Marriott Islamabad has been a playground for every second household in Islamabad. Fashion shows, musical evenings, parties, dancing and schmoozing with the creme de la creme – it offered plenty of diversions that made the hotel 'the place' to be. Its fate changed as the city's conditions became unsafe in the late 2000s, but the hotel has weathered the bad seasons, and has now renewed its signature vigour.
The hotel hosted the Malaysian troupe Sabah Malaysian Borneo recently at an event organised with Malaysian High Commission in Islamabad. The hosts High Commissioner Dato Dr. Hasrul Sani Mujtabar and Hartmut Noack, General Manager Islamabad Marriott invited a full house to enjoy the troupe's traditional dance performance.
The stage set in the open-air pool side was simply but elegantly decorated, displaying a rich multi-colored mosaic of Sabah's cultural heritage.
Sabah is the world’s third largest island located in Malaysia, which is home to a very rich and vast cultural ethnic community with more than 30 races and over 55 spoken dialects making up of the population of about 3 million. Each community maintains its own distinctive culture, something which we Pakistanis need to re-learn.
Each of the troupe's performances represented the unique culture of one of Sabah's communities.
The performance began with a dance from Kadazandusun, Sabah’s largest indigenous ethnic group. The dance act was heavily influenced by rice farming, culminating in the crowning of the Harvest Queen. It was a couple dance accompanied by a symphony of handcrafted bronze gongs, also known as Tagung.
A ceremonial cloth sash was worn by the group of couples and they left the audience spellbound with their flawless performance. This ancient ceremony was presided over by ritual priestesses, and followed by dances, contests and games.
The Kadazandusun performance was followed by the Sarawak dance, which is also known as the warrior dance. The dance is performed to celebrate a war victory.
Dancers wore traditional bird-like clothing called “mesh” and hats decorated with bird feathers. The costume known as Gagung, made from animal skin, was a true representation of the Sarawak community.
Next in line was the dance of the Murut, which literally translates to “nice people”. This dance is typically performed at weddings and ceremonies. Their instruments bore insignia of their ancestral homes. The highlights of this dance was the candle segment and the beat of the horse, which had the audience moving in their seats.
Murut male performances wore jackets made of tree barks, a red loincloth and a headdress also made of a tree and decorated with pheasant feathers. The women wore short black shirts and a long skirt decorated with colored beads.
A few other regional dances were performed, representing a seafarer's celebrations, a water festival with colorful wooden sailing boats, and traditional games featuring famous beadworks with a story about hunting in the olden days.
The finale brought all eight performers onto the stage, waving Malaysian flags. The one-hour show no doubt truly depicted Malaysia’s multicultural heritage thorough this diverse music and dance performance.