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Malaysia’s Cultural Heritage

What makes Malaysia special is without doubt its multi-ethnic and multicultural make up. We have different religions and races living in a peaceful and harmonious country. These bring influences to our art and culture very much the same way it plays its part among Malaysia cuisines. Two staple aspects of Malaysian culture are dance and music performance.  Both of these have evolved to a certain extent absorbing different art forms from different cultures.

Music & Drama

Traditional Malay music and performing arts are based on percussion instruments. Traditionally, the gendang (drum) plays the most important role in choreography and orchestration. On top of that, there are at least 14 types of traditional drums as far as we know from different ethnic origins. Besides drums there are other instruments like rebab, serunai, seruling and trumpets which are all widely used for traditional melodious story telling during festive seasons.


Another prominent art form among traditional Malay culture is the Malay drama performance known as  mak yong. Performers sing, dance and act the heroic legends of their kings and princesses. It is considered as one of the most authentic performances backed up by traditional orchestras. Although there are traces of external influences in most Malay performances, the mak yong has stayed true to its originality and uniqueness with the passing of time.



Malaysia’s art of batik has never been successfully replicated anywhere in the world, allowing us to claim pride of it on the world stage. This textile art has its roots from the east coast of the country. The popular designs of batik are leaves, flowers and butterflies. Indonesia has its own Java Batik and tends to be more complex and dull in design and colors. In conjunction with “1 Malaysia”, the government has endorsed batik as the national dress while encouraging fashion designers to incorporate batik motifs iinto their latest creations.


Puppet Shows

Malaysia’s very own puppet show, the wayang kulit is a traditional form of theatre using shadows of puppets to narrate tales of the Ramayana and other legends. The shadow play is performed by the back-lighting effects of oil lamps against the intricately carved leather puppets as they engage in the epic struggle of good against evil. These narratives are usually in the form of parables out of which the puppet master, by expert manipulation of the puppets, weaves his tales with complete deftness and agility. Characteristically, both the protagonists and antagonists play out their roles expressing moral values embedded within the parables.



Malaysian silat or silat melayu is said to have come about through the observation and imitation of animals including the monkey, eagle and tiger to form its distinct style of martial art. It is a highly stylized Malay art of self-defence and combines sequences of movements which enable a person to defend against attack. Silat has slowly evolved into an art of self defense among youngsters besides being just a performance.


Pewter Making

Being blessed with the world’s largest reserves of tin, it seems reasonable enough that Malaysia produces what is being recognized as the world’s finest pewter products. Most of these come from our very own Royal Selangor Pewter which is located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Up until now, Royal Selangor Pewter



The jungle provides an abundance of materials for Malaysia’s weaving industry. The access to different types of wood is worked and woven into traditional crafts and furniture like chairs and tables. The practice was common even back then during British colonial times that even the English appreciated such art work. In Borneo for instance, the sago plant is dyed and woven into uniquely patterned jewelries, baskets, hats, handicrafts etc.

Lion Dance

Tarian Kipas

Mek Mulung

Ampang Nine Emperor

Lemanak Iban Longhouse

Gunung Mulu National Park

Bat Exodus from Deer Cave, Mulu Sarawak

Semporna Sabah