomoh. In the first instance, the victim or the patient has unwittingly upset or incurred the wrath of the spirits, and this is only diagnosed by the bomoh when he is consulted. He will even identify the spirit which is causing the illness. It often happens to children who while playing may unknowingly disturb the abode of the spirits. There are places and natural objects such as trees and hillocks which are regarded as the territory of these spirits. So when a boy falls ill, the bomoh is consulted. If it is diagnosed that a certain spirit has caused the illness, the bomoh will then communicate with the responsibl~spirit and try to persuade the spirit to leave the victim alone. The invocation of the origin of these spirits seems to be the key to the cure of such illnesses. The other common cause of illness is the possession of a person by familiar spirits (polong or pelesit) belonging to a person (the possessor of a familiar is often called ibu or mother of the spirit). Usually the victim who is possessed by the polong or pelesit would be hysterical, and he can only be calmed down by the bomoh who induces the spirit to return to the owner. Precautions are often taken against polong or pelesit especially when it Is rumoured that
, ,


such and such a person, usually an old woman in the village, possesses the polong. The examples given here illustrate the two basic notions of the intervention by the spirit which would cause illness: one is brought about by noxious spirits, thus causing sickness, while the other is brought about by man through the agency of spirits. An outbreak of cholera or small-pox, for example, was at one time thought to have been caused by malevolent spirits, and the way the bomoh combated it was by enticing away the spirits with a beautifully decorated boat (lancang), which at the end of the ritual was pushed out to the sea or mid-stream, hopefully with the culprits aboard. There are many ailments which are attributed to the work of the noxious spirits, and the work of the bomoh is to rid the patient of them with the esoteric knowledge which only the bomoh has. The second example, like witchcraft, often stems from jealousies or attempts at settling old scores. Sickness is brought about when familiars are sent by the owners to disturb (rasuk) the victim. Again it is only the bomoh who is able to exercise and induce the familiars to leave the victim. Witchcraft (sihir) usually does not involve the spirits, but occult or magical powers. Thus witchcraft would involve any of the following: the use of magical symbols or diagrams (rajah); contagious magic (such as casting spells on parts of the body of the victim e.g. dress, nail paring or even footsteps left in sand); immitative magic (like putting spells on a person by sticking pins into the victims photographs or wax dolls resembling the victim); or the use of magical objects like the projectile called tuju (which is supposed to pierce the heart of the victim). There are many other ways to cause sickness and discomfort to the intended victim. The spiritual beings used in witchcraft are often vague in entity, and these are only invoked In the incantations or spells (mentera, jampi and serapah) It has been theorised that in the notion of magic, it is the word that carries the occult power, not so much the supernatural entity invoked. Thus in witchcraft, the name of Rama and Sita are invoked in rituals to entice the soul of an intended victim (usually the object of love). Thus through the practice of witchcraft, a person affected by it is said to be sick. And the term sick depends much on how the situation is looked upon. One good example is when the parents disapprove of their daughters own choice of boyfriend. It is often claimed that she is sick, bewitched by the magic perpetrated by the boy. It is only a natural recourse for the parents to seek the help of the bomoh to cure the girls sickness. In the world-view of the people


concerned, it is a sickness, and it is within the pu!view of the bomoh to cure such sickness. The simplest explanation here is that the soul (semangat) of the girl has been enticed away, and thus she is lifeless and put at the mercy of the boys wishes. The bomoh, therefore, has to restore the lost soul, fortify it, and perhaps even make sure that there is no relapse by implanting in her the pembenci (aversion) against the boy. I have pointed out in my previous paper that in the Malay worldview the efficacy of the bomoh does not lie primarily on his knowledge, but rater on his charisma. The bomoh is actually a conglomerate of a shaman, a herbalist, a diviner, a curer and a psychiatrist. As a shaman he communicates with the spirit world; as a herbalist he has knowledge of the materia medica; as a diviner he not only diagnoses the cause of illness but is also able to foretell the future course of events (e.g. in matters of marriage, divorce and reconciliation); as a curer he cures the sick; and as a psychiatrist he overcomes ones emotional disorder. It is unvoidable that the premise underlying the institution is the belief in the supernatural. The old Malay shaman has the endowed qualities of communicating with the spirits through his familiar. This is the mainstay of the bomohs practice. It is true that one can become a bomoh through apprenticeship, that is by learning to be one, but the final test is whether or not he is able to absorb the charisma of the teacher (peturun). One does not have to learn to become a bomoh, for if a person has the charisma, the office of the bomoh comes naturally to him like a revelation. Most of the bomohs would then have a familiar, and the favourite term for it is tuan-puteri or princess. So the diagnosis and the remedy for an ailment is received from the familiar through the bomoh. It is a common sight to see the bomoh communicating with the familiar spirit in a strange language. Once he comes out of. the spiritual communication, he may not even remember or know of what has been said. That is the reason why there is need for an interpreter who interpretes the conversation between the bomoh and his familiar fpr the benefit of the patient. The remedy is also given during the course of this communication. Whatever it is, what the bomoh does, confirms the expectations of his audience, for it is part of the cultures world-view that there are ~pints which can inteivene in the life of man, and that there are the chosen few who can communicate with these beings because they have the charisma. The bo.moh and what he stands for is an old institution in Malay culture. Despite the conversion to Islam, which, ideally speaking, 156

is uncompromisingly monotheistic, the institution has survived and in fact has even taken over elements brought about by the Islamic civilisations. Writings on medicine as evidenced by the kitab. tibs have not been objected to by the religious authorities. It is only those aspects which involve trafficking with the spirit world not acceptable to strict Islamic tenets that the religious authorities object to. However, as a social institution, the bomoh occupies a peripheral zone in Malay culture: it lacks the official recognition by society as opposed to religion (or even popular worship like the keramat), but it is at the same time taken for granted as part and parcel of Malay community life. No Malay community is complete without the bomoh (or pawang). I have not known of any bomoh besides Nik Abdul Rahman bin Nik Dir of Kelantan who can claim that he has been given a tauliah (letter of appointment) to be a bomoh, although in the past, each royal court would have its own royal bomoh Today, even with the spread and acceptance of modern medicine into the remotest village, the institution of the bomoh seems to survive. An American doctor once told me that his work in the ulus (upstream) was made easier after he had joined forces with the local bomohs. In fact, it is not out of character for the bomoh today to advise his patient to consult the doctor, for he himself is prone to using some of the common patent medicines for his patient as well as for himself. The general world-view today is that both western medicine and traditional folk medicine are parallel medical systems working towards a common goal, that is to alleviate suffering and pain, but each has its own way of achieving results as each operates on its own premises and concepts. With the presence of modern medicine the bomoh may not be as highly regarded now as a curer of sickness, but as human suffering and pain can go beyond the sickness curable by modern medicine, the bomoh seems the be still in business.

Abdullah, Dato Sedia Raja. Mandi Ayer Gawar (A lustration to bar epidemic) JMBRAS, IV. 2(1926). 212 214. The Leading Saints in Rembau JMBRAS. III. 3 (1925). 101 104. The Origin of Pawang and the Berpuar Ceremony JMBRAS , V2 (1927), 310 313. Abdullah Taib, Kepercayaan Masyarakat Kampung terhadap Perubatan Moden dan Tradisional (academic exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies. University of Malaya. 1967).


Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, Pawang di Kota TInggi (academic exercise. Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1966). Abu Dahari bin Omar, Peranan Seorang Pawang di Sebuah Kampung Me!ayu (academic exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya. 1971). Annandale, TN. A Magical Ceremony for the Cure of a Sick Person Among the Malays of Upper Perak. Man, III (1903), 27 28. _....Notes on the Popular Religion of the Patani Malays, Man, III (1903). 26 28. _________ Primitive Beliefs and Customs of the Patani Fishermen, and Religion and Magic Among the Malay of the Patani States 2 in Annandalbe, TN. And Herbert C. Robinson, Fasciculi Malayenses, Anthropological and Zoological Results of an &pedition to Perak and the Siamese Malay States, 1901 1902. Anthropology Pt. I. Published for the University Press of Liverpool by Longmans, GTeen & Co., 1903, pp. 73 88 and 89 - 104. __________The Theory of Souls Among the Malays of the Malay Peninsula Journal of Asiatic Society, Bengal. n.s., (1909) 59 66. Chen, P. C. Y. Spirits and Medicine-Men Among Rural Malays Far East Medical Journal, V (march) 1969, 84 87. Indigenous Malay Psychotherapy, Trop. Geogr. Med., (1970), 409 415. _________ Socio-cultural aspects of a cholera epidemic in Trengganu, Malaysia, Trop. Geogr. Med., 23: 1971, 296 303. __________ Socio-cultural influences on vitamin A deficiency in a . rural Malay community, J. Trop. Med. Hyg.. 75: 1972, 231 236. Indigenous Malay Surgery, Trop. Geogr Med., 25: 1973, 91 95. Clarke, W.B. Incantation and Sacrifice of the Pawang MaYang JMBRAS, III, 3 (1925), 106. Calson, Anthony Clarke, The Prevention of Illness in a Malay Village: An Analysis of Concepts and Cures Ph.D. Diss. Stamford University, 1969. Coope, A.E. The Floating Canon of Butterworth JMBRAS, XX, 1 (1947), 126128. Cuisinier, Jeanne. Magic Dances of Kelantan (Dances Magiques de Kelantan, Paris: Travaux et Memoires de IInstitut dEthnologie XXII. University de Paris, 1936), frans. Ariane Brunel. Human Relations Area Files, 1963. Evans, Ivor H.N. Two Malay Methods of Divination JMBRAS, I, 1(1923), 247. Gimlette, John D. Some Superstitious Beliefs Occurring in the Theory and Pratices ofMalay Medicine JSBRAS, LXV (1913). 2935. ~~A CuriosKelantan Charm JSBRAS, LXXXVII (1920). 116 118. Smoking over a Fire to Drive out an Evil Spirit Man, XX1V (1924), 2839. Malay Poison and Charm Cure London: J & A. Churchill, 1915. _________ and H.W. Thomson. A Dictionary of Malayan Medicine, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1971. Hamdan Hj. Abd. Rahman. Konsep Kematian di kalangan Masyarakat Melayu Kelantan (Academic Exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1970). Hamilton, A.W. Malay Love Charms JMBRAS, IV, 1 (1926), 136138. Hart,


Donn V. Bisayan Filipina and Malayan Humoral Pathologies: Folk Medicine and Ethnohistory in Southeast Asia, Ithaca: Cornell University, 1969. Hashim, Capt. N.M. Malayan Spiritual Sidelights JMBRAS, II, 1(1924), 84. Laidlaw, F.F. Note on the Invocation of Akuan JMBRAS, 1, 2 (1923), 376377. Mahani Arshad. Kepercayaan Tradisional Orang-Orang Melayu (Academic Exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1966). Maxwell, W.E. Shamanism in Perak JMBRAS, XII (1883), 222232. McHugh, J.N: The Malay Hantu. Straits limes Annual (1957), 58 59. .~...,..., Hantu-Hantu: Ghost Belief in Modern Malaya. Singapore: Donald Moore, 1955. Mohd. Fauzi Yaacob. Main Puteri (Academic Exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1965). Mohd. Ghazali Hj. Maulud. Seorang Bomoh Melayu: Satu Kajian Tentang CaraCara Perubatan dan Ilmunya (Academic Exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University ofMalaya, 1968). Mohd. Taib Osman. Indigenous, Hindu and Islamic Elements in Malay Folk Beliefs (Ph. D. thesis, Indiana University, 1967). _________ Patterns of Supernatural Premises Underlying the Institution of the Bomoh in Malay Culture, article in Bigdraen tot De Taal, Land-en Volkenkunde. Mohd. Zain Mahmood A Study of Keramat Worship (with special reference to Singapore) Diss. University of Malaya, 1959. Rahmad Mohd. Noh Kepercayaan Masyarakat Kampung terhadap Perubatan Moden dan Tradisional (Academic Exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1967). Skeat, W.W. Some Records of Malay Magic by an Eye-Witness JSBRAS, XXXI (1898), 141. Malay Magic (Being an Introduction to the folk-lore and Popular Religion of the Malay Peninsula). London: MacMillan, 1900. Malay Spiritualism Folk-lore, XIII (June, 1902), 134 165, Taj-ul.Muluk. Singapore: Sulaiman Mari Publishing House, n.d. Taylor E.B. Malay Divining Rods Man, 11(1902), 49 50. Wan Husin W. Mustapha. Masyarakat Kampung dengan Kepercayaan Perubatan Tradisional dan Moden (Academic Exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1967). Wilkinson, R.J. Malay Beliefs. London: Luzac & Co.:. Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1906. Republished in JMBRAS, XXX, 4 (1957), 140. Winstedt, R.O. Propitiating the Spirit of a District. JFMSM. IX (1920), 9395. ___________ Malay Charms. Pt. II. Miscellaneous. JFMSM, IX (1920), 231244. Malay Charms. Pt. I. Love Charms. JFMSM, IX (1920), 129 149. ___________ Keramat: Sacred Places and Persons in Malaya JMBRAS, II 2 (1924), 264289. A Kelantan Invocation to the Earth Spirit JMBRAS, III, 1 (1925), 83 ~~A Perak Invocation to the Langsuyar. JMBRAS, III, 1 (1925), 8384. ~Notes on Malay Magic JMBRAS, 111,3 (1925), 621. ________ More Notes on Malay Magic JMBRAS. V, 2 (1927), 342 347.


Cosmogony of the Malay Magician in Bingkisan Budi (Een. Bundal Opstellen and Dr. Philippus Samuel Van Ronkel door Vrienden en Leerlingen aangeboden op Zijn Tachtigste Verjaardag 1 Augustus, 1950).

Leiden, 1950.
__________ The Malay Magician: Being Shaman, Saiva, and Sufi rev. ed. London: Routledge and Paul, 1951. Zainal Abidin Sulong. The work of Bomoh in Kelantan. Diss University of Malay (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), 1957. Zaleha Ismail. Kepercayaan dan Upacara .Berhubung dengan Kelahiran Anak (Beliefs and Rituals Connected with Childbirth) Academic Exercise, Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1961. JMBRAS: Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. JSBRAS: Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

1. Skeat, WW, Malay Magic (Being an Introduction to the Folk-lore and Popular Religion of the Malay Peninsula). London: MacMillan, 1900. (This book has been republished in paperback by Dover Publications, Inc., New York). Gimlefte. J.D., Malay Poisons and Charm Cures. London: J & A. Churchill, 1915. This book has been republished in paperback by Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, in 1971). Sir Richard Winstedt has published a great deal of descriptive papers on the Malay bomoh and the practice of Malay medicine, but his major work in this area is The Malay Magician: Being Shaman, Saiva and Sufi, which was first published in 1931. The revised edition appeared in 1951 (London: Routledge and Keagan Paul). The criticism against traditional medical beliefs and practices has been both from the point of religious belief and modern medical practices. From the viewpoint of the latter, see, for example, Dr. S. Hasmah binte M. Ali. Effect and Basic attitude Health, Intisari, Vol. 1, No. 4, 27 36. Mohd. Taib Osman, Patterns of Supernatural Premises Underlying the Institution of the Bomoh in Malay Culture Bijdragen tot de Taal. Landen Volkenkunde 128, 219 234. See Wolff, Robert J. Modern Medicine and Traditional Culture: Confrontation on the Malay Peninsula Human Organisation, XXIV, 4 (1965). A local scholar who has written a number of papers on the subject is Dr. Paul C.Y. Chen of the Medical Faculty of the University of Malaya. Two of them may be mentioned here: Spirits and Medicine-men among rural Malays. Far East medical Journal, V (March 1969), 84 87 and Malay Folk Medicine and Modern Medicine (to be published soon in the Proceedings of the Seminar on Oral Traditions 1973 by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports). It should be explained that highly respected religious persons who in their lifetime are known to perform some miracles are also referred to as keramat hidup, One example is Habib Noh whose mausoleum in Singapore is still a








centre of worship for those seeking blessings or cures from illness. It seems that when he was alive, he performed a great number or miracles~ (See Muhammad Zain Mahmood, A Study of Kerarnat Worship with Special



10. 11.

Reference to Singapore. BA. Honours Dissertation. University of Malaya. Singapore, 1959). Berjin or berhantu are rituals in which the bomoh or the pawang would go into a trance. For accounts of the various forms of such ritual. see Skeats Malay Magic and Gimlettes Malay Poisons and Charm Cures (Chapter IV). Mohd Ghazali Hj. Maulud, Seorang Bornoh Melayu: Satu Kajian Tentang Cara-cara Perubatan dan Ilmunya (A Malay Bomoh: A Study of the methods and knowledge of his practice) Aca. Ex. Dept. of Malay Studies. University of Malaya (1968). For a list of poisons used by the Malays see Gimlettes Malay Poisons and Charm Cures, pp. 285 290. See ibid. pp. 39 40.


The heterogeneity of traditions which make up the culture ot the Peninsular Malays and the complexity of the total fabric of the culture woven from strands of diverse civilizations past and present have drawn the attention of many scholars of Malay society and culture. Scholars of Sir Richard Winstedts generation have
tackled these phenomena mainly from the historical point of view,

providing historical backgrounds and origins to the different component elements which make up tHe present-day culture of the Malays. It is important to know the nature of the historical background to the culture, for much of the present has to be explained in terms of the past. But equally important is to explain how and to what extent the different traditions are integrated meaningfully or otherwise within the framework of an on-going cultural system. A number of recent scholars have addressed themselves to this question either specifically or tangentially. Anthropological studies on single Malay communities would have to touch on this sort of problem, especially where it concerns beliefs, customs and social values, Robert J. Wolff, in an article on the acceptance of m~x1ern medicine in rural Malay society, compares the different traditions in Malay culture with a cupboard, usually found in wealthier Malay homes, which exhibits an array of odds and ends. According to him, Perhaps Malay culture is like that, it is the cupboard in which 162

are stored all the gifts from other cultures, not arranged in any particular way. There is no connection between the items on one shelf and those on the next or even linkage among th~items on a shelf. But they are all the possessions of one 1

Others have seen an irreconcilable conflict between elements of disparate traditions in Malay culture, particularly where it concerns the opposition of Islam as the official religion to the retentions consisting of inherited beliefs and practices of past ages. Thus Prof. de Josselin de Jong describes the conflict between Adat Perpateh of Negeri Sembilan and Hukum Syara (Islamic Law) as one Between two systems of ideals and practices, both of whki were considered by the society concerned as being an integral of
its culture, both applicable to the entire society, and both perceived as a system by inhabitants of that society.2


However there have also been attempts to show that despite apparent conflicts and discrepancies on the surface, it might be possible to find some structural dan conceptual order and consistency in the integration of the different cultural derivations in Malay culture. Apart from my own work,3 a recent book by Ki.. Endicott attempts to show that there exists a structural organization in the world-view of Malay magical theories and practices.4 My own work demonstrates that although Malay folk beliefs and rituals are made up of elements of diverse origins, they form meaningful units or cult institutions which are based on ideological premises familiar to the culture. Historical background ofthe different component elements also helps to explain the characteristics these elements take in intergrating with other elements. End~icotts work is a detailed analysis of the complex structural relationships between the material world and the supernatural realm that can be extracted from the symbolic and expressive rituals and spells found in the literature on Malay magic published so far. Although the work is based entirely on published works, and the writer did not have a first-hand knowledge of the culture of which the magical tradition is only a small part, it is an important work for it represests the first attempt to analyse in depth the structure of an aspect of Malay world-view. The assumption posed by Endicott and myself in our works is that despite the differences in traditions, the component items in Malay culture, even if they are apparently opposed to one another, have an underlying meaningful order and an analysable relationship among themselves within the world-view of the culture. 163

What this paper hopes to do is to examine the institution of the bomoh, the traditional practitioner of Malay folk medicine. Perhaps there is no other social institution in Malay culture today which enjoys a longer continuity and yet is fully functional in everyday life when compared to the institution of bomoh. In it, one is able to see cultural accretions from the earliest period of the Malays history to the present. It therefore offers us an opportunity to see how elements from the different traditions feature within a single institution. The aim is to see whether or not the patterns of supernatural premises underlying the notion of the work of the bomoh are consistent v~nthin themselves and consonant with the general belief system of the culture. The total belief system in Malay culture today can be graphically pictured as interactions between Islamic ideals, inherited traditional beliefs and empirical or scientific knowledge which form the three points A, B and C of a hypothetical triangle:5

Islamic Ideals

Inherited Traditional Beliefs

Empirical or scientific knowledge

On the ideal level, as typical of a Muslim community everywhere, prescribed Islamic teachings and practices are the paramount goals towards which members of the community are supposed to strive. But on the behaviourial level, the Islamic ideals have to contend with local beliefs or adat as well as scientific knowledge which, in the case of most Muslim communities, is mainly brought about by the process of westemisation of these cultures (although a great deal of modern sciences have their roots in the Islamic civilisation). An example of the interaction between Islamic ideals and westernisation (line AC) can be shown in a situation where the modern banking system, which is an essential part of the economic development of developing countries, comes into conflict with the Islamic law on interests. Such a conflict may be resolved by an interpretation given as a fatwa (ruling) by a consesses of scholars. The interaction between Islamic ideals and local traditional beliefs 164

(line AB) is a constant feature of a Muslim community. An injunction may be made in the name of Islam prohibiting the practice of a certain local custom; or certain reinterpretations are made so as to give Islamic meaning to a local belief; or it is possible that traditional local beliefs system fulfilling the pragmatic and immediate needs of day-to-day living side by side with the formal religion which serves the more transcendental needs. The interaction between traditional beliefs and scientific khowledge (line BC) is exemplified in the problem of modern medicine having to compete with traditional medicine and concept of health. Ideally, the institution of bomoh stands at point B ,of qur triangle, but in practice, it is anywhere along line ~ It is, however, in constant interaction with the other two points. But its interaction with each of the other two points is of a different nature. With point A, the interaction is mostly on the plane of supernatural premises. While the institution of bomoh had as its origin theories and concepts regarding illnesses and their cure based on animistic premises, it now has to contend with the teachings of monotheistic Islam where ill health or otherwise emanates only from the Almighty. It is within this context that we get the patterns of supernatural premises rationalising the institution of bomoh: on the one hand it is based on the Old Indonesian belief in semangat and spirits and on the other it is drawn towards a position where it is conceived as being consonant with the teachings of Islam. But the whole picture would reveal to us the traditional Malay world- view in regard to the causation, nature and the cure of illnesses. The interaction on line BC is entirely of a different nature. The problem here really is the introduction to and acceptance of modem medicine based on empirical or scientific knowledge in a culture whose traditional medical premises are entirely different. Thus, a Malay lady doctor who had first hand experience of the problem lamented the fact that her people, especially the rural population, were slow in accepting scientific medical treatment because they were still steadfastly holding on to traditional beliefs, 7 She was hopeful, however, that in customs and social values. time to come, scientific medical thinking will completely replace the ancient beliefs and superstitions. The problem is actually not medical in nature but cultural. Thus Wolff recognises that to make Western scientific medicine to be truly accepted, it is necessary to acquaint the people not only with modern tools, more efftcient techniques, but with a new and accptable way of thinking about disease, about causation of disease, about treatment of disease 8 165

However, where it concerns Malay culture, Wolff thinks that it is doubly difficult to introduce Western medicine because of the very nature of the Malay culture itself. According to him, the introdution of Western medical services to the Malays is difficult not just because there is a conflict of cultures it is perhaps doubly difficult because the elements of our Western medical subculture are bound together in a meaningful, causal, logical sequence, whereas Malay culture does not recognise any such kind of order, except the order he perceives in the world around him, an order which is the harmony between not necessarily related phenomena.9 A lecturer in social medicine, Dr. Paul C. Y. Chen, who addresses himself to the same problem, however, sees the problem as arising from a lack in cultural communications between the modern medical practitioners and the rural Malays. He ventures that the various elements in rural Malay culture form strongly coherent patterns, and supply an internally consistent explanation for all that happens, which is reassuring to the rural Malay.1 Thus, unless modern medicine can form part of the coherent culture patterns of the rural Malays, it will not be easily accepted by them. It is a fact that modern medicine has come to stay in Malay culture, but the problem of introducing it speedily and effectively to the rural Malays is very real. Much of the answer may be found in the traditional Malay world-view regarding illnesses and their cure, and no other institution on the culture which is more relevant to the question than that of the bomoh. Embedded in the worldview regarding the work of the bomoh are the Malays traditional concepts of the causation, nature and treatment of diseases. It is therefore useful for us to see what are the patterns of the assumptions regarding the supernatural which govern the office of the Malay bomoh. An ordinary Malay is generally aware of the distinction between what is approved by Islamic teachings and what belongs to the realm of the folk beliefs. Similarly, he is aware of the distinction between traditional or folk medicine as represented by the bomoh and modern western medicine as represented by the doctors, dressers, hospitals, travelling clinics and rural government midwives. It is usual to hear the Malay villagers talking about ubat cam lama (old style of medicine) or kepercayaan orang tua-tua (old beliefs) in contradiction to ubat orang putih (white


mans medicine) or ajaran Islam (Islamic teachings). But he may not know for sure where the demarcation line really is when it comes to folk beliefs and Islamic teachings. In a Muslim community in Selangor where a field study was conducted recently, reference was often made by the villagers to those who are pious and knowledgeable in religious matters as opposed to the
ordinary people who only know the basic requirements of being

Muslim) The former are often referred to as ahli agama or orang masjid and it is they who would be relied upon to tell with some degree of authority what is approved and what is not from the Islamic point of view. Even the bomoh may speak of his vocation defensivey and refer to the belief in spirits as kepercoyaan karut (spurious beliefs) 12 Or he would resort to various ways of rationalising his practice so as to make it consonant with Islam traditions. However, although the bomoh is being hemmed in from both sides, Islamic teachings on one side and modern medical knowledge on the other, the need for bomoh continues-to be felt not only among the village folk but also among the town dwellers. Not a few well-known bomohs have built up their reputation through services rendered to the town people. and such bomohs~clientele usually include non-Malays as well.~It is clear that as long as there exist human problems or ailments which religion or modern medicine cannot satisfactorily solves, such social institutions as that of the bomoh, will continue to flourish. In a Malay village community, the bomoh exists side by side with the imam, and what he stands for coeusts with the Muslim code of belief and practice. Conflicts do arise, but these may be resolved by reinterpretations, although the more religious members of the community would not normally associate themselves with the work of thebomoh.4 The situation in a village community is usually fluid, for the bomoh may turn out to be a person recognised for his piety and religious knowledge. But such a person, although admitting he is a bomoh, would always claim that his practice is consonant with Islamic teachings. Two of the three bomohs mentioned in the study on a Muslim community in Selangor cited just now were recognised as belonging to the category of ahil agama in their community. However, there are bomohs who are better known for their possession of esoteric i/mu which only they themselves can explain. Others claim that they have familiars to help them in their work. The well-known royal bomoh of Kelantan, Pak Nik Abdul Rahman, insists that his llmu is based on the philosophy of the wayang ku/it (i/mu perwayangan)5 Because of the


periphery nature of the bomohs ilmu and his ambiguous status

in a Malay community, the attitude towards the bomoh, as pointed out by Michael Swift, is usually ambivalent.6 The bomoh is an indispensable figure in a Malay village: in fact, without a bomoh, the village community is felt to be incomplete. But it is also a common belief among Malays that however large a bomoh s earnings are, they cannot bring him happiness or riches because his ilmu is hot (panas). And moreover since a bomoh may traffick with those forces of evil, his end will come on his deathbed in a painfully lingering manner. It should be borne in mind too that Islam recognises the existence of magic (sihir), but the practice is forbidden because it is regarded as the work of evil creatures such as the devil (syaitan or iblis) and the infidel jin. The place of bomoh in a Malay community is not to be looked at as an institution outside the character of the community as a Muslim community, but rather as part of it. Sometimes a ceremony propitiating~ the spirits conducted by the bomoh is even concluded with a religious prayer (doo), and when this happens, the imam has to give his cooperation. The imam and the bomoh in a Malay village community thus represent two worlds of supernatural beliefs points A and B on our triangle. The two need not always be conflicting; in fact, they are often complementary to one another. While the imam is important in matters pertaining to religion, esp~ciallywhere it concerns the salvation of ones soul in the next world, the bomoh is an important member of the community whose services in dealing with everyday immediate problems, especially in the healing of sickness, are much sought after. The Ninety-Nine Laws of Perak, an eighteenth century compilation of the customary laws of the state, postulates that the villages must not only feed the district judge and the officials of the mosque, but also the m~gician and midwife.7 The code also lays down the code of conduct, the duties and the fees of the pawang.8 It is said that as the muezzin is king in the mosque, the magici~p is king in the house of the sick, in the rice-field and on the mine 19 The institution of bomoh is built upon elements from diverse traditions, indigenous as well as foreign. The ilmu of the bomoh is not wholly based on supernatural premises such as the control and manipulation of semangat, communication with spiritual beings or the use of objects with extraordinary powers. A good deal of the ilmu is made up of the knowledge of herbs and poisons, bloodletting, bone setting, humoral pathology or simple hygiene. But the 168

ilmu is not what makes a bomoh a bomoh: It is more on the qualities ascribed by the culture to the office occupied by a person that causes one to be accepted as a bomoh. Even the spells and rituals performed by the bomoh are not so much his ilmu or something personally attributed to him, but rather they are an inheritance from the past or a revelation communicated in a dream. In other words, it is the institution rather than the person or his ilmu which is significant for the bomoh in the eyes of his culture. The prototype of the present day bomoh must be the shaman of the old Indonesian civilization. It is by examining the institution itself that we may get the general ideas underlying the supernatural premises of the bomohs office. The need to give the office an Islamic character usually leads to a claim that the institution has an Islamic genesis. Most Malay bomohs ascribe the origin of their office to the legendary figure of Luqman al-Hakim. Oral tales and legends accounting such genesis also cite Hindu deities and indigenous spirits, but they form a cohesive tradition explaining the origin of bomoh. The name, of Luqman al-Hakim is often corrupted in the accounts given by the bomohs, but it is unmistakable that the great sage of the Arabian tradition has provided the Malay bomoh with a convenient patron drawn from Islamic traditions. It is possible that at one time the office of the magician and that of the king or chief were identical in Malay society. The Old Indonesian chief or king was probably elected by common consent and regarded as the keeper of traditions and customs. Only when the institution of the royal court became more developed under Indian influence and the Hindu Brahmin became the chief religious and magical consultant to the king did the office of the bomoh (or pawang) come to be identified with the peasantry. Galqstin and Locher have pointed out, taking Java as an example, that while Hindu culture thrived in the royal courts, there were to be found in the villages forms of magic, ceremonial dances and oral literature connected with fertility of the crops or the family, with the cult of the forefathers and of the dead.2The same may be said for Malay culture. Once a Great Tradition was created, first through Hindu influence and later under Islamic civilisation, in urban royal centres, indigenous traditions which continued to live among the rural masses became the Little Tradition of Malay civilisation.2 It is in the latter part-culture that the tradition of Malay bomoh has continued to live on. In the practices of the bomoh, the vestiges of the Bronze Age Indonesian Shamanism are still to be seen. But, as Quaritch Wales has pointed out, shama169

