The “Zafin” performance in MalaysiaAn exquisite cultural event [Archives:2005/810/Last Page]

January 24 2005

By Irena Knehtl
[email protected]
For the Yemen Times

A rare musical event recently took place in Batu Pahat in Malaysia. There, an Indonesian Hadhrami group performed “zafin” with Abdullah bin Taalab from the bin Taalab family, as a solo singer.

Courtesy of Professor Syed Farid Al-Atas from University of Singapore, who attended the event, we have now received recordings of this exquisite cultural event. Associate Professor Syed Farid Al-Atas, whose ancestry, too, goes back to Hadhramaut in Yemen, is the leading authority on Hadhrami Diaspora in Southeast Asia.

Human life is a journey (tariqah) and music is an aid to such remembrance as we make our way on the tariqah. It helps us to discover love, peace and tranquility. The “zafin” is a music and dance form combined with the poetic form.

The musical ensemble consists of a solo singer, as well as instrumentalists who play the lute (ud), violin (kaman) and a variety of percussion instruments. The Zafin has important social and religious significance. Zafin is rarely staged or choreographed. It takes place during occasions, such as weddings and mawalid, the birthday of Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H). Usually there is a high degree of participation from the audience, who either dance or clap.

Zafin exemplifies an inner worldly ascetic outlook, that is, it combined concerns with the world and the next. This is the defining mark of the “alawiyyah tariqah”, the Sufi order that most Hadhrami Arabs belong to. One thing is certain, the art of “zafin” continues to thrive as part of Yemeni Hadhrami culture among the Yemeni Arabs of Hadhramawt in Southeast Asia.

Explore further:

Music and Worship in Islam: Zafin among the Arabs of Southeast Asia, by Professor Syed Farid AlAtas, University of Singapore.