Silat is a traditional dance and martial art, rolled into one. Accompanied by drums and gongs, this ancient art is performed with mesmerising fluid movements at Malay weddings and cultural festivals. It is believed that practising silat will increase one’s spiritual strength in accordance with Islamic tenets. This martial art form is also widely known in Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines.
Sepak Takraw (pronounced seh-PAHK TAHK-raw) is Malaysia’s national sport. It uses a hollow ball made of rattan (woven palm stems). Players may use their heads, legs and feet but not their hands to hit the ball. Some players can perform amazing acrobatics with the ball.
There are two ways to play takraw.
Sepak raga bulatan (circle): Players stand in a circle and try to keep the ball in the air as long as possible
Sepak takraw jaring (net): Two teams try to score by knocking the ball down on the other team’s side of the net (like volleyball)
This sport is also popular in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and other southeast asian countries.
Sepak Manggis is a unique outdoor game played by the Bajau and Iranun men of Sabah. Forming a circle and facing each other, players aim to strike the bunga manggis floral carrier that dangles from a 10-metre high pole. The winner will be rewarded with money, gifts or edibles, which are in the carrier.
Wau (pronounced WOW) is a traditional kite that is especially popular in the northern states of Kelantan and Terengganu. These beautiful giant kites, measuring about 3.5 meters from head to tail, are made of bamboo and covered with cloth to look like local floral and fauna. Bamboo “whistles” are attached underneath the kite to produce a humming “waao-waao” sound.
Gasing is a top spinning sport. Traditionally played before the rice harvest season, this game requires strength, co-ordination and skill. The top is set spinning by unfurling a rope that has been wound around it. Then it is scooped off the ground, whilst still spinning, using a wooden bat with a centre slit and transferred onto a low post with a metal receptacle. If expertly hurled, it can spin for up to 2 hours. Teams compete to see how long they can make their tops spin.
Wayang Kulit is a traditional shadow puppet show. The flat two-dimensional puppets are intricately carved out of cow or buffalo hide, then painted by hand and mounted on bamboo sticks. Each puppet has jointed “arms” and is manipulated behind a white cloth screen with a source of light to cast shadows. The play is conducted by a singular master storyteller (called Tok Dalang) who tells the story and speaks the part of each puppet. Wayang kulit usually dramatises ancient Indian epics.
Chingay or the Giant Flags Procession is a spectacular procession that celebrates the arrival of spring during the New Year season. Its trademark elements are giant triangular flags and lanterns. These flags on equally huge poles are balanced on performers’ foreheads, chins, lower jaws and shoulders. Other entertainers include dancers, jugglers and magicians.