nistic rituals among most of the Indonesian groups today, including the Peninsular Malays, have been much influeced by elements of Hinduism and Islam.22 The traces of the Old Indonesian shamanism are to be observed mainly in the spirit-raising seances performed by specially qualified bomoh. But, not all the bomohs are credited with the ability to perform a seance or go into a trance. Hinduism too apparently has left its mark on the office of the Malay bomoh. An incantation claims that Siva the Teacher, the Light to Muhammad and Luqman al-Hakim were the rna9icians of old and I (the bomoh) am the fourth magician 23 The implication here is that the office of the pawang has its roots in an impressive array of powerful beings: Siva, the Divine Teacher of the Brahmins; The Light of Muhammad, which is a mystical concept that the soul of the Holy Prophet has pre-existed before his time as the predestined essence of the last prophet; and Luqman alHakim. The ideas embodied here can be traced to the sources which have contributed to Malay folk beliefs, Siva, or Batara Guru, as the Hindu god is better known among the Malays, is the Divine Teacher who held an important place in the religious and magical scheme of the Brahmins in the Hindu-Indonesian society of the past.24 The magical notions attributed to Batara Guru have their roots in the influence of the Brahmins. The Light Of Muhammad is essentially a mystical speculatian of the Sufis concerned with the immaculate pedigree of the Holy Prophet since Adam.25 According to Sufi thought,. the light a dense and luminous point was the pre-existence of the Prophet himself. But what has come to the Malay folk is the more popular form of the concept diffused by popular tales of Persian provenence, like the Hikayat Nur Muhammad (The Tale of the Light of Muhammad). It should be noted that the conceptualisation of the Light of Muhammad arises from the philosophical thoughts of the Sufis inquiring into the relationship of Muhammad as the last and promised Apostle of God to the preceding prophets. But the form that it takes in the Malay folk traditions must have originated from the popular versions couched in terms easily comprehended by the common people or as the result of a filtration of Sufi ideas prevailing in the scholarly atmosphere of the royal courts to the common folk or rakyat.26 The antiquity of the office of the bomoh is reflected by the usual reference to the primordial first or original bomoh or pawang (Pawang Yang Tua or ~BomohYang Asal) who, according to some accounts, predates Siva, Prophet Muhammad, or sometimes even Allah. In a genesis recorded by Skeat, the original pawarig


precedes Allah at one point while at another both are said to be one and the same.27 Winstedt has drawn out attention to the fact that the idea of god being a magician is common in Indonesian and Semitic magic.28 One version traces the original bomoh to the children of Adam, while another accounts for the four original pawang as the creation of Allah (sahabat lembaga Adam).29 The identification of Allah with the original bomoh and the use of Islamic notions of creation in the genesis of the bomoh represent some of the attempts to give new interpretations to an old institution. Another example of this fact is to be seen in the association of the first pawang with the berpuar ritual practised in Negeri Sembilan. The berpuar which is in the form of a mock combat between the forces of good and evil, is an ancient Indonesian ritual connected with rice cultivation still observed by some of the tribal groups in Nusantara. According to the legend of the origin of berpuar and that of the office of pawang, Allah gave Jibrail (Gabriel) a Book in which could be found effective prescriptions for all ailments and through the medium of certain formulae, miracles could be performed, such for instance, as raising the dead to life, converting grey or -white hair to black and making the old regain their youth 30 These accounts represent the esoteric lore of the Malay bomoh and there are many versions of them. However, they usually display the same characteristic, that is a blending of inherited lore with elements from Islamic traditions. This fact represents the interaction on line AB of our triangle. While the institution itself has its roots in the inherited traditions of the culture, it has been drawn through time by the need to conform to a new world-view brought by the teachings of Islam to a point closer to Islamic ideals. Although the resultant form as seep in those accounts given above may not satisfy or meet the ideals of Islamic code, it nevertheless represents a world-view consonant within itself as far as the practitioners and members of the culture are concerned. And this world-view perceives the office of the bomoh as one which is supernatural, or almost, in nature. It is similar to the concept of the semi-divinity of the Malay kings in the past as embodied in the ideas of daulat and tulah. Although it is not so at persent, the office of pawang or bomoh at one time had a regalia of its own,3 just like every Malay sultanate having its regalia, the possession of which is the proof of ones right to the sacred and highest office in a traditional Malay state. As said above, the interaction on line AB of our triangle is on a supernatural plane or of a supernatural


dimension. Any reinterpretation made on the original institution in favour of Islamic ideas as conceived and understood by the people themselves is effected on the same plane, that is on a supernatural plane. This will become clear to us when we consider how one assumes the office of bomoh. There are two fundamental ways by which one can become a bomoh. The first is to acquire by learning (menuntut) the ilmu from another bomoh and the second is through an extraordinary situation or experience, such as the inheritance of the special quality within a family (baka), a dream, possession of a helper spirit (akaun), chance encounter with a supernatural being or the acquisition of objects which have the quality to care sickness. Becoming a bomoh does not only mean the acquisition of the i/mu, but also the transference of the teachers special endowment (peturun) to the pupil. The pupil then reciprocates with gifts (asam garam) which are more of symbolic rather than of material value. Jeanne Cuisinier has rightly observed that the acquisition of the i/mu is not merely a transference of esoteric knowledge but rather an inheritance from the original bomoh.2 The esoteric lore of the bomoh is usually not communicated to the uninitiated, but it is not a rare thing to find the knowledge compiled in books usually referred to as Kitab Tib. A 500 page manuscript I recently purchased from Pak Nik Abdul Rahman, the royal bomoh of Kelantan, contains 147 fasal (subjects) dealing with the cure for all kinds of illnesses known to the Malays. But, it is not the knowledge that is of significance to the practice of the bomoh, it is the mystical almost sacred qualities that one must infuse one-self with, or one must acquire for oneself, that will ultimately influence ones assumption of the office, and, later, efficacy as a bomoh. There are many special prescriptions and proscriptions to be observed by a bomoh, not only during his period of apprenticeship but also after becoming a full-fledged specialist. He may have to avoid certain type of food, perform certain special tasks or behave in a certain manner, all of which would indicate his distinction from the ordinary people. It is becauce of the cultural world-view which lays more emphasis on the extraordinary qualities of the bomoh, especially those wich create an aura of almost supernatural character around the person of the bomoh, that the second method of becoming a bomoh assumes its significance. The special c~ualitiesor powers are acquired either directly, in which case it is usually an encounter with a spirit or revered figure in the attire usually conceived as 172

that of a Muslim pious man, or indirectly, which is through certain signs (alamat). A well-known bomoh, who in everyday life was a high-ranking army officer, acquired his special qualities not through learning but primarily through spiritual agents.~3The special qualities came to this bomoh over a long period of time through dreams, extraordinary experiences and an encounter with Prophet Khidir. The most common experience, however, is to be informed by a spiritual being, usually a wa/i (sage), in a dream that one is to become a bomoh. Usually, someone who is going to be blessed by such a dream would receive the signs for some period before the actual dream comes. It is also possible for someone to obtain objects with miraculous powers to be used for curing sicknesses after being told about them in a dream. From the accounts collected among those bomohs who had acquired office through the second method, there is a definite leaning towards giving the extraordinary experiences they had an Islamic bias. The robed .figure who appears so often in the dreams of would-be bomohs would invariably be Nabi Khidir, Luqman al-Hakim or a wa/i who is known as a keramat in the locality. Even if the identity is not clear, prefixes of Muslim connotation are given, such as Sheikh, Sayed or Habib However, there are also references to visitations by a penunggu (guardian spirit) of a place, common hantu (spirit) or souls of dead persons, but it is also quite often to find these indigenous spiritual beings attired in flowing robes, huge turbans and sweeping grey beard, the way a wall Allah is often pictured in traditional Malay literature, especially in classical Malay works and oral tales. Here again we are confronted with further evidence of the integration of diverse traditions in Malay culture. It is also interesting to note that the bomoh is often distinguished from a class of miracle-workers known in Malay culture as keramat hidup which can be loosely translated as living saints While bomoh is ubiquitous in Malay society, keramat hidup is a rare phenomenon. There are two types of keramat hidup : the pious ascetics who themselves do not claim of having miraculous powers and those miracle-workers who claim that they have been chosen by a known keramat to act as an intermediary.34 A distinguishing mark of a self-proclaimed keramat hidup is his yellow robe. In fact, everything around him is decorated in yellow, a colour representing sacredness in Malay symbolism. The keramat hidup is of popular Islamic derivation in Malay culture and is a comparatively recent introduction. Thus he differs, in the
. ,


conception of the Malays, from the bomoh, which is an indigenous institution, even if it has accrued many Islamic elements and identification by now. Equally interesting to note is the fact that while bomohs enjoy comparative freedom from the sanctions of the religious authorities, the same cannot be said for keramat hidup As soon as it is known that someone is attracting a good following as a keramat hidup, the officials from the Religious Affairs Department are not slow in investigating the case. More often than not, after such a visit, the miracles of the keramat hidup would fizzle out and he would be chastised and made to return to the true path of Islam. Thus, although diverse traditions can intermingle in a coherent order in Malay culture, they can also be distinguished from one another in certain instances as we have seen in the case of bomoh and keramat hidup. What I have tried to show is that the institution of bomoh is fundamentally based on supernatural premises. The patterns of these premises are circumscribed by the indigenous traditional order of the supernatural world on the one hand and the Islamic ideals on the other. The patterns can also be conceived as the results of interaction on line AB of our triangle. Historically speaking, the interaction has been taking place for centuries, that is since the Islamisation of the Malay culture. The actual resultant forms arising from the process differ and vary from situation to situation, depending on the exact nature of the factors prevailing, but what we can show are just the patterns that can emerge from the whole process. Bearing in mind that the bomoh had been for centuries the only social institution connected with the healing of the sick, its importance does not lie only in the function it performs in everyday life, but also in its influence on the world-view of the Malay culture with regard to the causation, nature and cure of sicknesses. We have seen that right from the beginning the institution of bomoh had been suffused with supernatural notions. It was not unlike the idea of semi-divine kingship in the traditional Malay political system. With the coming of Islam these supernatural notions had undergone some changes with the inclusion of elements from the Muslim civilisation. But what has remained unchanged is the underlying supernatural dimension of the institution. In other words, whatever modification Islam has effected on the institution of bomoh, it has been done mainly on the supernatural plane. That is the reason why, I think, the institution has not gone underground or disappeared with the ascendancy of Islam in Malay culture. On the contrary, Islamic ideas have helped 174

to give new meaning to the institution of bomoh. And this is made possible because the admixture of diverse traditions of the institution is quite capable of being coherently organised within the framework of the world-view of Malay culture. Conflicts will surely arise if the society chose to apply strictly the sanctions of Islamic ideals, but this has been rare and far between in the history of Malay society and culture. The introduction of Western medicine and concept of sickness has brought about a different kind of interaction. While the institution of bomoh is basically based on supernatural premises, that of the modern medical practitioner is based on empirical research and knowledge. The two thus meet on different planes or in different dimensions. As such the problem of the acceptance of modern medicine in Malay society, especially rural society, is viewed as arising from a competition between different premises regarding the causation, nature and cause of diseases. Joseph Wolff has noted that the problem is not one of rejection, for the rural Malays do know about modern medicine, but rather one of rearranging the world-view of Malay culture so that modern medicine will form an integral part of it and not something simply hooked on to it. We have noted that cultural change brought about by. Islam has not changed fundamentally the premises which underlie the institution of bomoh: thus the Malay world-view regarding diseases and their cure did not have to undergo drastic reorientations. But the same cannot be said for the confrontation between traditional and modern medicar concepts in Malay culture. The Islamisation of Malay culture since five hundred years ago has seen the retention of the same institution for solving the problems of health and illness. But with the acceptance of modern medinice there exist two distinguishable institutions which serve as alternatives for tackling the same problem. Thus it is ikhtiar (resourcefulness) for a western educated Malay, who under normal circumstances would only rely on modern medical skills, to consult the bomoh when the situation seems hopeless. Similarly, a Malay who is still reluctant to trust other than the bomoh will accept modern medical treatment if the situation demands it, although sometimes it is too late to be of any good. To the modern medical practitioner charged with administering western medicine to rural Malay folk, the response can be quite frustrating, but the phenomenon is explicable in terms of traditional Malay world-view regarding medicine.


1. 2. Wolff. Robert J.. Modern Medicine and Traditional Culture: Confrontation on the Malay Peninsula Human Organisation. XXIV, 4 (1965), 343. De Josselin de Jong. P.E Islam versus Adat in Negeri Sembilan (Malaya) Bijdragen Koninklijk Institut uoor Taal-Landen, Volkenkunde, CXVI, 1 (1960). 203. Mohd. Taib bin Osman. Indigenous. Hindu. and Islamic Elements in Malay Folk Beliefs Ph.D. Diss.. Indiana University (Bloomington. Indiana. U.S.A ). 1967. Endicoot, Kirk Michael, An Analysis of Malay Magic, Oxford Unv. Press, 1970. By world-view. I mean the system of ideas which members ol a culture hold about things around them. In other words, it is the way things are pictured or conceived by them as a reality. This diagram is presented here mainly for convenience It represents the ideal situation only. In actual everyday happening. it is possible to get elements of A + B standing in opposition to C. elements B and C combining harmoniously together and so on. It may even be at point BC. for it is known, although never admitted. that some bomohs surreptitiously make use of patent medicine and powdered aspirin pills. Dr. S. Hasmah binte M. All, Effect on a Basic Attitude Health Intisari, Vol. 1. No 4. 27.36. Modern Medicine and Traditional Culture: Confrontation on the Malay Peninsula pp. 334345. Ibid.. pg. 345. Spirits and Medicine-men among rural Malays Far East Medical Journal, V (March). 1969. 8487. See Mohd. Aris bin Hj. Othman Agama Islam dan kepercayaan Tradisional dalam Sebuah Kariah di Selangor Diss., University of Malaya (Dept. of Malay Studies). 1957. p. 6. Zainal Abidin Sulong, The Work of Bomoh in Kelantan, academic exercise, University of Malaya (Dept. of Mala~ Studies). 1957. p. 6. A detailed study of one such .bomoh is found in Mohd. Ghazali bin Hj. Maulud, Seorang Bomoh Melayu: Satu Kajian Tentang Cara Perubatan dan Ilmunya academic exercise. University of Malaya (Dept. of Malay Studies). 1957. p. 6. For example, see Fraser Jr., Thomas M., Rusembilan: A Malay Fishing Village in Southern Thailand. Cornell University Press, 1960, pp. 189 191. Recorded interview with the writer. Simply put, the lamp, the screen (kelir), the puppets and the dalang correspond with people (puppets), life (screen), sun or energy (lamp) and the bomoh (dalang). To be able to control and manipulate the puppets in a wayang performance is analogous to having a knowledge of life and people. Michael G. Swift, Malay Peasant Society in Jelebu, London, 1965, p. 165. Winstedt, Richard 0., More Notes on ~1alay Magic Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Malayan Branch. V. 2 (1927), 346. The terms pawang and bomoh are often used interchangeably. But in most





7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

12. 13.

14. 15.

16. 17. 18.


19. 21. 21.

22. 23. 24. 25. 26.

27. 28. 29. 30


32. 33. 34.

places. the term bomoh refers to the specialist whose main vocation is healing, while pawang refers to a more versatile practitioner of magic endowed with many talents In Kelantan. and among the Malays in South Thailand the term bornoh seems to be the general term used, although the pawang is also known. An ordinary Malay may generally draw the distinction between the functions of the pawang and bomoh, but he tends to place both the specialists into one common institution of his culture mainly because he regards their practices as commonly belonging to a domain of inherited traditions from the past. Both the pawang and bomoh rely on the same lore of spirit beliefs provided by their culture. Their institution in Malay folk culture is basically one but it is necessary sometimes to draw a distinction in their functions: bomoh as the specialist in folk medicine and pawang as the general practitioner of magic Winstedt. More Notes on Malay Magic. UNESCO: Occasional Papers in Education. No. 8 p. 31. 1 am using Robert Redfields concept of Great and Little Traditions as found in his The Social Organization of Tradition in Peasant Society and Culture, Chicago. 1956. Prehistory and Religion in South East Asia (London: Quaritch, 1977), pp. 73 74. Winstedt, R.O., The Malay Magician, p. 72. F.D.K. Bosch. Selected Studies in Indonesian Archaelogy (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. l96l)p. 17. Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam. p. 452. As pointed out by George M. Foster. many elements of the folk culture today are derived through time from the culture of the preindustrial urban dwellers which flourished at one time in the past (What is Folk Culture? American Antropologist. Vol. 55. No. 21(1953). pp. 159 173). Skeat. W.W.. Malay Magic (London: MacMillan, 1900). pp. 2 3. 581 582. Notes on Malay Magic Journal of Royal Asiatic Society. Malayan Branch, III. 3 (1925). 10. Skeat, Ibid.. pp. 584 586. Dato Sedia Raja Abdullah. The Origin of Pawang and Berpuar Ceremony Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Malayan Branch. V. 2 (1927) 310 313. See Blagden, CO., Notes on the Folk-Lore and Popular Religion of the Malays Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Straits Branch, XXIX (1896). 6. Cuisinier, Jeanne. Dances Magiques de Kelantan (Paris: Institut dEthno logie. 1936). pp. 6 18. Mohd. Ghazali b. Hj. Maulud. Seorang Bomoh Melayu: Satu Kajian For a discussion on keramat hidup. see my work. Indigenous. Hindu and Islamic Elements in Malay Folk Beliefs, as cited above.


There appears to be a general agreement among scholars as to the fact that there is a close relationship between myth, ritual and drama, but it is the kind of relationship within this complex that there seems to be disagreement. Thus, the ritual view of the socalled Cambridge School, starting with the study of Greek mythology and later expanding to other areas, has advanced the theory of myth being derived from ritual (Hyman 1958 (2)). Jane Harrison, who, as early as 19J2, had expressed the view that myth arises out of rite, rather than the reverse; that it is the spoken correlative of the acted, the thing done ; and that it is not anything else of any other orgin (Hyman (1958: 85). Lord Raglan, who from the thirties to the fifties had consistently maintained that myths have their origin in the rites connected with the sacrifice of priest-kings or regicide. According to Raglan myth helps to reinforce the belief in the efficacy of ritual. He says, the supposed effect of the ritual are far less clearly apparent, so that if belief in its efficacy is to be maintained, a more complex type of faith is required. This is induced by myth which links not merely between rituals of the past and the present, but actually identifies the present, in its ritual aspects, with a past conceived solely in terms of ritual a past in which superhuman figures devote themselves to the performance of acts which are too prototypes of ritual. (Raglan 1956: 127).


To Raglan, therefore, myth performs a dual function: to sanctify and to standardise ritual. However, standardisation was not complete before writing; those closely transcribed became scriptures while the rest became oral tradition. Another point to be noted regarding Raglans view is his belief in all myths being derived from a common source, that is from the ancient rites involving the sacrifice of priest-kings. He rejects the notion of preliterate people having the ability to create myth or to think historically. However he does recognise the possibility of the borrowed myths undergoing changes according to enviromment (Raglan 1956: 148). The same view is held by many others as comprehensively summarised and reviewed by Stanley E. Hyman, who himself holds the same view (Hyman 1958: 8488). Hyman also tries to demonstrate that the psychological approach to the interpretation of myth is quite compatible with the view that myth originates from ritual (Hyman 1958: 8889). As Hyman summarises it, the ritual-view has illuminated the whole of Greek culture, including religion, philosophy, art, many of the forms of literature, and much else. It has done the same for the games, songs, and rhymes of children; the Old and New Testaments, epics and romance, edda and saga, folk drama and dance, folklore and legend; Near East religion, modern drama and literature, even problems in history, law and science. (Flyman 195892). He suggests with conviction that the same ritual-view can be applied to other genres, even the blues of the Negroes and formal literature. Thus we can say that even drama, from this point of view, can be traced back to its ritual origin. Theodore H. Caster, one of those sharing this view, attempts to demonstrate in his book, Thespis, that the factor which transmutes Ritual into Drama is Myth, at least in the case of festivals of seasons in the ancient near East. The function of myth in transmuting ritual to drama is to translate the real into terms of the ideal, the punctual into terms of the durative and transcendental (Gaster 1950: 5). To him the whole complex of myth, ritual, drama and seasonal ceremonies has religlo-social root The ritual-view has met not so much with criticism but rather with a note of caution from later anthropologists. In a spirited reply to Bascoms criticism of Raglan (Bascom 1957), Hyman makes a distinction between the approaches of the anthropologists and those of the students of folklore. According to him, the ritual179

view has been adequately demonstrated by scholars working on folklore materials (Hyman 1957). Looking at most of the works propounding ritual-view, we may note that most of them deal with materials from literate societies, while the concern of the anthropologists have been with the pre-literate ones. It does appear that the arguments over the primacy of myth over ritual or vice-versa are unnecessary and the disagreement seems to be the result of nothing more than a dogmatic application of a theory to all kinds of situations. As Herskovits puts it, not only is the differentiation of savages and primitives as against the civilised has to be considered, but each cultural unit will have to be dealt with individually (Herskovits 1958: 110). Another pertinent point raised by Herskovits against the holding of a fixed theory is the fact that such a theory tends to ignore the questions of variants and changes; to him these are important for the variants and changes reshape, over a time, the form and meaning (Herskovits 1958: 116). The same view applies where the data consists of materials resulting from acculturation or cultural borrowing as in the case of the cultures in Nusantara. Clyde Kluckhohn, however, reminds us that in spite of cultural changes brought about by contacts with other cultures, the innovations are still based on the pre-existing cultural matrix, but the new resultant forms are usually determined by factors external to the receiving culture (Kluckhohn 1962: 138). Kluckhohn recognises the fact that myths and rituals are intricately interrelated, but he gives no primacy of one over the other. Instead Kluckhohn is more inclined tQ see the relationship between myth and ritual from the functional point of view; that is both have connection with the social and psychological life or a particular people. Both myth and ritual have common psychological basis: ritual is an obsessive and reflective activity and often a symbolic demonstration of the fundamental needs of the society economic, biological, social or sexual. And mythology is a rationalisation of the same needs, whether they are expressed in overt ceremonial or not (Kluckhohn 1952: 140). Whether we find ritual as the origin of myth or the other way round, we cannot avoid the fact that underlying both myth and ritual is the belief system of the people, for without it both cannot have any symbolic value. In turning our attention to the cultures in the Nusantara area, there is a point which we have to consider before going into the question of what form of relationship is to be found between myth, ritual and drama. It is a fact that although the Indonesian Archipelago can be said to possess basically a cultural unity, because of 180

historical factors, variations ~thin that so-called unity can easily be seen. In very general terms, we can divide the Archipelago into three cultural characteristics. The first one shows strong Hindu influence which still prevails as in Jawa and Bali. The second shows that the Islmic influences of Persia and Muslim India have somewhat superseded the underlying Indonesian-Hindu culture as in the case of the coastal regions of Nusantara. The third shows that the indigenous Indonesian culture still holds sway as in the cases of the Dayaks in Borneo and the Nias Islanders of Sumatra. Reymond Kennedy has described the phenomenon in terms of cultural contours (see Kennedy 1942: 11). For the purpose of our discussion, we are going to focus our attention on the first two cultural characteristics for the reason that they have a common Indonesian-Hindu cultural basis which had prevailed since the beginning of the Christian era, and the difference between the two lies only in the degree of Islamisation that they have absorbed through the years since Islam made its impact on the peoples of Nusantara in the 14th and 15th centuries. However from the viewpoints of this discussion, the distinction is significant, for where Islamisation has seeped deep, the drama seems to have ceased playing a role. Thus rig~it at the outset, we can make an observation: the myth-ritual-drama complex is to be seen playing a fuller role in the area where the first cultural characteristic still prevails in the life of the people, namely in Java. The closeness of drama to myth and ritual in Javanese culture has been the subject of discussion by various Dutch scholars, but one whose theories we cannot ignore is W.H. Rassers. Although the Leiden School has come under the criticism of modern anthropologists, (H. Geertz 1965) the theories as expounded by this School, especially as represented by Rassers are worth looking into. Their theoretical bases or their conclusions may be challengeable, but thejr contributions cannot be overlooked. At least they had laid the groundwork by providing the ethnographical data and some pertinent observations. At the turn of this century, G.A.J. Hazue wrote a number of articles on the Javanese theatre. He not only distinguished between the different types of Javanese theatre but had also convincingly demonstrated that the Javanese theatre was not solely for entertainment for it had some religious significance as well. This was especially true of the shadow-play or the wayang as it is normally referred to. It is pertinent here to note that thellakon or stories enacted in the theatre are mostly episodes taken from the Indian epic Mahabhorata (C. Geertz 1960: 263). 181

Some of the Iakons,however, are an admixture of Hindu mythologies and the indigenous ones, especially the Panji cycle. Working with this kind of material, Hazeu advanced the theory that in spite of the Indian elements to be found in the Iakons, the wayang itself antedates the Indian period in Java. He pointed out that the techniques and the apparatus of the wayang did not bear Sanskrit names. In distinguishing the different types of dramatic performances, Hazeu showed their chronological developments. The details of this need not detain us here, but suffice it to say that to Hazeu the shadow-play seems to be the most ancient (see Rassers 1959: 98). This view is shared by other scholars for it is in the shadow-play that the ritual significance of drama is to be seen more than the others. Tyra Van Kleen observes in her book, Wayang: Jauanese Theatre, that whereas in the Western tradition the theatre has a naturalistic origin, that is starting from life it tries to imitate, the.Javanese theatre begins from the opposite end, that is it starts from the unreal shodow figures and develops through human-like puppets and finally to living actors (Tyra Van Kleen 1947: 910). Van Kleen describes in her book how a dramatic play having human actors was created by a Javanese prince for his wedding celebrations as an example of the culminating point of this dramatic development. This purely technical theatrical development may be interpreted in another way: the development of dramatic performance originates from a purely ritually significant performance to one for entertainment. The play created by the prince was for entertaiment, although the plots were drawn from the store-house of Hindu-Javanese myths which have supplied the Iakons for the more ancient forms of dramatic plays. Clifford Geertz who studied Javanese religion in more recent times has more or less substantiated the fact that the shadow-play, although having lost its full ritual significance as interpreted by Hazeu, Rassers and the other Ducth scholars, still retains the vestiges of this ancient significance (C. Geerts 1960: 269). The most significant factor to be borne in mind in connection with this is the institution of the dalang; at the lime when the shadow-play has become part entertainment and part ritual, the dalang continues to have that ntual aurn (C. Geertz 1960264). As Rassers puts it, ~ain and again one recognises in him the officiating priest (Rassers 1959: 116). The ritual significance of dramatic performances seems to centre more around the shadow-play than the other types of dramatic performances. To Hazeu, the shadow-play has its origin in ances182

tor-worship for it fits into the ancient cult of the dead to be found among the more primitive tribes in Nusantara. The spirits of the ancestors are believed to be powerful and can render asistance to the living. Images are made to induce them to descend. Eventually these spirits become identified with the images, but they are not thought of materialistically: rather they are thought of being more like shadows. Hence the shadow-play was already existing in principal. Hazeus theoty then is that the shadow-play originates from a religious belief and is connected with a kind of ancestor-worship ritual (Rassers 1959: 101-2). A typical myth of origin tells us, however, that once upon a time the gods came down to earth to give the first wayang performance by projecting their own shadows on a white screen. The art was then handed down to man (Tyra Van Kleen 1947: 10). The myth tells us the origin of the wayang, but it might just be merely an explanatory myth validating or explaining the ritual value which is still attached to the performance of the wayang. We must bear in mind that the above theory as expounded by Hazeu does not concern the lakon or the story-content of the wayang, but rather the technique of the performance itself. The mere performance, regardless of the story, is looked upon as having ritual efficacy in itself. Clifford Geertz tells us that when a wayang performance is given on an occasion, one might attend the performance without giving much attention to the run of the story for it is not the content of the storey but the efficacy of the performance that is important on the occasion (C. Geertz 1960: 269). It is not that the lakon has no significance, it has as we shall see later, but just that the performance in itself is looked upon as having ritual values. Hazeus theory regarding the origin and meaning of the wayang has been disputed by Rassers, but the view that the woyang is more than just an entertainment is well accepted. Right at the beginning of his paper on the origin of the Javanese theater, he says, From the moment this peculiar civilization first came within the sphere of scholars interest it has been clear that theatre occupied a very special place in the life of the Javanese (Rassers 1969: 95). To Rassers, the origin of the wayang has to be looked into from the point of what from of society the play is genetically connected (with) and the part it played in it. It would take too much space to recapitulate all the points raised by Rassers, so we would just 183

select those which are pertinent to our discussion here. Hazeus thesis, as we have seen, is based on the view that the shadow-play is in essence the projection of the flat puppets on the screen and the audience sees the shadow performing on the other side of the screen. Hence the meaning lies in the performance of the shadows of the puppets. Rassers, on the contrary, is of the opinion that the performance is meant to be seen from the puppet side of the screen. To Rassers, the important point is not the shadow but the screen itself and the fact that the puppets are placed on both sides of the dalang against the screen, that is to say on the left and right side. The screen is supposed to shut out those not belonging to the purpose of the performance. The division of the puppets to the right and left of the dalang is supposed to represent the two phratries of the ancient Indoriesian society with the screen representing the tribe. Thus the form of society to which the shadow-play is connected, according to Rassers, is a society which has passed the stage of real totemism, but whose peculiar institution can only be understood from the point of view of totemism. In such a society we have the institution of mens house where women are excluded as it is meant to be a meeting place of adult males and at times for the holding of initiation rites for the would-be adults. The wayang performance then has its origin in this form of society. The screen thus acts as a wall of the mens house keeping the women out while the wayang performance with its division of left and right puppets representing the dichotomy of the group in the mens house which in turn represents the structure of the society at the time. The kinship system in such a society is that of double unilateral. It is interesting to note that in reconstructing this ancient Indonesian social structure, Rassers, for purpose of comparison, draws extensively from the literature on Australian aboriginal tribes. In constructing his theory he is very much influenced by th sociological school of Durkheim. So far we have dealt with Rassers theory on the meaning andorigin of the technique of the wayang. Rassers shows a unity of interpretation when he deals with theIakon of the wayang. Unlike Hazeu, Rassers does not reject Indian influence, but to him even if the shadow-play was imported from India, it had been accepted and assimilated into the Javanese culture because it fitted into the general scheme of the society. Thus, it might be an importation, but it is in the wayang that the primeval and genuinely religious feelings of the Javanese people are expressed completely adequately (Rassers 1959: 1%). Not only in the performance but in


