Sunday, November 22, 2009

Exploring My Culture: Episode 1

People (except for those who have known me for ages) are often surprised when I pick up a call and start blabbing in my native Kelantanese. Even friends who knew that I'm from Kelantan would still find it weird and funny when I speak the lingo, especially for the first time, in front of them. But this next fact I guess would surprise them even further. I'm a huge fan of dikir barat, yes ma'am.

I guess it started when mom started buying dikir barat cassettes and later CDs from the night markets and would play them in the car. So I had to listen to the songs, which very quickly grew on me. The rhythms are often similar, with traditional music and sometimes clapping in the background, but it was the lyrics that got me. Often they are meant as advices, telling you the dangers of drugs or the perils of badmouthing people for example. Most times, it's done in a very humorous and catchy way that the song would be stuck on you.

But I've never seen a dikir barat performance yet. Sure I've seen the one students do up in schools, and the ones shown on RTM yonks ago (AIDS merbahaya, Aedes pula mengancam manusia, remember?). But then I saw a video of the National Dikir Barat Competition, and was enthralled! Maybe about 30 men sitting in lines, the rear line on a pedestal so you can see them. Their moves were complicated, synchronised perfectly to the music and changes tempo in tune with the song. It's like nothing I've seen before. I Youtubed more videos and saw that this is the norm for a real dikir barat performance. This is no child's play, this is a complex performance.

Since for competitions it is basically a debate, and the teams would make their case. This is where the importance of having a good tukang karut comes in to play, because he needs to improvise the lyrics as the 'debate' goes on. The awak-awak would be repeating his lines (and in a more informal setting, with much gusto and improvisation on their part too) while performing their moves which only makes us of the upper body and the knees. The tukang karut would often make lighthearted jabs at his opponent, riling him up a little, and when his turn ends we'll see the reply!

I read on a forum dedicated to dikir barat connoisseurs (, the tok jogho represents the King, thus he is always seated and his song is more serious. The tukang karut is his laksamana, where he would take the King's words (in the song) and use it to lead the attack on the opponent. The awak-awak are the foot soldiers, mirroring the laksamana's words in numbers and put it to action.

But of course, don't take my word for it. There's much more to this art form, and you'll do well to explore it yourself regardless if you're Kelantanese or not. I am very glad that back in Kelantan the dikir barat scene is still very much active, with some tukang karut achieving fame and perhaps even celebrity status. Take a walk to the nearest pasar malam whenever you're in Kelantan and you'll find a stall or two selling the latest albums. You can even ask them which is the top album of the moment, and you won't be disappointed. If you're looking for the live performance, try ask around. There's one going on someplace, sometime, I'm sure of it ;)

P/S: if you see rappers improvising their lines during 'battles' and think that is impressive, then you've seen nothing yet homies.


cacah said...

anyway, saya pun suka dikir barat. haha. baru nak suka sangat. sebelum ni takat layan saja. tapi sekarang ni malam2 kerja duk cari dikir barat jer. hahaha.

sejak dengar lagu "ambo raso bekene". lagu tu memang comel dan kelakar. :)

apai said...

jati diri penggerak wawasan! cayalah fqrl...tapi sekali sekala layan cradle pun ok kan?

The Banker said...

cacah: haha i know that song!

apai: kena ada a healthy mix, pas dengar traditional songs layan children of bodom plak..baru wasatiah, haha

apai said...

hahah..wasatiah..hail hayagriva!!!! aku layan lagu sapo dale jambe...