Harmonious percussion and rhythm of the Hadrah

hadrah3 ubd

Darul Aqsha

During the 64th birthday get-together celebrations of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, one can hear the harmonious rhythm of the hand-drums or kompang and the traditional musical performance of the Hadrah.

‘Hadrah’ is derived from the Arabic word Hadir or Hadara which means to be present. Terminologically, it means a performance or demonstration or ceremony.The initial growth of Hadrah followed closely with the spread of Islam across the Southeast Asian archipelago.

HadrahEarly Muslim merchants from the Middle East used to beat hand-drums to attract customers to their wares and their socio-cultural activities. Through the centuries it later developed into the Hadrah that we recognise today.

Hadrah is also very popular in Indonesia, especially in the rural areas. Most Hadrah performers in Indonesia are members of the Nahdhatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation with some 40-million membership.

Last February, the Nahdhatul Ulama held a Hadrah festival called the Archipelago’s Festival of Hadrah in the East Java town of Lamongan. KH Ahmad Bagdja, chairman of the Nahdhatul Ulama, in his speech at the festival said that Hadrah could lower stress, hypertension and stroke.

Bagdja explained that Hadrah is performed by beating the hand-drums directly without any beating tool … This in a way makes the blood circulation to swiftly stream into the brain, making the body healthy and minimising the chances of getting a stroke, he said.

Through its lyrics which contain Islamic moral messages, the Hadrah could serve as a form of therapy and relaxation that could provide comfort to the soul and thus would also able ‘prevent stress and hypertension’.

The drum

hadrah4The hand-drum used in Hadrah is known worldwide as tambourine. It is a single-headed frame drum that, sometimes, has jingling metal disks set in its frame. It can be struck, shaken, or rubbed to produce a tone. The tambourine is known as Riq in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and other Arab countries; Buben in Russia, Ukraine, Slovia, Czechoslovakia and Poland; Dare in the Balkans, Persia and Central Asian countries; Kanjira in South India; Kompang and Rebana in Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia; Terbang in Java; and Tar in Brunei.

The Tar or Rebana is a hand-drum measuring 24 centimetres across. The frame is made of wood, which is entirely grooved and shaped like a huge ring. One side is open and the other is covered with goatskin, which is tightly pinned to the wood with lead strip and small nails.

To add variety to the sound when the drum is beaten, three pairs of round metals on spindles are placed in the frame.

The frame is not made of just any wood. Traditionally, only the wood of three local species of trees are used, namely mengaris, merbau and kulimpapa.

Good skills are needed to fashion the frame, which has to be flawlessly round and grooved to a certain degree.

Hadrah performance

hadrah1The Hadrah performance needs a group comprising around 21 to 25 people or even more because each type of tone should be played in groups of three or four people. During the performance, the player holds the drum in one hand and uses the other hand to strike it.

The most popular use of Hadrah and Kompang is in the Berinai (Malay customary wedding) ceremony.

The Hadrah performance can be done by sitting down because it tends to stretch for hours, while the Kompang can be performed standing, walking and even in dance.

The length of the performance can vary because song stanzas can be repeated and rhythmic sectors can be improvised upon.

Basically, the beat of the drum comprises seven kinds of rhythm. The first beat of the Tar is slow. The second one is moderate and done alternately by two players. Then, the third to the seventh beat is strong and fast but variable in sounds. At the same time the players sing in chorus with the beating of their drums until the music reaches its crescendo. The finale is punctuated by slow but loud striking of the drums.


HadrahHijauGenerally, the songs of the Hadrah comprise lyrics in Arabic. The themes are particularly on the biography and eulogies of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), his family and companions.

In countries such as Indonesia, the songs were composed beautifully specifically by poets from the area of Sambas, West Kalimantan, and published in several books such as Kitab Dirwanu Hadrah, Kitab Barzanji, Kitab Zikir Maulud (Kitab Sariful Anam).

Hadrah groups in the Sultanate made some reforms by using Malay language and songs such as Trek Tek Tek, Enjit-enjit Semut and Selamat Pengantin Baru.

Hadrah today

According to Rusli Murni in his article entitled Hadrah di Brunei (Hadrah in Brunei) published in the Jan-March 1984 edition of the Beriga, Hadrah has been developed in the sultanate since 1930s by Muslim merchants of Sarawak called Kuching Men and by Bruneian visitors or traders who visited Sarawak. Earlier, men exclusively formed the membership of the Hadrah, but in the 1970s many women began to take interest in performing the Hadrah.

Previously, Hadrah in Brunei was only performed during wedding ceremonies, but now it is performed in events such as welcoming honoured guests, officiating new buildings, and other official government functions. Today, the younger generation have taken an active role and interest in the art of Hadrah and have done well in preserving this traditional legacy.


The Brunei Times
Tuesday, July 27, 2010


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