Heartbeat of Johor: the Kompang Jidor tradition

The rare rhythms of Kompang Jidor will be showcased at Cendana’s Panggung Rakyat

THE surging rhythms of the kompang often herald the arrival of dignitaries or newlyweds, and mark days of festivities throughout Malaysia. 

The Malay incarnation of a frame drum first introduced by early Arab traders and missionaries in the 13th century, the kompang is performed in groups in interlocking movements that produce composite rhythms. 

In Batu Pahat, Muar and Johor Bahru, kompang groups often play the kompang together with the jidor, a traditional Javanese double-headed barrel drum. 

Heartbeat of Johor: the Kompang Jidor tradition 
The masters of Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono are open-hearted with their knowledge, always ready to share and engage those who wish to learn seriously. – Pic courtesy of Pusaka/Cheryl Hoffmann

While the jidor drum is still a common feature of kompang groups in Johor, the traditional twelve-beat rhythm of ‘Kompang Jidor’ is an art form that is now unfamiliar even to native Johoreans. 

Kompang Jidor traditionally encompasses twelve interlocking kompang beats that create composite rhythms. The twelve beats of the Kompang Jidor are: babon, banggen, nelon, ngelimo, ngerapati, anak babon, paron, ngapati, ngentong, nyalahi, nyelangi, jidor. The distinct names of these beats trace their origins to Java.

 In collaboration with Pusaka, Panggung Rakyat presents the Kompang Jidor tradition of Johor, performed by Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono tomorrow. – Pic courtesy of Pusaka/Cheryl Hoffmann
In collaboration with Pusaka, Panggung Rakyat presents the Kompang Jidor tradition of Johor, performed by Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono tomorrow. – Pic courtesy of Pusaka/Cheryl Hoffmann

Kompang Jidor is usually performed with the vocal accompaniment of selawat based on the Kitab Barzanji. An 18th-century book of praises that narrate the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the Kitab Barzanji was composed by a poet-jurist from Medina, Ja’afar b. Hasan b. Abdul Karim al-Barzanji.

Revered for its poetic expression, the Kitab Barzanji is widely recited among Sunni Muslim communities around the world, including in Indonesia and Malaysia. During a Kompang Jidor performance, the Barzanji selawat is sung in Arabic, structured into verses (rawi) and refrains (jawapan). 

Kompang Jidor is performed by a group of kompang players and a single player who strikes the jidor. Once a tradition that flourished throughout Johor, this older form of kompang is becoming increasingly rare.

Because of its complex rhythms, the art of the twelve-beat Kompang Jidor takes more time to learn and master than the more common four-beat Kompang Melayu. With the passing of old masters of the Kompang Jidor tradition, many groups gradually shifted to playing the rhythms of Kompang Melayu.

The musical structure of the Kompang Jidor embodies the spirit of community and spiritual devotion. – Pic courtesy of Pusaka/Cheryl Hoffmann
The musical structure of the Kompang Jidor embodies the spirit of community and spiritual devotion. – Pic courtesy of Pusaka/Cheryl Hoffmann

The last remaining group actively performing and teaching the Kompang Jidor tradition is Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono from Benut, Pontian, Johor. Founded by the late Selamat Ahmad before Malaysia gained Independence, this group traces an unbroken lineage of five generations of Kompang Jidor masters.

Now led by Mahni Jais, and under the tutelage of master Misron Sadiman, Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono regularly trains the younger generation of performers in their community and occasionally holds workshops for kompang groups from other parts of Johor.

The group has also participated and won prizes at district and state-level kompang competitions. In partnership with Pusaka, they have performed at various festivals outside Johor, including Tapestry of Sacred Music at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore.

The last remaining group actively performing and teaching the Kompang Jidor tradition is Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono from Benut, Pontian, Johor. – Pic courtesy of Pusaka/Cheryl Hoffmann
The last remaining group actively performing and teaching the Kompang Jidor tradition is Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono from Benut, Pontian, Johor. – Pic courtesy of Pusaka/Cheryl Hoffmann

Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono was one of the two kompang communities involved in Pusaka’s project, Enchancing the Sustainability of the Kompang Johor Tradition, which took place in 2017 and 2018 with the support of Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda).

The project conducted foundational research and documentation of the Kompang Johor tradition in selected communities in Batu Pahat and Pontian. The project aimed to enhance the conservation and sustainability of the Kompang Johor tradition at the community level, collaborating with esteemed local custodians to conduct training workshops thereby encouraging the transmission of the tradition to the next generation. 

The musical structure of the Kompang Jidor embodies the spirit of community and spiritual devotion. Mahni explains, “Each beat of the Kompang Jidor has a distinct style, rhythm pattern, and method of striking, yet when played together, these separate beats converge to create a unified whole.

“As we sing the selawat in unison, our voices become a single expression. This musical tradition thus reflects the inextricable bond of individual and the community, of the human being and the divine.”

The masters of Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono are open-hearted with their knowledge, always ready to share and engage those who wish to learn seriously. Their mastery of Kompang Jidor and dedication to teaching has earned them the respect of the wider kompang community in Johor.

“We want to revitalise and expand the knowledge of Kompang Jidor. If other kompang groups wish to learn and uphold the traditional Kompang Jidor, I welcome them to come and learn with us,” says Mahni. 

“We don’t want this art form to disappear. We want it to flourish and endure, we hope that the next generation will continue to keep this tradition alive.”

– Cendana pic
– Cendana pic

Panggung Rakyat: Kompang Jidor

In collaboration with Pusaka, Panggung Rakyat presents the Kompang Jidor tradition of Johor, performed by Persatuan Kompang Kg Parit Madirono this Saturday. The footage of performance and interviews was documented by Pusaka during the Kompang Johor project with Irda.

A programme by Cendana in collaboration with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), Panggung Rakyat showcases unique and authentic traditional performances, while also educating the public about embracing and appreciating Malaysia’s unique arts and cultural heritage.

This year’s Panggung Rakyat series is offered online and will take place twice a month till the end of the year.

The 4th Episode of Panggung Rakyat 2021: Kompang Jidor will premiere on Saturday, October 9 at 8.30pm, on Cendana Malaysia’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CendanaMalaysia – The Vibes, October 8, 2021

For further information on the Kompang Jidor tradition, contact Pusaka: info@pusaka.org

THE VIBES

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