Better than Hip-Hop

A little while ago, the Malaysian Music Awards were on TV. At the moment I tuned in, the winners for the Rap category were being introduced. Pop Shuvit, they call themselves. I cringed to see these jokers come on stage with their pants sagging, jewerly blinging and hair done up in cornrolls. They rap in Malay, which is sort of cool, but I couldn’t get past the horribly derivative image to even bother to listen. If I’m being unfair to the Malaysian rap scene, you can set me straight.

Pic from Halimah @ Glogster []
However! There is a true Malaysian rap form that is as sincere and engaging as the KL homies are phony and dull. And that is the music called Dikir Barat. Dikir Barat is performed by groups with one lead rapper and a raucous gang that calls out the chorus, keeps the beat, and rocks and sways to the music. The lyrics are extemporaneous when performed at weddings or similar events, though at a televised competition I saw, it was much more rehearsed. Like with rap, the lyrics are key, and the style and flow of the lead MC are important. The MC is called the tukang karut, an inelegant translation of which would be “master liar”. But as has been pointed out to me, karut can also mean to versify or rhyme extemporaneously, in which case tukang karut would be more like a storyteller or even rhymemaster. The Tukang Karut stands, and often struts and gesticulates as he raps. The crew sit crosslegged, and perform the most lively dancing I’ve ever seen from people sitting down. The movements are synchronized, but the crew will shout and yell across the rap as they feel the urge. The music is all percussion, from hand claps to drums to gongs. The beats are lively and loud during the chorus, but often fall away during the rap. The beats aren’t hyper-syncopated like hip-hop, but have definite funk to them. There are downloads and a few translations here, courtesy of Fire and Hemlocke, or you can search for dikir barat on YouTube.

Other informational sources for dikir barat:

www. Dikir Barat .com

Kelantan Royal Net

Dikir Barat Page

Dikir Barat in Singapore

Rabbani Does Dikir Barat

On the subject of dikir barat, the excellent nasheed group Rabbani has a song that is done with a dikir barat flavor, called Ingat 5 Sebelum 5, “Remember 5 Before 5”. You can find it on Kazaa if you are outside of Malaysia. I thought I’d try my hand at translating the lyrics this afternoon, since it is something I can do while rocking my 2-month old in her buaian. I didn’t try too hard to make the translation poetic, just reasonably close to the meaning. Corrections or critiques are most welcome.

Ingat 5 Sebelum 5

Duhai teman dan tuan-puan — O dear friends, sirs and ladies
Mari kita berpesan-pesanan — Come let us take advice together
Baik lelaki juga perempuan — Come boys and girls
Duduk di kampung atau di pekan — Whether in the village or the market
Zaman in zaman kemajuan — This time is a time of prosperity
Kebendaan menjadi ukuran — Material wealth has become the measure [for which]
Hidup saling bersaingan — Life has become a competition between us
Jika lalai tinggal sendirian — And the one who is uninterested is left behind aloneNabi junjungan pernah berpesan — The Holy Prophet once advised us
Agar hidup ada pegangan — So that this life may be grasped
Semak selalu jangan lupakan — Always pay heed, don’t forget
Agar tak susah di hari kemudian — So that there is no difficulty on the Day to come

Kena diingat lima perkara — We must be mindful of five things
Sebelum tiba lima perkara — Before five things occur
Aaa… aaa… — Aaa… aaa…
Semoga hidup aman bahagia — For life to filled with peace and joy

Waktu lapang buatlah amalan — In time of leisure, do good works
Sebelum sibuk pelbagai urusan — Before you become busy with your various affairs
Isilah dengan amal kebajikan — Fill it with good deeds
Menuntut ilmu dan baca Al-Quran — Seek knowledge and read the Quran

Waktu senang beringatlah — In time of ease, act prudently
Sebelum tiba waktunya susah — Before difficulties arise
Jika datang ancaman musibah — If great disaster arrives
Mampu bersedia selesai masalah — You will be capable to solve the problem

Bila sihat jagalah badan — In time of health, look after your body
Sebelum derita sakit tak keruan — Before heavy suffering and pain
Kawallah makan untuk kesihatan — Guard your food for health
Ringan ibadah nak dikerjakan — It will lighten the effort of worship

Jika kaya bermurah hati — If you are rich, be generous
Dapat pahala menolong orang — You will get the reward of helping others
Aaa… aaa… — Aaa… aaa…
Jikalau miskin apa pun tak ada — And if you are poor, and have nothing at all

Waktu kita hidup di dunia — Our time in this worldly life
Sediakan bekalan sebelum mati — Is to prepare our provisions before we die
Walaupun susah banyak halangan — Even though it may be fraught with much difficulty
Tabah dan sabar Allah kan sayang — Be steady and persevere, Allah will love you

Ingat-ingat kita semua — Take care, O we all
Jangan mudah sombong diri — Don’t fill your self with pride so easily
Insafilah pesanan ini — Realize that this advice
Untuk kita suluh diri — Is for us to illuminate our selves

Semoga lembut hati kita — In order that we may soften our hearts
Untuk taat dan berbakti — For obedience and devotion
Dari Allah kita datang — From Allah we have come
Kepada Allah kita kembali — And unto Allah we shall return

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

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  1. Its true that it may be phony and dull but it must be said equally true of white rap e.g. eminem?

