Main asal Iban – Iban dances, music and attire


The Iban perform many kinds of dances accompanied by the music of gongs and drums.

These dances include the ngajat, bapencha, bakuntau, main karichap, main chekak.

The ajat dance is attributed to a spiritual being, Batu Lichin, Bujang Indang Lengain, who brought it to the Iban many generations ago.

Today there are three kinds of ajat dances performed by the Ibans.

One is called ajat bebunoh which is performed by warrior dancers;
the second is ajat semain performed by men and women; and
the third is ajat nanggong lesong performed by men.

Gendang rayah
Another important music performed by the Ibans is called gendang rayah.

It is played only for religious festivals with the following instruments:

1. The music from a first bendai gong is called pampat
2. The music from a second bendai gong is called kaul
3. The music from a third bendai gong is called kura

4.. As the three bendai gongs sound together, then a first tawak gong is beaten and is added to by the beating of another tawak gong to make the music.

Katebong drums
Last but not least, is the music played using the katebong drums by one or up to eleven drummers.

These drums are long. Its cylinder is made from strong wood, such as tapang or mengeris, and one of its ends is covered with the skins of monkeys and mousedeer or the skin of a monitor lizard.

The major types of drum music are known as follows:
1. Gendang Bebandong
2. Gendang Lanjan
3. Gendang Enjun Batang
4. Gendang Tama Pechal
5. Gendang Pampat
6. Gendang Tama Lubang
7. Gendang Tinggang Batang
8. Singkam Nggam

All these types are played by drummers on the open air verandah during the celebration of the Gawai Burong festival.

The Singkam Nggam music is accompanied by the quick beating of beliong adzes.

After each of these types has been played, the drummers beat another music called sambi sanjan, which is followed by still another called tempap tambak pechal.

To end the orchestral performance the music of gendang bebandong is again beaten.

The ordinary types of music beaten by drummers for pleasure are as follows:
1. Gendang Dumbang
2. Gendang Ngang
3. Gendang Ringka
4. Gendang Enjun Batang
5. Kechendai Inggap Diatap
6. Gendang Kanto

When a Gawai Manang or bebangun festival is held for a layman to be consecrated as a manang (shaman), the following music must be beaten on the ketebong drums at the open verandah (tanju) of the longhouse of the initiate:

1. Gendang Dudok
2. Gendang Rueh
3. Gendang Kelakendai
4. Gendang Tari
5. Gendang Naik
6. Gendang Po Umboi
7. Gendang Sembayan
8. Gendang Layar
9. Gendang Bebandong
10. Gendang Nyereman

Gendang Bebandong also must be beaten when a manang dies and is beaten again when his coffin is lowered from the open air verandah (tanju) to the ground below on its way to the cemetery for burial.

Other musical instruments
In addition to playing music on the above mentioned instruments, Iban men enjoy the music of the following instruments:

Engkerurai (bagpipe)
Kesuling (flute)
Ruding (Jew’s harp)
Rebab (guitar with two strings)
Balikan (guitar with 3 strings)
Belula (violin)
Engkeratong (harp)

Jew’s harp
The women, especially the maidens, are fond of playing the Jew’s harp while conversing with their visiting lovers at night, with the tunes from the ruding Jew’s harp, the girls and their boy friends relate how much they love each other. In past generations, there were very few Iban men and women who did not know how to converse with each other by using the ruding Jew’s harp. Today very few younger people know how to play this instrument and the art is rapidly dying out.

Ngepan Lelaki Iban:
– Engkerimok
– Unus Lebus
– Simpai Rangki
– Tumpa Bala (Lima iti on both sides – ba lengan)
– Sirat Mengkari
– Labong Pakau

Ngepan Indu Iban
– Sugu tinggi
– Lampit
– Kain
– To be confirmed



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