Culture Feature: Brunei Folk Music

February Feature: In conjunction with Brunei’s National Day celebration on February 23, Music Press Asia shares the country’s prominent musical genre – folk music.

Brunei Tourism National Day 2020. Music Press Asia

Brunei is famous for its wide variety of native folk music and dance that shares similar cultural perspectives and links with neighbouring countries including Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Brunei is a Southeast Asian country located in Borneo between the states of Sabah and Sarawak which are part of Malaysia. It is home to unique folk music and dance styles, although Islamic practices and influences do restrict these types of performances.

Although Brunei has similarities with others, there are significant differences in terms of culture and heritage including its folk music, folk dance, and folk stories.

[Brunei Tourism. Music Press Asia 2022 Feature]

This traditional genre is distinctly divided into Kedayan music or ‘Aduk-Aduk’ and Malay music. While Kedayan is a type of ceremonial dance performed during the harvesting season and holidays. Dancers would wear traditional warrior’s attire, in tengkolok, red belt, and black clothing, and dance to the beat of silat, a Malay martial art.

The Malay population is known for the Jipin or Zapin dance, performed by six men and women, accompanied by instruments that include the gambus, biola, dombak and rebana. Gongs like the Kulintangan (a set of small gongs), duck gongs, and other styles are played.

[The gambus (lute) is one of the oldest stringed musical instruments made by the Brunei Community in the west coast of Sabah.]

The traditional instrument Gambus holds historic significance to the people in Brunei and Sabah. Watch a gambus performance from Pesta Gambus 2019, here.

Responsive singing is sometimes performed at weddings, with the guests joining in. The song “Alus Jua Dindang” is also an important part of Bruneian wedding music; in it, the groom (who, in a traditional wedding does not know the bride beforehand), flatters and declares his devotion to his new wife.

One of its most famous traditional dances ‘Adai-Adai’ – still a prominent performance in today’s celebration – is a group work song sung by fishermen while they are working or travelling. Watch the dance here.

Relevant Listening/ Live Recording: Adai, Adai is an arrangement by Andraschek Siegmund for the wind orchestra. This recording was performed in 2018 by Musikkapelle Auer/ Südtirol and conducted by Arnold Leimgruber. Click here.

Brunei shares some cultural perspectives and links with the countries of Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines. For more of what Brunei Tourism can offer, visit their official website here.


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