An Exploration of the Malay Kompang

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AN EXPLORATION OF THE MALAY KOMPANG
Name: Chan Tsui Sze Dora
Matriculation Number: U1210644K
Seminar Group Time: 1330 – 1530
Seminar Group Instructor: Cikgu Zubir
Assignment: Research Paper in Malay Music
Date: 10 April 2013
Word Count: 2245

Contents

Chapter 1: An Introduction to the Kompang3
1.1 Features of the Kompang4
1.2 Features of Kompang Music4
1.3 Performance Context6
Chapter 2: Influences on the Malay Kompang 7
2.1 Arabic Influences7
2.2 Portuguese Influences9
2.3 Thai Influences11
2.4 African Influences12
Chapter 3: Future Changes in the Malay Kompang14
3.1 Pop and Media Influences14
3.2 Western Influences15
Chapter 4: Conclusion16
Bibliography 17
Discography/ Videography 19

Chapter 1: An Introduction to the Kompang

The Malay Kompang ensemble refers to a Malay drum ensemble that ranges between three performers in a small chamber or accompaniment setting, to a large group of 30 drummers. As an instrument, the Malay Kompang is so familiar to most Singaporeans, yet it encompasses a rich history spanning more than 700 years that would astound and intrigue many.

Kompang is mainly an oral tradition (Abdullah, 2005). Like all other non-notational music forms, it is inevitably highly characterized by change, self-improvisation and influences from other cultures. While Kompang music today is admittedly not so frequently heard nor performed as before, there have been efforts to assimilate this traditional music genre into today’s popular culture.

This paper will address the diverse cultural influences on Malay Kompang from Arabic, Portuguese, Thai and African sources. Through the main musical elements of instrumentation, rhythm, form, and performance context, a comprehensive musical analysis of the influence of the different cultures on Kompang music will be made. This paper will also examine how elements of popular culture can be infused into the traditional Malay Kompang music genre, and discuss the general developmental direction that Kompang music is taking.

1.1 Features of the Kompang

The Malay Kompang is part of the membranophone family. It is a wooden-framed, circular, one-sided handheld drum with a skin made up of animal hide and played using the free hand (Abdullah, 2012). There are two main types of tones on the Kompang – the lentong beat played by hitting the side of the drum with closed fingers, and the cerang played by slapping the center of the drum with the palm (Abdullah, 2012). The lentong typically produces a lower-pitched, rounder sound while the cerang typically produces a higher-pitched slapping effect. One of the unique features of the Kompang is its “wet” and rumbling timbre due to the strong effects of reverberation. Another special feature of the Kompang is its interlocking technique and the unique musical texture heard from this effect.

1.2 Features of Kompang Music

Even though most musical repertoire of the Kompang is oral in nature and neither notated nor formally defined, there is undeniably a wide range of repertoire in the Kompang genre. There is purely instrumental drumming as well as Kompang used to accompany vocal parts, like zikir. The variety in form – the organization of musical elements in time to create structure (Kamien, 2013) – used in Kompang music is very wide. There is the use of Pukulan, which the first section is called Pukulan Mula (introduction beat), the second is called Pukulan Asas (basic beat) and the third is Pukulan Naik (ascending beat), followed by a combination of other sections including Pukulan Turun (descending beat) and Pukulan Naik. Finally the last section is identified as Pukulan Mati (ending beat). (Abdullah, 2005) There is no rule as to how many times each Pukulan has to be played; the combination of Pukulan sections is determined by the length as well as the function of...
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