Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.b.25

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Malaysia has nominated Dondang Sayang (No. 01410) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Dondang Sayang is a traditional Malay art still practised in Melaka by four communities: the Malay, Baba Nyonya, Chitty and Portuguese communities. The practice combines elements of music (violins, gongs and tambourines or the tambour), songs and chants, and features beautiful melodious strains of poetry. Also known as love ballads, the songs are used by communities to convey feelings of love and give advice on special topics such as love and kindness. During the Melaka Sultanate era in the fifteenth century, Dondang Sayang was performed at Royal Palace ceremonies and events; subsequently, the performance became widespread among the communities concerned. Based on tradition, Dondang Sayang performances are accompanied by music and sung by two singers of the opposite sex, who sing in quatrains. Typically, Dondang Sayang singers are individuals who are highly competent and skilled in poetry recitation. Dongdang Sayang performances are open to all, irrespective of age, occupation, status or religion, and the art is considered as a means of conveying positive messages and sharing feelings of love, joy and sorrow that strengthen community bonding. Performances are held on a regular basis, especially during gatherings, festivals and parties, and nowadays many cultural programmes, activities and training activities are organized for those interested in participating and improving their singing and performance skills.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   As part of contemporary culture in Malaysia, Dondang Sayang promotes communication between performers and their audience both within local communities and among different ethnic groups in Malaysia. Through the performance of Dondang Sayang, the musical, vocal and poetic capacity deriving from a long-lasting tradition has been continuously developed. The content of the element reflects the social reality of individual communities, fostering interaction between its members and strengthening relationships.

R.2:   The inscription of Dondang Sayang would highlight the use and importance of regional languages and dialects and promote respect for them, since they serve as vehicles of the spontaneous composition of Dondang Sayang poetry. As the element embodies the principal values of tolerance, empathy, sharing and harmony in society, its promotion would foster dialogue among different communities and lead to more opportunities to meet at festivals and other events.

R.3:   The safeguarding measures are in line with the specificities of Dondang Sayang and would help reinforce its already strong position in the cultural tradition of Malay society. They aim at promoting and disseminating the element, with regular performances and training activities as core measures. The proposed activities are firmly connected with those of governmental organizations and cultural institutions, the initiators and planners of the safeguarding measures as well as their main implementers and supervisors. The local communities and practitioners participated in the planning process during focus group discussions and will be the principal beneficiaries of the safeguarding activities.

R.4:   The decision to nominate Dondang Sayang followed a series of local and national public meetings, seminars, discussions and requests. The communities, groups and individuals concerned participated in preparing the file by providing information and audiovisual materials, and partook in consultation sessions and workshops. Practitioners and other relevant stakeholders provided their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination in a standardized form.

R.5:   In 2007, the element was included in the National Heritage Register, maintained by the Department of National Heritage under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia. The inventory is updated according to new information obtained by experts, the media or individuals.

  1. Inscribes Dondang Sayang on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level on how the National Heritage Register has been drawn up and regularly updated with the active participation of the communities, groups and non-governmental organizations concerned, in accordance with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention.