Keeping the traditional beat alive

Daniel Lim

The sight of a Hadrah is usually associated with Malay traditions and is deeply embedded into Brunei Darussalam history.

The musical instrument can be seen either on its own or in a troupe as part of Gulingtangan performances.

Efforts to ensure that the rich Hadrah legacy, particularly in song writing, must be continued for the country’s new generations.

This led to the formation of the Hadrah class – the Sutera (Sungai Teraban) Association. They share the vision of keeping the Hadrah tradition alive as a pillar of the country’s culture.

Hadrah class Head Norain binti Mohammad said the class, which only started last November, is frequently held at the Language and Literature Bureau (DBP) Library in Kampong Pandan, Kuala Belait.

She said there are many challenges in teaching the Hadrah to the youth and adults. “These challenges are mostly among the young, as they do not know the significance of a Hadrah, in learning how to play and understanding its history.”

A student plays a Hadrah. PHOTOS: DANIEL LIM
Norain binti Mohammad leading the Hadrah class

Norain added that one needs to be inspired to preserve the knowledge and culture of Hadrah, especially in song writing. She said most of the songs she teaches are those she learnt from her tutor.

She said her class is an opportunity for knowledge sharing and to maintain the tradition.

“To help ensure our heritage is kept alive, we need to have more students and instructors to teach them,” she said.

Adults’ support plays a significant role to encourage youth show interests in the Hadrah.

“It would be a shame for our youth to let a traditional heritage go waste. Why not encourage our youth to learn the Hadrah, to spark some creativity and have their own take on playing them,” Norain said.

As the head, she hopes more people will be able to learn about the Hadrah and understand its significance in the nation’s history. “Having learnt the Hadrah at an early age from school, we still remember the techniques and skills to play. We should maintain it as a valuable asset to the nation.”

These days, while most youth might be content with modern technologies, some find joy and solace in learning about the traditions.

Student Siti Umairah binti Haji Abu, 12, said learning the Hadrah helped her gain a better understanding of the tradition and on how to play them as a group.

“It’s really fun to play the Hadrah, and it’s also easy to pick up the various techniques of beating the Hadrah,” she said.

Having just started playing the Hadrah for over a month, she said the support from her parents impacted how frequently she participates in the class.

The Hadrah class is held every Friday from 2.30-4.30pm at the DBP Library in Kampong Pandan, Kuala Belait.