the story-content or the lakon too that the wayang phenomenon should be traced back to the ancient Indonesian society of the preHindu period, and both the performance and the lakon show unity of origin and meaning. As he puts it, whether, in studying the shadow theatre, one starts from the text of the lakons or from the technical directions for the performance, the results are the same (Rassers 1969: 161). The lakons or stories enacted in the wayang, as said before, are stories mainly drawn from Hindu myths, the Mahabharata especially. But Rassers makes the assumption that in spite of this borrowing, the lakons are entirely Javanese. In fact, Rassers goes even further: to him all the lakons can be reduced to one single myth and a single theme (Rassers 1959: 6 and 112). And this core theme is a totemistic tribe myth, sort of cosmogony in which the main incidents of the earthly existence of the two divine ancestors of the phratries are related: how they are born and grow up, have to endure the pain of initiation, and finally, after much suffering and vicissitudes marry, and found the great community which is the tribe (Rassers 1959: 112). In essence, the wayang, not only its technical aspects but its story-content as well, is ~n embodiment of myth and ritual, for the tribal myth, according to Rassers, is based on the initiation rite in which the plight of the two original ancestors of the tribe is portrayed (Rassers 1959: 601). And moreover, the whole complex of drama-myth-ritual has its root in the structure of the society that once existed. We have to bear in mind that both Hazeu and Rassers discussed the drama in the context of Javanese culture. Their approach to the question is more inclined towards gethng at the origin and meaning of the drama. Although their theoretical bases and conclusions have been criticised by later scholars, they nevertheless have shown one important fact, and that is the Javanese drama is more than just mere entertainment. We have quoted Geerts above to testify to the fact that even at present ritual efficacy of the shadowplay is still to be observed. Now we can examine the form of relationship the drama has to myth and ritual in the Javanese society. The first thing we observe is that the performance of the wayang is given as something apart from the rituals held on the occasions connected with the life of a person or calendrical communal festivals. That is to say, besides any ritual that might take place in connection with an occasion, the wayang is still performed. We have noted that the lakons are actually mythical stones. J. Kats in dealing with the Javanese theatre has shown that the subject of the lakon chosen has some connection with the particular nature of the 185

ceremony (Rassers 1959: 7). This is an important observation: Hazeu and the others have noticed the same. Thus according to Geertz, when a weddinq ceremony which has its own ritual is held, lakons pertaining to the marriage of the Mahabharata heroes Angkawidjaja, Bima, or Ardjuna are performed. And for the birth, the lakon of the birth of Gatutkatja is performed (Geertz 1960: 268). Let us consider the ritual of marriage and how the wayang is related to it. Marriage being one of the critical points of life is often attended by rituals to ensure its success. The Javanese are no exception, in fact they have a very elaborate ceremony. On the wedding-eve there is a ritual called the-buying of kembang mayang (blossoming flowers). The mother of the bride buys four kembang mayang from the person who makes them. The ritual is just a dramatisation of getting at any cost the kembang mayang which is supposed to symbolise virginity. On the wedding day itself, the contract of marriage is observed both according to the state law (signing the marriage register etc.) and to the Islam requirements. But there is more to this than just that; there are certain rituals which have to be observed which have no connection with the state or Islamic law governing marriage. We shall see that these rituals are actually symbolic actions to ensure that the ideals of marriage will be achieved. The whole ceremony is conducted under the supeivision of a dukun manten or ceremonial specialist as Geertz calls him. And old sarong belonging to the girl is laid out in front of the brides house where the ceremony is being held. On the sarong a brass bowl containing flower water and a chicken egg are placed while a yoke (for a pair of oxen) is placed under. At the chosen moment the bride comes out of the house followed by two virgin girls bearing the kembang mayang. The groom then approaches from another direction attended by two virgin boys bearing his kembang mayang symbol of his virginity. As the bride and the groom approach one another, they throw at each other a small package of betel-nut, the theory being that whoever hits the other first will be the dominant partner in the wedlock. Needless to say, the girl often misses her target. When they come face to face on the sarong (symbolising the brides nakedness before the groom), the girl usually performs the traditional gesture of obeisance, sembah, indicating her acceptance of her husbands superior position in their household. Then the attendants exchange the kembang mayang, signifying the relinquishing of virginity to each other. The b~dethen breaks the egg on the grooms foot and wash


es it afteiwards with the flower water. The white of the egg symbolises her purity whereas the yolk signifies the breaking of the hymen. The washing of the grooms foot signifies utter subservience to the husband. Further symbolic acts continue with both the groom and the bride standing on th~ yoke. This is supposed to symbolise their inseparability. The brides mother then steps forward and encircles the bride and groom with her scarf as if she were craddling both of them. This symbolises that she has adopted the groom as her own child. The last part of the ritual is for the groom and the bride to sit together immobile while the dukun manten chants a spell which invokes Allah and Prophet Muhammad and the two beautiful wives of Ardjuna (see C. Geertz 1960: 5560). The purpose of describing the marriage ritual here is to show the significance of the acts in the rite and the fact that the marriage contract is accompanied by its own ritual. We have seen that every act in the ritual is supposed to symbolise something closely connected with the success of the marriage. Thus underlying the various acts, there are the ideas of virginity, harmony, mans position in the household, and the acceptance of the wifes family. Would such ritual be regarded as ceremonial and symbolic only? We have seen that the motive is for the success of the marriage, which is a local need. And the symbolic acts are a kind of immitative magic. With the dukun manten officiating the ritual with great care, and with a magical invocation or chant recited, the ritual seems to take a form of magical rite. However, we can also observe a close connection with myth. At some parts of the ceremony allusions are made to the gods in the myth. The groom and the bride are dressed as prince and princess, and also by sitting immobile, they are as the ancient kings sat as rigid as a bronze Buddha doing the,ir inauguration or whenever their country was in serious danger, and as the great shadowj~layherores practised long tapa (ascetism) feats before engaging in either love or war the newly married couple display that trance-like immobility that signifies spiritual power (C. Geertz 1960: 59). Over the ritual, we also have the performance of wayang with the lakon relating the story of the marriage of one of the mythic heroes of Mahabharata. It we look at one of these lakon as given by Geertz, the Marriage of Angkawidjaja, we shall notice that the marriage of Angkawidjaja, the son of Kreshn.a, is achieved when the forces of the Kuravas have been overcome. The rituals and the lakon therefore suggest that there is an attempt to emulate the gods of the 187

myth. In this respect, the ritual is also religious in significance at the same time. Hence, looking over the marriage ceremony, we may observe the following forms of relationship between ritual, myth, and drama: firstly, the wedding ritual consists of symbolic actions, only some of which have allusions to the myth about the marriage of mythic heroes; secondly, the drama, which is the enactment of the story in the myth seems to stand apart from the ritual. But the whole complex of myth-ritual-drama seems to have a unity of purpose: to ensure the seccess of marriage. We may also note that the ritual also reflects the social organisation of the practitioners, but not in Rassers sense, which is a historical interpretation, that is going back to the structure of the society which once existed. The act of symbolising utter submission of the new bride to her husband reflects the present situation. Not only does it refer to the nuclear family structure of man being the head of the family but also to the whole social structure of bilateral kinship with patriarchal emphasis. The act of the brides mother in encircling the bride and the groom with her scarf seems to reflect matrilocality in marriage. On the other hand we do not notice anything that suggests the primacy of ritual over myth or vice verse. But we do find that underlying both the acts of ritual and the enactment of myth in the wayang is the belief that they will magically ensure the success of marriage. We may now turn to calendrical rites. The most important occasion is obviously connected with rice cultivation, one of the basic elements of Indonessian culture. The rituals connected with the planting and harvesting of rice are varied according to the different regions of Nusantara, but the belief in rice-spirit is universal. In an interesting article in Asian Folklore (Vol. XXIIINo 1) on tales about the origin of grains in Japan, Ryuku, and the Indonesian area, Toichi Mabuchi categorises these tales into three types. Type I has tales relating the origin of rice as coming from heaven or from lands abroad; Type II consists of tales about rice originating from the underworld; and Type III comprises tales about the first rice springing from a corpse. Mabuchi observes that Type III seems to be predominant in Indonesia. In those areas where Hindu-Java nese culture at one time held away. Type III seems to centre around the myth of Dewi Seri, in which the Hindu gods also feature. Where the Hindu-Javanese culture once flourished, leaving various degrees of its influence the Hindu mythology might have tended to fertilise the indigenous tales of Type III while transforming them to a large extent (Mabuchi 1964:86). Thus the Ja188

vanese myth of Dewi Sen has more Hindu elements than the variants in other parts of Indonesia. The name Dewi Sen therefore is known by other names such as Bok Seri, Dewi Pohachi, Tianawati or its Muslim rendering of Ratna Dumilah (see Rassers 1959: 919), Van der Kroef 1954 (1), de Jong (1965). It is interesting to note that in the Malay Peninsula where Islam is so deeply rooted, the tale of Type III is somewhat different; here we get the introduction of Adam and Hawa (Eve) which is clearly a Muslim accretion. Let us examine the two well-known variants of Dewi Seri myth. The god Guru is offered an egg, out of which a girl emerges. The girl is suckled and brought up by Gurus consort. She grows up to be a most beautiful woman and Guru desires her. But Gurus wife had suckled her, so Guru is her father socially though not biologically. To avoid an incestuous union between Guru and her, one of the other gods puts her to death. She is buried, after a time rice comes forth from her eyes, coconut from her head, and bamboo from her feet. The other variant is somewhat similar: Betara Guru is given a jewel called Ratna Dumilah. He breaks it open and a girl Tisnawati is born. The girl dies in similar circumstances as the first myth and is buried. After a time the king of the country in which she is buried observes a wonderful light shining forth from her grave. Coming closer he sees that out of her head has grown coconut palm, and from her body sugar palm and rice plant. Obviously it is a myth of origin. Various lakons tell the story with more complicated plots in which Dewi Sen undergoes various transformations. Thus lakons like Sri Sedana or Mengkukuhan are performed at rice cultivation ceremonies or ceremonies connected with the village. Rassers has found that the lakons connected with Dewi Sen show that the myth is rooted in the ancient social structure as in the case with the other myths and lakons (Rassers 1959: 929). According to Ressers just before the harvest rituals are held with incantations (mentera) to make Bok Seri and Jaka Sedana (her brother/husband) descend from heaven. Shadow-play performing the lakon of Sri Sedana may also be given for this occasion (Rassers 1959: 10). When the harvest is over a similar ceremony is held, but this time for the purpose of cleansing the village (Bersih Desa) of evil spirits and at the same time, according to Geertz, concerned with sanctifying relationships in space, with defining and celebrating one of the basic territorial units of the 189

Javanese social structure the village~. (Geertz 1960:161). In this ritual, as described by Geentz, the cultural hero who is the founder of the village is commemorated. Josselin de Jong, in discussing the agricultural rites in Southeast Asia, believes that in the rice-planting ceremony of the peninsular Malays, Ratna Dumilah is invoked in the incantation accompanying the ritual. But because of strong Islamic influence, he thinks that the myth of Dewi Sen has long been forgotten, but traces of it are left in the incantation (de Jong 1965). It is clear that there seems to be a connection of some kind between the myths and the ritual here: but the form of relitionship seems to be the ritual is derived from the myth rather than the other way round. We have seen that the rituals vary from place to place and the myth has many variants. Only in one thing the ritual and the myth coincide, and that is the reference to Dewi Sen from whose corpse the rice originated. Thus it is more plausible that the ritual was drawn from the myth, as a belief rather than as a narrative, that is the belief in Dewi Sen (or in her other names) as the origin, spirit or goddess of rice. In this connection, it is interesting to note what Toichi Mabuchi has quoted from Ad. E. Jensen. According to Jensen, the origin of death and that of food plants are inseparably connected with each other. In this kind of world-view, by repeating ritually such a primordial act, the fertility of both plant and human being is to be secured (Mabuchi 1964). We may also note that the performance of wayang seems to apply only to the Javanese situation. We find that the significance is similar to that at the wedding ceremony. The wayang, which performs the lakor~s connected with the agricultural myth, is performed apart from the actual ritual. But the motive of the ritual and the wayang performance is the same, and that is to ensure the success of rice and the well-being of the village. The political myths connected with the coronation rituals of kings in Indonesian culture offer some interesting points in the interrelationship of myth, ritual, and drama. Following different historical experiences which also coincide with our divison into three characteristics of culture in Nusantara, the political system in the area can be said to comprise the tribal or village-community type which still prevail among the peoples of the interior, the state (and even empire in the past) modelled on Hindu concepts, as in the case of the states in Java and Bali formerly, and the state ba5ed on the same concepts but superimposed with Muslim elements as in the case of the Malay Sultanates in the Malay Penin


sula and Sumatra (see Kennedy 1942: 11). The first type of organisation can be seen among groups which are almost independent of one another and the political structure can be charactenised as democratic. Ownership is often communal, there are no classes based on wealth, kinship is slightly further than the extended family and the tribal chief or leader is usually chosen by a council of elders. In short the political structure has not come to the sophisticated stage found in the second and third types. In the complex political structure of these two types we get the institution of kingship, the ruling and the ruled and an advanced economic system. It is in the institution of kingship that we are going to discuss the question of the interrelationship of rnfyth, ritual and drama. The pretinent point is, as put by Heine-Geldem, what religious and philosophical conceptions underlay and shaped these states? (Heine-Geldern 1942). It seems that the primary notion goes back to as early as 5th Century B.C. and by the 3rd century B.C. it was already established in Babylonia. This notion entered Southeast Asia through India and China, although in the case of Nusantara it was probably more from India than China. It was from the religions of India Hinduism and Budhism that this notion came to be the basis of the institution of kings in Indonesia. This is the notion of the state being an image of the universe or cosmos and the king as gods image on earth. In the political structure of an Indonesian state, this notion becomes religious as well as political, religious in the sense that it sanctifies that divine position of the king and political in that it seives as a kind of social control. This notion centres around Mount Meru, the abode of gods, which is the centre of the cosmos. Cities and palaces are constructed according to the model of the cosmos with Mount Meru in the centre as to be seen in the famous architecture of Borobudur (Eliade 1959: 15). It is not surprising that local mountains and hills are said to be Mount Menu in various myths in Indonesia. For ritual purposes, a hillock, a palace, or a manufactured structure resembling a mountain symbolise Mount Menu (Winstedt 1947). The person of. the king is supposed to be a god incarnate or as a later development as descendants of gods. Thus the title of the Javanese kings, Paku Buwono or Nail of the World, reveals the underlying concept of kings being at the axis of the universe (Heine-Geldern 1942). As for the Malayan and Sumatran rulers, although they bear the Persian Muslim title of Shah, they have not in theory lost their chanis


matic power inherited from the pre-Muslim past. Based on this fundamental notion, the various ruling houses in Nusantara had woven for themselves myths sanctifying their position as rulers of their people. The Javanese court histories like Nagarakartagama, Pararaton, and even Babad Tanah Jawi, are not only genealogies of the ruling kings but include accounts traced back to the heavenly ancestors of the kings. Some of them are supposed to be the incarnation of gods. Thus King Erlangga (11th century A.D.) is said to be the incarnation of Vishnu; Kartadjaja of Kedini (13th century AD) has on one occasion, it is said, appeared as Siva; and King Anggrok as an incarnation of Vishnu, son of Siva. (Heine-Gelder~1942). Hence it is not unusual for usurpers to claim divinity by creating for themselves genealogies and myths which validate their claim to the throne of the state, (see Johns 1964). The Malay Sultanates of the Peninsula as well as Sumatra also have the same type of myths although some Islamic elements have been added. The Mount Menu of the Malay myths is Mount Siguntang in Palembang, Sumatra, where the first ancestor of the Malay rulers first appeared. But this ancestor with a Hindu name, whose appearance on Bukit Siguntang Mahameru had caused the rice plants to turn into gold and silver, had descended not only from a mythical Indian king but also from Iskandar Zulkarnain (the Muslim name of Alexander the Great) and Nushinwan the Just of Persia (see Winstedt 1947). The Malay sultanates had women genealogies tracing their origin to this myth to sanctify their kingship. In doing this they had grafted Islam elements to the myth. in the Javanese context, the lakons of the wayang, as we have mentioned before, are stories of gods taken mostly from Mahabharato. But we must bear in mind that in them the gods act like mortals: they fall in love, they battle, and they may be divided into good and evil forces. In fact, life on earth is reflected on a higher plane, It is because of this that Geertz, in discussing the interpretation of wayang among the present-day Javanese aristocratic dass (prijtii) sees the wayang portraying the psychological rather than the socio-political patterns of man and his life (see Geertz 1960: Chapter 18). Interesting though this point is. it should not detain us here. The lakons and the political myths have many things in common: they deal with characters who are gods and mortals at the same time, so to speak, for they tell stories of battles, emotional conflicts, marriages and other things men do. It is not surpni192

sing that the performance of the wayang among the Javanese court circle is looked upon as the pnotrayal of themselves and their ancestors on another plane, while to their subjects it helps to reinforce their belief in the divinity and charismatic power of the rulers. It is in this sense that leads Geertz to say, the Javanese aristocracy had, until the Dutch come, but t.vo ways to hold the peasants in order to exact from them rice and manpower they needed to support their own specialisation: simple military ten-or and religious enthusiasm. They used both. The same holds true for the rituals connected with the coronation of new kings. The new ruler is not only to be shown a secular leader of his people but also as god incarnate; he is not only taking charge of the state but also the universe in miniature. The ritual acts and objects used in the ceremony are supposed to be the replica of those in heaven as described in the myth. Thus the coronation of the Malay rulers has a nine or seven tiered dais for lustration rituals. While the ruler and this consort sit on the topmost tier, the palace officials conduct the ritual by circummbulating it. This is supposed to imitate the cosmic order. The regalia used in the ceremony the sword, the seal, the amulets, and the necklace are objects claimed to have been derived from the first ancestor who descended on Bukit Siguntang Mahamenu. The ruler, after his coronation ceremony is oven, also circumambulates his palace on even a hillock in the palace grounds. Incantations are read at the ceremony. Besides the Islamic ones, a chin which is supposed to be in Sansknit and which is a fonmulaic incantation extolling the greatness of the king is chanted by the state shaman (see Winstedt 1947 and Sheehan 1936). It is clear that the coronation rituals consist of symbolic actions and symbolic objects which are connected with the notion of divine kingship, and the same notion underlies the political myths, and also the pertinent lakons in the context of Javanese culture. What Heine-Geldenn says as the religious and philosophical conceptions of the state is the source from which the political myths and the coronation ritual have drawn their symbolic elements. The question of which gives rise to what seems so insignificant here when we realise that the complex of myth-ritual-drama is not only a manifestion of a religious belief, but at the sarrce time also fulfils the political and social needs of the society. In dealing with the Indonesian material, we have taken examples from a rite-of-passage, a calendiical, and a coronation rite which we may call a rite of intensification. In all instances, we have


observed that the rites are in one way or another related to the myths and drama. In so far as the relationship to drama is concerned, we have noted right at the begining that it is present where the Hindu-Javanese culture is not much affected by the advent of Islam. The myths which we have shown to be related to rituals or drama contain to a high degree elements of Hindu mythology, but as they appear in the Indonesian context, they must have undergone some process of acculturation. Rassers, we have seen, has not denied the fact that the myths are of foreign derivation, but he
is inclined to regard them as having been fully adapted to the preexisting patterns of Indonesian culture: hence his thesis that the

myths, in spite of their foreign trappings, ritual, and drama can be traced to their origin in the totemistic social structure that once existed. To him myths, rituals and drama do not only reflect the said social structure, but are supposed to be descriptive of the initiation rites involving the primeval ancestors of the tribe. Rassers thinking has been influenced by Emille Durkheim, but he in turn
has influenced a whole generation of Dutch scholars (H. Geertz 1965). From the view-point of this School, underlying every cultural aspect in Indonesia is a concept of antithesis: the upper-world

against the underworld, black against white, sky against earth and so on. (see Van der Kroef 1954 (2)). In Rassers argument about the origin and meaning of the Javanese theatre (which also touches on myth and ritual), the idea of the dichotomy of cultural aspects leads to the proposition that the primeval society was a tribe divided into two phrathes or moeties which in turn are divided into dans with double unilateral kinship system. To review this point of view will be out of the scope of this paper, but in so far as his theory regarding the myth, ritual and drama is concerned, it should not go without comment Rassers in going back to the primeval Indonesian society has used comparative data from Australian totemistic tribes; his arguments would have been better substantiated if he had used more of the data from those areas in Indonesia which have not been exposed to Hindu cultural influence. It is true that later Dutch scholars have demonstrated the existence of the basic concept of antithesis in the Indonesian culture, but in most cases they are the result of preconceived theories for later anthropologists have failed to notice the same phenomenon (H. Geerlz 1965). Thus Rassers theory does not seem to be quite as tenable now. Neither have we noticed any evidence of myth describing ritual or myth arising fromdrama. In fact we find that the interrelation194

ship of myth, ritual, and drama seems to be one of prallel relationship, each being a system of symbols which are drawn from the same source and are comlementary to each other in trying to achieve the same motive. And that same source seems to be the religion described as Hindu-Javanese for lack of a better word; and much of the religious belief is embodied in the sacred literature modelled on the Hindu mythological works, the most important of which is Mahabharata. If Rassers has given the role of Hindu derivations as being adapted to the pre-existing conditions in
Javanese society, he cannot be far wrong, for as Kluckhohn has stated, any changes would be based on the pre-existing cultural

matrix (Kluckhohn 1962: 138). At the same time the role of Hindu importations in defining subsequent cultural changes cannot be ignored. The organisation of the state is a very clear example of this: the notion of divine kingship has been used to meet political and social needs most effectively. In fact, the rise of dynastic myths as we have shown is a product of this phenomenon. I~ihis study of two much myths, the Pararaton and Babad Tanah Jawa, A.H.Johns has showns that these two myths indicate something of the nature and change within the Javanese society, and illustrate the eclectic genius of the Javanese (Johns 1964). Hence it should be reiterated that the kind of interrelationship of myth, ritual, and drama in the Indonesian culture is a relationship stemming from a religious belief in which the Hindu elements have helped to shape.

Bascom, William 1957: The Myth Ritual Theon,i. Journal of American Folklore Vol 70. Eliade, Mircea 1960: Cosmos and History The Myths of Eternal Return. Harper, N.Y. Gaster, Theodor H. 1960: Thespis: Ritual, Myth and Drama in the Ancient
Near East, N.Y.

Geertz, Clifford 1960. The Religion of Java, Glencoe. Ill. Geertz. Hilda 1965. Comment (on Joselin de Jongs article in the same volume) Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 24 No. 2. Herskovits, Melville and Frances Herskovits 1958. Dahomean Narratives, Northwestern Univ. Press. Heine-Geldern. Robert 1942. Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia, Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 2 no. 1. Hyman, Stanley Edgar 1857-1958. Reply to Bascom, Journal of American Folk. lore. Vol. 70.


The Ritual Viewof Myth and the Mythic in Myth: A Symposium. Thomas A. Sebeok (ed). Bloomington. l)e doug. P.E. [)e Joselim 1965. An Interpretation ofAgricultural Rites in Southeast Asia Journal of Asian Studies. Vol. 24 no. 2. Kennedy. Raymond 1942, Countours of Culture in Indonesia. Far Eastern Quarterly. Vol. 2 no. 1. Kluckhohn, Clyde 1962. Myth and Ritual in Reader in Comparative Religion. WA. Lessa and E.Z. Vogt (ed). New York. Drekmeier, Charles 1962. Kingship and Community in Early India, Stanford. Calif. do Bary. \k/ni. lhendore ed.) 1960. Structural Orgenisation and Myth in Javanese Historiography Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 24 No. 1. Mahuchi. Totehi 1964. Tales Concerning the Origin of Grains. Journal of Asian Folklore, Vol. 23 no. 1 Tyra Van Kleen 1947. Wayang: The Javanese Theatre, Stockholm. (2nd edt.). Vander Kroef, Justus M. 1954 (1). Rice Legends of Indonesia Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 67. 1954 (2) l)ualism and Symbolic Antithesis in Indonesian Society. American Anthropologist. No. 56. Rassers, W.H. 1959. Panji, The Culture Hero: A Structural Study of Religion in Java, The Hague. Winstedt, Sir Richard 0, 1947. Kingship and Enthronement in Malaya. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. 20. Koentjaraningrat 1958. Methode Anthropologi. Djakarta. Sheehan, J.J. 1936. Installation of the Ruler of Negeri Sembilan, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 14. Raglan, Lord 1956. The Hero. Vintage Book.


Music as a cultural expression has often been neglected by the student of culture. Partly this is due to the fact that notation of music needs special knowledge and skill, more so than that required to note the peculiarities of languages. But the understanding of a culture is incomplete without considering the musical expression of that culture, for, as Melville Jacobs puts it, music is as universal a form of expression as humour and language itself, and resembles them in its elaborateness of structuring and variety of ideas and feelings which were symbolized in the special kinds of units used. The study of non-Western music, whether it is the musk of non-literate societies or that of the folk segment of civilised non-Western societies, has seen many collections and notations describing the various instruments used, style of espression, scale and melody, tonal organization and rhythms. These musical characteristics are then related to their uses, either to accompany dances or theatrical play. The collection and notation are an important first step in any serious study of the musical repertoire of a society or a sub-culture. However, an equally
important approach is to set the music against its socio-cultural environment. Basically such an approach tries to answer the question, What does music mean to the life of the people under

study? In other words, we set out to find the place of music in the culture of a people. Studies in ethnomusicology among the non197

literate peoples and those of folk songs and folk music of the civilised nations have shown that as a cultutal expression, music has many roles and meanings in the life of the people. Music is a universal phenomenon; it exists in all cultures, literate and non-literate. It is not merely an artistic creation, nOr for leisure and entertainment only. Music is, in fact, enmeshed into other aspects of society and culture, in the belief system, in the social structure and even in economic activities. Like language, music is a means of social communication and it plays an important role in the social interaction between individuals in a society. And similar to other cultural expressions like literature, sculpture and graphic art, music is a rich source from which a student of culture can draw a wealth of information on social values, aspirations and orientations in a particular culture. This paper makes no claim to any expertise on traditional Malay music from its technical point of view. What it sets out to do is to discuss The roles and meanings of the different types of traditional Malay music in their socio-cultural context. Sources on Malay music are scarce, and no serious study has been made so far on the subject. As a cultural phenomenon. the development of Malay music coincides more or less with that of Malay society as a whole. Continuity and change in the culture as a whole is also reflected in the music. Modern.Malay music usually heard over the radio or television is not only Western influenced, such as the currently popular pop music, but is also rich in its variety, drawing it inspiration from Latin Amencan, Hawaiian, Middle-Eastern and Hindustani tunes. It is necessaly for the purpose of discussion in this paperto identify whatis traditional and what is modern. No hard and fast line of demarcation is possible, but we can use certain criteria in distinguishing the two. Tradisional Malay music predates direct cultural contact with Western culture which was brought about by British dominance over the Malay States beginning from the second half of the last century. The traditional musical ensemble does not include any of the Western instruments like the violin, guitar, trumpet etc. The instruments are either those that are commonly found in Southeast Asian cultures such as the gamelan type instruments, various types of gongs, drums and flutes, or those that have affinities with the instruments found in the Islamic cultures such as the rebab, the mandolin, the rebana and the nafin. The traditional orchestration may consist of just one type of instrument, usually the drums or rebana, or a number ot instruments in which the drums, the percussion or the stringed instruments usually predominate. Traditional Malay music is sel198

dom cultivated in the sense that modern Western music is; it is usually transmitted from the teacher to the student in an informal manner. From what I have gathered so far, no elaborate form of notation is known. Although tunes and songs are known by name, they are actually memorised rather than committed to writing. A pupil learns to play an instrument by ear. Younger members of an orchestra listen and practise with the older members, and except for intricate and complex instruments which require some dexterity and skill, no apprenticeship is necessary. Traditional Malay music properly belongs to the oral rather than the written tradition of the culture. The traditional Malay society as it was constituted before the advent of British administration was feudalistic in character. The social structure could easily be divided into two broad strata, the ruling class consisting of the nobility and the common people or the rakyat who were the ruled. As commonly found in other traditional societies in Southeast Asia in the past, the social differentiation was maintained physically by power held by the ruling class and ideology by mythic beliefs which held the nobility as having semi-divine rights and powers. Such beliefs were reflected in the literature of the period, whether in the written traditions of the royal courts or in the oral traditions of the folk. The charisma of the ruling house was shrouded in the mythologies projecting the semidivine character of kings and princes. Music played an important part in upholding the social structure of the time. The royal music of the Malay Sultanates known as nobat will be dealt with later, but now let us discuss how, in the world-view of the traditional society, music and political ideology coincided. Musical instruments formed part of the royal regalia, the ownership of which sanctioned the position of the possessor as the ruler of the land. The Malay Sultanates of today still retain such regalia which are put on display and carried in procession during state ceremonies. Like the other objects of the regalia, the musical instruments are believed to have supernatural powers. ~Anaura of sacredness surrounds these musical instruments. The royal regalia of the state of Selangor, for example, comprises among others one big drum, two small drums (gendang), two kettle-drums (len~kara), a long trumpet (nafiri) and a flute (serur&ai). Walter William Skeat who served in the State at the turn of this century tells of many interesting incidents which are supposed to vouch for the sacred qualities of these instruments. An interesting belief recorded by Skeat clainis that an omen in the form of drops of perspiration would be seen on the trumpet when a senior member of the Royal House was 199

He might. have been a romantic, but it should be noted that even today such beliefs are as credulously held as during the time of Skeat about seventy years ago. Each Malay Sultanate has its own
types of instruments for the regalia, but the basic instruments seem to be the drum (gendang). the trumpets (nafiri) and the


2 As a Westerner, Skeat did not make light of such beliefs.

gong. The belief that inanimate objects are actually animate or at least possessed of guardian spirit is world-wide. Among the Malays, it is believed that the musical instruments in the royal regalia have their gaurdian spirits. For the more important ones, it is popularly held that they are inhabited by the guardian spirit of the state (Jin Kerajaan). Ceremonies propitiating the guardian spirit are usually held if the welfare the State is to be maintained. We note here that the notation of musical instruments having supernatural powers falls neatly into a scheme in which the traditional social order, defining the relative positions of the ruler and the ruled, was maintained. But even today, the belief still lives on. No performance of Wayang kulit or the shadow-play or any other type of traditional theatre is embarked upon before the instruments and the theatrical props are ritually fumigated in the smoke of burning incense. Such rites may have changed in their details, but the premise of belief underlying the act has not. Skeat has provided us with some eye-witness accounts of such ceremonies which took place at the end of the last century, and these offer us an opportunity to compare them with the ceremonies conducted today in villages where the traditional theatre is still performed. The nobat is a form of traditional Malay music which gives an example of the relationship between music and social structure. The nobat is in essence the sacred music of the royalty. No royal occasion is complete without the nobat. It was during the heyday of the Malacca Sultanate in the fifteenth century that the nobat was probably first institutionalised. According to Sejarah Melayu, which is the chronicle of the fifteenth century Sultanate, it was the first Muslim Malay Sultan of Malacca, Muhammad Shah, who instituted the court ceremonies which have continued ever since by the Malay Sultanates in the region. Although the playing of the gendang, serunoi and nafiri is often mentioned in the description of the various court ceremonies, the reference to the nobat is not very clear. The rules governing the playing of the nobat in the old Sultanate of Johor-Rhio-Lingga, which ruled the southern part of the Malay Peninsula (including Singapore and the Rhio Archipe200

lago until it disintergrated during the last century with the onset of British and Ducth hegemony in the area) are given by Syed AIwi Al-Hady in his book, Malay Customs and Traditions: The description is important because it is one of those rare accounts of traditional Malay music in its original setting. The value is heightened if we bear in mind that the Sultanate of Johor-Rhio-Lingga was the direct inheritor of the old Malacca royal traditions. The respect due to the sound of the nol,at was equal to that due to the Sultan himself. Thus there is the injuction that one must stop everything one is doing upon hearing the music of the nobat as if one was in the presence of the monarch himself. The nobat was played for only four persons, the reigning sultan, his heir, the Bendahara and the Temenggong, the last two being the highest officials of the state. Even then there was a hierarchical order in the tunes and the number of bars to be played for each of the four. The nobat forms part of the royal regalia, and it is one of those insignia signifying the right to be a ruler. In the olden days, the nobat was struck at regular times of the day, and on state occassions, but today, it is only performed at ceremonies involving royal personages. For those who are interested in the technical aspect of the nobat orchestration. I reproduce below the description by Syed AKvi: When the Nobat is due to start playing, the Penghulu Gendang (chief gendang-beater), called Leila Sengguna, summons the band. He sounds a token beating on the gendang and then stops a while. When it is time to start, all the players come forward and line up, standing in their proper places. The chief of the Nobat, called Leila Perkasa, whose duty is to blow the highly honourd nafin, stands in the front by himself. Immediately behind him in line stand the two nengkara (royal kettle-drum) players. In the Third line, behind the nengkara, stand the beaters of one big gendang (dig drum) and two gendang-gendang peningkah (smaller common drums) with Leila Sengguna as their leader. In the fourth line stand the two blowers of the two types of pipes, called respectively seri.jnai and bangsi. In the fifth and last line stand the rest of the band, that isO, the beaters of the kopak (a sort of tambourine) and cherachap (a percussion instrument comprising two pieces of bamboo). When members of the Nobat have taken their positions and are ready, the Leila Perkasa (leader of the Nobat) then blows the nafiri three times. This is immediately followed by the drumming of the nengkara, also three times. 201

