The Parap of Sarawak

Parap is a folklore song sung mainly among the Kayan-Kenyah tribes of Sarawak (Malaysia). It is a song relating expressions of love, happiness, loneliness and anger. It also praises the beauty of nature and all living things.

In olden days, parap is normally sung as a means to praise, to apologize or as encouragement to a person in which the parap is dedicated to. That is why parap has a significant role in the Kayan Kenyah culture. However, nowadays it is mainly sung for merry-making and festivities, especially in weddings, where it is a means to advise the newlywed couple of life ahead. And, to add colors to the festivity mood, rice wine is served at the ending of the rituals.There are no instruments used in this social means of merry making. It is in the form of pantun or poems, which are mostly improvised and intended as a means of a message or a narration. The lead singer in a parap could be either man or woman whereas the backup singers could be a mixture of both.

The duration of a parap can vary from few minutes to few hours depending on the lead singer. In order for the parap to be more ‘colourful’ and prolong, the backup singers will have to cheer up the lead singer in between.

The beginning and the ending of a parap are always done with a ‘lalu’, which could give a ‘key’ or a ‘code’ for the lead singer.

The Kayan and the Kenyah live in the upper rivers of Sarawak. A group of them from Belaga, Belaga Asap Group, are among those in Sarawak who are still culturally strong in practicing the parap which is as traditional and authentic as it was during the time of their ancestors.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.