18 August, 2009

The " Bergendang" ceremony

Sarawak besides being a land of rivers, forests and mountains is also a confluence of cultures. There are about 27 ethnic groups in Sarawak who intermarry quite naturally among themselves such that any forcible threat to racial disunity is constantly kept in check. Cultural performances are increasingly seen these days at the Kuching Waterfront and in many instances the cultural performances have blended many elements of the differing ethnic identities into newer forms of cultural mix or integration. Among the Malays, Melanaus and Kedayans of Sarawak, the "Bergendang" ceremony is kept very much alive. The video below shows a "Bergendang" performance that is held at the Kuching Waterfront. Guess what? Anybody is welcomed to participate in the dancing, young and old, Black or White, Yellow or Brown. Visitors to Sarawak can pick up the dance steps very quickly. But the real fun begins when the ladies playing the drum ( named " Mak Gendang" = Lady Drummer) and singing the "Pantun" ( a four-line verse poetic message) gets response from the men. The men reply back in pantun-style the message or question embedded in the "Mak Gendang" pantun. Thus this answering and replying of pantuns continue for hours on end. Today the " Bergendang" is very much part of a wedding celebration activity and held mainly during the night in many villages through out Sarawak.


  1. So many colours in all your posts. And all the vegetation; it seems so green and lush. At times I wish for an eternal summer. I bet it makes for great, kind and laid back people.
    Love your cat posts as well!;))

  2. Hi Mahmud,

    The begendang reminds me of the old days (late 60s) when the begendang was perhaps one of the "in-thing" in kampungs and long houses in Sarawak.

    I particularly remembered one in my long house in 1969. My friend and I (I was an Army Cadet Officer and he was still undergoing his teacher's training in Kuching). That night we heard the unmistakeable sounds of the begendang from a nearby long house. Dressed in our best dress, we decided to go. This was our chance to see the beautiful girls there! Other times we wouldn't have the chance to see them.

    The common verandah where the begendang was performed was brightly lit with gas lamps. The dancing / betanda was in full swing. It involved two dancers dancing to the tempo of the begendang performed by the girls behind the curtains. With hands pumping, the dancers strutted up and down infront of the singers behind the curtains, throwing coins and notes into a basin. Every time the money were thrown into the basin, the girls were heard gasping in awe - at the charitable show.

    Finally, we gathered enough courage and took to the floor and did what the others had been doing. We both eyed the same pretty girl! But alas! the girl had eyes only for my friend! He was more handsome. For both of them it was a fairy tale - love at first sight. A week later they were married. Today, they have 6 children and I was happy for them.

    So that was a begendang that I could never forget.

  3. Protege,
    I like the way you say it -an eternal summer.
    Oh, how I love your story. I think I'm going to use this story for another episode on Bergendang later,if you don't mind.


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