Chetti keeping traditions alive through dance - Bernama
By Shanika Abdullatib
MELAKA, Sept 30 -- Even without a dance studio, you can dance at home. Such is the spirit of six Chetti cultural dance artistes aged between 15 and 23 in ensuring that the ethnic dance continues to grow, especially when cultural and tourism activities have stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country two years ago.
Melaka Department of Culture and Arts (JKKN) dance coach, Wan Kamlzaman Mohd Saidi, 48, said apart from using online mediums to discuss and exchange ideas, dance introduction training was also held as soon as Melaka entered Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (PPN ) on Sept 4.
"Previously, the dance training sessions were held at the Melaka JKKN studio. However, since the pandemic, a lot of training was done at the house of a member of the Chetti dance group in Kampung Chetti, Gajah Berang, here, while complying with the standard operating procedures (SOP)," he said when contacted by Bernama.
Despite facing many constraints, Kamlzaman said they managed to perform at a hybrid Dondang Sayang competition recently, which was their first performance in the last two years.
"We have to adapt and make changes including training only on Saturdays, for four hours each time. But if there is a need such as a request to hold a special presentation for the state government, we will add the training hours," he said.
On keeping this cultural dance of the minority group (peranakan) from the marriage between Indian traders and the local community alive, Kamlzaman said although its members were not that many, it still had a special place in the community.
He said originally, the dancers comprised mostly the elderly but over time, he tried to involve individuals of generation Y in an effort to keep the heritage and tradition alive.
Kamlzaman who has 10 years of experience as a coach at JKKN Melaka for the Arts and Culture Programme (PBSB), also admitted that most of the younger generation now was not interested as they were influenced by the music of modern times such as Kpop, ballads and Bollywood and this to some extent caused the lack of interest in the Chetti cultural dance.
"We realise that the currents of modernisation and music are flowing rapidly in Malaysia and to some extent has had an impact on culture and arts but it is still alive and in fact, various efforts have been made to keep this dance from becoming a dying art.
"We are proud that this young generation of Chetti has not forgotten their roots as this ethnic group is only found in Melaka. At the same time, these young Chetti have also been nurtured by their families since childhood to embrace Chetti culture, including dance.
“Therefore, to revive interest in this dance is to add musical elements that are mellifluous and suitable for the younger generation and look for back-ups fast so that it does not become extinct in the future.
“In addition, the dance formation is also created according to its suitability and I try to avoid difficult choreography because these young Chettis are not accustomed to a lot of movement,” he said.
As for the selection of songs, as this ethnic group is fluent in Bahasa Melayu, Kamlzaman said that there was no problem for them to appreciate traditional and old songs such as ‘Pegang Pegang Tali’ made popular by S. Ahmad and S Rohani, ‘Mawar Merah’ by Lata Mangeshkar and ‘Serampang Laut’, which was very popular among the Chettis.
"In terms of attire, the Chetti women still wear a short kebaya top or the Nyonya kebaya with batik sarong because the Chetti attire has similarities with that of the Malays," he said.