Sunday, September 25, 2011

Have Malay cultural dances withered?

Back in the 70s when I was a tourist guide with a leading tour operator in town, I had the opportunity to bring many of our overseas guests to the Yazmin Restaurant for them to get a good dose of our Malay cultural dances. The restaurant was then located at the Ampang Shopping Complex, but later relocated at Jalan Pinang (near the Holiday Inn On The Park),

The tourists were always enthralled by the gracefulness of the dancers and were surprised that there were so many variations each with its own distinct features. The dancers offered zapin, kuda kepang, inang, joget, ronggeng, mak yong, the boisterous dikir barat and the intricacies of Court Dances. Towards the end of the show, our foreign guests would be invited to dance with the dancers. It was during this time I came to enjoy the violin refrains of the late Dato Hamzah Dolmat, whose "Sapu Tangan" topped my list.

I have left the trade almost three decades now and since then I have come to understand Yazmin Restaurant has closed down. I tried googling and instead I found one with a Malaysian notation operating in Alhambra, California. I wonder whether it belongs to the same owner. With the closing down of Yazmin, the curtains finally came down on our cultural dances.

It is sad that such performances are now only confide to TDC promotions overseas. As the Malay community become more and more Arabised, it seems this cultural aspect of our Malaysian life may soon die a natural death. I wonder whether anyone in the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage is doing anything to preserve this art form. I do not see any such promotions over TV, newspapers nor billboards.

However, in China, such cultural dances are just like the terracotta warriors found in Xian. Not only have the government revived and preserved the dances, but also given them a new lease of life with a contemporary touch.

The people in our Ministry of C, A and H have better start getting cracking on reviving and preserving the art as it represents the soul of the Malay people. With everything going high tech these days, they also need to be innovative to capture the imaginations of the audience . We have come so far, why stop now?

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