Standard traditional Achehnese clothing for men includes full cut black trousers, a black top with long-narrow sleeves with one botton at the neck. A silk cloth (kain songket) is bounded around the waist, and a rencong is tucked into the belt. On the head is a kupiah meukeutob topped with a gold star shaped ornament (tampok kupiah). It is bound with a woven square of silk.
The women wear gold embroidered, black trousers which are narrow at the ankle and very broad at the waist. The blouse is also embroidered, and is yellow, green or red in colour. The sarong is a women silk fabricdecorated with gold or silver thread (kain songket). This is held in place a large gold belt. On the head is adorned with an array of golden flowers with called Bungong Ok and Patam Dho or Kulah Kama. Necklaces cascade from the neck to the waist. The arms are adorned with many bracelets, and the fingers are graced with rings, too.
Rincong is a special Achehnese dagger which had been so important during the Achehnese war. Now the dagger is popular as a completion of the traditional attire, and nice souvenir from Acheh, too. Rincong blades are mode of metal, while the hilts and scabbard are from ivory, wood (kayu kemuning), or buffalo hom. Anatomishable steel is used for blades that will be fitted with buffalo hom hilts and scabbards. While a brass alloy is used for those with scented wood orivory hilts and scabbards. Hom, wood, and ivory are not the only materials used for roncong hilts and scabbards, silver and gold may also be used. The shape of rincong is from the invocation of 'Bismillahirrahmanirrahim' (in the name of Allah, the merciful and compassionate). The component parts of rincing is likened to individual letters of the Arabic script of phrase 'Bismillah' as follows :
- The hilt of the rincong is in the shape of 'ba'
- The decorationat the base of the hilt is 'sin'
- The shape of the blade is 'mim'
- The shape of the metal parts at the top of the blade is 'lam'
- The base of scabbard takes the shape of 'ha'
- Together ba, sin, mim, lam, and ha make up the word 'Bismillah'
Siwah is another important Achehnese blade which is generally known as the ceremonial dagger and usually used by the Sultan and men of the subtantial wealth. It differs from the rincong in appearance in that it has a more bulbous hilt. The siwah scabbard is usually more highly ornamented than a rincong scabbard. The decoration on these fine-old weapons befits their royal heritage. Precious jewels, ivory and intricate gold filigree work adorn at the upper end of the scabbard where the blade enters the sheath. Some siwahs have straighter blades than rincong, however, both blades are sharpened on one side only, and end in a sharp point.
The Peudeung is a kind of a long sword and was very populer during the Achehnese wars. In Acheh, every peudeung has aname based on the shape of its hilt, for example 'hilt like the tail of a cat', (gagang ekor kucing) 'hilt like the mouth of crocodile' (gagang mulut buaya) 'hilt like the horn of a deer', (gagang tanduk rusa) 'hilt like the legs of a horse', (gagang kaki kuda) and 'hilt like the tail of a duck' (gagang ekor bebek). The hilt of a peudeung is usually decorated with a 'tampok', a smaller version of the star shaped ornament worn on top of the traditional, royal Achehnese hat. The history of peudeung may trace back to 17 century. There is an Achehnese sketch dated in the century, an Achehnese man, show him sporting a strap over his shoulder through which two long peudeung protrude.
As a verandah of Mecca, songs and dances which come from Acheh generally reflect Islamic prayer art. In old times dances were either performed at the courts for sultans and their guest or in the villages as entertainment after hard work in the fields. Today dances are mostly performed at special government functions, but in many areas local dancing traditions and groups carry on the heritage. Each region of Acheh has own version of dances or its own indigenous ones. The costumes used are basically long sleeved tops and sarongs wrapped around the waist and colors are often brilliant. Women usually wear head pieces, but the use of jewelry depends on the aspect of life that is depicted by the dance. The Achehnese dance all have certain characteristics in common. Islamic values are often spread in Acheh through the dances. The dances deal with daily social activities. All Achehnese dances are performed by a group and are dynamic with stepping feet, beating of chests, hips and shoulder
Achehnese music performed on tradition string, wind and percussion instruments. Most of them seem to have Chinese origin, but at least the "arbab" is indigenous. The "arbab" is a three string zither made of wood from the jack fruit tree. The strings are made of very strong bambo, rattan, or from horse tail horse. One example of wind instrument is the "seurunee kalee ", which is a single reed wood-wind with one hole in the back and seven in the front. Other include various kinds of bamboo fluetes, such as "buloh peurindu", "bansi" and "suling". Gong are made of brass or dried goat skin and are sounded with padded wooden hammers. They come in three sizes and called "gong" , "canang", and "mong-mong". The "Rapaii Pasai" is tambourine made of goat skin. The "Rapai Pasai", for example, was introduced by the Samudra Pasai Kingdom as an instrument to call citizen to gather. The "Tak Tok" is made of bamboo and is very simmilar to Javanese "angklung". The players of traditional instruments are usually men, while women sing and play tambourines. A traditional band consists of leader, four or five players and one or two boy sopranos.
In Acheh there are 50 types of dance, 20 kinds of music, 10 form of literature and 9 tradition arts, some of which are described below. Some of the popular dances are:
"Ranub" is Achehnese for betel leaf. It is traditionally used for chewing after meals and is served as a way of showing respect to guest. "Serving betel leaf to the guest" as a dance has become a popular way of welcoming prominent guest to Acheh and also at opening ceremonies . Nine women perform to the music from the "seurunee kalee" instrument. At the end of dance , the performers offer "sirih" (betel) to the guests who are supposed to receive it. However no one forced to chew it !