    Anyways, local music has given way to more commercial pop as it is more popular.

    The bottom line is always dollars and cents.

  2. I cannot help but to blurt out laughing when you translate ‘tukang karut’ as ‘master liar’!

    Although that translation is literally true, the nuance is certainly lost and a bit misleading – not least offended would be the tukang karuts themselves!

    ‘Karut’ in this instance is more toward ‘storytelling’, or if you prefer ‘impromptu sing-speech’. The traditional old Indian myths that used to be told in this way, however, somewhat justifies the use of ‘karut’ – though not necessarily totally so, because, as Muslims we obviously think that the Indian legends unacceptable but it’d be a bit OTT to call the storyteller a liar!

    Needless to say the Kelantanese dialect is different from other ‘types’ of Bahasa. I observe that they tend to use rather harsher words to describe the same thing. Karut in this case is not ‘to lie’ but more like ‘to talk gibberish’ and ‘mencarut’ (yes, I’m referring to the unfortunate pillorying of Nik Aziz here) does not mean ‘maki-hamun’ but to ‘mengherdik, memarahi’.

    Got to go. Salaams from Cambridge.

  3. Assalamualaikum abang Zayn and Malek,
    I would say lyricist (as suggested in one of the websites) is a better translation b’coz Tukang Karut usually does not tell stories at all, most often he gives social commentaries, in his own blunt, satirical, serious or comical way.

  4. money makes thw world go around or so its seems in the music biz. raw rap rocks though i figuerd u would find it bro.
    Chanol from muskegon

  5. banyak2 tempat, jumpa Fendi al-Marbawi kat sini pulak ya? anyway, i’m assuming Z*** = Bin Gregory. ne c’est pas?

    also, with regards to the lyrics, ‘pekan’ in the last line of the first stanza should really be translated as ‘city’ or ‘town’ or something that suggest some form of urban area.

    ‘pekan’ could indeed be ‘market’ but it’s most probably not the one intended in this nasheed.

    ma’as salaama

  6. also in the 3rd stanza, i think you’ve misinterpreted ‘agar hidup ada pegangan’: id est it’s not that ‘so that life may be grasped’ BUT ‘so that you’ll lead a life of principles’ or something to that effect.

    admittedly the distinction is quite subtle but ‘so that life may be grasped’ can be interpreted in another way (exampli gratia ‘so that life will make sense to you’ or ‘so that you can get on top of things’ [not overwhelmed by life’s vicissitudes et cetera]).

  7. Thanks for the translation help!

    banyak2 tempat, jumpa Fendi al-Marbawi kat sini pulak ya? anyway, i’m assuming Z*** = Bin Gregory. ne c’est pas?

    True indeed, brother Malek. Just maintaining this simple website has sparked connections I never would have imagined.

  8. hey zayn! your first paragraph mirrors my opinion of pop shuvit and their ilk… as of the opinions of most other people, i bet. and your comparison of dikir barat to rap is quite interesting! i’ve responded to this post by blogging about it, just to let you know.

  9. You idiot! it was Too Pahat not Pop Shuvit! Pop Shuvit is a Rock Band and Too Phat is a hip hop act and their music is in english not malay. get your facts straight before making such statements. Asshole!

  10. wzup wzup.. or should is ay peace upon u…
    1st of all, i just dont get… what is this site is all about.. a website for a muslim to insult a music called rap/hiphop..what is this greg? are u a muslim or what…
    if u were sayin rap is crap… what about rock?
    dangdut and all that crap shit?.. what is your stance man…
    if you such a good bitch, please give a mechanism which can make the masses understand that your thoughts is right and flawless..
    regarding rap, there is a muslim rapper who called themselve S.O.A (soldiers of Allah) they rap about palestines peoples, they lyrics motivated lot of teenage muslims… about that?
    compare to other musics such as rock and nasyid, who i been told that one of them is gay…
    tell the me about it?

  11. Hi, stumbled upon this site and noticed the mention of our band. Sorry, if I may be out of place but good to read about your opinions on the local music scene.

  12. I am glad that JD from pop shuvit can take criticism well. Fans should take example right greg? 😉

  13. Its a coincidence that our producer is also named Greg. I was about to post some unsolicited info about the band, but I have to respect that this is Bin Gregory’s website and I shouldn’t spam it.

    And, I like the new layout and design…Cheers.

  14. Is there the seating arrangement of dikir barat? I need it for my music lesson project…pls reply

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