Types of Iban traditional songs

Monday, December 3, 2012

Iban Traditional Songs

(This is is a reproduction of a part of the paper which I presented during the assembly of Autronesian leaders in Taipei, Taiwan in 2003, but I feel this paper is still relevant for those who are interested in the Ibans. Many people in Taiwan believe that migrations of Austronesians passed through the island. They point out that the language of the natives of southern Taiwan is very similar to those spoken in northern Phillipine. Personally, I observed throughout the island that the natives make tuak, have manangs and lemambangs.)

The Ibans must be one of the most prolific singers on earth. The songs are sung at every stage of their lives and at every occasions, some for pure entertaiment, some for encouragement, some for courtship and some for rituals. Work on Iban songs have been discussed and recorded by Hugh Low, Ling Roth, William Howell, Benedict Sandin, A.J.N Richards and Carol Rubenstein and Tun Jugah Foundation just to name a few.
In this paper I shall attempt an descriptive analysis of the many types of Iban traditional songs. I must hasten to add that there are many riverine differences in traditional songs and their tunes and of neccessity I will stick to whatever I have studied and thereby may omit many others which I have not come in contact with yet. Further contributions during and after this seminar will be gratefully accepted.

The Iban psyche
But before that something must be said about the Iban psyche. Ibans interacts very intimately with their gods at all times and at all phases of their lives.
In the heavens above lives the God of War, Sengalang Burung and his wife Sendai Lawai and his seven daughters who are married to the omen birds. He is a fearless, wily and strong warrior filled with sympathy and love for the people below and always help them to be victorious during their war raids by giving them charms, by teaching them to read omens and by teaching them techniques of war.
Somewhere on the earth lives Pulang Gana, the God of Agriculture and his wife Endu Serentum Tanah Tumbuh and his seven children who are married to the seven omen birds of agriculture.
Below the earth is Sebayan, the underworld where people live peacefully in the midst ofplenty under a benign leader called Pantau Ajan. It is always cool alternating between early morning and dusk. Fish and games are plentiful and fruit trees would flower in the mornings and the fruits would be sweet and ripen by the evenings. For the Ibans there is no Hell.
Between heaven and earth there is a place called Panggau Libau. There lives Keling and his people. He is fearless, handsome, well schooled in the laws, customs and all the oral traditions. His sweetheart is Kumang from a nearby place called Gelong. She is beautiful beyond description, a leader to all women, an incoparamle singer and gifted in weaving mats and pua and a consultant in protocols and ceremonies. Both Keling and Kumang, needless to say are highly skilled in the performing arts.
Every person born an Iban is expected to approximate the gods in brevery, diligence and achievements. That is why in all the traditionsl songs, men are called and considered Keling and every girl is called and considered Kumang. Very ofteen men are referred to as Keling, Keling Pandai, Keling Aji or as Jamu, Renggan, Singgai, Bujang, Bujang Lang Ngindang, Datu Au and many others. Girls or women are called Kumang, Kumang pandai, Kumang Mereti, Kumang Lenta, Kumang Paga, Kumang Jawai, Kumang Sambai, Kumang Demok, Kumang Jinap and many others accordding to the rhyme of the song.

Songs for young children
Songs are sung for young children the moment they are born to put them to sleep, to praise them and to inculcate into them about their proper role in society.

These are sung by ladies for the entertainment of young children. The singers might be old ladies, older children or men. Some of the lullabies are:

1. Dit Dimbu Menidit Dimbu
2. Didibu
3. Bedimbu Awai
4. Wa Anak
5. Lah Lawah
6. Dinai Menidit Dinai
7. Linyang Tun Talun Linyang
8. Oh Ilah
9. Lelepu
10. Indung Indung
11. Tok Tungguk
12. Lepang Bebunga Lepang
13. Lidi Belimbing Lidi
14. Bedandi Inda Inda
15. Lagu Tiung
16. Jawang

In Saribas, Dit Dimbu Menidit Dimbu goes like this:

Dit dimbu menidit dimbu,
Gisai-gisai chapi tuai empa kutu,
Menidit dimbu.

(Dit dimbu menidit dimbu,
The old cow is shaking restlessly because of ticks,
Menidit dimbu)

Dit dimbu menidit dimbu,
Chapi mit tu chegit-chegit minta nusu,
Menidit dimbu.

(Dit dimbu menidit dimbu,
The small calf is standing stiffly ready to suckle,
Dit dimbu menidit dimbu)

Dit dimbu menidit dimbu,
Chapi dara tu dua-dua seribu sulu,
Menidit dimbu.

(Dit dimbu menidit dimbu,
Both the lady cows have a thousand boy friends,
Dit dimbu menidit dimbu)

And in Marudi Baram it goes like this:

Chapi mit menselit di moa pintu, didibu.
Chapi besai bejalai nipas rau, didibu.
Chapi belang pengundang Lubok Antu, didibu.
Ti chapi mansau baka kesumba mansang baru, didibu.
Ti chapi malam baka tuan pulai mupu

(The small calf squeeze through the door, didibu.
The huge cow walks scraping the ground, didibu.
The spotted cow makes frequent trip to Lulok Antu, didibu.
The red cow is like a red banner, didibu.
The night cow is like the colonial officer back from tax collecting errends, didibu).

