Tag Archives: Malaysian music

Artist Profiles: Darmas


Six young musicians formed Darmas, a band propelled by the rhythms they derive from traditional Malay classics like the Joget (a traditional Malay dance from Malacca influenced by the Portuguese colonial dance of Branyo), Zapin (a Malay dance found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei) and the Canggung (Malay dance with Thai influences).

The central element in Darmas’ sound comes from the kulintangan, an ancient series of gongs from the Sabah tribes, presenting a kaleidoscope mix of Malaysian eclectic sounds.

Darmas released its debut album “Teja” in 2019.


Teja (2019)


Artist Profiles: At Adau

At Adau

Malaysian ensemble At Adau was formed in June 2014. They perform ancient melodies and rhythms from the different tribes in Borneo fused with contemporary elements.

The group mixes sape lute tunes from the Orang Ulu  and  traditional percussion from the Bidayuh and Iban with their own arrangements to deliver a modern folk  medley of songs that have made them a big cult figure in the local Sarawak scene in the last few years.

At Adau were winners of the Waterfront Music Festival 2016, Best Special Talent 2015, Best short movie in 2015 for “Pimonu” and 2017 for “Ajen Oku”.

Band members include Meldrick Bob Udos on jembe, Iban drum, percussionist and drum set; Ezra Tekola on 4 and 6-string sape; Luke Wrender David on 4 and 3-string sape; Jackson Lian Ngau on perutong, Bidayuh drum and bass drum; Cedric Riseng on guitar; and Alfanso Mckenzie on bass.


Journey (2016)
Oba (2019)


Artist Profiles: The Abonation

The Abonation

Started in 2004, the band, originally called TIK, performed in many places in Perak, northwestern Malaysia. The first members of the band, which are original line up for The Abonation, were Megat, Nicky and included Ap, as the sessionist then.

In December 2005 they moved to Kuala Lumpur to start a new journey there, and met with Sid and Iwan… making it a 5 piece band.. The sounds and rhytm of The Abonation, was created by every member of the band, with differences and variety of music influences, which were then, build and crafted in a harmonious tunes.

The Abonation started as a streetband and has played in many kinds of events and various venues in Kuala Lumpur, including hotels, cultural center, exhibitions, schools and “now, we’re still playing on the streets, as some kind of exercise…”

Currently, The Abonation are still experimenting their sounds of the fusion music, combining the nusantara beats and rhythms, bringing it up to a new level, experimenting with the magic of music.


Birth ‎(Al-Ameen Serve Holdings Sdn.Bhd.)


Artist Profiles: Sayu Ateng

Sayu Ateng at Rainforest World Music Festival 2015 - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Sayu Ateng at Rainforest World Music Festival 2015 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

In Borneo, among the Orang Ulu people, Sayu Ateng means welcome. This 7-member group has been making waves in the local, regional and international music scene.

All over the world, the old musicians and their knowledge of the lore and songs of their countries have been dying out. Ancient instruments lie forgotten and the younger generations very often are not interested in learning how to play them. That is not the case of Sayu Ateng. The musicians have found a sound that is refreshingly modern yet full of traditional Sarawak flavor. They have mixed and molded traditional instruments with contemporary ones, composed their own lyrics and melodies and based their songs on the nature, landscapes and folk stories of Sarawak.

The group expresses the tales of legendary mountains, accounts of the arrival of Islam to Sarawak, tributes to the man-eating crocodile that possesses supernatural powers: the Bujang Senang. There are illustrations of mythical princesses and colorful personalities that make up the people of Sarawak. There is also a culinary appreciation of the sago palm tree worm: the Ulat Mulong!

The music is evocative and graceful in the simplicity of its design. The melodies are steeped in Sarawak tradition and create a very distinct sound that is unmistakably Borneo. Rhythms are fluid yet strong, mixing world beat with the subtle intonations of the rainforest.

Drums are used by every indigenous tribe in Sarawak for their celebrations, festivals, feasts and rituals. Sayu Ateng uses a collection of them: the subang (Bidayuh drum) and the kedumbak (Iban drum). They also play the Malay gendangs and congas.

The other essential element of the percussion section is the gong of which there are many versions, such as the Bidayuh papan and the large Iban gongs called tawak. Gongs are a must at events in Borneo and the rhythmic patterns created by them provide an almost hypnotic trance like atmosphere.

Wooden keyboard percussion also contribute a parallel melodic line to either the singer or the accompaniment. The sape lute is of course present. Sayu Ateng juxtaposes all these traditional Borneo instruments with instruments from other countries like the congas and panpipes of South America as well as modern ones.


Artist Profiles: Aseana Percussion Unit

Aseana Percussion Unit

This 8-member group of musicians based in Kuala Lumpur uses anything that can make a sound, be it garbage can covers or broomsticks, they will find a rhythm for it.

They were formed in 1998 by Edwin Nathaniel, Shahrin Hamid, Kirubakaran and Philip Robert, and expanded from there.

Rhythm is the easiest way of communication that transcends all barriers. Their regular shows at The Actors’ Studio Bangsar are always presenting new and unexpected ideas to wow the audience.

We just want to play” manager Paul Augustin says. Everything they do is based on rhythm though they sometimes dose it with some melodic instruments. They fuse and re-fuse so many different types of styles that it is hard to know what is coming, going, and when.

