Culture / Music

Reminiscing about the Malaysian Dikir Barat

Here, in Stockholm, a bunch of us are currently busy with preparations for our NCST Company Appreciation Dinner. We are a diverse group in Stockholm from Burma, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, China, India and Sri Lanka/South Korea. It’s only natural that one of the programmes slotted for the magical evening is a national cultural presentation.

Because of this presentation, I came across videos of Dikir Barat, and subsequently, I felt very nostalgic. Dikir Barat is a musical group performance that originated from Kelantan, somewhere near the border to Thailand.

In the Western culture, there is accapella choral groups. I like to think that the Malaysian dikir barat is a choral performance… the Malaysian way.

In Dikir Barat, there are three main parties: The choral group (awok-awok) who often sit cross-legged; and the two main leads: Tok Juara and Tukang Karut. By synchronized clapping and rhythmic body movements, the choral group supports the main leads while they sing or recite Malay poems (pantuns). The poems are very witty that tackle a variety of topics, ranging from lighthearted funny ones to socio-economic-political issues. Often, they are sang in the Kelantan dialect/slang, but there are an increasing number of English version Dikir Barat.

It’s hugely popular in Malaysia and the government is branding it as THE Malaysian cultural performance. Malaysian students all over the world (Europe, United States, Singapore) often perform it during special Malaysian celebrations to give foreigners a wonderful night full of witty poems, and catchy tunes.

One of the more famous dikir barat melodies is the ‘Wau Bulan’ which translates to ‘the Moon Kite’, which is another symbol of Malaysian culture. But, I’ll save that topic for another time.

For now, enjoy the Youtube video. It’s one of the better quality ones in Youtube.

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