Traditional Malay medicine encompasses various kinds of ritual ceremonies intended to communicate with the world of spirits to determine whether the nature of an illness is physical or psychological. In such ceremonies, the aim is to summon and exorcise the spirits causing illness. A ritualist serves as a medium, and a small ensemble often provides the musical component.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Main Puteri for Healing Illness

Main Puteri for Healing Illness
Traditional Malay Medicine encompasses various kinds of ritual ceremonies intended to communicate with the world of spirit to determine whether the nature of an illness is physical or psychological. In such ceremonies, the aim is to summon and exorcise the spirits causing the illness. A ritualist serves as a medium, and a small ensemble often provides the musical component. Known by different names, healing rituals appear in different forms. The main saba (a curing ceremony, incorporating dance around a saba tree) and main lukah (a fishermen’s curing ritual performed in Pahang) are regional types using song, dance and drumming. The main puteri (peteri), another form that extensively uses music, is found in Kelantan and Terengganu.

In the main puteri, a medium (tok puteri, tok teri, bomoh) becomes possessed by the spirit causing an illness. The performance of vocal and instrumental pieces helps him enter a state of trance. A trance-dance (tarian lupa) is a prominent feature of the ceremony. An assistant, the tok minduk, plays the rebab as he converses and sings in dialogue with the medium. The orchestra used in Kelantan is larger, perhaps because of the occasional performance of the main puteri with the mak yong (resulting in a hybrid form, main puteri-mak yong). The contemporary main puteri orchestra of Kelantan includes the core mak yong orchestra (a rebab, a pair of gendang, and a pair of tetawak), plus or more canang, a pair of kesi and sometimes an oboe.

The dialogue between the tok minduk and the tok puteri is sung in a slow tempo. With long gong units, long rhythmic patterns in the drum part, and vocal line featuring a basically syllabic style of singing. The rebab accompanies the vocal lines of both singers by either playing heterophonically with the voice or reiterating short melodic phrases as ostinatos. The trance-dance sections feature the repetition of brief going units and short drummed rhythms, a fast tempo, and the reiteration and emphasis of the running beat by the small gongs and the hand held cymbals.
Main Puteri for Healing Illness
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