Then comes the beating of all the gendang, and following this the nengkara makes the second drumming sound (guruh). Only then does the Nobat commence to play the required tune. The maximum period the Nobat may play is the time it takes the nafiri to complete its thirty-two blasts. Then the performance is terminated by sounding the war beats on the gendang.4 There are many tunes, known by their specific names, played by the nobat orchestra but to an untrained ear, the tunes would appear to be all the same. The special place occupied by the nobat in the context of Malay traditional culture is further highlighted by the beliefs held about it. In the past, not everyone could touch, let alone play, the nobat, as it was believed that the instruments had magical powers or were inhabited by guardian spirits. In most Malay Sultanates, the nobat players were specially picked for the task with the offices often hereditary. In Perak, the people who played the royal nobat were known as Orang Kalau and a special tax was levied to support them. The nobat is a heritage from the times when the social structure of the Malay society was rigidly feudal. In the past it formed part of the cultural paraphernalia which helped to maintain the social order of the day. In spite of the changes that have overtaken the Malays today, the nobat remains a heritage which features prominently in the court ceremonies of the Malay Sultans. In keeping with the general characteristies of the transformation of the Malay States into a modern nation of Malaysia, many age-old traditions of the Malay courts have been retained in the present court of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and this includes the nobat. But the nobat is not the only example to the continuation of traditional music in the life of the present-day Malays. In those areas of Malay life where modern innovation have not~ left a deep imprint, some forms of the traditional music still perform the functions which have perished through the ages. One such example belongs to the realm of traditional Malay medicine. It is difficult to say to what extent modern medicine is accepted by the Malay folk; it can safely be said that it is not totally rejected. The traditional medicine as prescribed by the village specialists, known variously as pawang, bomoh or dukun, is still the mainstay of medical treatment in the Malay villages. Even among the urban dwellers, the pawang or bomoh is still consulted whenever modern medicine does not seem to be immediately effective. This is especially true of cases of mental illnesses. 202

However, it is interesting to note that the place of music in traditional Malay medicine is mainly to be seen in the curing of sickness through shamanic practices. It is this aspect of Malay medicine which has its origins in the remote history of the Malay peopto the shamanic practices of the Malay pawang or les.5 Central bomoh is the holding of a seance, during which the shaman invokes the help of the spirits to cure the sick person. Both William Skeat and Sir Frank Swettenham have left us vivid accounts of the seances held some decades ago. Skeat tells us of the invocation of the tiger spirit in which the pawangs wife acted as the musician. To her own accompaniment (with a tambourine), she chanted the lagu pemanggil (summoning song invocation) the text of which is given in full by Skeat. Skeat also quotes in full the account of a similar ritual recorded by Sir Frank Swettenham in his Malay Sketches.7 What is significant in the account given by Swettenham is thefact that the seance was not an ordinary one: it was for a sick monarch and the spirits to be invoked were guardians of the ruler and of the state. As Swettenham puts it: Only the Sultan of the State is entitled to traffic with these distinguished spirits; when summoned they decline to move unless appealed to with their own peculiar music, sung by at least four singers, and led by a Beduan (singer) of the royal family. The Jin ka-raja-an (Gurdian Spirit of the stateauthor) is entitled to have the royal drums by the state drummers if his presence is required, but the other three spirits have to be satisfied with the instruments I have described.8 The hierarchal notion of the society is therefore extended to the spirit world, and the higher the status of the spirit, the bigger and the more elaborate is the orchestration needed to invoke it. The seances which I have witnessed and thosed recorded by my students show that the possession of the pawang or bomoh is still induced by the rhythmic thud of the drum which accompanies the chanting of the invocation. Although the role of music can hardly be said to be elaborate, it can nevertheless be said the music still remains an important aspect of the age-old shamanic practices of the Malay village specialists. A type of traditional Malay music which is widespread is what is variously called the hadrah, marhaban or dzikir. Although known by different names, it is basically the song of praise for the Holy Prophet. It usually consists of verses sung in Arabic but stylized according to the type of music accompanying it. The stlye also differs from one locality to another, and this also explains why


different names are used for this type of music. The basic instrument used for this type of music is the rebana or drum, but again each style of playing has its own type of rebana. Hadrah, marhaban or dzikir may appear to be for entertainment, but reflected by the occasions during which the dzikir is performed and the attitude held towards it. In the southern states of Malaysia and in Singapore, the word kompang is used to refer to the accompaniment of the singing of the verses which often has a leader called the khalifah. The kompang is rather lively for two reasons; compared to the others a kompang group usually consists of a greater number of pla~,iers and the rebana used is of the small type which has brass discs on the side like those found in the tambourine. The hadrah is the name usually used in the northern states of Malaysia, and it is almost as lively as the kompang, but accompanied by acting or dancing by actors dressed as women. The marhaban is usually sung unaccompanied, but its use is often more limited than i~ the case of the hadrah or kompang. In some localities, the term dzikir is used, as in the case of Dzikir Pahang which I happened to record recently in a kampung (village) near Pekan, Pahang. According to my informants, Dzikir Pahang was very popular at one time among the villagers along Pahang River. Now it is almost a dying art and is performed mostly by elderly people, the young ones being no longer interested in it. The peculiarity of Dzikir Pahang compared to hadrah or kompang is that it is not lively but rather dragging in style. The players are seated around on the verandah of the house and the verses are sung with each player taking turns to chant parts of the verses. The special performance I recorded took about only four hours but the actual perfor~nance would begin at about 9.00 p.m. at night and end at dawn. The rebana used for Dziklr Pahang is a bigger version of kompang, but without brass discs on the side. Hadrah, marhaban or dzikir are performed on certain occasions which give it a religions connotation. The verses praising the Holy Prophet are most aptly sung at Maulud-an-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Unto Him). However, in Malay culture, this type of music is not only performed on religious occassions like the Id festivals (I-fart Raya Puasa and Han Raya Haji) but also on occasions which are more social in character. Thus hadrah, kompang or dzikir, feature prominently at weddings and at rites of passage like the circumcision. At a Malay wedding, modern and traditional music are performed side by side. To entertain the guests, especially the young ones, a modern Malay


orchestra playing the latest hit tunes is often hired. But at certain stages of the wedding celebration modern music has to give way to the more traditional one. The bridegroom, for example, is taken in procession to the brides house accompanied by the hadrah or kompang. At least until the bride and groom are safely seated in state on the bridal dais, the sound of hadrah or the kompang rules supreme. Similarly, when the elders congregate on the verandah to chant the marhaban, which is usually unaccompanied by any musical instrument, the modern orchestra is silent. Thus the dichotomy between modern and traditional music at the Malay wedding coincides in the peoples concept and attitude with the division between what is strictly social and what has religious connotations. Aithought modern music is usually associated with the younger generation while the traditional one is with the older generations,it is heartening to find young people making up the hadrah or kompang groups in the Malay villages. At least for the forseeable future, this type of traditional Malay music will continue to find a place in the life of the Malays. In the field of entertainment, traditional music continues to live side by side with modern music. But even then, traditional music has taken on some modern influences. The violin, for example, has been adopted for the ronggeng, joget or dondang sayang, taking its place together with the traditional instruments like the gong and drums. Although traditional music is given expression through the radio or the television, it is clear that in Malay culture today modern music is enjoying greater attention from the Malay public. Traditional music can only survive if there is a patron for it or, as in the case of the ghazal in Johor, there is enough interest in the society to sustain it. In the past, music thrived because it was either patronised by the royal courts or it was a spontaneous affair among the people. Music was closely connected with festivals, which in turn followed the agricultural rhythm in the countryside. But even today, traditional music vies with modern tunes at main-pantoi, an after harvest celebration held annually on the east-coast of the Peninsula. This paper has attempted to outline the place of certain types of traditional Malay music in Malay culture. The account is far from exhaustive; in fact it just manages to scratch the surface. There is in Malaysia a rich variety of forms of traditional indigenous music. The materials are there, but few scholars of music have ventured to exploit them. It is better that the effort should begin now while 205

the traditional music is still vigorous, for it is difficult to say that it would remain the same in a decade or two with the continuing onslaught of modern music in Malay culture.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Patterns of Cultural Anthropology (Homewood, Illinois: The Doresy Press, 1964), 1964), p. 317. Malay Magic (New York: Dover Publications, 1967), P. 41. Syed Alwi Al-Hady, Malay Customs and Traditions Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1962). Ibid. pp. 8283. See R.O Winstedt, The Malays: A Cultural History (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958), pp. 2325. Malay Magic, pp. 439, 643. Swettenharn, Frank. Malay Sketches (London: John Lane, 1943). Quoted by Skeat in his Malay Magic, pp. 446447.


1. Introduction The Malays of Malaysia have experienced a variety of cultural influences in their long history. This fact can be demonstrated in any aspect of their culture includAng music. This paper will attempt to show the different traditions in Malay music, paying particular attention to the relationship between music and its cultural context. The music dealt with here is the traditional music which is to be distinguished from what is referred to as modern music. There is no clear-cut boundary that separates traditional music from its modern counterpart, because each seems to flow into one another. Yet the two can easily be identified. The use of musical instruments, for instance, clearly illustrates this fact: what is usually referred to as traditional music like Dondang Sayang or the joget would include imported instruments like the violin or the accordion., but the tempo and the melody are strikingly Malay. On the other hand, the so-called modern music would also have some traditional elements in it. However, for the purpose of this paper, the focus is on traditional music because it is in this type of music that the cultural traditions stand out clearly. This does not mean to say that modern Malay music has no cultural tradition whatsoever; it has, but it is not so deeply rooted on account of its short history. It is part of the urbanisation phenomenon which began in Peninsular 207

Malaysia in the late nineteenth century and it changes fast because it appeals most to the youth sub-culture. Traditional music has deep roots in the culture of the Malays. As an expression of culture, music does not only reflect culture but stimulates it as well. Music like other creative products of culture expresses the genius of the people, but at the same time it is inherently related to the culture itself. The main thrust of this paper is to demonstrate this relationship, especially the functional relationship because music is part of the everyday life of a people. Today, while modern music takes the front seat position and provides most of the popular entertainment, traditional music provides the cultural anchor. Pop music thrives because the young subscribe to it, but youth is hardly the time to reflect on cultural values and cultural moorings. In a situation where modern pop music only emphasises the impermanence of things in life, the urge to go back to tradition which provides a sense of stability or even security is not only felt by the older generation but also by those thinking young people who realize that life is not all entertainment, for it needs strong cultural foundation in order for it to be stable and meaningful. While traditional music survives today and gives the new musical tradition a sound base, there is always the attempt to revitalise it and bridge it to the needs of urban society and the youth sub-culture. But what is most important is the new role given to traditional music: it is to provide a base upon which a music distinctively Malaysian is to be created as a national identity. II. Traditional Malay Music: The Royal Tradition Traditional Malay music like the overall culture of the Malays is characterised by two features: its tenacity in maintaining its basic identity in spite of changes that take place as a result of cultural contacts arid its receptivity to foreign influences without sacrificing its own basic character. The history of Malay music is difficult to chart, but today after Malay society has experienced a massive socio-cultural change as the result of Western cultural influence the music which must have originated in the remote past of history has survived, both in the folk segment of the society and in the higher cultural circles. If we go by the written texts of the Malay histories (sejarah) from about the 15th century AD., there had already been music in the courts of the Malay royal rulers. The Hikayat Petani, the chronicle of the ancient state of Petani (now part of South Thailand) in the l5th-l7th centuries, has given us a vivid account of the nobat, 208

the court music which is a must on royal occasions like the enthronement of a king, the last rites of a dead king, the assembly of nobles and courtiers before the ruler and so on. Similarly the Sejarah Melayu, the chronicle of the old kingdom of Malacca in the 15th and 16th centuries, also provides us with references to nobat, which has been translated by C. C. Brown as the drum of sovereignty.2 This is form of music is inherited by the present-day Malay sultanates in Malaysia. The basic nobat instruments are the same, although the ensemble differs in size from state to state, or in fact from time to time. During the heyday of the Malay rulers in Patani in the 16th century, there were 32 instruments in use. The basic instruments were nafiri, serunal, two two-headed drums and one big oneheaded drum. In the past, the instruments were made of silver, especially the nafiri and the serunai, while the drums were covered with silver too. The music of the nobat is rather solemn and each royal court has its own repertoire of music. Thus the old court of Patani boasted of 25 tunes, while the present nobat ensembles in the Malay states do not have half as many. In the past, only certain families were qualified to play the nobat, thus preserving its sacred and exclusive aura.3 The cultural tradition of the nobat has to be explained in the context of the structure of traditional Malay society.4 The nobat was one of the cultural paraphanalia which were used to support the legitimacy and authority of the ruling class, thus preserving a social structure based on a division of the population into the ruling class, the nobility, and the rakyat or the ruled. A further division was visible: the nobility also had a hierarchy among themselves, with the royal family at the top, the titled gentry coming second and those accorded honorific titles by the sultan as a reward for good deeds and thus joining the ranks of the nobility. The sacred aura of the nobat is maintained not only by the status accorded to it, but also by the belief that the instruments were of extra-ordinary nature. The sound of the nobat demands the respect of the people equal to that due to the ruler himself. Thus when one hears the sound of the nobat, he must stop whatever he is doing as if he were in the presence of the ruler himself.5 Such was the status of the nobat in the traditional Malay polity. TJ~ienobat instruments may not exactly be called the royal regalia which symbolise the power and authority of the rulers, but are equally looked upon with awe as they are supposed to possess certain sacred qualities, and are believed to be possessed by spirits.6 Today the 209

nobat still features in the royal ceremonies of the Malay royal courts, and even the central government adopts it for the court
ceremonies of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the Paramount Ruler) .~

Apart from the nobat, the less serious form of musIc was also found in the courts of the Malay rulers. Usually the music was for the accompaniment of the court dancers as they danced to entertain the sultan and his courtiers. The court of Kelantan had the famous Tan Asyik, which, if one were to consider the fact that it was mentioned in the Hikayat Petani, must have survived for the past four hundred years. Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard who has taken a great interest in reviving some of the traditional Malay music, tells us of an old lady who was trained to become one of the Asyik dancers in 8 Probably she was the only one left to remember the kind of musical ensemble accompanying the Asyik. According to her, there were a number of one-headed elongated drums called Gedombak Asyik, a kind of xylophone encased in a boat-shaped box called gembang and a rebab, an instrument with two or three strings. All the instruments were played by the women of the courts, except for the rebab which was played by a man. The Asyik however had died out as it had lost royal patronage, but attempts to revive it have been made, but without the original instruments. Instead, a new ensemble which is quite similar to the one used for shadow-play has been substituted for it, complete with a pair of gongs.9 The other type of music known to have been patronised by the Malay royal courts was a kind of gamelan, but reduced in size compared to the Javanese one. During the late nineteenth century, the courts of Riau-Lingga and Pahang were known tq have this ensemble, which comprised two xylophones, one of which is called gembang and the other sarun, three types of gongs and one drum. The gembang has 20 wooden keys arranged close together in a wooden frame, while the sQrOn, which comes in a pair, comprised 6 brass keys in a carved wooden frame. The keromong consists of ten small boss gongs laid on a network of strings in two rows, encased in a wooden stand. The other instrument, the kenong, consists of three deep-rimmed gongs placed upright on three separate tall stands. The last instrument is the Malay gong called tawak-tawak, which is suspended in a pair from a frame. The gamelan provides a soothing music which accompanies the joget, which is danced by girls in the palace specially trained for the prupose. The dance as well as the gamelan would have disappeared if not for a royal Pahang princess who married Sultan Sulaiman
210 the royal court of Kelantan at the turn of this century.

of Trengganu early this century and brought with her the gamelan set as well as the courtly dance joget to Trengganu. Even there the music as well as the dance had been in abeyance for some time until revived in the sixties by Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard. The resurrected gamelan ensemble and the joget with its bevy of dancers dressed up in distinctive costumes reminiscent of bygone days of the traditional Malay court performed for the first time in public during the conference and festival of traditional drama and music of Southeast Asia in Kuala Lumpur in 1969. Ill. The Folk Tradition Apart from the nobat the dichotomy of court and folk traditions in Malay music is not clear-cut. In fact what have survived as folk theatres with their attendant music might have at one time been patronised by the royal court. The cultural traditions of Malay music therefore are better observed through the different types of music extant among the Malay folk today. While there is an observable variety in musical expressions among the Malays, and this fact is reflected in the easily identifiable regional musical traditions such as the Wayang Kulit musical ensemble in Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis, the Ghazal in Johore and the Dondang Sayang in Malacca, there is also a homogeneity to be seen in the musical ensembles within a particular region or even in the whole of the country. This state of affair reflects the civilisation in the Malay Archipelago: while diversity of culture is clearly to be seen, yet within the heterogeneity we can find a thread common to all these cultures. There are many ways by which we can discuss the cultural traditions of Malay music. But the best would be to go by the main traditions as represented by the different types of ensembles, their characteristics and their place in the life of the society. The most widespread form of music is the one using single-headed drums called the rebana or variations of it called by other names. Basically a rebana is a drum with the face made of cattle or goat skin over a circular rim, which is usually made out of piece of wood. The rim or the body vanes in size as well as depth. From a small and shallow one which can easily be held in ones hand to a big and deep one which is usually placed on the lap. There are many different ways of tuning a rebana but the most common is to insert a rattan coil between the skin and the body, a process usually known as sedak The other common way is to have a rattan ring extending just beyond the bottom of the body, and the tuning is


done by inserting a peg into the space between the ring and the bottom of the body, thus tightening the rattan pieces which connect the face of the drum to the ring. As stated, there are many different types of rebana, and each locality would have its own style. But some are quite widespread as in rebana kercing or kompang, so-called because it has two pieces of small brass discs inserted into the side of the body at two or three places. Thus when the face is hit the brass discs contribute their own jinggling sound, or when the rebana is shaken, the brass discs will jingle like the tambourine. A small rebana called tar is used in Sawarak for bridal processions but it is also known in Peninsular Malaysia, usually in performances like the rodat, a dance which has a religious cor~notationand popular in Trengganu. The rebana is usually associated with religious chants and dances, and these are known by many different names and performed in many different ways. They are variously called Dzikir, Ratib, Nazam. Hadrab, Rodat. Radat. Maulud etc. The common name Dikir, which consists of verses praising the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Unto Him), is accompanied by the beating of the rebana. There may or may not be a dance, as in the case of the Ratib where dancing in the form of stepping to the rhythm of the rebana is performed. One example is Ratib Saman which is found in a widespread area including the Malays of Sarawak. A performance in a village of Muara Tuang in Sarawak, for instance, consists of a group of people in a circle with a leader called the Khalifah in the middle. The dance consists of many variations of stepping movements following the leaders chant and the chorus by the circle. Two or three rebana accompany the dance. The Rodat of Trengganu in its older form was more elaborate, having men dressed as woman dancing with feet and hand movements to the accompaniment of the rebana. Today, the dance has been revived by some youth organizations of the state, but the form has changed. Instead of having men dressed up as women, young girls now take part in the dance troupe, and non-religious popular songs are also included in the repertoire. In Sarawak, at the village of Situnggang, the Rodat is called Radat, and it is performed in a mosque. Here, the dance consists of some stepping and hand movements by two rows of dancers, one consisting of boys and another of girls, with the Khalifah and his assistant between the two rows. There are about eight to ten rebana players accompanying the dance. The Hadrah which is the style to be found in the 212

northern state of Kedah consists of a group of rebana players and a pair of dancers, both male, but one is dressed and made up like a woman. Again the verses sung to the accompaniment of the rebana have religious connotations. Nazam Maulud or Berzanji may or may not be accompanied by the rebana, but as in the case of others belonging to this group they are chants in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Unto Him) or verses of religious teachings and moralistic guides to good Islamic behaviour. The Nazam is the term used in the state of Trengganu and parts of Pahang, and confined to women. The Maulud is usually held during the month commemorating the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Unto Him), but may be chanted on special occasions like the ceremony of cutting the first lock of the childs hair. Berzanji is also the chanting of verses on religious teachings and injunctions. Except for some attempts to chant in the indigenous language, like one Maulud group in Pulau Besar, Trengganu, or like the modernised Rodat which has included popular songs, the collection of cultural activities described above are expressed in verses in the Arabic language. But the chanting is so stylised and since it is articulated by the simple folk who have had little or no education whatsoever in Arabic apart from reciting the Quran, the articulation leaves much to be aesired. But these chants are activities which form an important part of the cultural life: they combine play-elements and religious inspiration. The formal Islamic rituals are confined to the five daily prayers, a congregational prayer on Friday afternoon, fasting during the month of Ramadhan, the pilgrimage or the Haji, and the observances of certain occasions like the Id festivals, the commemoration of the ascension of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Unto Him) (lsrak and Mikraj), the remembrance of the death of Hassan and Hussein at Katbala, the prophets birthday or the revelation of the first chapter of the Quran. These are observed and often regarded as rituals, although some of the observances are not recognized as such by the strict Muslims. But a society has other occasions to observe which have to do with things like the life-cycle of individuals or to fulfil the need to strengthen communal feelings and so on. It is on such occasions that the chants, and the rebana that goes with them, become a feature. Thus, the wedding procession of the bridegroom to the brides house in Singapore would be preceded by a k~mpang group of ten to twenty (or even more) players, chanting in Arabic verses following the leader (khalifah). Or in Trengganu, the Maulud is chanted when the childs first lock of hair is shorn or in Malacca when the child for


the first time sets foot on the ground, both with the hope that the child would emulate the exemplary conduct of the Holy Prophet (Peace by Unto Him), whose life and character are being chanted in the verses. The Circumcision is also preceded not only by a feast (kendun) but also by a recitation of the Berzanji. At weddings in Pahang, while the women stay awake the night through preparing the feast and other paraphanalia. some middle-aged men would beat the rebana and chant the Diklr till dawn, thus keeping the women company. Or among the Sarawak Malays, the Ratib Saman is perfomed by the men of the village to make a wedding or a circumcision a livelier event, if not more religious in meaning. Suffice to say that the tradition that has centred around the rebana is an extension of the religious mood, from the ritualistic and sacred to the mundane and social. In fact the rebana has made this type of music-making a homogenous cultural phenomenon throughout the Malay Archipelago, and basically it has an Islamic religious connotation. It is not known how the tradition originated in the Archipelago, but it must have originated from places whence Islam spread, the Indian subcontinent or Persia. The tradition of chanting religious verses to the rhythm of the drum and with slow stepping dances and finger movements is widespread in the Islamic world, but the various styles which have been developed in the Malay Archipelago have some uniformity within the area, but are quite distinctive from the traditions of other Muslim areas. The deep religious drive has found expression in the variety of rhytmic patterns from the rebana which accompany the Arabic chants, and from this basic form. it has developed into a variety of styles reflected not only by the different kinds of performances but also by the variety of~ rebana constructed. One significant variety is the large rebana made in Kelantan. Known as Rebana Ubi and Rebana Besar, they are unlike other rebana because of their sizes. While the usual rebana can be carried in the hand, or placed on the lap, Rebana Ubi and Rebana Besar are large and heavy and are beaten not with the palm of the hand but with sticks. And their role is not like the ordinary rebana; they are played during the after-harvest celebrations. During such celebrations, the rebana players are pitted against one another, either in teams or individually. The rhythmic pattern produced by the beating of the rebana, especially by the interlocking rhythm produced by more than one rebana, is the basis of the competition. Thus while the rebar&a is usually associated with music-making and this has religious connotations, it has been 214

extended to take in innovations and used for non-religious occasions such as after-harvest festivals. The other complex of musical tradition is the ensembles which accompany traditional preformances, such as the shadow play, usually referred to as Wayang Kulit, the dramatic performance Mak Yong, the Gendang Kling and Mek Mulung of Kedah and Perlis. The musical ensembles for these performance are based on a number of common instruments: gong, rebab, two-headed drum (gendang), one-headed drum of different types. the oboe (serunai)
and other smaller percussion instruments. But the actual composi-

tion of the ensemble differs one from another. Although it has been suggested that these different ensembles might have different provenances, I am inclined to think that in terms of the nonmusical aspects of the ensembles, like the musical instruments, the function of the ensembles, the belief system connected with performances and the places of the performance in the life of the people, they all seem to point to a single tradition. In the first place, these ensembles are found in the northern states of Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis, while in the neighbouring states to the south, in Trengganu, Pahang and Perak, we do find some occurrences of this style of musical ensembles. Further to the south, the musical feature shows a marked difference as to be seen later. The Wayang Kulit ensemble can be found as far south as Johore, but this one clearly belongs to a different tradition: it has a gamelan-type of music. The ensembles in Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis show an affinity between them, although those in Kelantan seem to be compratively elaborate with more instruments. A typical Wayang Kulit ensemble in Kelantan consists of the following instruments: two oboes (serunal), a pair of one-headed drums of a particular shape called gedombak, a pair of two-headed drums called gendang. a pair of two-headed drums which are beaten with two sticks and placed at an inclination supported by two legs (geduk), a pair of small bossed gongs placed upright and suspended on a wooden stand (canang), a pair of small cupped cymbals (kesi) and a pair of gongs (tawak-tawak).2 A Wayang Kulit ensemble in Kedah has basically the same instruments but may be less in number, thus it may have one geduk instead of a pair and the canang doubles up as the gong.3 The Mak Yong ensemble has basically the same instruments but with the addition of the rebab, a bowed two or three-stringed instrument. The style of vocal delivery in the Mak Yong has been suggested by some scholars as having close similarities with the 215

singing among the Arabs of Hadramout, Yemen and Syria.14 And the rhythmic accompaniment of the music is said to be related to the concept of metres in Arabic music. These views are given mainly from the point of the technical, including the vocal rendering, aspect of the music, but from the other features, especially the themes and nature of the stories enacted, they show more affinities with the indigenous folk traditions, like the folk-tales and folk-beliefs. The simplest ensemble within this complex is the Gendang Kling of Perlis and Northern Kedah. It comprises a pair of serunai, a pair of gendang and a pair of gongs.15 It is difficult to talk in terms of scale or measure in this type of music. There is simply no conception of standaradisation in the making of the instruments: two Wayang Kulit ensembles may have the same instruments, but their measurements can differ greatly.16 The emphasis of the music is on the interlocking rhythmic pattern created by the drums, while the nebab and the serunai weave the melodies. The percussions gongs, canang and the kesi provide the constant beat. Notwithstanding the observations made with regard to the foreign origins or influences that might have helped to shape the music that accompanies Malay folk performances in the northern states, it must be admitted that the cultural traditions of these musical ensembles are deeply rooted in the folk culture of the local people. Belief pertaining to the performances, the instruments and the players are steadfastly held to, so that rituals form an important part of the tradition. No performance is begun without the stage, the instruments and the players being blessed first so as to be protected from evil forces. In fact, the music and the performance are not merely for entertainment at weddings or other festive occasions; they are the extension of the supernatural world around us which is a reality in the belief system of the Malay peasantry. It is inherent in the beliefs of the Malay peasants in Kelantan, Kedah, Perlis and elsewhere that in another dimension of our world there exist supernatural beings, and these creatures will have to be propitiated so as to preserve a harmony between the world of mortals and that of the immortals. Rituals are often held, as in propitiating the rice spirits (semangat padi), the sea-spirits (hantu taut) and the pestilence which brings diseases. And not only are performances forming part of the whole ritualistic system, the actual rituals themselves are conducted to the accompaniment of the same type of music. Thus curing rituals like Main Puteri employ The same kind of music; so also the ritual to appease the


spirits of the sea (Puja Pantai). Unlike the modern notion that music is separate from other aspects of our life, the music and the performances among the Malay folk in the northern states of the Malay Peninsula are part and parcel of their everyday life. Only in one instance do they make the separation, and that is between the kind of music described here and the Islamic religious activities, including, in their perception, music and performances of the rebana complex already described above. The conflict becomes pronounced when the religious leaders condemn traditional music as being inconsistent with Islamic observances. Outside the northern area dealt with above, the rest of the Peninsula does not show a homogeneous tradition on folk music. Part of the reason is that most of the population in these states were not as stable and perhaps not as long established as the people in the northern states who had carved out for themselves a rice civilization on the flat plains of the area. There is a great intermixture of Malays in states south of Kedah and Trengganu, and the folk music developed in these states reflects this fact. The immigration of the Javanese into the states of Johore and Selangor from the last century has seen the transportation of Javanese folk culture and music. Thus Wayang Kulit and Kuda Kepang are two of the most popular to be found in the various villages where the Javanese had settled. Thus Wayang Kulit in Johore or in Tanjung Karang in Selangor does not share the tradition of the theatre in the north, and its musical ensemble consists of gamelan type of instruments. It is an obvious by-product of the Javanese immigration into Johore and the coastal region of Selangor when the states were open to rubber and coconut plantations in the case of Johore and ricecultivation in the case of Selangor. Another by product was Kuda Kepang, a group dance imitating the movements-of horses, with the dancers carrying flat hobby-horses by their side as if they were riding them. Again, the music reflects an importation from Java. The only instruments common with the northern tradition are the gong and the drum (gendang). Apart from the Javanese derived music of Kuda Kepang and Wayang Kulit, the state of Johore has adopted a music greatly influenced by Perso-Indian music as its distinctiv.e music tradition. The term traditional in this sense is only meaningful when the Ghazal music as it is called is put in relation to the urban musical performance.7 The Gho.zal was started at the turn of the present century by some Johore government officials who were taught Hindustani music by an Indian teacher. In fact the beginning of the 217

