The Boria Laughs at the Powerful, the Greedy, the Lecherous, the Losers – and at Each of Us


A few months ago, I chanced upon a boria performance at a gala dinner for an international delegation. Now I must admit – I did not at that point know much about boria, except that it is a Malay musical performance with pantun, umbrellas, lively dancing and colourful costumes. As I sat and watched, I noted the tone and rhythm of the songs as identifiably Malay; but to my surprise, the boria performers also sang a few verses in Hokkien.

“The Boria groups here can speak Hokkien. Most of them do because they were brought up in that era, when Hokkien was the market language,” says Datuk Dr Wazir Jahan Karim, author of Boria: From Passion Play to Malay-Jawi Peranakan Parody. “It’s just the younger generation of Malays in the comprehensive school system who don’t speak Hokkien,” she divulges.

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