Saturday, January 19, 2013


The music and dance traditions in Brunei share many similarities and cultural origins as those of Malaysia and Indonesia. Folk traditions are the oldest. It seems that one slightly unifying trend would be a sort of call-and-response style, and I say that in very general terms.

One type of folk song is a group work song performed by only fisherman called the adai-adai.  If you watch the dance, it certainly looks like it's telling a story. Most music is performed in conjunction with something else, either work (like with adai-adai) or with dance. Some of the more common instruments used are the dombak (a type of drum that is shaped like a goblet), rebana (a type of tambourine that’s especially used in Islamic devotional music in this area of the world), different kinds and sizes of gongs, various types of percussion, and coconut shells.

Since European occupation, Western classical music and their instruments have had their place for a long time. The Brunei Music Society has been promoting and giving classical music concerts in Bandar Seri Begawan since 1972. 

As far as popular music goes today, it seems that there is quite a bit of popular music on YouTube. Rock, pop, and R&B/hip-hop seem to be favorite genres. Spotify and iTunes have very little of current Bruneian music. But through some Google searches and YouTube, I did find a few groups that I liked. One very popular singer is Maria. She has a few songs out that are pretty popular on the radio airplay charts. Neff Aslee is another name that keeps popping up too.

Another band I discovered is D’Hask. I was really kind of disappointed that iTunes didn’t have any of their albums. They remind me a little of the Japanese band GLAY, both in sound and in looks. (I adored GLAY when I went to Japan back in 1998.)  I like this video mainly because of the motorcycle clothing, and the weird fact that Marilyn Manson is in it but is a minor character (or merely the name of a character listed as Marilyn Manson with a hairstyle inspired from Gary Oldman's character in The Fifth Element -- who can tell when you're wearing 1990s shades?). 

Here's another one, just because I like the song better. Even though I'm trying to figure out why Pamela Anderson is in the video (bragging rights maybe?). She just doesn't look like she fits in with the rest of the crowd. 

This song by Kuj called “Kleopatra” is really catchy – almost like an R&B song mixed with house/dance. I tried to find more of his stuff on Spotify or iTunes, much to my disappointment. I've decided that I really need this song to add to my collection. I guess I’ll have to listen to the YouTube video of the song forever. Or travel to Brunei and buy it. Maybe he’ll just read this blog and send it to me. (I’m also looking at you, D’Hask.)  I did find on Spotify a 39-song album called HipHop Brunei Darussalam, which I like a lot of the songs on: I'm surprised how American it sounds. But I couldn't find any information on who the artist is. 

The Kedayan people were spread all over the island of Borneo. Their language is actually the de facto language of Brunei.  Most Kedayans either work in the rice fields or are fishermen; they’re also very knowledgeable about the medicinal properties of herbs, something I have a great interest in myself (I just found an herb book while shopping at a local antique store today). But one of the things they are most known for is a ceremonial dance called the aduk-aduk. It’s performed around holidays, and during the times at the end of the harvest season. Many times, dancers wear the traditional red and black clothing of a warrior and the beat is borrowed from a type of Malay martial art called silat.  If you can get past the shaky camera work, it's really something to watch. I really like this: I'm not sure what it is they're holding (some kind of wooden instrument), but it gives it a deeper resonance than the claves -- probably better for a large crowd or outdoors. 

The Malay peoples have a dance called Jipin (or Zapin) dance. It’s performed by six men and women and uses many indigenous instruments, namely different types of gongs and the dombak drum and rebana (tambourine). In this short video, it does give you the opportunity to see the musicians as well. 

Up next: the food!

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