From extraordinary sights that will captivate you, to exotic flavours to surprise your taste buds – Malaysia offers a full on sensorial experience. When you get here, it doesn’t just open your eyes, it manages to open up all your senses to different and new adventures. And trust us, your senses will be forever grateful.
But while there are countless stories about the sights, food, people and so on, there are not enough conversations about the sounds of Malaysia. Yet, it’s an absolutely essential conversation to have if we are to talk about the complete Malaysian experience.
This is not the full guide to the sweet, sweet sounds of Malaysia but use this as an introduction – a prelude, if you will – to your auditory exploration of everything Malaysian.
So, let’s get the music started!
Being a country that’s rich in history and culture, you can expect its musical heritage to be just as rich. Mixed with influences from around the world, the Malaysian sound is unique and familiar at the same time.
From the Arabic, Persian and Chinese elements in music from the southern region, to the more regional rhythms present in the northern part of the country, Malay folk music is diverse in its sound and tradition.
Then, there’s the ethnic music of the Chinese and Indian – testaments of a racially diverse country. Keeping intact their traditional aspects, these ethnic music stay grounded in their roots but has long been accepted to be part of the Malaysian experience.
The music doesn’t stop there. There’s also indigenous tribal music, common in Sabah and Sarawak. However, indigenous tribes in the peninsular have their signature sound as well.
These sounds, they’re not just music. It’s a performance, a complete show. They usually have specific dances to accompany the music, where the performers will be decked in full traditional costume as they play their special instruments. If the songs have lyrics, they’re not just words strung together. They are poems, each sentence carrying stories of yore, meant to convey the tales of our ancestors or daily life. It’s how we communicate our years of history and tradition; through the universal language of music.
Want to listen more to the sounds of Malaysia? Look out for music festivals such as the annual Rainforest Music Festival in Sarawak, or visit cultural centers around the country. But you simply must come enjoy these sounds direct from the source.
You won’t find them on Spotify, that’s for sure.