Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ulek Mayang Ku Ulek

There is one traditional folk song that I really love, and it never failed to give me goosebumps whenever I heard it. It is Ulek Mayang, the fisherfolk's song of Terengganu.

I must've heard it for the first time when I was very young, pre-schooling age perhaps. I remembered watching a made for TV movie about the whole Ulek Mayang lore. It got me enthralled by the graceful swayings of the puteris, the costume, the incomprehensible lyrics and the mystical air around it. The song was supposedly a healing ceremonial dance to restore the spirits of the fisherfolks who were possessed by the sea spirit.

There is something about the song, that haunts me to this day. Perhaps sacred is too strong a word for it, probably at the cost of incurring allegations of blasphemy even. I have the mp3 of it, which I listened once in a while, usually late at night when all is still and the mood strikes me as such. The audio track is almost 10 minutes long, and it starts out with an uptempo in strumental part - suggesting all is fine in the beginning. Almost 2 minutes in, the wind can be heard blowing in the background of the track, the main track itself is now slowed down to a more melancholic tempo - things are no longer fine and dandy it seems to say, something is wrong. The rest of the song works in a similar manner, painting a picture with the tempo changes and the lyrics.

But listening to the song only would not be a complete experience. I have seen several staged performances of it, but I would really love to be able to see the real thing in action. Imagine that, a shaman in black baju melayu, eyes upturned in ecstasy, waving the coconut mayang over the body of the afflicted man while 7 maidens sway and swirl their way in tune with the music being played in the background - gongs, violins, accordions weaving their own magic. On they would dance, sweat trickling over their collectives brows, until they all collapse. Trance? Exhaustion? Play-acting? That's part and parcel of the whole thing.

But I doubt it is still practised, at least not in public. Perhaps in some sleepy fisherfolks' village just a little off the beaten path, this tradition lives on despite the modernity and censorship that comes with it.

I found a quite good performance of the Ulek Mayang by a group of Malaysian students in the UK, using the same mp3 file as the one in my collection. Do watch it and be enthralled by the swaying grace of the seven tuan puteris...

Ulek mayang ku ulek
Ulek dengan jala jemala
Ulek mayang diulek
Ulek dengan tuannya puteri
Ulek mayang diulek
Ulek dengan jala jemala
Ulek mayang diulek
Ulek dengan puterinya dua

Puteri dua berbaju serong
Puteri dua bersanggol sendeng
Puteri dua bersubang gading
Puteri dua berselendang kuning
Umbok mayang diumbok
Umbok dengan jala jemala
Nok ulek mayang diulek
Ulek dengan puterinya empat

Puteri empat berbaju serong
Puteri empat bersanggol sendeng
Puteri empat bersubang gading
Puteri empat berselendang kuning
Umbok mayang diumbok
Umbok dengan jala jemala
Nok ulek mayang diulek
Ulek dengan puterinya enam

Puteri enam berbaju serong
Puteri enam bersanggol sendeng
Puteri enam bersubang gading
Puteri enam berselendang kuning
Umbok mayang diumbok
Umbok dengan jala jemala
Nok ulek mayang diulek
Ulek dengan puterinya tujuh

Puteri tujuh berbaju serong
Puteri tujuh bersanggol sendeng
Puteri tujuh bersubang gading
Puteri tujuh berselendang kuning
Umbok mayang diumbok
Umbok dengan jala jemala
Nok ulek mayang diulek
Ulek dengan tuannya puteri

Ku tahu asal usul mu
Yang laut balik ke laut
Yang darat balik ke darat
Nasi berwarna hamba sembahkan
Umbok mayang ku umbok
Umbok dengan jala jemala
Pulih mayang ku pulih
Pulih balik sedia kala


NoktahHitam said...

byk mase ko ni

shaXu said...

err, zmn high school dulu, if you sing this song sesaje, later you'll hear the 'live version' nearby..scary doo..
and til today, i try not to sing or listen to it..

amukje said...

allo banker..betul ade mp3 ulek mayang traditional version? aku cari xjupe...leh r share sm aku...jimmy_tgnu@yahoo.com

deepdesign said...

thumbs up for the lyrics.. if u got the original mp3 song (without lyrics), it'll be really helpful if u can email to me..
i'm doing a project on pisang sikat architecture.need a music background..

faizal said...

hahaaaaa...i agree with u bank...here's more guys...try sampling the audio in reversed format. listen to that!!!...its get more scarier than u think...'ulek mayang' was clearly heard even played reverse....

Anonymous said...

Hello Banker, I'm researching Malay folklore and I am interested in the story of the Seven Princesses behind the Ulek Mayang song. Internet sources say that the song is supposed to originate from Trengganu. There is a story about the origin of the name Dumai (a town in Sumatra) which also seems to be linked to this song and they have a different version of the lyrics. But the Dumai story seemed a bit contrived; I believe this folklore really did originate in Terengganu as the song and dance is still practiced there.

MIAORU said...

i love this song =)

lin said...