Collections: Patricia Matusky - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Traditional Music of Malaysia (1981-1986, 1995)

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The Malaysian shadow play puppets in the opening scene of a performance depicting wisdom, the forces of good and evil, and the tree of life that signals the world in its totality. Kelantan, Malaysia, 1994. Image from video © Patricia Matusky.

This collection documents many genres of traditional Malaysian music from both the Peninsula and Sarawak in Borneo Malaysia. Some of the forms are nearly extinct today. The recordings, in audio and video format, include shadow puppet theatre (wayang kulit Kelantan and wayang kulit Melayu), human dance theatre (mak yong and mek mulung), sung storytelling traditions (Selampit and Awang Batil) and various kinds of folk and court dance and their music (such as tarinai, zapin, and ngajat). Included, too, are ritual ceremonies and the music used for healing (main puteri) and for rice growing and related activities, music of percussion ensembles, as well as vocal music (including welcoming songs, dikir barat group singing and other genres) and instrumental music for general entertainment.

Recorded in field site situations and on the campus of the Science University of Malaysia in Penang during research projects, this collection spans more than a 20-year time period and reflects a broad spectrum of the traditional music in the country.

Some of the genres recorded here were performed by those considered to be the divas and the master performers and puppeteers during the mid to late 20th century, many of whom are now deceased. This is a collection of considerable breath and has been used as the basis for many of the major publications on the traditional music of Malaysia that are available today.

This collection has not yet been peer reviewed but it is available online in the EVIA Project Archive.

Image © J. Sanserino

Patricia Matuskyis an ethnomusicologist who has conducted research and written extensively on the traditional music in Malaysia. While her past field research focused on the music of the Malay shadow puppet play (wayang kulit) and other theatrical music, her continuing interest and research involves Malaysian musical instruments, the traditional folk and classical music in Peninsular Malaysia and the traditional music in Sarawak in Borneo Malaysia. She resides and has taught for many years in Malaysia, including senior lecturer at the University of Malaya (Malay Studies Academy) in Kuala Lumpur, as well as Fulbright Teaching Fellow and subsequent Associate Professor at the Science University of Malaysia in Penang. Also, in Singapore she held the position of senior lecturer and Head of the Music School at the LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, was a consultant on traditional music in the development of the Theatres on the Bay, and held a brief post-doctoral position at the National University of Singapore to carry out a survey on music of the Malay community in Singapore. She has served as consultant and researcher in ethnomusicology on special projects for the Dayak Cultural Foundation and Tun Jugah Foundation in Malaysia’s largest state, Sarawak, on the north coast of Borneo, and currently is Adjunct Professor (ethnomusicology) at the Cultural Centre of University of Malaya and at the Centre for Research, Excellence and Artistic Scholarship of ASWARA (the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her publications include articles on traditional Malay music in international journals, and the books Malaysian Shadow Puppet Play and Music: Continuity of an Oral Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1993 and reprint by The Asian Centre Penang, 1997), Muzik Malaysia: Tradisi Klasik, Rakyat dan Sinkretik [Music of Malaysia, the Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions], co-authored with Tan Sooi Beng (The Asian Centre Penang & Kuala Lumpur, 1997 and University of Malaya Press, 2012), Muzik Wayang Kulit Kelantan [Music of the Kelantanese Shadow Puppet Theater] with the late Tok Dalang Hamzah bin Awang Amat (The Asian Centre, 1998), Pengantar Muzik Malaysia [Introduction to Malaysian Music],Books I – II, co-authored with Tan Sooi Beng (The Asian Centre, 1998, 1999) and The Music of Malaysia, co-authored with Tan Sooi Beng (London, Ashgate, 2004). She has also written articles on the folk and classical music of Malaysia in the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (Garland Publishers, 1998), in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Macmillan, 2001) and the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (new edition in progress). She has contributed music transcriptions, analysis and commentary on Iban healing chants (pelian) in Clifford Sather, Seeds of Play, Words of Power, An Ethnographic Study of Iban Shamanic Chants (The Tun Jugah Foundation & Borneo Research Council, 2001) and is contributing editor on the Iban funeral chants (sabak) in Sarawak in Tears of Sorrow, Words of Hope, Vinson Sutlive, Ed. (The Tun Jugah Foundation, 2012).

Additional Information:

Related to this collection is the textbook in the Malay language Muzik Malaysia, Tradisi Klasik, Rakyat dan Sinkretik (1997, and 2nd edition in progress) and the website for this textbook (below) and a translation and revised version of this textbook entitled The Music of Malaysia, the Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions (London, Ashgate, 2004).
Muzik Malaysia Website:

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