Ghazal was in the Hindustani songs accompanied by an ensemble consisting of harmonium. tabla or gendang (drum). violin and the oud (locally known as gambus). The Ghazal actually underwent a lot of modifications throughout its short history. However, the basic instruments today consist of the harmonium, violin, gambus (oud), guitar, mandolin and the tabla or gendang. As can be seen from these instruments and also the origin of the music itself, it is difficult to regard Ghazal music as an autochtonous element of Malay culture, but it has taken such a deep roots among the Malays of Johore as a music of entertainment, gracing such occasions as weddings, festivals and gatherings, that it has been regarded as traditional music belonging to the state. The Ghazal music is quite distinctive from other traditional music of the Malays; its Perso-Hindustani provenance is clear, and the musical instruments are hardly indigenous except for the gendang, and yet it has the appeal and the sensitivity which are consonant with the Malay ear for music. The Ghazal is an example where an importation is accepted as a tradition. Not only has it become a form of entertainment in the life of the people, but it has also given a meaning and value to the culture. When the onslaught of Western popular music poses a threat to the cultural identity of the people, they fall back on music like the Ghazal as a cultural expression which provides the rallying point for that identity. Thus the Ghazol provides not only a tradition of music, but stimulates its own development as an entity recognized as the state of Johores own distinctive type of music. An example of acculturation is to be seen in the music which accompanies the popular dance called Rbnggeng or Joget. The basic instruments are a combination of traditional local instruments and imported ones: a gong which gives a constant beat, a two-headed drum called gendang which provides the rhythmic pattern, and a violin or accordian which gives the melody. The Ronggeng or Joget might have been influenced by Portuguese music but it is regarded as traditionally Malay. It accompanies a social dance where a man dances with a woman but keeps a respectable distance from each other. As a dance, the Ronggeng soon became commercialised as part of urban entertainment where Ronggeng girls act as dance partners for a fee. And as part of the growth of popular urban culture, the Ronggeng as a dance as well as the music became modernised. The gendang soon gave way to the modern drum set,. and the ensemble was enlarged into a modern orchestra. The dance steps soon graduated into the samba, conga, 218

fox-trot and quick-step. The gong, however, was usually retained as the traditional Ronggeng or Joget was still in demand, especially for the middle-aged and older patrons who could not keep up with the modern hot numbers. Somewhat akin to the Ronggeng is the Dondang Sayang which is the traditional music of the Malacca Malays. Also a musi~ set to a social dance, Dondang Sayang has been given a swing~ version, which is more lively and faster in tempo, but retaining its basic melody. The instruments are a gong which keeps the constant beat, the rebana to give the tempo or rhythm and the violin or accordian to provide the melody. The vocal rendering of Dondang Sayang Is important because part of the beauty of it is the way it is vocalised by the singer. It is a tradition which has taken in a new element in the violin, and by doing so has added greater vitality to it as a lively music. It is possible that in order to look for the original version of the Ronggeng, Joget or Dondang Sayang as a form of social dance, we have to turn to the Sarawak Malays. The strict Islamic code of conduct would not have allowed for men and women to dance and face each other as in the Ronggeng. Joget or Dondang Sayang. In fact it would be unlslamic to find the women dancing in public before an audience of strangers. The Ronggeng, Joget or Dondang Sayang as a social dance therefore must have developed quite late, perhaps with the progress of urbanisation in Peninsular Malaysia during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and had brought with it some laxity in the Islamic code of behaviour in urban areas. The version of the Ronggeng or Joget in Sarawak is known as the Gendang. As a musical form, it is based on the interlocking rhythmic beating of the rebana by two or more women while they sing the pantun. These women would sit behind a curtain and their pantun would be answered by the men on the other side of the curtain. As a dance form, the Gendang music is danced to by a couple of men just like the Ronggeng and Joget, that is, the dancers face one another while stepping to the rhythm of the gendang or drums. The separation between men and women by the screen is in keeping with the Islamic code, but even then there had been criticisms against the Gendang as unbeneficial to the well-being and progress of Sarawak Malays in modern times8 Today the Gendang is rendered in two styles: the more traditional Gendang Melayu Lama and the moreswine,, GendangMelayu Baru. However, both are danced toas the way Ronggeng and ~ogetare, that is men may dance with women without having a screen to separate them. 219

The Place of Traditional Music In Contemporary Society The cultural traditional of Malay music are diverse, and yet certain homogeneity exists among the different forms of the music. This state of affairs reflects not only the history of the people but also the factors that contribute to shape the socio-cultural patterns existing today. Thus, as Malay culture had undergone the periods of Indian, Islamic and European influences, so has the music shown elements which have resulted from this inter-mixture of influences. What is traditional music is difficult to define, and yet people would distinguish easily what they regard as belonging to traditional Malay music and what they refer to as modern music. Wayang Kulit, Mak Yong, Gendang K!ing or Dikir are without doubt traditional forms and recognized as such, but Ghaza! and Dondang Sayang are also regarded as traditional although modern instruments are included and in the instance of Ghaza! it started only at the turn of the century. In the case of rebana music accompanying the chants (dikir, ratib or maulud), it has been identified as an extension of religious needs. While various styles of presentation have been invented in different places, the key instrument (rebana) seems to remain as the central link between the different presentations. The rebana tradition of accompanying religious chants and dances would remain as long as Islam continues to be a dominant force in Malay life and the people have enough time to devote to this kind of art. The country music and dances have been rescued from oblivion and propelled today as music and dance. Similarly the folk music and performances like Wayang Kulit, Mak Yong Gendang Kling or Dondang Sayang are given a new status and elevated from the village theatrical stage to the national theatre as elements that will contribute towards the building of national culture. Even the Ghazal vies for the same honour, being regarded as indigenous and traditional in form. The search for national identity based on indigenous culture includes music and this fact gives a new meaning to the traditional music of Malaysia. Thus a new cultural tradition is created where localised folk music as well as moribund court music become the property of the whole nation. In all probability, nebana music would continue to be a vigorous tradition at local level. Malay community life would still continue to have the Maulud, the Bersanji, the Dikir or the Ratib as semireligious observances among the men, but the Nazam among the women in Trelngganu has seen a marked decline, although in some 220


areas. it seems to have been recently revitalised. While the Rodat in Sarawak is still very much a local affair, its counterpart in Trengganu has always been a public performance as in the case also with the Hadrah of Kedah. In fact the Trengganu J-?odat and the Kedah Hadrah are sonq-and-dance forms with religious connotations. However, only in the case of Rodat that we find a conscious attempt to transform it into a more popular form, but losing its religious significance in the process.2 What is obvious is the fact that traditional music, be it of courtly strain or folk menifestation, is the only type of music which can be projected as truly belonging to the indigenous cultures of the country, in spite of the fact that it has within itself a great deal of borrowed elements. It is the question of perception and conception, rather than the question of music. The case in point is the Ghazal as has been explained before. Thus, as part of the programme to promote recognisable indigenous elements as the corner-stone for the building of traditions which Malaysians can proudly call their own, traditional music in different forms is consciously being uplifted from their own limited local environments to a wider national attention. Some of the efforts in this direction include the adoption of traditional musical ensembles to accompany newly choreographed dances (also perceived as traditionbased), the encouragement given to revitalise local traditional music (eg. Gendang Kling of Kedah and Kuda Kepang of the Javanese communities), and the special programmes on traditional and folk music on the mass-media, especially on radio and television. The official promotion of traditional music, especially by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and Radio and Television Malaysia, has one definite effect, and that is to bring a greater awareness to a greater number of people of the existence of traditional musical forms.2 A positive response to such attempts has come from intellectual groups, including university students and staff, who seem to understand the significance of the whole thing. Studies and also recreation of traditional Malay music for specific purposes (eg. perfomances) are some of the new-found interests in traditional music. In the meantime, within their own social contexts, the different forms of traditional music continue to function in the everyday life of the people. But with the attention gven to them, they have now an added value attached to them. In the past, the status of the musician or a theatrical performer had never been high in Malay society, partly because of the popularly held view 221

that music and entertainment were not compatible with religious

piety. Even economically, the performer has never commanded a

22 Music or theatre is always a partgood income Malay society. time work: thein performer is usually a farmer and has his own field to attend to. The only exception is when the performer is physically handicapped. In traditional society, the professional story-teller (penglipur lana) was usually blind or handicapped in one way or another. But this particular breed of artistes is already on the decline. In the case of traditional music, only in areas where its function as a ritual element is much in demand, like in Kelantan where the musical ensemble is used for the wayang as well as the curing rituals, that the tradition continues to be vigorous. In other areas, even in Kedah and Perlis where the same kind of tradition had prevailed as in Kelantan, traditional music like Gendang Kling or Wayang- Kulit have been on the decline. It is only after the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has intervened that there seems to be a revival or at least a new enthusiasm for traditinal music. The same can be said for Gendang Melayu in Sarawak: cultural shows and state celebrations usually feature the Gendang besides the traditional performances of other indigenous groups of Sarawak. To say that there is a revival in traditional Malay music today is not quite true, but certainly there is a new consciousness as well as a new perception towards what is regarded as traditional music in contemporary society in Malaysia.

See A Teeuw and D.K. Wyatt, Hikayat Patani: The Story of Patani the Hague: Martinus Nijhoff (1970), pp, 141145. 2. See CC.. Brown (fr), Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, Kuala Lumpur/ Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1970, P. 18. 3. In the State of Perak, the royal nobat was handled by a group of people known as Orang Kalau and a special tax was levied to support them. 4. See my discussion on the nobat as reflective of the stratified Malay society of past in Some Observations on the Socio-Cultural Context of Traditional Malay Music, Tenggara No. 5 (1969), pp. 122125. 5. See Syed Altei Al-Hady, Malay, Customs and Traditions, Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1962, pp. 8283. 6. See Walter William Skeat, Malay Magic (Reprint) New York Dover Publications, 1967, p. 41. 7. Although the institution of kingship for the Malaysian Federation is newly constituted, it retains a continuity with the past as represented by the symbols 1.




of authority and the ceremonials (of which nobat is a part) which retain the age-old traditional symbols and ceremonials of the royal Malay courts of bygone ages. Mubin Sheppard, Peranan Muzik Malaysia Termasuk Jenis-jenis Ethnic dan Istiadat pada Memajukan Keperibadian Malaysia (The role of Malaysian Music, including Ethnic and Ceremonial types, for developing a Malaysian identity). Asas Kebudayaan Kebangsaan, Kuala Lumpur: Ministry ofCulture, Youth and Sports, 1973, p. 228. op. cit. Swettenham, Sir A Frank, Malay Sketches, London: Balantyne Press, 1895, pp.44

51. 11. Mubin Sheppard, Thid, p. 229. 12. See Mohd. Ghouse Nasaruddin, Muzik Etnik Malaysia (Malaysian Ethnic Music) in Bahasa Kesusasteraan dan Kebudayaan Melayu (Malay Lan~tiage, Literature and Culture). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, 1976, pp. 168 182). 13. Ku Zam Zam Ku Idris, Muzik Tradisional Melayu di Kedah Utara (Traditional Malay Music in Northern Kedah ~...), Masters diss., Dept. of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, 1978, pp. 87-~-88. 14. According to Prof. W.P. Maim as reported by Mubin Sheppard (Ibid. p. 266 and in his commentary to the record in UNESCOs Anthology of Oriental Collection: Traditional Music of West Malaysia). 15. Ku Zam Zam, Ibid., pp. 178 179. 16. See Mohd. Ghouse Nasaruddin, Ibid. p. 165. 17. No serious study has so far been made of the Ghazal but for a popular account of how it all began, see two articles in Kebudayaan, a publication commemorating the 17th Anniversary of Bandar Penggaram, Johore. The first article by Idris bin Daud, Panduan Ghazal Lagu-lagu Melayu Johor (pp. 108 118), and the second by Radin Muhammad Chik, Batu Pahat Ghazal Parti (pp. 119120). 18. For example a novel Meiati Sarawak (The Jasmine of Sarawak) by one Muhammad Rakawi bin Yusof, published in 1932, relates how the downfall of a promising young Malay in Sarawak was caused by his intense liking for the Gendang parties. 19. See my report on Oral Tradition in Ulu Tembeling Pahang, in ASIDOC, Asian Cultural Documentation Centre for UNESCO Tehran) Vol. 1, Nos. 34 (Autumn 1977), Pp. 3849. 20. I have referred to this kind phenomenon as the recycling of tradition. The Rodat group in Kuala Brang, Trengganu, for example, was formed as part of youth activity in the district. The repertoire of this group consists mostly of current popular songs. Except for some chorus in Arabic, the religious element found in the original form of Rodat is almost non-existent. 21. For instance the competition in folk music telecast by Television Malaysia which features Dikir Barat, Dondang Sayang, Keroncong, and Boria. The last two can hardly be classified as traditioiial in the true sense of the word, but like Ghazal they tend to be perceived as being traditional music. Keroncong and Boria are of quite recent origin, and even the label folk attached to them is debatable. 22. See Ku Zam Zam, Ibid, pp. 222 241.


To those brought up and living in urban centres, technology is something often taken for granted. Through the advancement already achieved in developing his technology, mans relationship with nature has become so remote that it is not relevant any more to perceive that many article in use have as their base elements from natural surroundings. Through advanced technology, a secondary environment has been built upon man-made objects and machines without which it is now difficult to organize the business of life. In the preoccuppation with modern technology, especially in the name of matenal progress, it is often forgotten that in the Third World there exists technology of the old order which still plays an important part in the socio-economic life of the poorer segment of the population. Colonialism had brought with it not only a new gevermental order but also an economic policy which had debilitating effects on colonized societies. While the colonies became the producers of raw materials needed to feed the machines in the factories of Europe, they were also the ultimate market for the
Based on a paper read at the 3rd Inter-Congress of the Pacific Science Association, held in Denpasar. Bali. Indonesia, 18-22 July. 1977. The writer wishes to record that the fieldwork carried out in Kuala Kangsar. Perak. and Kuala Trengganu, Trengganu. was made from a grant given by the University of Malaya under its Vote F.


manufactured products. In the case of Malaysia, for example, the natives were said to be unsuitable to participate in the colonial economic network, and therefore immigrant workers were imported to work in the ri~bber estates and tin mines. In fact an idyllic and contented picture was painted of the native life. Their traditional economic activities were preserved, largely around ricegrcs~ving,fishing and the collection of jungle produce, and a little assistance was given in the form of irrigation of the rice-fields or proyision of technical advice. So the Malay peasant was left as he was until 1957 when the post-colonial independent government made it its primary concern to up-lift the livelihood of the rural people, who formed the bulk of the countrys population, and it is this segment that has managed to preserve the older forms of technology, for the life of the peasantry did not change that much under colonial tutelage and the old ways of doing things using traditional machines and know-how survived. Traditional technology, as has been shown in the history of the industrial revolution in Europe, would not necessarily disappear in the face to modern inductrialisation, but its role and place in the changing situation would need to be re-examined and appraised. This should not be done only from the point of view of techno-economic enhancement, but rather also from a stance for a greater understanding of the nature of traditional technology in its relationship with social life. The paper attempts to do this for Peninsular Malaysia with reference to the weaving of pandanus products and the manufacture of brassware and pottery. Identifying Traditional Technology Generally speaking techniques using traditional tools are seldom referred to as a technology, a term which tends to be associated with modern production techniques and machines. So the older techniques come to be known by many different labels such as cottage industry, village industry, rural industry, house-hold indusrty, handicraft or folk craft. In some of the literature on small industry, especially those dealing with the problems of industrial organization and economics, the term handicraft may not even be equated with industry or technology, for it is said to be more concerned with art Thus handicraft can be canied on even in an urban area in a specialised and highly sophisticated environment Handicraft is further differentiated from cottage industry as in India (Hoselits, 1968), cottage industry referring to production supplying. the needs of villagers and handicraft to peasant arts and crafts 225

meeting household needs and village or urban arts and crafts. Shetty (1963), for example, gives four criteria for cottage industry: work place, employment, use of motive power and extent of market served. For work place, the activity is done in the artisans residence; for employment, the work is done by family labour; for power, it is mainly manual labour; and for market, it does not extend beyond the locality where the industry is found. While the criteria are useful, they inevitably serve as the difinition of handicraft as well, or the socio-ecQnomic factors surrounding the output of handicraft can be similar. It should be remembered that handicraft can also be a specialized industry involving wellestablished firms which export these products to other countries. However, a better guide could be the difinition of handicraft where it is described as both a method of industrial production and a form of artistic activity (Knight, 1932). As a system, handicraft has three main characteristics: the output is guided by social, including religious and ritual, need; a strong tradition of inherited techniques from past generations; and an extensive use of the hand, even when tools and machines are used, in manufacturing the goods. What we mean by traditional technology therefore is handicraft as delineated above. And as handicraft it is manufactured in quantity in the homes of the villagers and mostly to meet local demand. It is equally meaningful to refer to the production using traditional technology as cottage, village, household or rural industry. However, there should also be a grading based on economic factors. Some cottage industries can be upgraded to smallscale modern factories while others, by the very nature of their raw materials, techniques of production, and the attitude towards them, cannot but remain a handicraft or at best household industry in the strict sense of the word. Traditional technology can also be defined as a corpus of knowledge, skills, techniques, and implements used in producing and manufacturing objects or foodstuff which have been inherited from the past before the introduction of the so-called modern or advanced technology with its attendant factory system, whatever its scale. However, as traditional technology exists now or as it existed even fifty years ago, it is not necessarily in the pre-modern forms. Traditional technology can be viewed as a continuum model with the ideal types of traditional technology and modern technology at the two ends of a pole. This simply means that traditional technology as its exists now has also taken some elements from the world of modern technology, and hardly exists any longer in its 226

purest form. Traditional technology should not be separated from its social. cultural, economic or technical aspects. In fact all these aspects are so interrelated and closely woven that it is not possible to take each in isolation. Traditional technology is the product of as well as the matrix for traditional society and culture as much as modern or advanced technology is the product as well as the mould that gives form to modern civilization. The case of modern technology provides a clear picture for this. While demands in the life of a society produce break-throughs which make advanced technology possible, modern technology has in turn created new social and cultural needs. The need for spatial transpotation over the centuries has produced such means of transportation from the handcart to the aircraft. But modern transportation has ceased to be merely a form of conveyance for it has created around it certain socio-cultural values as well, such as prestige and status connected with modes of transportation, speed, aesthetics as against utility in the construction of vehicles and so on. Traditional technology must have been born out of necessity too: to provide shelter from the elements, hence house building; to provide food for subsistence, hence food production such as agriculture and fishing; to provide transportation, hence boats on the water and carts on land. At the same time man lives in groups or societies, so he has to organize his relationship with each other. Thus culture came into being and with it customs, beliefs, norms and values which regulate the interaction between members of the groups. Some of these relationships have to be expressed in symbolic forms, such as wedding customs and ceremonies or the initiation of members into status groups and associations. In meeting such needs too, te~hnologyplays a part. That is to say man learns to manufacture objects not merely for utilitarian purposes but for symbolic reasons as well, explaining the artistic element in traditional technology as an important consideration when discussing its appropriateness in the face of industrialisation planning today. But these needs which exist because the old ways of life and traditional societies still persist do not alone explain the preservation of traditional technology today. The truth is, given the right opportunity, the production of traditional goods would be taken over by modern methods. The constraints are ectually economic to a larger degree and the lack of modern technical knowledge to a lesser extent. Another factor that should be taken into account is the conscious governmental programme to sustain and develop 227

cottage industries, which today are the mainstay of traditional technology. This is an important consideration, for the continuation and survival of traditional technology also depend on government policy. Durin9 colonial times in Peninsular Malaysia special exhibitions were held yearly where the rural dwellers could display their prized agricultural produce and the products of their handicraft. After independence, the many programmes to uplift the socio-economic level of the rural folk inevitably involved the cottage industries. Thus, the setting up of the Malaysian Handicraft Board has had a direct bearing on traditional technology among rural dwellers. The original organization was called Rural and Industrial Development Authority (RIDA) which was established in 1950. It had as its aim to stimulate, facilitate, and undertake economic and social development in the Federation (of Malaya) and more particularly in the rural areas thereof. Traditional Technology in Malaysia One result of the socio-economic changes brought about by modernisation and industrialisation in Malaysia since colonial times has been the general reduction in the incidence of cottage industries and its attendant traditional technology, despite the fact that there was a definite policy to preserve it as part of Malay rural life. However, some have not only survived but have found new life as in the case of batik and pandanus weaving industries. The recent revival in the industries is due largely to the encouragement by the government for the technique as well as the product are looked upon as anational heritage. The making of batik shirts as formal wear at important functions is not only motivated by economic considerations but by nationalistic idealism as well. Examples of cottage industry using traditional technology in Peninsular Malaysia can be identified as follows:

Handloom industry producing gold or silver-threaded cloth called songket. The industry is now to be found mainly in Kelantan and Trengganu, although in the past the use of the handloom was quite widespread, even on the west coast Batik industry in Kelantan and Trengganu. Establishments found in the urban centres may use traditional methods, but the techniques and raw materials are rather sophisticated for the establishments usually cater for urban and international markets. 228


iii) Brassware which is now concentrated in Kuala Terengganu.

iv) Silverware, which is not only jewellery but includes also articles like tea-sets and wall decorations, is to be found in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. v) Pandanus weaving, which is widespread, but more developed as an industry in Rusila, Trengganu, and some villages in Malacca. vi) Traditional pottery. This used to be found in at least half a dozen places in Peninsular Malaysia, but is now found only along the Perak River, particularly is Sayong, Kuala Kangsar. Other such industries involving technology inherited from the past include ironwork which manufactures knives, axes and other implements for village or household use, and bamboocraft, including rattan, reeds and leaves, found in vallages where there is need for fishtraps, animal traps, chicken-coops, or wall-sidings. Few studies have been made of the cottage industries in Peninsular Malaysia and they are mainly concerned with economic problems. The most comprehensive studies are on the textile industry, the handloom and batik industries (Fisk, 1962; Nik Abdul Rashid, 1969; also Gullick 1952; Hill, 1949). These studies throw important light on the general features of the cottage industry or traditional technology. Compared to the rest, the songket and batik industries are better organised and structured, having much bigger capital outlay and having the biggest market of all the products of traditional technology in the country. The middle-range cottage industries pandanus weaving, brasswork and traditional pottery have been chosen for the purpose of this paper not so much because songket and batik have been delved into in greater detail but rather because the textile industries are already commerciaused and some have acquired certain features of the factory system (Staley and Morse, 1965). Traditional technology actually is a residual technology, that is to say it is a residue of the past surviving in the present because of a number of factors. In Peninsular Malaysia, traditional technology has survived where village life has not changed very much. Fisk has rightly pointed out that the location of cottage industries does not necessarily follow the accessibility of the market of the products nor the raw materials (Fisk, 1962). In the case of the handloom industry, for instance, the raw materials are imported, the market is not confined to the locality but widespread, and although it must have started around the courts of Sultans who were once


the patrons of the industry, this is no longer so, and yet the concentration of the industry is in Kelantan and Trengganu, where low labour costs instead would seem to be compelling reasons for the location. The capital turnover and the income accrued from songket and batik are much higher than the other cottage industries, but when compared to factory production, they are still very low. In 1967, income from the batik and songket production amounted to $8.7 million or only a quarter of the total income of the textile industry in Peninsular Malaysia (Nik Abdul Rashid, 1969), far from giving the true picture of the cottage industry in the country. Compared to other products, batik has a wider use and larger market, and has also approximated to the factory system. The figures for songket are more in line with the economic standing as a cottage industry. According to Fisk, the handloom industry of the east coast of Malaya is the largest and most important of the surviving cottage industries in the Federation of Malaya (Fisk, 1962), but this was in the middle of the fifties before batik made its impact in the early sixties. There is an important difference to be remembered. Although batik art has been known to the Malays for a long time, the impetus to make it a paying industry came from Indonesia only after the Second World War. With songket it is different; it is an industry of considerable antiquity and occupies a special place as an industry because it also enjoys a special position in the traditional life of the Malays. Pandanus Weaving The cottage industry involving the weaving of pandanus leaves us an example of how traditional technology is closely linked with peasant economy and way of life and also with the natural environment. It is not known when man in Southeast Asia first learnt the art of processing plant-leaves and weaving them into mats, basIets, dish-covers, hats, boxes and other objects which they use in their daily life. Weaving of pandanus leaves has been the best known for it has developed into an art although it must have been borne out of mans necessity too. Other leaves besides the pandanus, bamboo and rattan are also woven into objects like hats (terendak), fish traps, baskets or screens to serve as walls of rural dwellings. There are two types of the pandanus which are used by Malaysian weavers: the bigger variety of the family is known as the mengkuang, and the smaller variety is called pandan. While the big mats and baskets for everyday use (eg. for drying or storing rice) 230

are made of mengkuang, the finer articles are made of pandan. Traditionally, every house-hold would be able to turn out mats and baskets for its own use as household goods and other needs. It is something the women learn as part of their socialisation. In fact weaving pandan and mengkuang leaves is learnt informally from childhood. The knowledge and skill are handed down from mother to daughter. It is only recently that such weaving has ceased to be widespread in Malay vallages. While weaving of the pandanus is known all over the country, only a few areas can be identified as the centres for producing fine handiwork as in Trengganu and Malacca. RIDA (later Majalis Amanah Rakyat or MARA) established a pandanus weaving centre in Rusila, Trengganu, where training was given in weaving and the trainees later became instructors at various other centres. Raw Materials Raw materials are obtained from the pandanus palms that grow wild in the vicinity of the village. These plants are almost never cultivated: they are found in groves on the banks of the river or further inland. Recently, when vast areas of land were put under commercial crops like oil palm and the wild pandanus had to be cleared, the authorities involved had replanted the pandanus in some areas so that the leaves could still be available to those who wanted to continue weaving mats, baskets etc. While mengkuang or pandan leaves are generally available to the weavers, it may be necessary to travel some distance to get the choicest leaves. Thus in Malacca, a type of pandanus known as Pandan Minyak in regarded as having the finest texture, and weavers go far into the forest to obtain these leaves. Technique Pandanus leaves are cut at the base so as to gain the maximum length and stripped of their thorny edges on the spot by means of a sharp knife (parang). The leaves are then gathered, bundled together, and carried back to the house. If the objects to be woven are mats or baskets, the weaver tends to use the mengkuang leaves, but if they are to be of finer quality, then she would have to look for the pandan leaves. For certain objects like the dish-cover (tudung saji) or utility baskets, other raw materials are also needed, such as reeds, bamboo or rattan. On reaching the house, the leaves are trimmed at the tip and graded for length. Although the ideal would be to have leaves of 231

equal length and breadth, it would be practical to save as much of the leaves as possible and, therefore, even the odd-sized ones are seldom thrown away. The length required also depends on the objects to be woven, but in actual weaving the length does not count very much because when a strand is short it can be pleated with another strand. The only setback is that such joints are rather clumsy and weaken the woven fabric somewhat.
The next step is to render the leaves pliable, and this is done by heating the leaves over an open fire. The weaver simply gathers

dry twigs and coconut husks which abound in the compound of a Malay house and sets fire to them. Then she gathers a few leaves and hold them over the fire in such a way that ultimately every part of the leaves has been heated over. This process is called melayur. The next step is to split the leaves into strips. This is called mengjengka. The width of the strips also depends on the article one intends to make. The spliting is done by means of a simple tool (jengka): a flat piece of wood with three or fur nails or sharp edged metal embedded in it with the ends protruding out. Holding this in one hand, the weaver splits the leaf by running the nails or the sharp metal through the leaf. The idea is not merely to split the leaves into strips, but also to have the strips in a standard width. This ia an important process ~rd the metal strippers on the wood are carefully measured so that they are set at equal intervals. For practical purposes, the leaves are split only to a point, thus the strips are still joined at one end. This makes the handling of the leaves in later processes easier, especially when it comes to drying the leaves. It is further necessary to soften the leaves by beating them with a stick. This is called menitik. This is a delicate process which is also done because the beating would rid the leaves of the green colouring faster, especially when the leaves are them immersed in tubs of water. In Malacca, the leaves are immersed for three days with the water being changed every day. After the leaves have been taken out they are then dried in the sun. There is a short-cut to the process; instead of immersing them in the water the leaves are boiled, and than dried. In some cases, the leaves, after being split, are put through the process of melurut, which is actually pressing them tightly against a piece of wood held in one hand and pulling them through with the other hand. The idea is the same as heating them, that is to make the leaves supple. In Malacca, where the beating is preferred, melurut is done after the leaves are dried. The leaves are then dried out in bundles, either hung up or left on 232

the ground. Socio-Economic Aspect Weaving of the pandanus leaf is the occupation of women. This is a part of the traditional division of labour in Malay economic life. Until recently, when women were employed by government agencies such as the Handicraft Board, weaving has never been regarded as a full-time occupation although it may be regarded as the primary occupation among the women-folk because the income from weaving, relative to others, is an important contribution to the familys income, or at least to the weavers private income to be spent as she plaeases. Ordinarily, weaving of the pandanus is, however, not regarded as a cash earning activity, for most women learn to weave for their own household peeds, and perhaps also for their neighbours in return for cash or in exchange for other goods. As the women would have to attend also to their other chores, it would take a month or two to finish a mat. In Rusila or in Malacca, weaving mats for sale outside the weavers village has been a long standing practice, but even then the women also work on their rubber smallholdings or their rice-fields. The men do help in some of the processes. Out of 90 adult women listed by Rosemary Firth in her 1963 survey in Prupok, Kelantan, 28 stated mat-making as their occupation which brought an additional income, and this was the biggest number compared to other types of occupation such as shopkeeping, dressmaking or making fishing nets (Firth, 1966). Heather Strange in her study made in 1965/1966 in Rusila, Trengganu, found that out of 137 able-bodied adult women, 112 women were engaged in weaving on a regular basis and sold some or all of their products (Strange, 1971). Another study made in Malacca, covering two villages, one just outside Malacca town and the other 32 km away, revealed that weaving in Malacca was not as extensively done as in Trengganu, but compared to places outside the two states, the activity could still be regarded as vigorous (Abdul Karim, 1971). Of the 489 households surveyed in Bachang, just outside Malacca town, only 30 were active in weaving but, as usual, not on a full-time basis. However, most of the women above the age of 20 in this village knew how to weave, but did so only very occasionally. In Kampung Baru, almost every one of the 65 households were engaged in weaving. Girls at the age of ten had already started to learn to weave, and at the age of 14 and above, they were proficient and began to participate actively in the trade. Between the two villages, it is more 233

likely that the art of weaving would be able to survive better in Kampung Baru because the children were encouraged to take it up. A comparison between Rusila in Trengganu and the villages in Malacca show that governmental aid and encouragement have given a higher expecatation from the weavers than in places where weaving has been merely a tradition and people have been weaving for their own needs and with lower expectation of cash return. This has a bearing on the quality of the products too. In Rusila experimentations with designs and colours have turned out more sophisticated results than in Malacca, even in Kampung Baru, where the products are usually for sale. There is a greater variety of patterns (kelerai) to be seen in the mats from Rusila than from Kampong Baru. The weaving centre set up by the Handicraft Board in Rusila and the setting up of shops to cater for the tourist trade along the main road are factors which have not only encouraged weaving in the area but have developed the art further so that the area is now the foremost pandanus weaving centre in the country. The term part-time, full-time, primary, or occasional occupation can be misleading when applied to weaving as the womens occupation. Very few women make weaving their fulltime occupation in the sense that they spend every working hour weaving. In Rusila and in Malacca, weaving may be the primary occupation of the womenfolk, but this merely means that it is an occupation they take to after they have done their main economic and household chores. Weaving is taken up if certain factors allow for it. Thus, for example, a woman takes up weaving because it can also be done at night, after supper and before bedtime, and if asked, she would state meaving as her occupation. This is true in the sense that the other chores are taken for granted. The alternative is not doing it at all, as in Rusila, where Heather Strange found that just being a housewife and not being involved in weaving could confer status in that the husband is a good provider for the family (Strange, 1971). If the earning from weaving is to be measured in terms of workhours, it may seem that the monetary return is not commensurate with the time spent on it. For example. it takes about two weeks to work on a mat, which the weaver may sell for just about $5.00 Malaysian. However, the money is considered as earned, for the time spent otherwise would bring in nothing and the labour is not computed. 234

The price of a product to the ultimate purchaser may be many times over, for the marketing process may be multi-tiered. The marketing system of Kampung Baru for instance can be illustrated as follows: Weaver Peddler Local Middleman shopkeeper Middle Men in Sub Bigger Towns Middle Men Consumer

Except for Rusila and Kampong Baru and a few other places, the woven objects are to meet local needs. However, a household may need an aritcle for its own use and none of its members can find time to weave, or when the objects are needed for special occasions like weddings or festivals where expert weaving would be desired, then orders are placed with those who are known in the village as skilled weavers. The order or tempahan is accepted, but it will be one or two moths before the goods can be delivered. In Sungai Baru orders are also placed by peddlers and usually an advance is given so that weavers are encouraged to finish the goods earlier. In Rusila the sale channels are better organised through the Handicraft Centre or tourist shops. New products like satchels for conferences, containers for eggs which are given to guests at Malay weddings, and table-mats are specially ordered through the Handicraft Centre, and the orders distributed to the weavers willing to meet them. Heather Strange (1971) observed certain features of the income of three weavers over a period of one year. First, the income was irregular from month to month. Secondly, the income was low. Thus weaver A managed to earn M$146.20 during the period, weaver B M$57.80 and weaver C M$90.70. In the case of weaver A, her products were mainly ordered through the Centre, while weaver C produced mainly fans ordered through the middlemen. Weaver B, however, sold her products at the Centre itself. The products ranged from new articles like handbags, table-mats and runners and book covers to the traditional products like ordinary prayer mats. The income was as low as $2.40 for the sale of 2 fans, while the highest was $24.00 for the sale of 2 prayer mats. While furniture has become standard equipment in Malay houses, even in the Ulus (upriver), nevertheless the mat is still needed. While the male guests sit on the furniture in the verandah, the women guests sit on the best mat in the inner hail of the house. 235

Of the other objects produced, the dish-cover (tudung saji) is in demand always, especially for the fasting month where in Muslim houses the dishes are covered with tudung saji before the azan signals the breaking of the fast. The box containers (rombong) are used to store clothing in homes where cupboards are a luxury. In the olden days the rombong was used to carry the belongings when people moved from place to place. The rombong is used also to store baby clothes and diapers, while the small rombongis used as a ladys sewing bag or to keep small objects. At the Rusila Centre, weavers coming from various parts of the country were trained. According to Abdul Karim, the people of Sungai Baru were not enthusiastic when one trainee returned and opened her classes in the village (Abdul Karim, 1971). The reason given was that she had nothing much to offer that the locals did not already know. The present centre in Kuala Trengganu, besides training girls in the art of weaving, also experiments with better methods of processing pandanus leaves and tries to develop the indusrty by introducing new and more attractive patterns, colour schemes and also new objects to meet modern demand so that wider markets can be found for the industry. But the attempt seems to be confined to decorative articles, such as big colourful butterflies for wall decoration, containers in the shape of fruits, handbags, glass holders, table-mats and modern hats. The innovations cater for the limited demands, however, of tourists. A faster and more efficient way of processing the raw material and method of weaving are also being looked into.