A similar dance to the "Ranub Lampuan" is the "Peumulia Jamee". The difference is that the betel is omitted, and the music make one imagine exotic Arabian night and a song is sung, starting with the Arabic greeting "Assalamualaikum ..."
The "Seudati" dance existed in pre-Islamic times, but became a way to spread Islamic value to the Achehnese people. The name can de derived from the "syahadatain" which means confession of faith by saying " Kalimah Syahadat". "Seudati" is performed by 8 male dancers commanded by a leader ("syeikh") and his assistant ("apet syeikh") . Two narattors read a poem. It is danced in standing position and starts with "saleum" (salam). Only stepping feet, snapping fingers and beating of chests accompany the movements. The Seudati Inong is the same dance, but performed by women
"Saman" the most popular dance in Acheh and the dance that has become well-known abroad with the name "Thousand hands". It has its origin from the Alas ethnic group and is normally performed to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. and other important occasions. Eight to twenty male performers kneel in a row on the floor and make different kinds of torso movements accompanied by songs, clapping hands, slapping chests, slapping hands on the floor, etc. The songs are praises to Allah or prayers. The dance starts with slow movements and increases its tempo gradually to great speed and finally come to a sudden stop. There are many different regional versions of "Saman"
' Saman Inong '
"Meusekat" is almost the same as "Saman". The only difference is that "Meusekat" is performed by women and originates in west and south Acheh.
The word "pho" derives from "pheubae po". "Peubae" means weeping and "po " is an honorable indicator. The dance was developed from the old dance "bineuh" and originated in the 16th century in south Acheh. It was beginning performed at the death of Sultan or noble man as an expression of loss and sadness. Over the years it started to appear in the "manoe pucok" ceremony ("bathe" and "new bud" respectively) in the days before a wedding when the bride is bathed. During this ceremony the bride is seated in full traditional attire and accompanied by her parents. After a "peusejuk" ( a cooling ceremony) the dancers appear. They led by a "syeh" who produces songs that decribes the life of the bride from birth until marriage. It is about how much the parents have done, how much they have spent on her and how they have taken care of her. Now the moment of departure has come and the bride will leave her parents for a new life with her husband as wife and mother. the newlyweds are also blessed and wished a prosperous future. The songs are often so sad not only the bride and parents, but also the participans, sob togeter.
"Laweut" was developed in early days of Islam in the Pidie area of northern Acheh and means a kind of prayer to the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. " Lawaeut" is also called "Seudati Inong" for its similarity to the "Seudati" dance and that it is performed by women, eigh of them with a "syech" ( leader). Normally it is performed in a standing position, accompanied by song and sound of snapping fingers, stepping feet, beating thighs and clapping hands from dancers
The "Tarek pukat" dance depicts the life of the fishermen in the coastal area. This includes making nets, rowing boats, catching fish and pulling the net which actually is meaning of "Tarek Pukat". The dance is cheerful, dynamic and accompanied by songs or instruments. Each dancer has a rope and during the dance these ropes are woven into net.
This dance was normally only used for celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. , but due to its popularity has begun to appear also on other occasions. There are 20 performer, 10 women and 10 men, accompanied by special tambourines. The dance is often followed by prayers to the Prophet.
"Rapai" is the name of a tambourine used to accompany songs and dances. "Rapa-ii Geleng" is a dance specially developed with this tambourine in mind. The movements are almost the same as in the "Saman" dance, but the 11 to 20 male dancers handle one tambourine each, which gives the dance a very distinct and enjoyable flavor. A song with Islamic teachings accompanies the dance.
' Rapa-ii Geleng '
"Perang Sabil" is a new creation, composed in order to commemorate the war against foreign invaders. This very dynamic dance, accompanied by music, is performed by 8 women and 8 men. The women carrying rencongs (Achehnese blade) and the men swords ("Peudeung"). The dancers describes how the rencong and Peudeung is used in a real war and the dance itself can be hurtful enough if a dancer loses his concentration.
"Bines" comes the Alas people and is developed from the folk tale "odeni maleleng". This tale tells us about the fate of young woman committing adultery and punished by her own village people with death. The mother of girl walks crying around the body of the girl, layng on leather pad. The dance describes the grief of the mother and a sad song in local language accompanies the movements.
"Didong" is most popular Gayo dance, and dance groups of 20 to 40 men and women compete in different aspects of dance, such as song, movement and voice. It can be performed at any kind of occasion.
A dance strongly influenced by Malay traditions and very popular in east Acheh. It is performed by four couple in traditional Malay attire.
Originally a dance for the start of the harvest that despicts traditional rice milling. Performed by four couple moving beautifully to the music from "serunee kalee" . They carry "lesung" (rice mortar) and "alu" (pestle), 2 to 3 meters long.
The famous "Daboih" is hardly a dance, but merely a show of the performers ability to withstand diffeerent kinds of sharp blades. The actors stab themselves to the special sound of tambourine "rapa-ii". The show can be rather dramatic at times. Even electric chain saws can be used ! Keep away if you have a bad hearts.
Lansir Madam is an odd remnant from colonial era and can be described as a "Dutch Square dance"
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