Rentak Selangor 2018 – Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani

This quaint little Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani is the ideal place for a refreshing respite from the busy everyday city life.

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With lovely irrigation canals said to be built by the British for the rice fields all those years ago, and sandwiched between vast rice fields which were however bare when we were there…20180402_185317-01-1008x756

The little village is however a perfect place to learn about rice farming and also cultures and traditions…which was why in this edition of Rentak Selangor or translated to “Beats of Selangor”, we were there for…

And well since people in cities are all busy with the hustle and bustle of life from dawn til dusk, it is left to villagers and rural folks to be the proud custodians of our culture…

Our bus stopped us at the roadside of the quiet little village and we crossed a rickety wooden bridge to get to the village where the villagers were a combination of Malay, Javanese and Banjar descent.

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Our delegates consisting of Malaysians, Indonesians, Korean and Japanese were warmly welcomed with colourful bunga “Manggar” and a pencak silat performance led by a young boy about 11…

Silat is a kind of Malay martial arts featuring elaborate movements and timing. It is indeed mesmerizing to watch but if used in combat, can be deadly…

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We were then serves fresh coconuts which were opened on the spot to quench our thirst… and oh wow.. how refreshing it was, especially on a humid day…

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Once the delegates have settled down, the kompang performance began…

As one of the most widely used percussion instruments in Malaysia, the kompang is a hand-beaten frame, made of wood as well as cow or buffalo hide. It is of utmost importance for religious occasions, festivals and weddings…

You can actually play the kompang while being seated, standing or walking in a procession…

The kompang players here all consist of the older generation and despite their age, the zest and fervour put into beating the kompang truly belies the men’s age…

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This was followed by the gamelan which has a very melodic echoing sound made from brass musical instruments…

The gamelan here in Malaysia was played at royal occasions during the reign of Sultan Ahmad of Pahang (1882-1914) and Sultan Sulaiman of Terengganu (1920-1942).

A set of Malaysian gamelan consists 7 basic instruments, which are the Bonang Barung(a set of 10 small kettle gongs); Gambang (a wooden xylophone); Saron Barung (a set of metallophones); Saron Demung(another set of metallophones, slightly bigger than Saron Kecil); Kenong (a set of 3 or 5 large kettle gongs); a pair of hanging Gongs, which are Gong Kecil and Gong Besar and last but not least.. the Gendang (a barrel drum)

This best royal kept secret was first brought to Kuala Lumpur in 1969 for a public performance. Since then, it has become a part of the Malaysian arts and cultural heritage…

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Once the gamelan performance was over, we had a little teaser with the barongan show…

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The barongan show here is pretty unique.. it is definitely different from the one I saw in Bali…hahaha…

The Barongan here in Malaysia accompanies the Kuda Kepang as well.. and it also has strong elements of trance…

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The Barongan, here features a tiger like creature who is followed around and teased by some people in grotesque looking masks…

I think there there was a legend of a man who amused himself by teasing some fairies…

The fairies became so angry with him that they turned him into a Barongan creature. He was also cursed to forever follow the Kuda Kepang.

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Once the short teaser was over, we had some free time and many , yours truly here included could not wait to take photos with the kuda kepang…especially with the bare paddy fields as our backdrops during sunset…

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We had a short rest in the lovely homestay chalets fronting the paddy fields before feasting together at dinner..

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Our dinner was of course, a traditional serving of Nasi Ambeng…

Our Nasi ambeng here is a rice dish that consists of white rice prepared with some yellow noodles/ mee, chicken cooked in soy sauce, sambal goreng kicap served on banana leaves placed in a round tray and topped with salted fish, fried coconut flesh and rempenyek crackers…

Normally served during the festivities in a tray, this Javanese cuisine is made to be shared and enjoyed together by four to five people… and yes, you have to share the “plate” when eating…

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Once dinner was over, the gamelan music began again, since the gamelan here at Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani also accompanies the wayang kulit or shadow play, performed by a Tok Dalang who will recite his chosen story with appropriate sounds and movements…

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The puppet characters and stories are usually adapted from ancient epics like the Ramayana and so on….

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It sure was fascinating watching the wayang kulit performance both from the backstage as well as the front…

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Then the main event began… I have been hearing so much about Kuda Kepang and links to spirit possession, or at least the dancers’ trance. It was a hot topic which finally got some states or places to ban or declare Kuda Kepang illegal… and so yes, I was both nervous but thrilled all the same for the opportunity to watch this rare performance….

All the delegates of the Rentak Selangor gathered in front of Haji Dorani’s compound..

The Kuda Kepang dance, is usually performed by about nine to 15 dancers…

When performing, each dancer will sit or hold his “horse” which is traditionally made out of hide or pleated bamboo, and is painted and decorated to resemble a horse… and re-enact the battles to the beat of a percussion ensemble usually consisting of bonang, gongs etc…

The leader, Wak Rusli, who is also a Shaman and takes the lead by directing and eventually controlling the other dancers using a whip…

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Before the Kuda Kepang performance started, Wak Rusli “cleanse” the props and “protect” the compound with some “kemenyan” or incense smoke…. Then he will cleanse the dancers before they took they places and started dancing to the music of the gong and bonang…

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The first performance was a harmless one as the dancers were cleansed and they were all pretty controlled and subdued…

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It was the second performance when “all hell broke loose”.. the second performance was different as they used a different “horse” and this time the dancers and horses were anointed with some oil..

In the beginning, they were dancing as usual then they started falling and also crashing into one another…

It was both nervewrecking yet interesting to watch as each of the dancers took on different personas / spirits in their trance, some will be practicing silat in the corner, some start climbing trees to pluck the coconuts and proceed to peel the coconut husk with their bare teeth… some will growl and move like apes…

There were also “food” prepared for the dancers when they’re in trance too like bananas, flowers and others.

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Wak Rusli would observe his dancers carefully and call those he thinks seemingly out of control by flicking the whip and gesturing to them.. slowly they make their way to him and he will then “exorcise” them after that with some prayers and incantations before sending them off to the side of the compound.. There is also a difference during the “exorcism” there as some would peacefully let themselves be cleansed and cured; while some others will kick and struggle and needed extra hands to hold them down…

(you can head over to my IG www.instagram.com/livelifelah and check out my Rentak Selangor highlights.. I have some snippets of these..)

However some will eventually head back into the main area after going into trance again..

At some point of time one of the female villagers also got “possessed”, giving us an additional slight panic and needed to be helped by her fellow female villagers…

After about 2 hour or so only did the Wak Rusli with the help of another holy man and assistants manage to get everyone back to normality and safety….hahah

One funny part was that one of the dancers was the 11 year old silat dancer and he was repossessed/in trance like half a dozen times and needed “exorcism” that similar amount of times and his mother grumbled to him “enough is enough lah.. you have school tomorrow”

Overall it was truly an enlightening and thrilling experience and I would love to watch it or experience it again if I have the chance.. but I guess it can be pretty exhausting for everyone involved.

Still, if you want to experience this, please do..

You can contact them at –

Tel: +6013 607 7025 — Abdul Rahman Daud

Address:
Parit 1 Sungai Haji Dorani, 45300 Sungai Besar

The Rentak Selangor 2018 trip was organized by UPEN Selangor and Gaya Travel Magazine…

 

 

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