For me, visiting Malaysia was like visiting a unique relative. There were many similarities, but in the same time very different. That same feeling always accompanied me every time I go there. The history and language is something I will not discuss since it would be too long. I only want to tell my experience while I was living in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. When I first arrived at the capital city of Malaysia, I stayed at a hotel in Lebuh Ampang near the Jamek Mosque for two days. Then I moved to Bukit Bintang , the grand entertainment and shopping center of Malaysia. I did not know about this place beforehand, because I only depended on the information from the internet.
Bukit Bintang offered many interesting sounds. Other than the sounds produced by tourists, people that were shopping, and loud noises of people having dinner in Alor Street, this whole area was like a stage for street musicians that intensifies a Saturday night. One musician that surprised me was a man in front of a KFC outlet who was playing dangdut. I suddenly felt as if I had been back in Indonesia. This group consisted of three blind men who played bass, guitar, and an electric drum that could be adjusted to sound like a ketipang, and two people singing the songs. Other than dangdut, a music that was familiar to my ears, they also sang songs from Indonesia, such as Kereta Malam, Bete, and Sambalado. The music they produced was very fun to hear, so much so that people from different backgrounds danced along with the music to celebrate that night.
Right beside the musicians was a generator for source of energy for the instruments, microphone, and speakers that the musicians were using. This generator also have a constant low noise frequency, a rumbling sound. I recorded for about an hour until the show finished. I chose the song Sambalado for my recording that sounded very fun. The accompanier, although there were only three, sounded very cohesive. The drummer, bassist, and guitarist were very skillful. They were able to adapt various dangdut songs that were usually played in Indonesia. What was interesting was that the singers were still talking in Malay while they were singing. There was this funny moment when one of the singer forgot to sing right after the intro, but the audience were already singing with full excitement. The other singer then teased her by saying “hei, lepas interview jadi lupa diri kamu ya.” It was really a warm experience for me after travelling for two months through Thailand and Vietnam with all the different cultures.
The music merged with the sound of the crowd in that gleaming night at Bukit Bintang. In the far distance was the KL Tower piercing the sky. Another thing that was interesting for me was in the midst of the crowd there was a group of women wearing hijab with their children dancing along to the music. They know almost every song being sung that night. How did they memorize them? It was very adorable, but unfortunately I was not able to ask them if they were from Indonesia. I was only able to speculate. It seems that I would have to come back to enjoy the music and have conversation with people there. The beat of dangdut was the trill of reality. Sambalado is a kind of chilli from the Minang tribe in west Sumatra, who are also the descendent of Malay people. Dadan Indriana, the writer of the song, used it as a metaphor to explain the ups and downs of a love story.
“Sambalado”. Songwriter: Dadan Indriana
Sambala, sambala, bala sambalado
Terasa pedas, terasa panas
Sambala, sambala, bala sambalado
Mulut bergetar, lidah bergoyang
Cintamu seperti sambalado ah ah
Rasanya cuma di mulut saja ah ah
Janjimu seperti sambalado ah ah
Enaknya cuma di lidah saja