Thursday, November 11, 2010


dondang sayang and ronggeng


in my posting on malay weddings past and present, i mentioned that in the past, the music was mainly the traditional type, like kroncong. another form of traditional music that was popular at both malay and peranakan weddings was the dondang sayang.

dondang sayang is a traditional malay form of entertainment which involves a repartee of witty verses in a lighthearted and sometimes humorous style. to the peranakans, dondang sayang is referred to as 'musical debating'. it involves the singing of pantun or four line verses set to music. the chief musician is the violonist, providing the counter melody to the vocal melody.

when it first started, there was no music accompaniment. then came the malay musical instruments - the rebab, rebana and tenawak. it was the portuguese in melaka who added the violin and accordion.



normally two singers exchange pantun during a dondang sayang session. one sells the pantun and the other one buys. it thus follows a question and answer format. however, there were some unwritten rules pertaining to common sense, rhyme, language and decency. even with this understanding, there were occasions when some participants got so worked up that it led to tension and animosity. when you had a number of exponents wanting to show off their wit and skill, these sessions could drag for hours.



the music (from the violin) is slow and hypnotic (from the drum beat) enough to induce some spectators to dance to it. ronggeng is usually associated with dondang sayang. in ronggeng, there is no physical contact between the two dancers. it is not unusual to see members of the same sex dancing with each other.

in the days when men paid $1 for 3 dances with the 'taxi-girls' at new world amusement park, the ronggeng was one type of dances that was enjoyed.




photo from the national archives of singapore


here we see our minister mentor (then our first prime minister) dancing the 'ronggeng' during the launch of 'minggu berjaya kebangsaan (national solidarity week) dinner hosted by the malay cultural organisation. i think this was in 1964.

3 comments:

Uncle Lee said...

Hi YG, wow! I have always enjoyed this dong dong sayang, the ronggeng and kronchong music. I guess have a Nyonya mother influenced me, and growing up among Malay people.

I learned the joget when very young too.
Love that pic of LKy dancing, fantastic pic!
Best regrds, Lee.
ps, love the way the Malay ladies dressed old days...one reason I dated more Malays than others, ha ha.

yg said...

lee, dondang sayang was very popular with nyonya-babas at weddings, especially in melaka, penang and singapore.

in your bachelor days, i am sure women of all nationalities, not just malay, would have succumbed to your charms.

yg said...

lee, with your wit and your penchant for pantun, you should make a good dondang sayang singer.