Songs for games that children play

Iban children also incorporate songs when they play traditional games like :
1. Tang menumpang
2. Chai kechagai
3. Main tumbak aki
4. Main anak antu
5. Jai Jai Juai
6. Chai Wai Labu Binjai
7. Main Tengiling
8. Puk Aruk Aruk
9. Chu Ka Chalu
10. Tuk Tuk Tuk

In Chai Kechagai, the refrain that the children sing is as follows:
Chai kechagai,
Nyerupai tubu betung;
Ka chalai Indai Mendai,
Ka taji manuk tuntung.
Anembiak pulai nyabung,
Teindik ka ular bisa,
Ngetu di tubu meda kaki antu ngenung,
Ngetu di Brunei meda orang pakai baya!

(Chai kechagai,
Just like the young bamboo shoot of the betung variety)
For the use of Mother of Mendai,
For the spur of the fighting cock,
Children returning from a cockfighting session,
Stepping on a poisonous snake,
Stopping at a bamboo grove seeing the legs of a stationary ghost,
Stopping at Brunei seeing someone caught by a crocodile!)

Divisions of Iban Traditional Songs

After childhood and adolescence, Iban traditional songs can be divided into the secular and the religious while some can cross both lines. The secular songs are mostly for entertainments.

Songs for Entertainments

Under this category would fall the following:
1. Ramban
2. Sanggai
3. Pantun
4. Pelandai
5. Dungai
6. Ganu
7. Beringin
8. Lagu Tiung
9. Renong
10. Kana

Ramban would mark a boy’s or a girl’s first journey into field of the traditional of the adult world. They would learn simple and catchy verses like the ones below and slowly learn to composed long and involved ones like in appendix A. Knowledge of ramban would be neeeded to sing the chorus during the singing of the traditional invocations by the bards. In fact many good ramban singers would graduate into assistant bards and then become full blown bards.

An example of ramban sung by little girls:

Chundung ga bangkit belitung,
Ditigung ga rusa rari.
Tajung bujang ga bau sebung,
Laban enda kala dituchi.

(Bent is the sweet smelling belitung flowers,
Swiped by the fleeing deers’ shins.,
Foul smelling are the sarung of the young bachelors,
Because they are never cleaned!)

An example of ramban sung by young boys:
Irit ga wi chit,
Siti diirit di tisi umai.
Burit indu dara kuit-kuit,
Baka burit itit ga pulai mansai

(Pull the wild creepers sharp tresses,
Pull one to the edge of the farm beyond.
Buttocks of the oung ladies move in teasing waves,
Like tails of ducks returning from a fishing expedition!)

Sanggai is used to offer drnk to visitors and to each other during merrymaking. It is used to praise, to motivate and to honour a person. Below is the last verse of the Sanggai of a man whose eyes have met those of a lady but he says that they will never be fated to be together:

Aih, dia deh aku Kumang Jawai ti bejalai,
Nengah tembawai udu panjai madang lensat,
Aku meda sibau pemadu mansau, udu pengelebat,
Ka aku niki wai menyadi,
Tulang aku lemi enda alah pakap,
Ka aku nyarau iya Kumang Kumbau,
Isau aku lembau enda uluh mantap;
Ka aku nyulok iya Kumang Demok,
Laban penyuluk enda ulih datai sipat;
Tang bisi buah Kumang beremah,
Labuh ka tanah ka arung lengkap,
Ka aku pakai, nyawa aku enggai,
Enda ulih nyuap,
Sayau meh tua Kumang Jinap,
Sama kalat-kalat, ninga dek Kumang,
Ngema mengkalang, aih puang.

(I am like a sojourner, Godess Sambai,
Passing orchards of lensat trees bearing fruits,
I want to climb the fruits, dear sister,
My bones are weak, I cannot embrace the trunks,
I dearly wish to lop the branches,
My sword was lethargic and it could not be cut,
I want to use a long stick ,
But it cannot reach the fruits,
But, Godess Beremah, some fruits have fallen to the valley,
I want to eat them but I have no appetite,
My mouth refuses to open,
What a pity our fate is thus, Godess Jinap,
Both wandering aimlessly, Godess,
Bringing on our backs mengkalang, the empty baskets.

By and large, pantuns are used for and during merrymaking. It is sung by both men and women especially when offering a drink of tuak. There are many types of pantun. Some of them are:
(a) Pantun Sinu Ngenang. – Song of Sad Reminisces
(b) Pantun Puji – Song of Praise.
(c) Pantun Peransang – Song of Motivation
(d) Pantun Sayau Ka Indu Dara – Yearning for a Maiden
(e) Pantun Bataban Lari – Yearning for an Elopment
(f) Pantun Serabana – Song of Tribulations
(g) Pantun Enda Ampit Indu dara – Being Left Out in Competition for a Girl
(h) Pantusah Ati – Song of Sadness
(I) Pantun Begagai (Betundi) – Song of Merriment
(j) pantun Ngajar — Song of Advice
(k) Pantun Ngelusu – Song Concerning Laziness
(l) Pantun Kenang – Song of Memories
(m) Pantun Ninding (laki/bini orang) – Song of Jealousy
(n) Pantun Pulang Gana – Song Concerning God of Agriculture
(o) Pantun Nama Ka Tuah – Song to Usher Good Fortune
(p) Pantun Betemu ka Ribai Enggau Keling – Song to Arrange a Meeting for a Meeting of the God from Overseas and The Iban God.

Posted by dayakibanworld at 5:06 PM



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