The art of brass casting has been known to the people of Southeast Asia for centuries. The centres of brasswork in the past were the Sultanates where the rulers and their nobility provided the patronage. One such centre was Brunei where the art of brass casting became very elaborate as evident from the highly decorative and well sculptured brasswares which once belonged to the Brunei Sultanate. ~Judgingfrom the decorative motifs, like the dragon and the serpent, it is possible that the Brunei craftsmen were influenced by Chinese art motifs. Once the royal patronage was lost, the art of elaborate casting disappeared. However, the technique still lives on, although by 1975, only seven people who were connected by family ties were left working on brasswork in Brunei (Lim and Shariffuddin, 1976). The same trend can be found in Peninsular Malaysia, and it is,only 236

in the State of Trengganu where brasswork industry seems to have survived. In the past it was necessary for the royal courts to have elaborate brasswares such as kettles, trays, bowls, etc. as part of the trappings of royal status and power. Today, there is no longer the royal patronage. The demand today mainly comes form the traditional needs of the Malay household. The items include the cooking pot (periuk), tray (dulang), incense burner (tempat barat), betel-tray (tempat sirih). dispenser for scented water (bekas air mawar), candlestand (kaki dian), spitton (ketur or tempat ludah), circular tray (ceper) and the tray with a stand (paha). The betel-tray is central to Malay social life just as the tea-set is to the English home. Nowadays not many Malays in the urban areas take to betel-leaves, but in the villages, whenever female visitors come to the house, the betel-tray is pushed ceremoniously before them. Both the visitors as well as the hosts will then chew the betel leaves while conversing. The spittoon is, of course, an important item at such times. The betel-tray and the other objects feature also in Malay ceremonies such as bethrothal, wedding and funerary rites. Hence, a Malay home is seldom without these brasswares. New objects are also manufactured today. Thus flower vases, ash-trays and some other decorative objects are part of the products of todays brassware industry in Peninsular Malaysia. The Handicraff Centre has tried to introduce objects like trophies so that the manufacturers can find new markets as well as widen the range of their production, but the innovation and manufacture of new products are constrained by many factors, not least by the techique of manufacture through the old lost-wax process. Morgan reported that in 1950 brass and white metal work was still a vigorous kampung (village) industry in Trengganu although the technique used had remained unchanged for hundreds of years (Morgan, 1951). By the 1970s cooking pots and other kitchen utensils were no longer manufactured by many of the existing manufacturers. In Kuala Trengganu, the industry is mainly confined to one section of the town known as Ladang. It is here th~t the manufacturers have their workshops, although some parts of the process may be farmed out to workers in other parts of the town. Thus polishing is also done by villagers in between tending to their rice-fields and livestock. Even in Ladang, one seldom comes across the manufacturing of kitchen utensils except for the open brass pan (genseng), for most of the manufacturers today prefer to make smaller items which can sell easily. 237

The lost-wax process is traditionally used not only in Malaysia but also in other parts of the Malay Archipelago (Lim and Shariffuddin, 1976). The process can be summarized as follows: i) The first step is to make a wooden model of the object or parts of the object. Thus a simple flower vase can be made up of three parts: the base, the body and the top. Each part is shaped in wood. ii) The wooden model is then dipped in hot wax and when it cools down the wax is removed from the wooden model. The wax now assumes the shape of the finished product or part of it. iii) The wax iscovered with clay, which is available in quantity locally, to make the mould (sarang). Three layers are necessary to make the mould: the first is just mud, the second with sand and finally mud mixed with rice husk, The moulds are then dried. iv) When they are properly dried they are fired in the furnace. At the same time the wax in the moulds is melted and the moulds are ready to receive the molten metal. v) The- alloy is melted in the furnace which is worked by the traditional bellow (musang). The metal brass, nickel and zinc is placed in crucible. There is no temperature gauge, but by practice, the molten alloy is deemed ready to be poured into the moulds when the fire gives a greenish hue. vi) The molten alloy is poured into the moulds with the help of a pair of long pincers. vii) The moulds are left to cool for some time and then they are broken leaving the brass casting. The parts are; welded together so that the final form of the object is achieved. viii) As the objects are still rough and jagged at the joints, they are then polished on the lathe, a process called rnelarik The machines for melarik are either electrically operated or manually worked. Similarly, some manufacturers are now using electricity to work the bellows, but most still employ the traditional method of pumping air into the furnace which is underground.

Socio-EconomlcAspect As in weaving, exact figures of people involved in brasswork are difficult to obtain, but according to the Trengganu State Economic Development Corporation, a body charged with promoting econo238

mic development in the State, 13,669 persons are en9aged in various forms of cottage industries, that is, manufacturing and processing goods such as brasswares, batik and songket cloth and weaving of pandanus leaves for objects like mats, dish-covers, baskets etc. The percentage of the total number working in cottage industries is about 10 percent of the States total population, as compared to 48.9 percent engaged in agriculture and 8.0 per cent in fishing. The workers are mainly peasants who have their own rice-fields to tend to, and have other chores to perform besides the work they do at the work-shops. Most workers 4n cottage industries in Trengganu are men. Available figures show 360 males and only 9 females are engaged in brasswork. The brassware industry is localized and small-scale A list of manufacturers is kept by the Association of Brasswere Manufacturers of Kuala Trengganu. There is a list kept by Batik Malaysia Berhad, and there is yet another list kept by the Handicraft Centre. From these lists, there are at least 145 manufacturers in Kuala Trengganu, mainly concentrated in the Ladang area. A typical example of a brasswork industry as a family business is run by Wan Ismail bin Osman. He inherited the business from his father, and the business has now been in the family for five generations. While Wan Ismail looks after the production, his wife takes charge of the business. And one can sense that among his workers too, especially the long standing ones, the attitude is that they are working in their own family business. The workshop itself is situated under his house, while processes like melting the alloy and casting are done in a shed in the compound. The sitting room of the house is used as the showroom and it is here that Wan Ismails wife transacts business with customers. He employs 20 fulltime workers, but farms out some of the work to individuals in the villages nearby. Although the workers are supposed to be fulltime, they are not paid wages but rather by piece-rate. They have no contract whatsoever with Wan Ismail. Even those who have been working for years and who are regarded as skilled are still paid by piece-rate. This arrangement seems to suit both sides, although less to the manufacturer. As stated above, the workers also work on their padi fields. When the time comes to transplant the seedlings from the nurseries to the field or to harvest the crop, the workers simply stop work at the workshop. During festivals, none of the workers would turn up for work Even during the harvest festival (main pantai), the least important of festivals in Malay life, the workers 239

would stop work for one week. There is little that Wan Ismail can do, even if such stoppage may cost him a great deal. The familylike relationship has to be maintained for the workers are neighbours and kinsmen, some though only very remotely related. Apprenticeship takes about two to three years, but training is on the job. It takes about one month to learn the rudiments of the job. The workers usually start when they leave primary school, at about 12 to 13 years old. The income of the worker varies with the type of work done and also the number of pieces he can finish in one day. Thus the man who looks after the furnace, melting the brass alloy and pouring it into the moulds, is paid $1.00 Malaysian for every completed process. He can complete the process more than 15 times a day. The man who makes the wax-casts is paid $6.00 for 100 pieces, and he can finish about 150 a day, thus earning about M$9.00 a day. However, the actual amount earned varies with the complexity or intricacy of the work involved; the more intricate the cast, the higher is the payment for each piece. There is no pension scheme for the workers, and it is doubtful if the workers or employers contribute towards the Provident Fund Scheme, the social security organization run by the Malaysian Government.

Raw Materials
Today, the brassware cottage industry has to depend on the quasi-governmental agency, Batik Malaysia Berhad, (BMB), for its raw materials. There is definitely a scarcity in the supply of brass in the country at the moment. The supply used to be obtained from the Chinese traders who imported the metal from Singapore, 2 but the metal is so scarce today that the BMB obtained the metal from spent cartridges from the Ministry of Defence. So dependent are the manufacturers pn BMB that when supply is scarce, the BMB has to distribute raw material to the manufacturers on its list in amounts proportionate to the production capacity of the workshops. Without governmental help, the brass industry is in danger of disappearing for the reason that raw material is difficult to come by on the free market. The higher quality wares today are in the proportion of 1 part brass, 1 nickel and zinc, and the lower quality 4 parts brass, 1 part nickel and zinc. The higher the nickel content the higher is the quality of the finished product.

The Market.
The market for brassware products is mainly local. According to 240

Wan Ismail, the trade from foreign tourists accounts for not more than 5 per cent of the market. However, the local demand is such that it is sometimes difficult for the manufacturers to meet the orders. The products are usually channelled through middlemen who in turn supply the retailers throughout the country. However, manufacturers also deal directly with buyers who come to their workshops. Wan Ismails workshop, for example, is on the itinerary of foreign tourists who visit Kuala Trengganu, but Wan Ismail does not personally favour having foreign tourists visit his workshop. According to him they purchase little and worse for him, they do not take off their shoes when they come into the house As with the other manufacturers it was difficult to get from Wan Ismail the exact turnover of his husiness. The total wages of the workers with various skill and experience would come to M$900.00 a week, while the purchase of raw materials would be at an average of M$4,000.00 a month. Wan Ismail is considered as one of the bigger manufacturers of brasswares in Kuala Trengganu, and therefore the figures that he gave were not necessarily typical. Other manufacturers work with much less capital and turnover. The brassware industry is a cottage industry which has the characteristics of the putting out or dispersed factory system (Staley and Morse, 1965). Aside from hired workers who work in the workshop, it has been mentioned that part of the work in the workshop, is dispersed among smaller units in the neighbourhood. The technique employed is traditional, except for the use of electricity which is in fact an extension of the household supply. In spite of the encouragement given by the Handicraft Centre in Kuala Trengganu, the manufacturers are not very keen to improve their production either in quality or in diversifying their products. The manufacturing of brassware therefore remains not only traditional in technique but traditional in business approach as well. In fact Wan Ismail is rather apprehensive of the future in that the manufacturing of brasswares could pass into the hands of Chinese entrepreneurs who will then build factories and run the business as a modern industry. The nett profit for the manufacturers is not much, and in fact many manufacturers do not get much more than their workers. According to Wan Ismail a manufacturer may get M$150.00 a month nett profit, and not many of the 145 manufacturer can get over M$300.00 nett profit a month. Some of the hired workers who are paid by piece-rate can even get more. A father and son team of


Kampung Gong Tok Nasib who do the grinding and polishing (mengindik) for Wan Ismail earned $26.00 for 100 pieces of small items and $37.000 for 100 pieces of bigger ones. They have two lathes, the father working on the traditional lathe worked by foot and the son working on an electrically poviered machine. The traditional machine cost them only $40.00 as capital outlay and the electric one $250.00. On the traditional machine the father can polish about 30 pieces a day while the son on the electric one 50 pieces a day. According to Wan Ismail it is better to have the electric powered machine because the rate of absenteeism of those on the electric machine has been much less than of those on traditional machines. Working on the foot-powered lathe may also adversely affect the workers health in the long run. Although the industrial rate for electricity consumption is lower than the household supply, most manufacturers or those who work at home would not like to install a separate meter for the capital outlay is high and the bureaucratic pathways to get one installed are simply too complicated.

Traditional Pottery
Evidences of pottery have been dated to the Neolithic period in the Malay Peninsula (Winstedt, 1962). Good quality pottery, however, seems to have been mostly imported, especially from China, for at least a thousand years. Porcelain and ceramics have been excavated from many archaeological sites and big earthenware jars have penetrated far upriver into the heart of Borneo and have become prize possessions, both in the present as well as the next world, of the Ibans, Kenyahs, Kayans, Muruts and other peoples of Borneo. Local pottery as a technology has not made much advancement over the centuries although just to the north, in Thailand, archeologists have recently come out with convincing findings that not only was pottery a very ancient technology in Southeast Asia but a highly developed one too. Pottery is still made by Malays using rather simple technology, for example, in villages along the Perak River. A few decades ago, the industry was more widespread. At Kuala Tembeling, Pahang, for instance, there was a piece bearing stamps of superior decorative quality and in Malacca were produced water-jars coloured a dull brownish black and stamped deep to look like florid wood carving (Winstedt, 1962). Other places known to have produced pottery included Province Wellesley, Johore, Alor Merah in Kedah and Kuala Pilah in Negeri Sembilan (Singapore Art Society, 1951). 242

Wray, then the curator of Perak Museum, wrote a paper on pottery in Perak (Wray, 1903). According to him the art must have arisen from great antiquity because the potters never used the potters wheel. Even then in Perak, only certain areas could boast of pottery, in Lenggong in Upper Perak, Sayong in Kuala Kangsar, the seat of the Perak Sultanate, and in Pulau Tiga in Lower Perak, but today, it is only in Sayong and Pulau Tiga that the art has survived to some extent. On the banks of the Perak River, about five kilometers from the town of Kuala Kangsar, and about eight kilometer from Sayong, the Handicraft Board has set up a pottery centre run on the same lines as the handicraft centres already mentioned in this paper. The centre is equipped with the most up-to-date equipment for pottery from the electric kiln to various types of the potters wheel. And the trainees who are paid daily allowances are children of the traditional potters around the area. The idea, as in the other centres, is to develop the talent and interest already there so that pottery in the area can be transformed from a traditional industry using traditional techniques to a modern one. Thus, the Handicraft Board envisages that by the time the youngsters take over from their elders, there will be a change in the cottage pottery industry in Sayong. The products will no longer be the simple black vessel called labu (gourd) or the earthenwere cooking pot, but rather more sophisticated pieces of pottery with surrealistic designs and colour patterns. It follows that the social and economic environment in which the traditional technology exists will have to change to accomodate the new potters. While the traditional potters are part of the present pattern of vallage life, their children who are graduates of the pottery centre would not be satisfied with the same kind of economic and social environment.

Raw Materials
In 1903, the clay that the potters of Sayong used for their trade was obtained from Temong, further up the river. The clay, packed in small mat bags, was brought down the river by boat and sold to the potters. Today the raw material is obtained locally. However, the potters are still guided by tradition with regard the their concept of good clay. For example, the potters in Sayong prefer the clay from ant-hills because it is supposed to be sticky (bergetah), although the manager of the Handigraft Centre, who is a ceramic graduate of the MARA Institute of Technology, thinks that other types of clay found in the vicinity are equally good, the difference 243

being in the way the raw material is prepared.

The technique used by the potters in the village of Kepala Bendang in Sayong is still the same to a large extent as that described by Wray. The clay is first dried and then pounded into a fine powder in a pounder, either the common rice-pounder worked by hand or the tilt-hammer type worked by foot. The clay is then sieved for impurities. After that it is mixed with water to form a stiff clay and kneaded like dough from time to tome to get rid of air bubbles. The day is now ready for use. The potters of Sayong do not use the potters wheel. They use an earthenware or tin plate on which they shape the clay. The technique used is coiling and pinching. What th potter does is to build up the clay by coils and as each coil is added, it is pinched until it is welded to the part already shaped. The process is repeated, but at the same time the potter shapes the clay into the form desired. The traditional form is the gourd with a bulbous body, a neck which is slightly bulbous in shape too, and a flaring mouth. The nearest that the potters had come to using the potters wheel is the contraption described by Wray, but it is no longer in use today. There is little use of decorations on the products except for incisions made on the body of the articles in the form of simple designs. The finished products are kept aside until t~iereare enough for firing. However, the firing is also done on a collective basis: the products of two or three potters are brought together for firing. While the Handicraft Centre is equipped with a modern kiln, the traditional method is simple. First of all, a small pit is dug in the ground. Then a scaffolding is built over the fire pit strong enough to support the finished pieces which are stacked on it. A small fire is then lighted for the idea is to heat the pieces before firing them. If they are fired straightaway, the chances are that they will crack. It takes about there to four hours to heat the pieces over the fire which is kept low all the time. In order to keep the heat in, the articles are sometimes covered with matting materials. After the heating has been done, the pieces are brought down and the scaffolding dismantled. The pit is then lined with dried bamboo. It is interesting to note that wood is not used to fire the pottery. The pieces are arranged carefully over the bamboo, in a way that they do not roll over or move while firing is done. The bigger pieces are stacked in the middle and the smaller ones on the


fringe or in between. Then split bamboo is again arranged and piled on the pieces. The reason why bamboo is used rather than wood is because split bamboo is light and when burnt only the ashes are left behind. The firing lasts about one or two hours, and when the bamboo is all burnt up, the pottery pieces are left smouldering in the pit. Without waiting for the objects to cool, the pieces are picked up by means of a long pole and placed to one side. If the piece is to have a dark hue, then it is straightaway smothered in a heap of padi husk. By tradition, the water vessel in the shape of the gourd (labu) is always blackened. Those which are not to be blackened are not treated in the same way. They are picked out of the pit all the same and placed aside. While the pieces are still hot, damar or resin is rubbed on the bottom. This is said to render the pottery water-proof.

Socio-Economic Aspect
The labu is the traditional product of Sayong pottery and is used to store water for drinking. As it is cool, it may be clutched to ones body during the hot spells or to bring down ones temperature during illness. Other articles are also made, like flower vases, cooking utensils, incense burners and even ash-trays. Although articles like ash-trays or flower vases are attempts at introducing new products, it is still the traditional labu and pots which are the mainstay of the industry. Compared with the two cottage industries described earlier, pottery is definitely on the wane. The traditional demand for the labu and pots is still there but rather limited now. One of the uses of a water vessel (buyong) which has survived till today is to hold water in shamanic ritual connected with the propitiation of the spirits. It is significant to note that Wray had predicted an early demise of pottery in Sayong for even then there were only about ten houses involved in the industry, and the younger women did not seem to be interested in the art~a fact which was much deplored by the older generation. The potters are mainly women. The people of Kepala Bendang in Sayong, for example, rely on their padi-fields and rubber smallholdings for their living. Thus pottery, like pandanus weaving, is regarded as an occupation which brings in an extra income. However, according to an informant, Cik Hasnah, the earnings from her pottery had helped to bring up her children. The men usually assist by bringing in clay, drying it or pounding it, but the coiling and pinching and firing are done by women. Among the trainees at 245

the centre in Kuala Kangsar are a few boys who are paid a daily allowance, which may form an important source of income for their families. The income from pottery for the potters in Sayong is not much more than that of the pandanus weavers in Trengganu or Malacca. But sometimes the satisfaction comes from one or two sales that the potters make at handicraft shows. Cik Hasnah, for example, thought that the emotional satisfaction she experienced when her pottery wares were cleared out in a short time at exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur or Genting Highlands was worth much more than the monetary return she actually realized. Wrays prediction on the extinction of pottery in Sayong has not materialized. In fact there is interest in traditional pottery from certain quarters. For example, local tqurists would ask for the labu rather .than the modern pieces sold at the Handicraft Centre. However, the fear for the extinction of the traditional industry is felt today not because of the competition from the Handicraft Centre but rather the fact that the children of the potters are now trained in new techniques to produce modern pottery. If there is still a demand in ten or twenty years time for the traditional pieces, at least for customary or magical uses, there will not be the people to make them. The marketing system has remained unchanged, and it is similar to the other cottage industries in Malaysia. The products are channelled through the middle-men who in some cases have paid part of the costs in advance. According to Cik Hasnah, the normal sized labu fetches about M$1.00 when collected at the village by the middlemen, but it is sold for $2.00 to $2.50 in the market place. The products are usually carried down the river by boat and scald at the roadside in Telok Anson and other towns along the Perak River. As a comparison the prices of modern pieces sold at the Handicraft Centre range from $4.00 for a small piece to $50 to $60 for bigger or more intricate ones. Obviously, the values attached to the two different types of pottery are quite different. While traditional pottery has either utilitarian value, including ritualistic value as stated above, or intrinsic value for the decoration of urban homes, modem pottery has mainly aesthetic value attached to it although one may argue that utilitarian value is also present as in the ash-tray or flower vase.

Characteristics of Traditional Technology

From the above discussion, some characteristics of traditional technology can be observed. In the first place1 human energy 246

seems to be the primary source of power used to work the simple machines and tools. Domesticated animals are another source of energy to work the contraptions like the plough or grinder, while water or wind is harnessed to work the wheels and gears in traditional mills. Raw materials used in the production of goods are usually available in the locality, although in some cases they have to be imported. The latter points to the fact that some cottage industries have been part of the commercial traffic even in the past. In the case of songket, batik and brasswork, manufacturers are so dependent on imported raw materials that if the government agencies had not helped, the production would have stopped. Another feature is that learning of the craft is not by formal instruction but rather by means of apprenticeship or indirect learning. It is only natural for a girl to pick up the art of weaving, either of cloth or mat, as part of her growing up process, or a boy to handle the plough or the fishing net. The technological know-how to be learnt and absorbed thus becomes part of the total fabric of life. The concept of being specialized in one particular skill or trade has little application in traditional technology. In the case of cottage industries in Malaysia, the manpower involved in traditional technology is rural and localized. The people involved are also engaged in other economic occupations. In fact, traditional technology is ancillary to the main economic activities: besides working on the handicraft, they have also to attend to their primary activities like tending their rice-fields or rubber smallholdings, doing household chores or helping out in their familys or, in the case of women, their husbands economic occupation. The workers are also localized; most of them work at home or in the vicinity of their own homes. While skilled workers are a little more mobile in the sense that their expertise might bring them further away from home for more attractive returns, most of those involved in traditional technology tend to work in or around their places of residence. Hence, the dispersed factory or putting-out system fits into this pattern. The workers will stay put while the owner or the manager of an establishement distributes materials to be produced among different small work-places or production units, either to work part of the process or the whole process, and he pays the workers by piece-rate. Another characteristic of the human resource connected with traditional technology in Malaysia, and also in most countries, is the involvement of a large number of women. In the manufacture


of household articles or even for use in economic activities like fishing nets or fishing traps, the women vie with men in expertise. But weaving, either the songket or the pandanus leaves, is the womens enclave. Pottery in Sayong is also the speciality of women. Besides the fact that they are engaged in these activities to fill in the time between doing their main household and economic chores, they also do it for economic reasons to help out in the family expenditure. The other industries are mainly carried out by men, like brassware, silverware or batik. But women, also participate. Thus in the batik industry, the major processes are done by men as full-time workers, while the minor processes are done by women who are usually employed as casual workers.4 Another aspect of manpower is the level of education. It is observed that the level of education of most of those involved in traditional technology is low. Fisk, for instance, found that 3,170 or 96 percent of the weavers in the handboom industry in Trengganu were illiterate, 60 or 2 percent could read the Jawi script only and 110 or 3 percent who could read and write Jawi and romanized script (Fisk, 1962). However, the level of education is more related to the general availability of education, and since educational facilities have improved in Malaysia since the time of Fisks report, one can expect a higher level of education among those engaged in traditional technology. In Rusila, Heather Strange (1971) reported that 49 percent of the young children attended secondary school (mostly Arabic-medium), while most girls stopped after primary education. The boys involved in the brassware industry in Kuala Trengganu are usually those who have stopped schooling at primary level. The manufacturing of goods by means of traditional technology actually meets a limited demand, which Is usually local. In the case of Malaysia, cottage industries producing brass and silverware9, pottery, mats and baskets have survived because the needs for such goods are still dictated by the customs and folkways and also by the pattern of traditional economic activities like rice cultivation or fishing. Now there are also new demands created mainly from tourism. Of the cottage industries h~Malaysia, only the batik industry has achieved a state where the market is widespread in the country, and in some instances it has even secured an export market. Working conditions surrounding traditional technology do not impose demands which can upset the pattern of life for they blend very well with tne rhythm of life where the main economic activi248

ties are agricultural and fishing. It does not normally interfere with the familial and other social obligations of everyday life such as births and deaths, weddings, festivals and religious observances. Industries which employ traditional technology do not seem to have a highly organised set-up. One of the reasons why modern factories find it difficult to deal with workers from rural areas is that the workers are prone to take leave to meet their familial and social obligations. On the economic side, traditional technology is consistent with the economic factors which prevail in rural life: limited capital, cheap labour costs, low profitmotivation, unsophisticated consumer demand and lack of technological know-how. The economic extension of traditional technology to the urban market is small and limited, mainly in the form of tourist trade for handicraft, cultural demands as in the case of songket and brass work and the appeal of the batik as clothing material. Another characteristic of traditional technology is that although a particular industry tends to be clustered in one particular area, partly due to economic reasons and partly to tradition, it may be dispersed in terms of the production unit. A whole village may be made up of little workshops situated underneath the house just as Detlev Karsten has said, the traditional crafts -are typically, carried out in ideal decentralisation, unlike the modern factory where there is a centralisation in production organisation (Karsten, 1972). A greater number of people therefore are involved in relation to production when compared to a modern factory, a fact which induces Karsten to describe handicraft production as labour intensive technology as opposed to capital intensive technology of the highly developed countries.

