Dondang Sayang

Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) 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.

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