Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ulek Mayang Terengganu

I've always had a fascination towards the Ulek Mayang song. Being born and raised in the East Coast, I grew up with the story of the dying young man who was visited by the 7 fairy princesses who nurses him back to. The story itself however, is not as beautiful as the dance itself.

Unfortunately due to the raising religious awareness in the country, and also the increasing fear of the "spirit world", the Ulek Mayang song and dance has been considered taboo in some parts. Ulek Mayang in its traditional form was a dance of worship. The dance was once performed to worship the spirit of the sea. The song itself is haunting enough to transport people into a dream-like state even more so the leading role in the dance is a shaman. The dancers use 'mayang pinang' (strings of arecanut's flowers). While dancing, the 'mayang pinang' will be shaken until the person holding it feels that the 'mayang pinang' is alive or moves by itself then it is given to another dancer. There were known cases that dancers playing the part got so into the character that they were possessed by spirits and could not step out of the trance once the performance was over. Exorcism had to be done to free the poor soul from the spirits.

Other traditional Malay dances has this kind of reputation as well, for example, the Kuda Kepang dance. Men who played the part of the riders were said to sometimes go into a trance-like state as the dance was once a form of totemic worship. Mak Yong too has strong links with spirit possession however, none can beat the eerie fame of Ulek Mayang.

There's no new known cases of spiritual possession during an Ulek Mayang dance but the legend lives on. The legend is not meant to scare but perhaps as a precaution for those who are foolish enough to dabble with the unknown.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm researching Malay folklore and would like to know the story behind the seven princesses in the Ulek Mayang song. I understand the song originates in Trengganu but there seems to be a similar legend in Dumai(Sumatra). Is it the same story? If you have any leads, grateful if you could drop a note at tdyean@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I really like this piece of writing! :) & I do agree with you, I myself as a dancer feels like dancing when I hear the mayang ulek song! It makes me feel like I was at the seaside & sometimes I do get goosebumps.

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