The Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga ceremony showcases Brunei Darussalam’s rich centuries-old royal traditions and customs, denoting the beginning of a period of royal ceremonies (also known as Musim Istiadat Diraja), which ends when the Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga ceremony is ‘closed’.
The Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga tradition is the playing of traditional musical instruments by royal court musicians for the purpose of keeping vigil.
The ceremony highlights the richness of the Sultanate’s ancient royal customs and traditions used for heralding special occasions like a royal wedding.
The Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga ceremony (opening of the playing of traditional musical instruments) by the royal court musicians for keeping vigil was held recently, in conjunction with the royal wedding between the daughter of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Her Royal Highness Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah and Yang Mulia Awang Abdullah Nabil Mahmoud Al-Hashimi.
According to the Gendang Jaga-Jaga Book published by the Brunei History Centre, the Gendang Jaga-Jaga is a royal regalia found in Brunei Darussalam, used in certain ceremonies, especially in period of royal ceremonies.
The Gendang Jaga-Jaga consists of the nakara, two gendang labik and four serunai (flute), three chanang and two gongs.
The titir (the beat of the gendang, chanang and others recurrently) of the Gendang Jaga-Jaga consists of the Gendang Perang, Alih-Alihan Tengah and Alih-lihan Ujung, including Gendang Raja Lalu and Arak-Arakan.
The flute melodies in the Gendang Jaga-Jaga consists of Liu-Liu, Kudidi and Sangga Bunuh.
For a ceremony that requires the Gendang Jaga-Jaga to mark the ceremony’s commencement, the Gendang Jaga-Jaga will be officially opened during a ceremony at the Lapau in the capital or a venue characterised as such, accompanied by 21 shots of the cannon and later the installation of royal regalia.
If the Gendang Jaga-Jaga is bestowed upon an individual, another official opening ceremony will be held at the individual’s residence, followed by the cannon shots and later the installation of royal regalia at a suitable location. This ceremony is called the Istiadat Menjunjung Kurnia Gendang Jaga-Jaga.
Following the completion of the of the Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga, it will be relayed to the individual bestowed upon and with the ceremony’s conclusion, the Gendang Jaga-Jaga will be closed in a ceremony called the Istiadat Menutup Gendang Jaga-Jaga ceremony and Doa Selamat, signalling the ceremony’s conclusion.
The period of the opening until the closing of the Gendang Jaga-Jaga is called Musim Istiadat or ceremonial period. During the period, the Gendang Jaga-Jaga will be played based on its rubrics at stipulated times to signal the ceremonial period.
Auspicious ceremonies such as the coronation, proclamation of Pengiran Muda Mahkota, royal weddings, bestowment of title (Istiadat Mengarak Wazir) and royal birth will require the Gendang Jaga-Jaga.
The Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga opening ceremony commences with the beating of the Gendang Perang, followed by the Alih-Alihan Tengah, Alil-Alihan Ujung and back to the Gendang Perang.
Upon the ceremony’s conclusion, Doa Selamat will be read and the royal regalia, the nakara, will be placed at the patarana (Throne Chamber) and other instruments will be carried out of the ceremony.
Following the conclusion of the opening ceremony, it will proceed with the installation of royal regalias on the pemajangan, a white structure erected at certain venues for different occasions.
Those who play the Gendang Jaga-Jaga are selected individuals, usually from a generation of those who play the instruments. If none is available, those with the talent to play the flute, beating the nakara, gendang labik, agong and chanang will be chosen.
The instrument players are said to be those of good behaviour and able to blend in with the Royal Family, Wazir, Cheteria, Pengiran-Pengiran Peranakan and Pehin-Pehin Manteri. Their understanding of royal customs, traditions and etiquette will allow them to carry out a more efficient and orderly role.
The Istiadat Menutup Gendang Jaga-Jaga ceremony will usually begin with the recitation of Dikir Syarafil Anam and firing of cannon shots, accompanied by the beating of the Gendang Arak-Arakan. All the royal regalias decorated on the pemajangan will also be taken down to mark the conclusion of the ceremonial period.