Vip Malaysia - Dondang Sayang
What is Dondang Sayang
Dondang Sayang literally love ballad, originated in Malacca sometime in the 15th century, influenced by traditional Portuguese folk music. A typical group is made up of 4 musicians who perform on the violin, 2 rebana and a gong or tetawak. The chief musician is usually the violinist who plays a primary role in dondang sayang, providing a counter melody to the vocal melody.
Musicians may switch instruments in between performances, but the violinist seldom does, although this is permitted. If there are musicians to spare, up to 5 rebana may be used. Sometimes, the rebana may be substituted by the tambour and barrel drum or even the kompang.
The music is slow, and a song usually consists of 32 bars, beginning with a violin introduction, with the rebana and then the gong entering, and the voice finally entering in bar 5. Its style is somewhat informal and its lyrics usually consist of love poems. (Ahmad Usop 1984). The musical instruments may also be augmented with an accordion (Shafiee Ahmad 1992).
It is a traditional Malay form of entertainment where Baba and Nyonya singers exchange extemporaneous Malay Pantun (poetry), in a lighthearted and sometimes humorous style.
The singers are normally accompanied by a violin, two Malay rebana (drums), and a tetawak (gong). These instruments are often supplemented by other available instruments, most notably, accordions, flutes, or an additional violin.
It is also associated with the Ronggeng dance.
Few heirs for Dondang Sayang
MELAKA: Boon Kim Geok’s face always lights up whenever he talks about Dondang Sayang.
For more than 50 years, he has devoted himself to the art form that originated in Melaka way back in the 15th century.
Now aged 84, Boon – who is a Peranakan – may not be able to perform Dondang Sayang with the same vigour as when he was younger.
Nevertheless, his speech is still eloquent and his conversations are often interspersed with poetic verses that he strings together spontaneously.
Hopes for the Malay Heritage
When asked about his hopes for the perpetuation of the Malay heritage that he is so passionate about, he responded with a four-line stanza where he urged the younger generation to learn the art of Dondang Sayang earnestly. Fondly addressed as Baba Boon by his friends, the octogenarian expressed his desire to see more youths performing Dondang Sayang as he did not want the art to disappear with the passage of time.
And he is only too willing to train anyone who is genuinely keen to revive the art and have what it takes to preserve it for future generations.
“It’s so hard to find young people who want to keep Dondang Sayang alive,” Boon lamented when interviewed at his house in Lorong Pandan here.
“The problem with the young generation is that they lack patience.
“It’s quite normal for those who come to learn Dondang Sayang to give up halfway,” he said.
Dondang Sayang is an art that has its own subtlety and mastering it requires a great deal of patience and conscientiousness, he explained.
What is Dondang Sayang?
Dondang Sayang, literally meaning love ballad, combines elements of music, singing and chanting, featuring melodious strains of poetry.
Having existed since the Melaka Sultanate era and traditionally performed by the Malay, Baba Nyonya, Chitty and Portuguese communities, the songs usually convey feelings of love as well as advice, and are often laced with humour.
On Nov 29 last year, Dondang Sayang gained Unesco recognition when it was included in the Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Another Dondang Sayang proponent Alimah Daud, 69, also lamented today’s youths’ lack of patience to learn the art.
She said government agencies and the private sector should also be involved in efforts to popularise the art among the young generation.
Alimah, who has 30 years of experience performing Dondang Sayang, said youngsters enjoy watching Dondang Sayang performances and were especially entertained by the rendition of humourous verses and repartee but, unfortunately, not many shows were being staged these days.
“Due to the economic slowdown, not many functions are being held now.
“Previously, we would always get invitations to perform at dinners, wedding functions, breaking of fast events, opening ceremonies and government functions,” she said.
According to Alimah, the government has through various agencies such as the Art Institute of Malaysia Melaka already embarked on efforts to produce fresh talent for Dondang Sayang performances.
“Besides the government, private companies and NGOs should also organise programmes to expose the young generation, including schoolchildren, to Dondang Sayang as a corporate social responsibility initiative,” she said.
And typical of Dondang Sayang artists who have the ability to create appropriate verses at the drop of a hat, Alimah recited a four-liner in which she pointed out that one cannot claim to be from Melaka if he or she was not aware of Dondang Sayang.
Melaka Chief Minister
Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari said the state was implementing initiatives and organising programmes from time to time to ensure the Dondang Sayang legacy was preserved for generations to come.
“We need to create a new generation of heirs for Dondang Sayang,” he said, adding that they would be given the space to develop their talent.
“It is insufficient to just teach them the art.
“What we need to do is unearth new talent who can be moulded to become the true heirs of the Dondang Sayang heritage.
“We have to preserve this heritage as it is part of the attractions that contribute to the state tourism industry,” he said.