Malay Singing in Pahang Villages: Identity and Practice uncover and reflect on the fundamental dimensions of singing and musical practices among the Malays in Pahang villages; by looking at the ways in which legacies from the past can still be heard in the present and considers the extent to which musical practices in the present are shaped by ideas, beliefs, and feelings about the past. Understanding what people do and how they partake in musical activities helps to provide evidence of the nature of music and the function it fulfils in their lives. The Malays engage in a variety of singing and music-related activities. Thus, this study deals with the cultural meanings of singing and musical practices by the Malays that in this case, in Pahang, Malaysia.
The presence of a considerable number of the past vocal forms in present-day music genres is identified. Some of the functions and meanings of the vocal forms/songs have continued to be present in today’s music genres, while others have undergone changes as to adapt the music for today’s performance outlets. The performance of traditional music and regional pop music, and kugiran and punk rock is heavily weighted towards men. Women singing in bands are seen as uncommon. They are not supposed to master modern/Western musical instruments that are mainly associated with men. Furthermore, women in general are linked to the ideal of womanhood and behaviours that are perceived as non-provocative. The study conducted by the author on songs and music practices in Pahang also addresses the topic of community and how it is formed. The author suggests that there are two kinds of community that can be formed through music: short term and long term. A short-term community is formed during a performance event, over a short period of time.
In contrast, a long-term community is the result of a longer involvement by its members, beyond the performance event. The author concludes Malay Singing in Pahang Villages by reflecting on Geoffrey Benjamin’s works in light of the research findings. Benjamin investigated the different types of Malay music performed by Malay groups and how they encode a cline of Malayness. Benjamin concluded that a heightened degree of melismatic elaboration corresponds to a higher degree of cultural Malayness. Creating a sense of Malayness in music as discussed in Benjamin’s works, the author argues, is an achievement. Benjamin’s attempt to evaluate Malayness in songs relies on several generalisations. Some Malay performers acknowledge that a higher degree of melodic ornamentation corresponds to increased Malayness. This association between ornamentation and Malayness, however, is insufficient without adjusting for the performer’s competence (singing technique).