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Malay Singing in Pahang Villages: Identity and Practice

Shafa’Atussara Silahudin defended her theses on 18 May 2021.

S. Silahudin
18 May 2021
Leiden Repository

The Malays engage in a variety of singing and music-related activities. This study deals with the cultural meanings of singing and musical practices by Malays that in this case, in Pahang, Malaysia. This study looks at the ways in which legacies from the past can still be heard in the present and considers the extent to which musical practices in the present are shaped by ideas, beliefs and feelings about the past. The purpose of this study was to uncover and reflect on the fundamental dimensions of singing and musical practices among Malays in Pahang villages. Understanding what people do and how they partake in musical activities help to provide evidence for the nature of music and the function it fulfills in their lives. There are six chapters in this thesis. Chapter 1 elaborates the background of this study. The past musical identity and social environment of the Malay world, of which Pahang is a part, is examined in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 considers two music genres: traditional and regional pop that are considered part of Pahang's musical heritage. Another two music genres: kugiran and punk rock that in many ways are not associated with the songs from the past, are discussed in Chapter 4. In Chapter 5, I focused on social contexts of two Islamic-oriented songs: nazam berendoi and dikir rebana. In the second part of Chapter 5, the participation of young women in music is reviewed. I explore the meanings they impart to the music they practice and/or listen to and to how they relate to different music forms as leisure. In the final chapter, I consider four topics that are crucial to answering the main research question: social status of musicians, continuity and discontinuity in genres; gender-specific songs; and community formation in genres. I conclude my present work by reflecting on Benjamin's works in light of my research findings. Benjamin (2019a and 2019b) was concerned with the different types of Malay music performed by Malay groups and how they encode the cline of Malayness. Creating a sense of Malayness in music as discussed in Benjamin's works, I argue, is an achievement. Benjamin's attempt to evaluate Malayness in songs relies on several generalizations. Some Malay performers acknowledge that a higher degree of melodic ornamentation corresponds to increased Malayness. This association between ornamentation and Malayness, however, is insufficient without adjusting for the performer's competence (singing technique).

Sponsorship: Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA; Univesiti Malaya

Supervisor: prof. dr. B. Arps

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