Mah Meri Mask Dance

The Mayin jo-oh is Mah Meri’s traditional mask dance to invite the Muyang (ancestor spirits) to join in the celebrations. It is a non-ritualistic dance that involves no trances, performed during Ari’ Muyang (Ancestor Day Celebration), weddings and other joyous occasions. Mayin jo-oh is also unique in that it is the only mask dance practiced by an indigenous community in Malaysia.

The dance involves both the men and women. The dance group is made up of 7 dancers: 5 women and 2 men, accompanied by a 5-persons strong musicians (2 men and 3 women). The musical instruments that accompany the jo-oh are tuntog (two sets of bamboo stampers), jule (viola), tambo (double-headed drum) and a tawa’ (brass gong). A singer would sing 3 different songs throughout the duration of the dance, which are Lagu ‘Jabus’, Lagu ‘Gemah Lebat’ (Song of the Rainstorm) and Lagu Se’oi.

As the singer and musicians play to the rhythms of the songs, the women dance counter-clockwise around a busot (earthern mound) while the masked men dance in the opposite direction on the periphery of the women dancers. The busot, now made from a tapered bamboo frame, filled with barkcloth and covered by an outermost layer of interwoven nipah leaves, represents a so’ (mountain).

The legend is that a long time ago, there were two Mah Meri siblings who survived the Great Flood and circumnavigated the so’ for seven years before realizing that they were the last two humans on Earth. As there was only the two of them, they had no choice but to re-populate the Earth. All dancers move in different directions to acknowledge the prohibition on incest laid down in their adat (custom).

The Tompoq Topoh troupe members wear elaborate traditional costumes of teghap(barkcloth) and nipah including songkho’ (plaited headbands), selipang (sashes) and dendan (skirts) when performing for guests. The men on the other hand wear simple nipah ornaments. Currently, the youngest performer on the Tompoq Topoh dance troupe is 9 years old while the oldest performer is 40 years old. There is no age limit set for dancers. Our credo is simple - as long as you are still able to dance, you are on the team.

Our dance troupe often gets invited to tourism-related events all over Malaysia. Our most recent invitation to perform in Langkawi was by the Tourism Board of Malaysia. We have also taken part in the annual Rainforest Music Festival in Sarawak. In addition to that, we have taken part in two indigenous people’s dancing contests. In year 2007, we came out fourth at national level while in 2008, we were champions at village level.

If you are keen to invite the dance troupe for a performance, please contact us for more information.