Cultural diversification has always been the norm for the communities living in the Abode of Peace. Brunei clearly exhibited this diversification through the seven ‘Puak’ (Tribes) which are recognized as ‘bumiputera’ (native) by the Brunei Constitution – the Brunei-Malay, Tutong, Kedayan, Dusun, Bisaya, Murut and Belait. Along with the main seven, there are also the Iban and the Punan tribes living harmoniously in this peaceful country.

At Sutera, we have uncovered some of the unique characteristics of the tribes. In this series of Get to Know Brunei, we will be focusing our view on the well-known Puak Kedayan; and their Way of the Kedayan Culture.

Origins of the Kedayan

The Kedayan (also called as Kadayan, Kadaian or Kadyan) are not exclusive to Brunei, but they can also be found in some parts of Labuan, Sarawak, Sabah and some parts of the Borneo Island. Though they may come from different parts of Borneo, the Kedayan would refer to their fellow kinsfolk as ‘Padian’.

More often than not, the Kedayan are referred to as the ‘Melayu Kedayan’ (Kedayan Malay) with some of the words in their language being linguistically incorporated into the Brunei Malay language. For example, the word Bungak also refers to the Malay word of Bunga (Flower); Banda is similar to Bandar (City); or Ahe having the same meaning as Akhir (late).

Though their origins were unclear to begin with, many historians theorized that it originated during the reign of the 5th Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Bolkiah (1473-1521) who ventured to the Java Islands, Sumatra and Borneo. The Sultan had taken heart to the fellow Javanese after witnessing their diligence in cultivation and consequently, offered a place to settle in Brunei. The events mark the birth of the Puak Kedayan in Brunei’s history.

There were also concrete evidences suggesting that the tribe had existed from the times of Java Majapahit, the 14th and 15th centuries in Kota Batu, Brunei. This was where the Javanese bond and brotherhood ties have begun to intertwine with the Malay Communities of Brunei. Today, the Puak Kedayan has settled in all four districts of the country.

The Kedayan culture

The Puak Kedayan has their own unique variations of their indigenous music performed by their people on special occasions such as the ‘Makan Tahun’ (Annual Feast). The music is created by orchestrating different instruments such as the percussions, drums, gongs and stringed instruments. Dancers in their traditional black and red attire accompany the rhythmic music for entertainment.

As the Puak Kedayan music has been passed down from generation to generation, it has evolved into a more contemporary version of the original music. However, the changes were subtle as it still maintains its original ethnic and traditional melodies wholeheartedly.

The ‘Aduk-Aduk’ dance is well-known for its common performances held in special occasions, one that is famously played to signify the end of the harvest seasons, weddings and other public holidays. The dance follows the beat of the Malay martial art known as the ‘Silat’ with the performers donning their traditional warrior’s attire, the ‘Tengkolok’, with a red belt in black clothing.

The Puak Kedayan takes pride in their music and dance which fascinated plenty of travelers in the past and present. They hold their Kedayan music highly and are still often performed amongst themselves during leisure time.

Despite the Puak Kedayan being known to be a tightly-knitted community, Sutera’s recent coverage on one of their grand event shows that travelers are always welcomed with open arms. The tribe is very much delighted to have visitors enter their town to learn their lifestyle and culture.

Stay tuned for our next coverage on the Puak Kedayan’s traditional dishes as well as the ‘Makan Tahun’ event.