APlace For Traditional Technology

The future of traditional technology in Malaysia would depend on a number of factors, but Government policy on it would be the most important Cottage industries have always been associated with rural Malay economy and as such they were given due attention when the government of the day established RIDA. When RIDA was reorganised in 1968 into another organisation called Majlis Amanah Rakyat or MARA, cottage industries were later put under a board which was established in 1973, the Handicraft Board of Malaysia. The Board has as its objectives (Lembaga Kraftangan Malaysia, 1977): 249

to develop local handicraft by introducing innovations in techniques and methods of production; ii) to oversee and control the standard of local handicraft production so that the high standard of Malaysian handicraft can be maintained; iii) to step up the marketing of local handicraft, locally or abroad; and iv) to encourage those who are under-employed to take up a handicraft industry as a source of income. To implement the above policy, the Board has set up five centres and intends to set up a few more during the Third Malaysia Plan. The five centres were established in areas where there had already been a traditional industry. Exceptions are the centres for woodwork and rattan in Temerloh, Pahang, and rattan and bamboo work in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan. Thus a centre was established in Kota Bharu for silverwork, ironwork and batik in an area traditionally engaged in these crafts: in Kuala Trengganu for brasswork, batik, handloom industry and pandanus weaving, also an area well-known in these industries and in Kuala Kangsar. Perak for pottery where there has been since the turn of the century and perhaps even long before that a tradition of pottery making. The centres in Temerloh, Pahang and Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, do not deal so much with traditional industries but rather with experimentation in using local materials for new crafts. In the other three centres, the rationale was not so much to conserve traditional craft, but to stimulate and rehabilitate traditional skill and craftsmanship. These centres undertake research not only in the techniques, methods and processing of raw materials, b~t also in the marketing of the products especially with the idea of exporting the handicraft abroad. The centres first of all provide advisory service. However, in order to carry out its work, the centres also have training programmes and carry out production of the articles so as to provide designs or models for the local artisans as well as entrepreneurs, especially with the view of improving their products. The centres also serve as facility centres especially with regard to providing help in acquiring raw materials, and giving advice as to the qualitiy of raw materials such as dyes and other chemicals. Thus, Batik Malaysia Berhad undertakes to supply brasswork manufacturers with the metal. It is also envisaged that the centres would provide facilities such as the use of special machines so that the craftsmen could perform certain processes more efficiently. 250


In spite of the objectives stated above, it can be seen that the philosophy behind the whole exercise is to retain the use of traditional technology and also to introduce certain modifications both in technique as well as in business management so that industries can realize a higher income for those involved. If there is any plan to convert cottage industries into a small scale factory system, it is not very clearly enunciated. The idea, it seems, is to encourage craftsmen and manufacturers to stay where they are, and with governmental aid, they can raise their income level through doing the same thing, but better. This would also entail a transformation of technique as in the idea of training the children of the presentday Sayong potters in modern techniques of production. One needs to distinguish those techniques and methods which are conducive to improvement from those which by their very nature would not lend themselves to improvement. Technology as used in the handboom industry, batik, brass and other metalwork or pottery may still mean traditional techniques but some of the processes can be improved by the use of new methods of processing or electricity and other froms of power. The best example would be brasswork and pottery. In the case of brasswork, new methods of casting can be introduced and electric power can be of great help in working the bellows and lathe. In the case of pottery, the introduction of the potters wheel, a better technique of preparing the clay and more scientific methods of firing would increase the output and improve the products. These new techniques would bring about a transformation in the industry and in the type of products, and therefore the traditional artistic value would be lost, and new artistic values introduced. In the case of brasswork, it is the finished product that counts rather than the technique, for the consumers would only be needing incense burners, betel-trays and other traditional articles for their own use without asking how they were made. Those industries which are not easily adaptable to the use of machines are those like pandanus weaving or bamboowork.5 In the case of pandanus weaving, the use of better dyes may be introduced, but for the processing of the raw materials and the weaving itself, it is doubtful if machines can do the work better. In the case of bamboocraft or woodwork, the products are mainly for home consumption and as such it would not be economically viable to introduce modern machinery for the purpose. Usually the introduction of new products like trophies and table-decorations for brassware, for instance, has to be accompanied by better proces251

sing methods, and this would mean a better selection of raw materials, use of more efficient machine and an increase in the capital outlay. Where, however, a more efficient method of production cannot be introduced, the centres try to improve the products by enhancing their artistic quality, or by introducing new designs and patterns. In the introduction of machines, lack of capital and the unwillingness to expand the enterprise seem to be the constraints. The government throught its agency, MARA has provided credit facilities as part of the general rural development programme, and in fact such facilities are being made use of by the~ manufacturers. A 30 percent sampling of the batik industry in Kelantan in 1976 showed that 94.1 percent of the respondents had plans to expend their industry, but only 14.7 percent of them had concrete plan to do so in 1976, while the rest had no definite plans (Malaysia Centre for Development Studies, unpublished reports, 1976). About twothirds (69.3 percent) had the bank in mind as the source of the loan, and one third (30.7 percent), other sources. In fact the main problem is capital: 16.6 percent said that they had no problem in respect of additional capital, 24.4 percent indicated that it was difficqlt to raise loans, 6.8 percent said they had collateral for the loans, and 53.3 percent that they lacked capital to expand their enterprises. The lesson from traditional crafts is in fact extended to new crafts. The raw materials which abound in the country have traditionally been used to manufacture objects for everyday needs and family consumption. Through these centres, it is planned that new handicraft can be introduced. The local furniture industry can take the form of a small-scale factory system in the rural areas employing full-time craftsmen for wages, or the bamboocraft can follow the example of the pandanus weaving industry where it is done on part-time basis to supplement the family income. Hence the Handicraft Board has no single approach towards traditional technology in its endeavours to raise the income of those involved in it. In fact it has to have a multidimensional approach and entertain a wider scope, for the question is not merely to put traditional technology to a more productive use but to relate it to the total problem of socio-economic development of the poorer segment of the countrys population. However, the survival of traditional technology in Malaysia today, and for some time to come, is based on two major factors: the cultural (including aesthetic, customary and even ritual) demand for its products will continue and the fact 252

that the industrialisation programme of the country seems to concentrate more on the establishment of new factories and has given little or no attention to the possibility of transforming the existing traditional technology system to serve a modern system where village cottage industries become rural small-scale factories to manufacture new goods, generating employment and development in the process.

1. According to Baharil lnsan bin Hashim in his graduation exercise. RIDA TO MARA (Faculty of Economics, University of Malaya. 1969). During the preindependence and immediately during the post-independence - -- the functions of RIDA were mainly in constructing the infrastructure and concentrating in native industries such as mengkuang weaving. belacan manufacturing. silverwares and other handicraft. Post-independence leaders had more interest in industrialisation and turning RIDA to a more commercial establishment (p.54) - It was to give a bigger scope in dealing with the problem of uplifting rural ~alay economy that MARA was subsequently formed to replace RIDA. According to Wan Ismail, as far back as he can ascertain, the supply of brass and other metals had always come from the local Chinese merchants. It is a Malay custom that one takes off ones footwear on entering a house. Figures given by Nik Abdul Rashid for June 1968: Men 1.250 385 Full-time Women

2. 3. 4.

Kelantan Trengganu 5.

Men 816 615

Part time Women 1.504 100

The bamboowork referred to here is the traditional one, not the modern bamboowork being experimented with by the Handicraft Centres in Temerloh and Kuala Pilah.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Abdul Kanm Ismail (1971), Perusahaan Mengkuang: Kajian Di Duo Buah Tempat Di Negara Melaka (Mengkuang Industry: A Study at Two Locations in Malacca), (Unpublished Graduation Exercise, Department of Malay Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur). Baharil Insan bin Hashim (1969). RIDA to MARA (Unpublished Graduation Exercise, Faculty of Economics. University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur) Firth, Rosemary (1966), Housekeeping Among Malay Peasants (London). Fisk, E.K. (1962), The Economics of the Handloom Industry of the East of Malaya, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XX)UIM, Pt. 4. pp. 172.


Gullick. J.M (1952), A Survey of the Malay Weavers and Silvermiths in Kelantan in 1951. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. XXV, Pt. 1. pp. 134148. Hill. A. H. (1949), The Weaving Industry in Trengganu. Journal of the Maiayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. XXII. Pt. 3, pp. 75 84. Hoselitz. Bert F. (1968). The Role of Small Industry (The Hague Paris). Karsten, Detlev (1972, The Economics of Handicrafts in Traditional Societies (Munchen). Knight. Melvin M. (1932), Handicraft, in (ed.) Ed~n R.A. Seligman. Encyclopaedia of the Social Science (New York), Vol. VII, pp. 255 260. Lembaga Kraftangan Malaysia (1977). Anggaran 1977 (Handicraft Board of Malaysia: Estimates for 1977). (Kuala Lumpur. unpublished). Lim. J.S. and Shariffud~n.P.M. (1976). Brunei Brass: The Traditional Method of Casting. The Brunei Museum Journal Vol. Ill, No. 4. Malaysian Centre for Development Studies (1976). Unpublished Reports. Morgan. G.T.M. de M. (1951). Brass and White-Metal Work in Trengganu. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. XXIV. Pt. 3. pp. 114 119. Nik Abdul Rashid bin lsmai-l (1969). Perusahaan Batik dan Kajian Aspek-aspek Pemasarannya (Batik Industry and Its Marketing Aspects). (Unpublished Graduation Exercise, Faculty of Economics. University of Malaya. Kuala Lumpur) Shetty. M.C. (1963). Small-scale and Household Industries in a Developing Economy: A Study of Their Rationale. Structure and Operative Conditions (Bombay. Calcutta. etc.). Singapore Art Society (1951). A Definitive Exhibition of Malay Arts and Crafts (British Council Centre. Singapore). Staley. E. And Morse. R (1965). Modern Small Industry in Developing Countries (New York). Strange. Heather (1971). The Weaver of Rusila: Working Women in a Malay Village (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. University of New York). Winstedt. R.O. (1962). The Malays: A Cultural History (London). Wray. L. (1903). The Malayan Pottery of Perak. The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol. XXXIII. pp. 2425.


The development of religious administration after the advent of British rule or protectorate can generally be divided into two periods. The earlier period before 1948 is not so well-defined. Enactments and ordinances pertaining to marriage and divorce, or the appointment of religious officials were promulgated by the State Councils at various times, but the administration on other matters was not very clear. Matters pertaining to religion were in theory under the direct purview of the Sultan, and it has been the general pattern that the ruling houses in each state keep close supervision on religious affairs. It is often that we find members of the ruling house holding responsible posts in the religious affairs department. The details of religious administration in the Malay states before 1949 differed from state to state. However, the most significant was that of Kelantan. As early as 1915, Kelantan established an independent non-governmental body called the Council for Reli~ious Affairs to advise the Sultan on matters relating to religion. Right at its inception, it was envisaged to function as a corporate body with funds of its own and to participate in business ventures in maintaining its activities. The revenue was mainly from the zakat and fitrah collected from the Muslim population of the state. 255

The objectives of the Council were not only confined to religious activities such as the building and maintenance of mosques, the propagation of Islamic teachings, publication and translation of religious works and looking after the poor and destitute, but also to foster education both in Malay and English. In fact, the earliest education in English in the state was conducted by the Majlis. The Majlis ran a school in English and Malay on its premises, besides religious classes. Many a leading public figure today in Kelantan had his early education in the classes run by the Council. Scholarships which enabled students to study abroad were also awarded by the Majils. While the Council funtioned as an independent corporate body, the office of the kadi and syanah courts still formed part of the government administration. It is significant that it was the Kelantan religious administration which became the model for the structure of administration of religious affairs in the other states after 1948. In the case of Penang and Malacca, there were no religious affairs departments when the two states were British Straits Settlements. The kadis were the main officials involved in the administration of Islamic law, especially with regard to matters pertaining to marriage and divorce. However the powers of the Kadi in Malacca and Penang were really limited: in most instances like disputes over inheritance of property, the kadi could only advise for his decision was not enforceable. In Malacca, the kadis were even registered under the Societys (or Associations) Ordinance. In the case of the two former Straits Settlements, the change did not come until after 1957, when the country achieved its independence as the Federation of Malaya. As has been said above, the main structure of religious administration today is somewhat based on the Kelantan model. On the one hand there is the Council of Religious Affairs which is set up to advise the Sultan on matters relating to religion, and on the other there is the Department of Religious Affairs which is a department coming within the state administrative machinery. The President of the Council, who is usually appointed by the Sultan, is also the Head of Department, while the Secretary, who may be a state civil servant serves both. Usually, the syariah court, matters relating to teligious education especially in government schools, registration of marriages and divorces belong to the Department. while matters concerning fatwa (rulings on religious problems). propagation of religious teachings, religious education in private schools, the collection of zakatdand fitrah. and the administration of

endowed properties (wakaf) are usually assigned to the Majlis. Although it appears that the Council is a policy-making body whose members are appointed by the Sultan and are not employees of the government except for the President, the Secretary and the exofficio members like the Multi (or the Kadis and Imans who may be appointed by the Sultan for one reason or another) and the Department as the executive branch, it does not actually in practice conform to such arrangement. While the closest relationship and cooperation are maintained, especially as the President and the Secretary of the Council are also the Head and Secretary for the Department, the Council and the Department maintain different staff and offices. Although this can be said to be the basic model, there are certain differences from one state to another. Kelantan, whose structure it was said to be the basic model for the other states, has six separate government departments running various religious matters, from the syariah courts to the department for the prevention of immorality (pencegahan maksiat). The Council, on the other hand is a corporate body with its own funds, accrued not only from the collection of zakat and fitrah, but also from business investments in properties. It has a staff of its own and is divided into departments : the collection of zakat and fitrah, the supervision of mosques and mosque officials, the trustee for endowed properties and properties left by dead Muslims ~Mthout inheritors, the publication of religious works, and the supervision of private religious schools. Kedah and Perlis, for instance, has the zakat collected by a committee directly responsible to the State Secretary. The main reason for this appears to be the fact both these states are extensive rice areas, and income from the zakat is really considerable. However, most of the revenue is used for matters relating to religious activities, including scholarships. While in the Malay states, the Sultans are the Heads of Religion, in Malacca and Penang it is the Yang di-Pertuan Agung, and not the Governor of the states. So the appointments of the members of the Council of Religious Affairs in these two states comes from the King. In Perak, as another instance, the membership of the Council is based on the representation of five categories conceived of the Muslim ppulation in the state : the rajas or nobility, the chiefs or noblemen, the religious scholars or ulama, the common people and the non-Malay Muslims. There are many other differences in the actual organisation, and this is matched by the discrepencies in the religious law and enactments in all the states. 257

It is because of this fact that moves were made in 1969 to establish a council for religious affairs at the national level in order to coordinate and streamline the religious administration for the whole of the country. However, because of the very nature of the constitution, born out of a historial past peculiar to its own, the problem was not as straightfotward as one would think Matters of religion and Malay customs had always been left, in theory at least, to the Sultans of the Malay States during British colonial rule and this was continued after independence. The Council of Rulers (Majlis Raja-Raja) was the only body which had the power to touch on religious matters which concern the country as a whole. In 1968, however, the Council of Rulers at its meeting on 17th. October, agreed to the establishment of a National Council of Religious Affairs for Peninsular Malaysia. However, the function of the Council appears to be limited to giving advice to the Council of Rulers, the State governments on the state religious affairs councils on matters of Islamic law, administration, eduation and with the ultimate aim of encouraging and achieving uniformity in all the states. Even with such a limited function, Kedah and Pahang did not send any representative to sit on the Council when members of the Council were announced. Thus, although the intention was to coordinate matters relating to religious ordinances and other aspects of administration, the constitutional rights of the component states in relation to the Federation have to be safeguarded. The role of the National Council of Religious Affairs is therefore defined as such that it acts only as an advisory body to the Rulers Council and the religious authorities of the states, and even then if its advise is sought. The effectiveness of the Council is therefore doubtful, although the possibility of its becoming a coordination body to standardise Islamic religious legislations among the member states is always there, provided that all the states cooperate and support it. It is at the state level that the Islamic religious administration has really become in~titutionalised.The bureaucratic characteristics of the administration at the state level are becoming clearer. The Majhs and the Department have a hierarchy of officials who hold authorities in their states. Besides those who have all the time existed ir~ the Islamic religious administration like the Mufti and Kadi, there are others who are lay-officials but having authorities to administer matters related to religion. Thus there are the enforcements officers who have the authority to arrest those who have committed offences according to the syariah law, supervisors of 258

religious education and religious teachers, collectors of zakat and fltrah and others. Officials like the Multi and Kadi and the layofficials, have their authorities legitimated by the Council and Department. And the Council has the authority to issue fatwa (ruling on religious problems) and the taullah without which one cannot teach religion outside ones own family. In fact, within the state, it is the council, in the name of Sultan, which is the highest authority in a state. In short, it has the power and authority to prescribe the dogmas in the form of fatwas; it is a body which Iegitimises not only the authorities of those working for the Council as officials or lay-offidals, but also provides legitimation for other things concerning religion; it applies sanctions through its kadi courts and others. With these characteristics, there is every possibility to say that Islam, in so far as it concerns the member states, has what in sociological terms would be called a church. And one result of this is that not only are the authorities becoming clearly defined to the adherents, but also the application of sanctions. Offenders on religious matters are liable to be arrested by officials belonging to the Council and Department or by the lay-officials like the imam in the kampungs. Failure to comply with the rulings of the Coundl of Religious Affairs of the state is a punishable offence. Hence, while there may be dissent on certain rulings of the Council, a Muslim who resides in the state is obliged to accept that ruling of the Council even on controversial questions. The day on which the First of Ramadhan falls (the fasting month) or the first of Shawal (Idul----Fitri) may not be observed privately for one may not agree with the use of mathematical calculations but would rather rely on the sighting of the moon, but publicly one has to comply with the official ruling. As the administration has become more institutionalised, there is a clearer definition of authorities, especially with regard to the administration of sanctions. Hence one can expect a greater degree of conformity in the religious behaviour of the community. The other implications can also be observed. The structure of the administration, we have noticed, provides for the Council to be outside direct government control. It is regarded as a corporate body which can invest in properties or take part in business activIties. When the Islamic Economic Congress in the country, for example, decided to accumulate capital from Muslims, which actually means Malays, as part of the government policy to secure 30% of Malay participation in commerce, the Councils of Religious Affairs of the State provided a ready-made machinery to implement 259

this project. Thus, each Muslim family was obliged to contribute a sum besides paying the obligatory fttrah during the Ramadhan last year. And a recent statement by the Council of Religious Affairs of Perak that it would soon go into business ventures and made investments further underscore the point made here. The institutionalisation of religious administration as embodied in the Council and Department of Religious Affairs in each state also encouraged the formation of social-action groups. The maintainance of mosques, the collection of zakat and fitmh, and religious education, in the form of regular private schools and Quran instructors, employ either directly or indirectly a good number of people. In the past, all these activities were mainly confined to the immediate communities themselves. But with the Council and the Department of Religious Affairs now having direct control over them, disputes over wages, allowances and other matters are dealt with by the Council and the Department. It is in the context of such disputes that the religious school teachers and the mosque officials have formed associations to look after their interests. The association of mosque officials in Kelantan, for example, once took up the case of their percentage of the zakat collection with the Council of Religious Affairs, Kelantan, most vehemently. Similarly, there have been many instances of religious teachers in the different states staking claims for higher wages and better conditions of service with the state governments. In these circumstances, a lot of politics were thrown in, and even non-Muslim members of the opposition parfies took up the cudgel on behalf of the teachers. So while ideally Islam in theory would have no need for an organisation which is sociologically defined as a church the administration of religious affairs in Peninsular Malaysia, through the institutions of the Council and Department of Religious Affairs in each state does show certain characteristics of the church.


G.E. von Grunebaum has pointed out that the conversion ot the Arabs to Islam beginning in the seventh century A.D. also meant a transformation of their culture. The new religion not only brought new values and ideals but also successfully provided new solutions to old problems and helped to legitimize answers that seemed disrupting or otherwise inacceptable within the superseded system.1 The transformation of a culture through a change in religion is possible because Islam stresses not only correct belief but also right conduct. In Islam, belief and conduct are ideally one. But scholars who have dealt with the Islamisation of the Malay Archipelago are quick to say that Islam is but a thin veneer over the indigenous Indonesian civilization.2 As J.C. van Leur puts it, drawing a parallel between the Islamisation and the Indianisa~ion of the Archipelago, both these world religions were only a thin, easily flaking glaze on the massive body of indigenous civilization.3 On the other hand, it has been suggested by C.A.O. van Nieuwenhuize that neither outwardly nor inwardly were those who became the adherents of the Islamic creed need be forced into a situation of conflict. And Nieuwenhuijze observes further that if these people regard themselves for all practical purposes Muslims, it is difficult to maintain that scientific research has come to the conclusion that they are not.4 Many theories have been advanced regarding the spread of Islam into the area, and it would take much space to go into them in detail for, after all, these ques261

tions5 have been dealt with by many competent scholars in the field. What we shall examine is the impact of Islamic civilization on the peoples of the Archipelago, particularly the Malays. Islam penetrated into the Archipelago along the trade routes. Arabs and other Muslim merchants had been known to be in the area since the ninth century A.D., but the spread of Islam did not begin in earnest until after the fourteenth century. One explanation of this has been advanced by Dutch scholars who see the spread of Islam as an integral part of the commercial activities in the area. B. Schrieke argues that it was the Portuguese who provided the stimulus for the accelerated expansion of the religion. The Muslim traders both local and foreign reacted to Portuguese encroachment by intensifying proselytisation, especially in the eastern part of the Archipelago.6 The local trading interests were vested principally in the royal courts and commercial ports, and as siich the fight against the Portuguese for control of trade was waged mostly by the local Muslim princes. It has also been suggested that the rise of local Muslim power was instrumental in accelerating the downfall of the Hinduised states. Thus the decline of Hindu dynasties in central Java is attributed to the activities of Local Muslim principalities on the northen coast of Java.7 The interpretation is that political motivation was tied up with that of trade. Islam, it seems, was a convenient weapon to wield in attempts to attain political and commercial goals against the Portuguese. The spread of Islam in the Malay Archipelago has been linked with the princely courts since Islamic scholarship and Muslim prestige were associated with the royal centres. Not only did Muslim theologians and sscholars from the West flock to these centres, but the princely courts also provided a base for proselytisation by Muslims in the area. Too much emphasis on the role of the royal courts, however, tends to misrepresent the situation of Islam in the Archipelago. It is tempting to liken the position of Islam among the people to that of Hinduism in the preceding period. Scholars like B.H.M. Vlekke and J.C. Van Leur have suggested that just as Sivaism had provided the religlo-magical charismatic aura for the Hinduised rulers, Islam had come to serve a similar function in the post-Hindu period. Vlekke shows that this was the case in Javanese politics in the fifteenth century. Islam had provided a new source of magic for the rulers.8 Van Leur has presented a similar view. According to him, Islamisation was dictated by political situations and political motives.9 The dynasty of Malacca, for


instance, adopted Islam with the idea of using the new religion as a political instrument against Hindu traders, Siam, China, and the Hindu region on Java. 10 The Hindu concejt of Devaraja or divine kingship which was the cornerstone of the political structure featuring the organisation of the state with the raja at the apex, was perpetuated but given the Islamic form of legitimisation. The viewpoint as represented by Vlekke and Van Leur has been criticised on the grounds that it tends to reduce Islam to the level of a pragmatic subterfuge to promote worldly ends. It is suggested, on the other hand; that the spread of Islam in the Archipelago should be viewed in the light of the new values introduced by the teachings of the new religion. Thus Islam did not succed solely because it served the political, economic or class interests of the aristocrats. It succeeded because its teachings appealed to the people. Scholars like AP. Wertheim, C.AO. Neouwenhuijze, and S. Hussein Al-Atas have suggested that Islam was attractive to the people of the Archipelago begause it emphasized a democratic ideology as apposed to caste-bound Hinduism. Al-Atas, for example, even goes fo the extent of suggesting that the adoption of Islam by the people of the Archipelago was a result of a revolution from within.12 In other words, it was a dissatisfaction with the Hinduised social system that made the people readily accept Islam. It is true that between the Islamisation and the Indianisation of the Archipelago there was one important difference. After more than a millennium, Hinduism had remained almost an exclusive cult of the priesis and pnnces, whereas Islam, however nominally it was practised in reality, had been the professed belief of the masses and kings alike. But it would be extremely difficult to ascertain the degree and nature of social conflict in the Indianised society prior to conversion to Islam. It is, moreover, important to note that the sociopolitical structure inherited from the Hindu period by the new Malay Islamic states had been retained more or less unchanged. The Hindu concept of devaraja, for example, had been modified by the Islamic view of king as Gods shadow on earth. This is the essential difference which should be noted: while the basic structure, featuring the rulers and the aristocrats at the top of the pyramid with the common people the rakyat at the base, had remained intact, the meaning attached to the differential statuses and roles had become different. The notion of divine kingship had been replaced by the idea of just and benevolent kingship, although the institution was no less sacrosanct In fact, Islam crea


ted a new social class, that of the Arab claiming to be descendants of the Holy Prophet. These people were accorded a status equivalent to the local population of royal birth. Especially in the Philippines, the creation of state as a political organisation did not actually begin with Hindu influence but with the introduction of Islam into the southern islands by Arabs scholars and merchants3 in the fifteenth century A.D. What should be emphasized regarding the role of the Islamic ideology in the Islamisation of the people, therefore, is not so much its democratic doctrines but rather the fact that new values were created. This is particularly true when it comes to self indentity of an individual. As W.F. Wertheim has rightly pointed out: Islam gave the small man a sense of individual worth as a member of the Islamic community. According to Hindu ideology he was merely a creature of lower order than the members of the higher castes. Under Islam he could, as it were, feel their equal, or even, in his quality as a Moslem, the superior of such of them as were not Moslems themselves, even though he still occupied a subordinate position in the social structure 14 Another point that should be stressed is the recognition of ones piety and knowledge of religion in a Muslim community. It is often said that the conversion to Islam ~senough by the tongue, that is to say, it is enough by just pronouncing ones belief in Allah and His Prophet. We have to bear in mind that Islam puts stress on right conduct in addition to professing belief in its teachings. An individuals conduct has to be in accordance with the prescriptions and proscriptions of the religion. In actual practice, however, there are usually gradations in the observance of Islamic dogmas b~yindividual Muslims. But the ideal is usually the objective, thus it is expected that believers will strive for the orthodox perfection in the observance of religious tenets. And this does not mean only pious observances of the rituals, but also strict adherence to the moral conduct and eversearching scholarship for the true meaning of Gods word and the teachings of His Prophet. Thus Islam introduced to the Malay society not only a monotheistic religion but also an ethical system which made a demand not only on the rakyat but also on the rulers. From the thirteenth century on, scholarship in Malay society was one which emphasised religion. It was not confined to theology alone, but other aspects as well, especially matters pertaining to good government and just society. So learning in the 264

Islamic tradition progressed as C.W.J. Drewes notes: The Islamisation of Indonesia is still in progress, not only in the sense that Islam is still spreading among pagan tribes, but also in that people who went over to Islam centuries ago are living up more and more to the standards of Muslim orthodoxy As the Indonesians grew better acquainted with the religious literature of Islam, the dividing line not only between orthodoxy and heterodoxy but also between what was consistent with Islam in Indonesian society and what was not, became clearer.5 Another factor that forms a background to the Islamisation of the Malay Archipelago is Sufism, or Islamic mysticicm. It is said that the ideas and practices connected with mysticim in Islam were the result of an early contact with the religious of India.6 It is not surprising that when Islam spread to India, sufism found a fertile ground in which to develop. In the Archipelago, it was claimed that the teachings of the Sufis had accelerated the proselytisation of Islam.7 The period of the spread of Islam in the Archipelago coincided with the time of unifying role played by the Sufis after the fall of the Baghdad Caliphate in the middle of the thirteenth century A.D. The efforts of the Sufis in propagating Islam in the Malay Archipelago have been characterised as follows: They (the Sufis) taught a complex syncretic theosophy largely familiar to the Indonesians, but which was subordinate to, although an enlargement of the fundamental dogmas of Islam: they were proficient in magic and possessed powers of helding: and not least, consciously or unconsciously, they were prepared to preserve continuity with the past, and to use the terms and elements of the pre-Islamic culture in an Islamic context.8 It is said that the main single contribution attributed to the Sufis in facilitating conversion to Islam in the Archipelago had been their ability to syncretise Islamic ideas with existing local beliefs and religious notions and their tolerance towards these preIslamic beliefs. But one should also bear in mind that Sufism continued to be practised long after the initial conversion. In this case, Sufism had nothing to do with the attempt to accommodate earlier beliefs, but had come to function as an approach to religion, even if its doctrines were regarded as heretical by some schools in Islam. The writings of the seventeenth century Indonesian Sufis in north Sumatra are a case in point. As A.H.Johns puts it in another paper, in this instance (these writings are) not a matter of syncre-


tism with primitive cults, but a deviation that was part of the Islamic tradition itself.9 This brings us to an important point in understanding the background of Islam among the Malays. The Sufis, and also other early propagators of Islam in the area, brought with them popular beliefs which, properly speaking, stand outside the strict teachings of Islam. Most of these popular elements arose not only when Islam spread from Arabia to Persia and then to India, but also through earlier Arabic contacts with the Egyptians, Hebrews and Christians in the West Local elements tended to be added to the ever expanding Islamic civilization, and Islamic elements themselves were prone to be given new meanings and functions. It was inescapable that such situations should arise as Islam imposed itself on already established belief systems. The practice of mysticism helped to facilitate such processes. In the Archipelago Islamic id~as came to be identified with existing beliefs. The spread of Islam also brought with it magical beliefs and practices popular among the Persians and Indian Muslims. Some of the texts on Islamic magic are still today regarded as Kitab, a term usually reserved for religious books. One of the most celebrated works held in high esteem by the Malay peasantry is Taj-u!-Muh.ik, which is often regarded as a standard reference for Islamic magic. Besides magic, Taj-ul-Muluk also contains chapters on curing illnesses. Besides the Taj, there are many other versions which deal with magic and cures for illnesses and they are collectively known as Kitab Tib. Saint-worship or the worship at the graveside of holy men, which is quite wide-spread in other Muslim areas, is another example of the product of Islamic mysticism. This complex of beliefs is known as keramat-worship amnng the Malays. Like other folk or popular belief traditions, there are many forms and versions of kemmat-worship. However such beliefs and practices are informal aspects which have not been accepted or recognised formally. Hence they are on the periphery of Malay life, tolerated but not officially recognised by the learned or ukima. The Malays today belong to the orthodox Sunni sect, but the total impact of Islamic culture had come from many defferent directions. Islamic Malay culture is actually woven from numerous diverse strands. The early propagators came principally from India, from the Malabar coasts and from Gujerat. Richard Winstedt, for example, suggests that conversion to Islam was facilitated by the fact that the early Indian missionaries were able to syncretise Islamic teachings with existing beliefs.20 It is interesting to note in 266

this connection that the Sanskrit terms for some religious notions have been applied to Islamic practices instead of adopting Arabic terms. Sanskrit words such as puasa for fasting, neraka for hell, and syurga for heaven are representative examples. Even the word for religion is taken from Sanskrit, that is agama. Sufism and popular Islamic elements were brought to the Archipelago from India to a much greater extent than from Persia or Arabia. However, whether they had come directly or indirectly, Persian influence on the culture of the Malays has been particularly strong especially on the Malay royal courts. Malay court ceremonies, the title Syah for the Sultans or rulers, literature and ideas on statecraft and kingship, the literary style of court literature, religious literature of Shiite tradition, Sufi writings, and popular narratives, all bear indelible marks of Persian influence.2 In addition to the Indians and Persians, the Arabs also played a role in bringing to bear the influence of Islamic civilization on the Malays. By the seventeenth century A.D. there were already permament settlements of Arabs in the Archipelago, and wandering Arab traders, adventurers, and religious scholars had been a feature of Malay life for many hundred years22 As stated above, in the Philippines as well as in other parts of the Archipelago, the sta~ tus accorded the Sayyid (descendantd of the Holy Prophet) enabled some to carve out kingdoms for themselves and rule over the Malay subjects. As descendants of the Holy Prophet as they claimed themselves to be, they were regarded as ha~/ing not only a charisma but piety and knowledge in religious matters. The Arabs were often involved in local politics and with the esteem they were held by the local population they often en4ed up in the position of advantage. But still their contribution had been in the field of religious knowledge as suggested by William Roff: the Malays had for centuries tended to look upon all Arabs, whatever their origin, as the direct inheritors of the wisdom of Islam, and on Sayyids in particular as possessed of unexampled piety and religious merit.23 As opposed to the earlier propagators of Islam from India and Persia who were responsible for the spread of pantheistc mysticism and other popular elements of Islam, the Arabs had familiarised the Malays with the orthodox teachings of the religion. This does not mean that the Arabs had no hand in the spread of popular Islamic beliefs and practices, for itinerant Arab mendicants performing magic and divination have been known in the Archipelago for ~ long time. In fact most of the keramat worshipped by the Malays 267

are the graves or sites once connected with Arab traders or adventurers. And Arab merchants who travelled from village to village would often have semi-precious stones and talismen which they claimed had special magical qualities. More important than the role of the Arabs in advancing orthodox teachings is the closer contact the Malays enjoyed with the Arab world during the last two centuries. Two phenomena should be singled out: the first is the Wahhabi reformation, a movement which swept the Arab world in the middle of the eighteenth century, and the second is the modernist movement started in the last century by scholars like Sa~id Djamal al-Din Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh of Egypt. The main aim of the Wahhabi movement was to return to the purity of Islamic monotheism. Thus it campaigned and attacked vigorously any form of practice or belief that might have contaminated these ideals. The pre-Islamic survivals, magical practices and saint-worship which had come to attach themselves to the religious practices of the Muslims, were condemned and attacked. The influence of the movement in furthering the character of orthodoxy among the Malays had been quite considerable. The second movement too had its roots in the Wahhabi ideals, but the stress had been more on modernistic reforms. In Indonesia the reform movements like Muhammadiah and others were not only interested in furthering the teachings of Islam but had built up organisations which also served the public by establishing schools and hospitals.24 In the Peninsula, the reformers of the modernist school were referred to as Kaum Muda and they lashed away at both the Malay peasantry as well as the aristocracy for subscribing to un-Islamic beliefs and customs of the past, which feature a great deal not only in the rituals and ceremonials but also in the everyday life of the people. Of the cultural influence that Islam had brought to bear on the Malays, those in the field of literature have been the most profound. The literary heritage of the Malays has been exclusively written in the Perso-Arabic script, including those literary works carried over from the Hindu period. The connection of literary activity with the royal court is richly reflected in the literature. Treatises on duties of kingship and concepts of state are represented in books like Taj-us-Salatin (The Crown of Kings) and Bustan-us-Salatin (The Garden of Kings). Theologians who flocked to the royal courts translated and wrote works on Islamic jurisprudence, theology, and history. Even the state chronicles, which claimed a sacred origin for the ruling dynasties, were modelled on


