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Ethnic Group in Malaysia

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The Malay race consists of two groupings – Proto Malays and Malay Polynesians which are likely originates from the Yunnan province or surroundings. The early Malay (or Champa) civilizations are: Lin Yi (also called Fu Nan), located in what is South Vietnam and Cambodia today. The second great civilization of Malays is Sri Vijaya, located in Palembang. After the fall of Sri Vijaya, Parameswara, the prince of Palembang migrated to Malacca, which in turns established the Sultanate and Empire of Malacca.

Migration of Malays

Originally, Malaysia was occupied by the Proto Malays which migrate to the Peninsula in batches during the ice-age, when the continental plate and the Islands were connected by land. This Proto Malays are what we termed today as “orang asli”, the same is true for some other ethnics in Sabah and Sarawak (Ibans, Dayaks etc). The second major wave of migration is from the Champa, as kingdom expands southwards, which includes the southern Thai peninsula. These Malays are classified as the Malay Polynesians or Melayu Laut. They tend to settled around river mouths and of agrarian society in nature. From the South, the Malays from Sumatera, formerly of Sri Vijaya empires migrated to Malay Peninsula which the formation of Negeri Sembilan – immigrants from Padang, Sumatra; and the immigration of Bugis diasporas in Johor, Pahang, and Selangor (circa 1500AD until 1900AD). Later on waves of immigrations come from Java to Johor and Selangor, around the period of late 1800s until early 1900s. These immigrants, they are from either Proto Malays origin, or Polynesian Malays.

Malays Language

The Malay language is one of the major languages of the world and of the Austronesia family. Variants and dialects of Malay are used as an official language in Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. It is spoken natively by approximately 33 million people throughout the Malay Archipelago and is used as a second language by an estimated 220 million. The rise of Melaka sultanate triggered the revolution of the Old Malay into the Classical Malay. After the arrival of Islam, Arabic-based Jawi script was adopted as the official scripts in Brunei and as an alternative script in Malaysia. Beginning from the 17th century, as a result of British and Dutch colonization, Jawi was gradually replaced by Rumi script.

Religion of Malays

The original religion of the Malays is of some form of Animism or Paganism, which worships the Nature. But prominence among them is the belief in what we called as “Adat” or customs. The position of Adat is so high, thus, it is quite easy for Malays to accept new religions into their society, as these religions do not pose any conflict with the Adat. When the Malays embrace Hinduism or Islam, they never leave their Adat.

Traditional Dances

Joget is a very upbeat and popular form of traditional dance that are originated from Malacca which are influenced by the Portuguese dance of Branyo during the spice trades period. It is usually performed at joyous occasions involving pairs of men and women performing swift and graceful movements. Mak Yong involves female dancers in a folk dance and drama combining romance, humour and operatic singing. Candle dance is originated from Negeri Sembilan. The dancers hold little saucers with lit candles, inverting the saucers without extinguishing the flames. Kuda Kepang is very popular in Johor; it’s a very exciting and hypnotic traditional dance that involve a group of nine men riding two-dimensional horses made of hide or pleated rattan.

Traditional Clothes

Baju Melayu is the traditional outfit for men. It consists of two main parts: the baju and the trousers made out of the same type of fabric. Baju Kurung is a loose-fitting full length dress that consisting of a skirt and a blouse made of silk. They are commonly expresses lively colors and geometric patterns. Ladies often wear with a headscarf (a tudung) in the more conservative states in northern Malaysia.

Traditional Games and Pastimes

Wau bulan got its name from the crescent moon-like shape. The sizes are bigger than any traditional kite and are normally decorated with large, strong-coloured patterns. Congkak is considering as a game for girls that has simple rules that allow the boards to have different numbers of holes. The boards are made of teak or mahogany wood that carved into various shapes. Gasing or spinning top can weigh up to ten pounds and sometimes be as large as a dinner plate. The gasing competitions are judged by the length of time each top spins by released a rope that has been wound about the top. Silat is a fascinating, weaponless Malay art of self defense that focus often more about the spirit than the body. Silat demonstrations are held during weddings, national celebrations, and of course during silat competitions. Shadow Puppets is the favourite after-dark entertainment. The enang (puppeteer) directed the puppets’ movements while singing which often lasted several hours. The shows draw inspiration from the Ramayana, the Hindi immortal tales.

Traditional Musical Instrument

Gamelan is the traditional musical ensemble from the islands of Java and Bali featuring variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, gendang and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings. Nobat only plays on special occasions. It containing six musical instruments such as gendang negara or large drum, gendang ibu, gendang anak, serunai (flute/clarinet), nafiri or trumpet and caklempong (small gong).


From Websites:
1. A very brief history of the Malays and Malaysia (accessed 20 January 2013) http://wanhasni.wordpress.com/2008/09/20/a-very-brief-history-of-the-malays-and-malaysia/

2. Silat (accessed 20 January 2013)

3. Nobat (accessed 20 January 2013) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Regalia_of_Malaysia#Nobat

4. Gamelan (accessed 20 January 2013)

5. Dance and music (accessed 20 January 2013) http://www.geographia.com/malaysia/musicdance.html

6. Baju Melayu (accessed 20 January 2013)

7. Baju Kurung (accessed 20 January 2013)

8. Games and pastime (accessed 20 January 2013) http://www.geographia.com/malaysia/games.html

9. Tarian tarian in Malaysia (accessed 20 January 2013)

10. Kuda Kepang (accessed 20 January 2013)

11. Wau bulan (accessed 20 January 2013)

12. Congkak (accessed 20 January 2013)

13. Tarian lilin (accessed 20 January 2013) http://kelabkebudayaansmks.blogspot.com/2010/04/tarian-lilin.html

14. Malay traditional dance (accessed 20 January 2013) http://www.vacationtourz.com/malaysia/malay_dance.htm

15. Joget (accessed 20 January 2013)

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