Putting Sarawak traditional music onto the world stage

By Jude Toyat




NADING RHAPSODY want to showcase the uniqueness of Sarawak’s traditional music and make themselves known by performing in various international festivals around the world.


After attending expos and doing performances for the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) several times, vocalist Azhfar Raimi Muaz Johari, also known by her stage name Opah, said that “Our intention is to participate in festivals around the world and show what is available in Sarawak as Tuku Kame has done.”


The team is also currently busy producing their new album. The yet-to-be named album is expected to be completed before the end of this year and is geared for the market of authentic Asian music and around the world.


Nading Rhapsody’s dream is to attract the youth and the community at large so that they can do or start something in the efforts of preservation of cultures and heritage in the future.



Opah during an RWMF press conference on June 22 at Damai Beach Resort.


“It is important for us to attract the attention of local youths as we see that conservation and preservation of cultures and heritages of Sarawak is more appealing to foreigners compared for those here in the state,” she said.


This is the second year the group has been performing at the RWMF, after winning the Rainforest Waterfront Fest 2012 which gave them the opportunity to perform as the opening act of the Rainforest World Music Festival in 2012.


Nading Rhapsody’s genre of Avant-Garde Borneo ethnic music focuses on ritual chanting, singing poems of lamentation and Sarawak folksongs.


Nading Rhapsody

Nading Rhapsody


“The poem of lamentation are poems that are recited during funerals, which we are bringing out, producing and presenting as new compositions. We produce it for a more friendly audience so that everybody can make use of this tradition that we have. If we don’t bring it out, it will just fade away in the village. So we bring it out so that we can preserve this as far as it can go,” said Royston Kulleh (lyrics-vocals-chants).


She said the performance of the folk songs such as ‘Sabak Pulai’ describing the return of the deceased will mesmerize audiences and is usually performed by the ‘tukang sabak’ who are those who cry or wail for the dead according to old Iban custom and belief.



Nading Rhapsody performing their haunting ethnic melodies.

Nading Rhapsody performing their haunting ethnic melodies.


“We want to showcase what our culture has for everyone and it is not to create controversy as many people among the Iban community have converted to Islam, Christianity and others and so on and there are not many who still practice the age-old customs.


“It is very sad if our future generation do not know that this practice had existed, but the younger generation and foreigners have to be exposed about what has been there a long time ago,” she added.


According to Opah, the traditional Sape’ music is not only played by Orang Ulu, but Ibans as well.


As an instrument, the Sape’ is more versatile and can be played with other songs from the Bidayuh, Malay, and Melanau communities.


“Each performance is an adaptation of various races and religions and is not meant to raise any sensitive issues, especially on the practice of lamentations from the past,” he added.


For more information on that can be found on their website at www.nadingrhapsody.com.


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