Persian or Indian works such as Syah-Nameh and Akbar Nameh. Islam also introduced a wealth of writings on mysticism to the Malay world. These writings do not represent attempts of syncretism with polytheistic beliefs. They are doctrinal exercises in the tradition of Islam. Tales of heroes were among the earliest stories to be introduced to the area. Winstedt claims that the first task of the missionaries was to substitute for th~ Hindu epics tales of the heroes of Islam.25 These hero tales fitted into the feudal structure of the society as did the Mahabhrata and Rornayana in the Hindu period. From the Muslims lands of Persia and India came works bearing Shiite influence and spurious treatment of Islamic history and theology. Tales of the lives of the prophets based on popular legends, Sufi thoughts couched in simplistic term~,and treatises on magicand divination hadbeen circulating in the MalayArchipelago since the early days of Islam. It is from these sources that popular Islamic notions were introduced to the Malay masses. As far as the basic tenets of Islam were concerned, the impact of Islan~ic ideology had been felt in the royal courts as well as in the villages. But the total impact of Muslim civilization apparently had different meanings at the different social levels. Thus literature about statecraft or doctrinal discussions on points of theology would principally belong to courtly circles, while popular religious literature and the romances would inevitably find their way to the masses. The point to be made is that the scholarly tradition of Islam was nurtured within the precincts of the royal courts,26 or if there was no royal patronage, there would have been schools established by scholars of repute and to these scholars the aspiring young students would flock to study religious knowledge. The Pesantren (as it is known in Indonesia) used to be the centres of religious instruction. Althought such schools later became the srronghold of the conservative scholars as against the teachings of the so-called modernistic reformers, they had served for a long time as the point of reference for Islamic knowledge. The peasantry on the other hand, while subscribing to the basic tenets of Islam were quite often unaware of the scholastic traditions of religious knowledge. The characteristics of the early period of conversion have to be contrasted with the subsequent trend towards orthodoxy and rigorous application of Islamic teachings. Retentions of past beliefs still form a part of the Malays belief system, and popular Islamic elements are still tolerated in everyday life. Yet, the Malays hasten to claim that they are good Sunni Muslims. Toddy, Islam is the 269

declared official religion of Malaysia, although Malaysia itself is not a theocracy, and freedom to worship any other religion is guaranteed by the Constitution. In the component Malay states there had been established government departments which dealt with the administration of religious affairs in all aspects. In the period of British administradition, religious affairs and local Malay customs were under the jurisdiction of the Sultans and these were administered through either a department, a council or the Sultans office. But after 1948, every state in the Federation of Malaya had established a religious affairs department. Muslims in Malaysia are also subjected to Islamic law which is applied as personal status law, and subjected to the jurisdiction of religious courts (mahkamah spariah) which are presided over by religious judges. At the same time Islamic religious education in Malaysia has been given a new dimension with the establishment of religious faculties and departments in the universities. In the light of these new developments, it is difficult to say that Islam has not transformed the cultural values of the ,people. Snouck Hurgronje had observed that conversion to Islam among the peoples of the Malay Archipelago was characterized by expansion rather than intensification. But such a statement seems to be applicable only to the early period of Islam in the Malay world. It does not give an accurate picture of Islam in its subsequent development. Nevertheless, a substratum of older beliefs and a cultural heritage (usually subsumed under the Arabic derived term adat) has continued to exist among the Malays. To say that .the Malays are eclectic in their religious observance is to miss the point. There are conflicts to be sure, but such conflicts can best be described in the way P.E. de Josselin de Jong views the position of customary law (adat) and Islamic law (syara) in a Malay community: The conflict is between two system of ideals and practices, both of which were considered by the society concerned as being an integral of its culture, both applicable to the entire society, and both perceived as a system by inhabitants of the society 27 We may add, furthermore, that each system serves a different function in the total culture of people. But since the fourteenth century AD. onwards, it can safely be said that Islam had transformed the culture of the Malays. From then on, it is the Islamic belief and ethos that have become the foundation of the culture. of the Malays.


1. Transformation of culture as Illustrated by the Rise of Islam. in L. Brayson. L. Pinklestein and R.M. Mac Iver, (eds.), Conflict of Power in Culture, Proceeding of the Seventh Conference ofScience, Philosophy, and Religion. NewYork, 1978. pp. 218224. See, for instance, K.P. Landon Southeast Asia: Crossroad of Religion, Chicago. 1949. pp. 134164. Indonesian Trade and Society, The Hague and Bandung 1955, p. 169. Aspects of Islam in Post-Colonial Indonesia. The Hague and Bandung, 1958. pp. 3940. See for instance Caesar Adib Majul. Theories on the Introduction and Expansion of Islam in Malaysia, in The International Association of Historians of Asia, Second Biercial Conference Proceedings. Taipei, 1962 pp. 339398. Indonesian Sociological Studies, The Hague and Bandung 1957, pp. 234236. B.H.M. Vlekke, Nusantara: A History of Indonesia, rev. ed., Hague and Bandung. 1959. p. 86. Ibid. Indonesian Trade and Society, p. 122. Ibid., p. 112. See W.F. Wertheim, Indonesian Society in Transition, The Hague & Bandung. 1959. pp. 196197 and C.A.D. van Nieuwenhuijze, op. cit.. pp. 3536. On the need for a study of Malaysian Islamisation, Journal of South East Asian History, lV (March 1963) pp. 6881. See Eric Casino The Jama Maupun: A Changing Samal Society in the Southern Philippines, Quezon City 1976, p. 25. Indonesian Society in Transition, p. 196. Indonesia: Mysticisms and ActMsm, in G.E. von Grunebaum (ed.) Unity and Variety in Muslim Civilisation. Chicago, 1955, p. 292. Murray, T., Titus, Islam in India and Pakistan, Calcutta, 1959, pp. 153156. A.H.. Johns. Sufism as a Category in Indonesian Literature and History. Journal of South East Asian History, Vol. II (July 1961), pp. 1023. Ibid., p. 15. Aspects of Sufi Thoughts in Indonesia, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. XXVIII. 1 (1955) 7077. The Malays: A Cultural History, New York, 1950 pp. 3536. See G.E. Marrison, Persian Influences on Malay life, Journal of the Malavan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, XXVIII (1955) pp. 5269. William R.. Roff. The Malay-Muslim World of Singapore at the Close of the Nineteeth Century. Journal of Asia Studies, XXIV (1964). P. 80. Thid, p.81. See Delia Noer, The Modernist Muslim Movement in Indonesia. 1900/1942. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, 1973. The Malays: A Cultural History, p. 145. See Mohd. Taib Osman. Raja Ali Haji of Riau: A Figure of Transition or the Last of the Classical Pujanggas? in Bahasa Kesusasteraan dan Kebudayaan

2. 3. 4. 5.

6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.


Melayu: Esei-Esei Penghormatan kepada Pendeta Zaaba, Kuala Lumpur, 1976, pp. 136-160. 27. Islam versus Adat in Negeri Sembilan (Malaya), Bijdragen-Iot de Taalland~enVolkenkunde, Deel CXVII, 1, (1960), p. 203.


The Second World War has been the water-shed in more ways than one in the history of mankind. The momentum in the advancement of technology which started with the industrial revolution in the last century has been carried forward at a greater speed than ever before since the end of the War. But the most meaningful event has been the creation of so many new states or nations which, on the one hand, solved the problem of decolonisation of territories once governed by the Western powers, but, on the other, created problems for these fledgling states as well. The problem which has received much attention from scholars, especially those of the West, is how these states cope with the problem of modernisation. Under this are subsumed such problems ~s economic development, technological advancement and social upliftment of the population. In a nutshell, the problem is that these new nations or states are economically poor, technologically backward and socially impoverished so that they are often regarded as not the equal of the established nations of the West: hence the term under-developed countries is used for these nations as a contrast to the developed nations of the West. One measure of the comparative status that exists among nations is in the form of the so-called aids given by one set of nations to another. (I said the socalled aids because such aids, especially the military kind, end up only with the receiving country being trapped into some kind of

The paper was originally read at the Asian Association of National Languages Conferences held in Manila. 49 December. 1978.


political blackmail and bondage to the donor country.) However, this seemingly practical relationship has psychological implications as well, for otherwise it would not have been necessary to resort to such euphemism as developing countries or emergent nations. Whatever it is, it is clear that the relative economic and technological status of the new nations in an international setting has to be off-set by other means. Thus it is the concern of the new nations to present themselves as respectable members of the international family of nations through their own cultural identities. This is one way to assert their presence intern,ationally. We may call this the external need for a cultural identity. But how to project this identity externally is also a problem because while a new nation has to project an image which would symbolise its uniqueness and dignity, it has to do this from a situation where no such identity had existed before. Too often the new nation or state inherits the territory left behind by the colonial master, but besides the territorial boundary and the governmental infra-structure that the new nation inherits, there is nothing much in terms of socio-psychological identity of oneness or social identification as one community that the new nation can fall back on for this purpose. In most instances, it was the deliberate policy of the colonial powers to keep the population divided and differentiated so that colonial rule could be maintanied effectively. Divide and Rule was the cornerstone of colonial policy. Thus to project a common identity based on the socio-cultural diversity of its population is not an easy task, but it has to be done consciously and judiciously. The external need to project such identity may not be as important as the need really to fulfil and buttress this identity with a sense of unity and belonging among the citizens of a new nation. Too often, the people who make up the new nations had never had the experience of belonging to a single socio-political community. Before the advent of Western rule, the social organisation had been in the form of separate and different grouping, be it tribal, village conglomeration, longhouse or townships, and each almost independent of the other. The most sophisticated form of social organisation was perhaps a Kingdom, a territory with rather unclear boundaries and ruled by a king. Affiliation and loyalty had been by ethnic, linguistic and local oiientations. The territories which had once been under the colonial rule, and which came to be inherited by the new states, were thus arbitrarily defined, the boundaries being dedded by armed conflict, commercial competition or political influence. The thread that held the different pieces together was the 274

effective and efficient machinery of the colonial government, and ironically the first foothold that a new government has, by way of providing the unity for the new state, is this very governmental infra-structure. Even if independence has been gained through a revolution as in the case of Indonesia, the colonial government machinery is not dismantled, but rather rebuilt or modified to suit the new needs and direction. Such infra-structure would include not only the civil service personnel, the legal system, an administrative network covering the whole country, revenue collection and education system but also, to a certain extent, industrial, economic and communication build-up. It should be pointed out that all these services were rather minimal for the aim was not so much to develop the colonial territory and its people, but to strengthen the economy of the mother country. On gaining independence, the new nation has to rely a great deal on this governmental infrastructure, but at the same time new political needs have to be created, both external and internal, and therefore new direction has to be thought out and formulated. In some instances, preparation had started long before independence was gained. This was done through nationalistic and other political movements. One such example is the Pujangga Baru literary movement in Indonesia in the thirties. Although this was an elitist movement, its idea of promoting a truly Indoneisan literature, both in the use of one common lanquage and the expression of modernistic social concepts, thus transcending local languages and parochial cultural expressions, was one of the important elements in the development of a common Indonesian culture. Thus the example of Pujangga Baru illustrates the fact that the concern to create a national culture transcending the local ones was present even long before independence was achieved. In the case of Malaysia, the need to have a national culture has been motivated not so much by the idea of projecting a distinctive cultural identity abroad but more by the fact that her viability as a national entity would have to depend on the inter-group harmony of its population which is made up of the three major ethnic categories: (a) the indigenous peoples comprising the Malays as well as the Kadazan, Murut, Bajau, and other groups in Sabah; and the Iban, Bidayuh, Kenyah, Kayan, Melanau and numerous other groups in Sarawak, (b) the Chinese and (c) the Indians. However, the two problems are inter-related because the concept of a national culture transcending the local and ethnic cultures is the very one that is supposed to project the identity of the nation internationally. In 275

a country where the indigenous population makes up 54.7% of the total population of about twelve milloin and the rest made up of 34.2% Chinese and about 10.6% Indians,1 the problem is really acute. To make the situation more complex, the compartmentali~sation of the different ethnic groups into economic specialisations under the colonial rule, separated the major groups even further. The Federation of Malaya which was made up of nine Malay Sultanates and two British settlements of Penang and Malacca was given independence by the British on 31 August 1957. On 16 September 1963, the two British colonies of Sarawak and Sabah joined the Federation and the new enlarged state is called the Federahon of Malaysia. One characteristic of the political deve~opment of the country since independence has been the comparative stability achieved through a government formed by a partnership of three major ethnic parties UMNO, MCA, and MIC.2 Except for the racial riots which took place after the general elections of 1969, there has not been anything untoward happening in the country apart from the communist insurgency which, however, has been well contained by the armed forces and confined to some sjoradic and far-between skirmishes along the Thai-Malaysia border and in Pahang. However, racial overtones are still strong in political activities. While the government policy in achieving stability is through redressing the economic imbalance between the ethnic groups, especially between the poor indigenous people and the better-off immigrant groups who had benefifted from the favourable situation created by the British, the rumblings of dissatisfaction expressed by the non-indigenous political parties, especially those who do not join the government, only go to underscore the fact that in spite of the outward harmony and unity, there is always the danger that the stability of the country can be upset. That is the reason why a more permanent solution has to be found; the country cannot rely indefinitely on the pragmatism and expedience of checks and balances between the interests of the various groups. The rise of Malay nationalism in the Peninsula can be traced back to the modernist Islamic movements which started from about the turn of the century. But, in effect, the nationalistic sentiments, until the thirties, were not especially pronounced because the emerging movements were confined to mostly socio-religious issues. However, political consciousness was nurtured among the young teachers and other educated young people, especially in the thirties.3 Kesatuan Melayu Muda (Young Malays Union) which


was formed in 1938 was the first direct expression of Malay political consciousness with anti-colonial sentiments. It should be explained that anti-colonial feelings did not find such strong expression in the Malay states because, in theory these states were British protectorates under their own sovereign sultans, and therefore were supposedly independent. That is the reason why Malay nationalism suddenly surged forth into the surface under Dato Onn bin Jaafar, in 1946, when the British coerced the Sultans to agree to surrender their sovereignties to the British so that the Malay states, together with the British Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore could be transformed into a Malayan Union under direct British rule. It was this awakened Malay nationalism which gathered momentum and saw the Malayan Union dismantled and ultimately won independence for the country, but without Singapore. Among the Chinese and Indians in Malaya and Singapore, before the Second World War, political activity took the form of an extension of the activities of the mother-countries. The strunggle between Communist and Kuomintang factions in mainland China spilled over into Malaya among the Chinese population. The Indians in Malaya also echoed the politics of India especially the activities of the Indian Congress or the Indian Muslim League. The partition of India and Pakistan, for instance, was also marked by Hindu-Muslim clashes in some urban centres in Singapore and Penang. Similarly, the Communist and the Kuomintang struggle for support among the Nanyang Chinese was so strong that it was once said that every Chinese household in Malaya had two flags one Communist and the other Kuomintang ready to be flown depending on the turn of events in China. Hence among the Chinese and Indians, political awakening with regard to the local Malayan situation came rather late. Even if it existed, it was confined to a few. Among the Chinese, for example, consciousness with regard to their stake in their new adopted home was confined to the English educated and the local-born. It is against this historical background that the concept of national culture in Malaysia should be examined. Right at the oUtset, even before independence was achieved, the awareness among the Malays of the fact that they had to assert their cultural identity, besides their political position as the indigenous population of the country, was very strong. The opposition to the Malayan Union was, to a great extent, motivated by the fear that the British were about to give immediate citizenship to the Chinese and Indians in Malaya. In the eyes of the Malays, such a provilege should not be


given before loyalty and sense of belonging to the adopted country has been inculcated and tested. Awareness that culture was going to be an important element in the life of the new nation was expressed in the cultural, language and literary conferences which were held even before independence was achieved. The sentiments usually expressed with regard to Malay culture included among others: the identification of the culture with the Malay culture area as a whole; the indigenous status of Malay culture in the area and the rich heritage of the culture especially in the arts. But the defination of Malay culture in this respect has always been elusive, and long hours had been spent to discuss in concrete terms what culture meant and so on. The formulation had not been clear because the concept of culture differed among those who took part in such discussions. However, to the majority of them culture was mainly the arts. Also, there was the tendency to be prescriptive as to what culture should be. In the early years of the concept of national culture in Malaysia, the most vociferous with regard to its formulation were the literary and artistic groups. While there is provision made for the National and Official Language in the countrys constitution, and while there is also mention of the official religion, there is no mention of culture. This is to be expected, for, logically, while one can identify a particular language or religion, it is quite difficult to define a culture in concrete terms. However, a Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports was established on 16th May, 1964, but its status was reflected by the fact that it was headed by an Assistant Minister rather than a full Minister. The aim at the time was to have a government agency to look after programmes involving youth, sport activities and cultural performances during celebrations and visits of state guests. Thus, while there was a conscious manifestation on the part of the literary and other conscious groups with regard to the development of a national culture, it received little priority in government planning. The turning point came when racial riots broke out in Kuala Lumpur two days after the general elections in May 1969. While the country was placed under emergency rule, a great deal of thought was given to the factors which brought about the traumatic event. While the immediate solution was the introduction of the New Economic Policy wherein greater economic opportunities and advancement for the indigenous peoples were planned, no less important was the formulation of National Principles (Rukun Ne278

gara) to promote inter-racial harmony in Malaysia and the promulgation of laws to curb seditions and irresponsible public utterance likely to incite racial animosities. It was then that the long-term policies of restructuring society and the inculcation of loyalty to the nation above the more primeval loyalties to ethnic and immediate social groupings began to emerge in earnest. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports for the first time appointed a Director of Culture who was charged with the responsibility of promoting cultural activities consonant with the needs of the nation. His first task was to organise a nation wide congress on national culture. This was held in August 1971 at the University of Malaya. Assisted by some academics from the University, the Ministry organised the congress in such a way that it first of all discussed the principles to be adopted in formulating a national culture for Malaysia and then proceeded to discuss the state of affairs of the different iadigenous art forms and how these could be further nurtured so that they could play a role in the development of the national culture. While the latter was more practical in nature, the former was more abstract and theoretical. The formulation of the national culture. as was agreed at the congress, consisted of three main principles:~ (a) the national culture of Malaysia must be based on the cultures of the people indigenous to the region; (b) elements from other cultures which are suitable and reasonable may be incorporated into the national culture; and (c) Islam will be an important element in the national culture. The principles laid down may appear simple and straightforward, but there are a great deal of ramifications which may arise from it. Even the Prime Ministers speech at the opening of the congress referred to the fact that while the nat4onal culture was to be based on indigenous cultures, the elements to be adopted would have to be vigorous and positive, especially bearing in mind the pluralistic 5 Even without considering the nature of the Malaysian society. multi-ethnic character of the Malaysian population, the question of perpetuating traditional elements would have to be considered in the light of the present day reality. It is understandable that the newly emerging states would have to fall back on their glorious past to project respectability, but they also have to gain respectability as twentieth century modern states.6 Thus the Prime Minister rightly warned that the purity of village life adulated by some of our writers cannot be accepted in the context of the development of our Malaysian society in future. It is obvious that some of the 279

traditional institutions, like the economic system and technology, are out-dated, and therefore cannot be revived for any reason. But that part of the congress that dealt with the various traditional art froms did come out with recommendations which, to some extent, smacked of revivalism. In a way, there was, in fact, a rediscovery of traditions which had been neglected and unappreciated when Malay society w~sunder-going the process of modernization. So for the first time the beauty of traditional arts began to dawn on the Malay elite who attended the congress. It is clear that the question of selectivity is, abpve all, important. The focus on symbolic aspects of culture especiafly the arts to project national identity does not come into conflict with the modern social institutions or even economic and technological developments. However, here lies the problem of the level of cultural expression to be selected for the purpose of projecting the national culture.7 Actually the question of level would include both the level of culture the item is taken from and the level of culture of the audience towards whom the item is aimed. As experienced by countries in Europe when they first wanted to identify what in their culture could be regarded as really representative of their national souls, the elements were chosen from their traditional folk cultures. Malaysias cultural planners and promoters also resorted to the traditional folk cultures of the indigenous peoples of Malaysia for inspiration. It has become indeed a revival because, for the first time, dances, songs, music, costumes and games which were once confined to the folk communities of Malaysia were brought out to the fore and given and unprecendented status and treatment as items for cultural presentation at the national level. Festivals are held at both local and national levels and these are given wide publicity by the mass media. Dance groups are formed and traditional dances are choreographed to suit the modern audience. Traditional music and instruments are improved upon to suit more critical ears. Even simple costumes usually worn by women at home and at work, (e.g. the so-called Baju Kedah) have been elevated as truly representative of Malaysian costumes. Competitions among performers of folk arts are organised, and some, as for instance the competitions in folk music and folk songs, are annually organised by Radio and Television Malaysia and featured as regular programmes. All this can be said to be at the popular level of culture, espedally the festivals which are held locally. Apart from government offidals, politidans and culture enthusiasts, such festivals are not 280

usually attended by the elite of the Malaysian society. Even when such festivals are held in Kuala Lumpur. e.g. the pesta budaya staged by the New Straits Times, the largest newspaper organisation in Malaysia, the thousands that turn up are mainly people from the lower income group, and Malays at that. This is another problem that has arisen since most of the items are drawn from the indigenous cultures, such festivals and shows hardly interest the nonindigenous groups. Even when special programmes, such as those held during the Chinese New Year and Deepavali, where the major bulk of the programmes is made up of Chinese and Indian items, the response from the Chinese and Indians is not as enthusiastic, compared to, for instance, the response given to cultural troupes from Hongkong, Taiwan, Madras or Bombay. It is in fact a major task for the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to get a better participation in its programmes from the Chinese and Indian population. When the folk arts are presented through the mass media, they should, in theory, reach all levels of audience, and, at the receiving end, the way the audience exercise their selections must ultimately decide how effective or influential a programme can be In Malaysia, the problem does not rest solely on the question of cultural level; how ethnic traditions and preferences can be transcended is equally important. The multi-cultural reality is reflected in the mass media. Besides the English press, there are newspapers in Malay, Chinese and Tamil. In addition, the newspapers in Sabah also include one or two pages in Kadazan, one of the native languages of Sabah. Even the government-run Radio and Television Malaysia has separate programmes on the radio for Malays, English, Chinese and Tamils. In Sabah, news is also read in various native languages. However, attempts are made to introduce the national element Thus commentaries, introductions and announcement of time-signals are in the national language. As for television, the first channel is supposed to be the National Channel and, therefore, apart from the canned programmes imported from abroad, others, including advertisements, are in Malay. At the elite cultural level, the idea of promoting traditional cultural items as seeds for the development of a national culture has gained some foothold at the universities and in some elitist culture activities. Researches into the folk arts are conducted not only as part of the courses taught but as full higher degree dissertations in the various universities and colleges. If at one time the universities in Malaysia preferred to~ confine their activities to giving only academic courses, today, with Universiti Sains Malaysia as


values, such as democracy and egalitarianism, are today preferred. Thus while the Sultanate of Malacca is used as an inspiration of its greatness in the past, its feudalistic social values are criticised. Hence instead of accepting Hang Tuah, the ideal figure of a warrior who gave unstinted loyalty to his king, as a hero, there is a tendency to elevate Hang Jehat, the rebel who defied his king in upholding righteousness, tc the idealistic position. This is just an illustration of a situation w~ere history is offset by other considerations, such as modern idealistic values. However, historical processes have been a strong argument for the formulation of a national culture. It has been pointed out that the indigenous culture in the past had been very receptive to foreign influences as evident from the many foreign elements which have been acculturated. Thus the indigenous culture which forms the base for the formation of a national culture will easily incorporate those lements from the cultures of the immigrant people in the process. However, this is only theoretical and simply used as an example to show that indigenous cultures have shown their capacity to absoth elements from other cultures. The concept of a national culture in Malaysia includes the use of a national and official language as a common means of communication among the various ethnic groups in the country. It is even written into the constitution of the country. In fact, if there is any measure of success so far in the concept of national culture it has to be judged from the degree of not only the acceptance of Malay as the national and official language by the people of Malaysia but also the extensiveness or the use of the language in everyday life. One other criterion of success would be the use of Malay as the medium of instruction in schools. 10 In short, the concept of national culture cannot ignore the place of a national language in its formulation. The concept of culture has always been abstract and elusive. Even among anthropologists who have made it their business to study what is called culture, there is no agreement as to what actually constitutes the subject of their enquiry. Although there have been formulations, guidelines and programmes in the name of creating a national culture, it is not easy to define it in concrete terms. This is particularly true at the popular level, and as such it easily becomes a political weapon. In fact, the issue is often projected as a threat against the existing non-indigenous cultures, that is, the creation of a national culture will mean the demise of Chinese and Indian cultures. Manifestly the question of national culture can generate extremist feelings although it is little realised 284

usually attended by the elite of the Malaysian society. Even when such festivals are held in Kuala Lumpur. e.g. the pesta budaya staged by the New Straits Times, the largest newspaper organisation in Malaysia, the thousands that turn up are mainly people from the lower income group, and Malays at that. This is another problem that has arisen since most of the items are drawn from the indigenous cultures, such festivals and shows hardly interest the nonindigenous groups. Even when special programmes, such as those held during the Chinese New Year and Deepavali, where the major bulk of the programmes is made up of Chinese and Indian items, the response from the Chinese and Indians is not as enthusiastic, compared to, for instance, the response given to cultural troupes from Hongkong, Taiwan, Madras or Bombay. It is in fact a major task for the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to get a better participation in its programmes from the Chinese and Indian population. When the folk arts are presented through the mass media, they should, in theory, reach all levels of audience, and, at the receiving end, the way the audience exercise their selections must ultimately decide how effective or influential a programme can be. In Malaysia, the problem does not rest solely on the question of cultural level; how ethnic traditions and preferences can be transcended is equally important. The multi-cultural reality is reflected in the mass media. Besides the English press, there are newspapers in Malay, Chinese and Tamil. In addition, the newspapers in Sabah also include one or two pages in Kadazan, one of the native languages of Sabah. Even the government-run Radio and Television Malaysia has separate programmes on the radio for Malays, English, Chinese and Tamils. In Sabah, news is also read in various native languages. However, attempts are made to introduce the national element Thus commentaries, introductions and announcement of time-signals are in the national language. As for television, the first channel is supposed to be the National Channel and, therefore, apart from the canned programmes imported from abroad, others, including advertisements, are in Malay. At the elite cultural level, the idea of promoting traditional cultural items as seeds for the development of a national culture has gained some foothold at the universities and in some elitist culture activities. Researches into the folk arts are conducted not only as part of the courses taught but as full higher degree dissertations in the various universities and colleges. If at one time the universities in Malaysia preferred to~ confine their activities to giving only academic courses, today, with Universiti Sains Malaysia as


values, such as democracy and egalitarianism, are today preferred. Thus while the Sultanate of Malacca is used as an inspiration of its greatness in the past, its feudalistic social values are criticised. Hence instead of accepting Hang Tuah, the ideal figure of a warrior who gave unstinted loyalty to his king, as a hero, there is a tendency to elevate Hang Jehat, the rebel who defied his king in upholding righteousness, t the idealistic position. This is just an illustration of a situation w~ere history is offset by other considerations, such as modern idealistic values. However, historical processes have been a strong argument for the formulation of a national culture. It has been pointed out that the indigenous culture in the past had been very receptive to foreign influences as evident from the many foreign elements which have been acculturated. Thus the indigenous culture which forms the base for the formation of a national culture will easily incorporate those lements from the cultures of the immigrant people in the process. However, this is only theoretical and simply used as an example to show that indigenous cultures have shown their capacity to absoth elements from other cultures. The concept of a national culture in Malaysia includes the use of a national and official language as a common means of communication among the various ethnic groups in the country. It is even written into the constitution of the country. In fact, if there is any measure of success so far in the concept of national culture it has to be judged from the degree of not only the acceptance of Malay as the national and official language by the people of Malaysia hut also the extensiveness or the use of the language in everyday life. One other criterion of success would be the use of Malay as the medium of instruction in schools. 10 In short, the concept of national culture cannot ignore the place of a national language in its formulation. The concept of culture has always been abstract and elusive. Even among anthropologists who have made it their business to study what is called culture, there is no agreement as to what actually constitutes the subject of their enquiry. Although there have been formulations, guidelines and programmes in the name of creating a national culture, it is not easy to define it in concrete terms. This is particularly true at the popular level, and as such it easily becomes a political weapon. In fact, the issue is often projected as a threat against the existing non-indigenous cultures, that is, the creation of a national culture will mean the demise of Chinese and Indian cultures. Manifestly the question of national culture can generate extremist feelings although it is little realised 284

that the issue has been clouded over because it is too much politicised. What is usually forgotten is that even when Islam is stated as the official religion and Malay as the national and official language in the constitution of the country there has not been any loss in religious freedom nor in the use of languages other than Malay. The concept of national culture in Malaysia is a process towards attaining stable and viable nationhood as a political community. While the external need to project the country with a distinctive identity in a family of nations is to be fulfilled, there is the larger need for achieving greater social cohesion within the country itself. The delicate balance in population among the major ethnic groups makes it imperative that the concept of national culture be formulated. Through it, socio-cultural differentiations can be reduced and primeval loyalty to ethnic groups diminished. Through it also loyalty to the supra-ethnic community, the nation itself, can be inculcated.

1. 2. Third Malaysia Plan. Kuala Lumpur: Govt. Printers, 1976. pp. 138139. UMNO: United Malay National Organisation. MCA: Malaysian Chinese Association. MIC: Malaysian Indian Congress. See William R.Roff, The Origins of Malay Nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. 1967. Asas Kebudayaan Kebangsaan. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. pp. vii. Ibid.. p. 7. See McKim Marriot. Culture policy in the new New States in Clifford Geertz (edt.). Old Societies and New States. New York/London. 1963. pp. 2756. For a discussion of this problem. see also Marriots article cited above. 1-us speech at Kota Bharu, Kelantan on 16th July 1975. quoted by Ismail Zain in his paper Masalah Kebudayaan di Malaysia (Problems of Culture in Malaysia). Ministry of Cultural. Youth and Sports. n.d. See example, my Tun Sri Lanang Lecture, Asas dan Pertumbuhan Kebudayaan Malaysia. published by Ministry of Culture. Youth and Sports.

3. 4. 5. 6.

7. 8.