They grab anything they can that will serve their purpose and have no time for any kind of snobbery. Brazilian surdo, the Indian tabla and taviel, the Malay kompang and gendang, the Trinidad steel pan, the African jembe, Native American pow-wow drum and a hodgepodge of common household utensils. The group experiments with whatever they lay their hands on.


Colours of Rhythm (Penang-YTL Arts Festival, Dewan Sri Pinang 2002)


Artist Profiles: Mohd Kamrulbahri Hussin

Mohd Kamrulbahri Hussin – Photo © Suchens.com for Sarawak Tourism Board

Multi-instrumentalist Mohd Kamrulbahri Hussin (a.k.a. Kamrul) is the leader of Malaysian world music band Asika. As the head of Asika, Kamrul has performed as a multi-instrumentalist, composer and music director in all manner of professional productions nationally and overseas. His performances include traditional and modern music. Major in percussion, Kamrul is a remarkable percussionist and traditional music artist. Combined with his style and skill, Kamrul has become one the leading Malaysian percussionists.

His skill, dedication and passion especially with traditional percussion has led to international tours, with performances in New York, Paris, London, Toronto and other. Kamrul also has a strong passion on Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet). Graduated in traditional and western percussion at National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy (ASWARA). Kamrul has been awarded for Best Arts Motivator from National University of Malaysia in 2002.

Instruments – gendang, rebana, serunai, conga, jembe, darbuka, vocals, rebab and more.


Artist Profiles: Artist Profiles: Mohd Fuad Mohammad

Mohd Fuad Mohammad – © Suchens.com for Sarawak Tourism Board

Pianist and accordionist Mohd Fuad has graduated from National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy (ASWARA). He is currently a sessionist for many traditional and modern music performances.

He is a talented young composer in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and has been involved in performances at Bangsawan (Malay Theatre Musical) and Shadow Puppet performances in New York.

He is a member of Malaysian world music band Asika.


Artist Profiles: Mathew Ngau Jau

Mathew Ngau Jau (right) with Lan-e Tuyang – Photo by Suchens.com for Sarawak Tourism Board

Mathew Ngau Jau is a proficient sape (Sarawakian lute) musician, who learned how to play the instrument during his childhood at Long Semiyang, Ulu Baram in Sarawak (Malaysia). After his school education, and having pursued a career in teaching, Ngau Jau came under the guidance of the late Tusau Padan, a master sape musician and artist.

Ngau Jau formed the traditional group Lan-e Tuyang (meaning among friends) together with his late uncle Uchau Bilung.

Since the death of Tusau Padan, Matthew has become the leading promoter of the art of sape music and also the art of painting Kenyah traditional motifs on bark. He is also an expert in the Orang-Ulu warrior dance and is a skilled blow-pipe exponent. Combining all these skills, Mathew is much sought after to promote the traditional arts of Sarawak.

With Lan-e Tuyang, Ngau Jau has performed at numerous venues throughout the globe as well as tourism promotions in Europe, Australia and Asia.


Artist Profiles: Lan-e Tuyang

Matthew Ngau Jau (Lan-e Tuyang) – Photo courtesy of Rainforest World Music Festival

Lan-e Tuyang (meaning among friends) was initially a duo from Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, consisting of Matthew Ngau Jau and his late uncle Uchau Bilung. Both musicians play the sape, a long indigenous Borneo lute carved from solid wood. They play music based on Kenyah (Orang Ulu) traditional music. The duo performed many international concerts as well as in Sarawak tourism promotional events in Europe, Australia and Asia.

In 2009, Uchau Bilung passed away and the group continued under the leadership of Matthew Ngau Jau. Lan-e Tuyang re-formed with a new format, featuring three sape players and one percussionist. They performed with this new lineup at the 2009 Rainforest World Music Festival.


Artist Profiles: Kinabalu Merdu Sound

Kinabalu Merdu Sound at Rainforest World Music Festival in 2009 – Photo by Angel Romero

Kinabalu Merdu Sound is a world music band from Sabah (Malaysia). The band plays Sabahan ethnic music with bamboo musical instruments.

Kinabalu Merdu Sound’s roots began in 2001 with a modest group of 5. To reach its objective of reviving traditional ethnic music at the brink of extinction due to modernization, the band aimed to recruit school children and youth as its members. Kinabalu Merdu Sound’s efforts have been rewarded as the group has now grown into an assembly of 600 musicians.

This group has now performed throughout Sabah, Kuala Lumpur and the Rainforest World Music Festval in Sarawak. There have even been performances in Jakarta (Indonesia), Korea and Japan. Kinabalu Merdu Sound has emerged as champions in the national level ‘Ilham Desa” (loosely translated it means ‘countryside inspirations’) competition which was organized by the Ministry of Rural and Federal Development held on the 14th June 2007 at UPM in Selangor.

The use of the bamboo as a musical instrument in traditional music had its beginnings in 1945. Among the earliest instruments were the Tagunggak (percussion instrument), sompoton (wind instrument), bungkau (Jew’s harp) and gendang (drums). However, traditional music played with bamboo instruments was not the music enthusiasts’ favorite style at the time because it was a farmer’s past time and was played only during harvest festivals. The group has undoubtedly succeeded in changing this conception and begun to raise a widespread admiration towards the once-rejected bamboo melodies.


Muzik Tradisi Instrumental