The nobat is the pride of the Malay Rulers. The nobat from the other Malay states (Trengganu, Kedah and Selangor) are inter-related. In Perak, the nobat is housed at Istana Iskandariah in Kuala Kangsar, covered in yellow cloth. According to legend, the Perak nobat is guarded by the jin, referred to as the Jin Kerajaan/Kerajan. The sacred nature of the nobat is such that no one (apart from the Sultan and his family members) but the orang kalur is allowed to touch, let alone play, the instruments. It is said that bad luck will befall any person who shows disrespect to the nobat.
The nobat can only be played on special occasions which include the coming of the Ramadhan, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a Royal marriage, the coronation of the Perak Sultan, investiture ceremonies, the demise of a Perak Sultan and other equally important occasions deemed fit.
Nobat is derived from the Persian word naubat – nau meaning nine and bat representing a musical scale (of nine notes). The nobat originally consists of nine musical instruments. The Melaka sultanate was the first to use the nobat, which was brought from Pasai during the reign of Parameswara, the first Sultan of Melaka who married to a Muslim Pasai princess.
The instruments of the nobat consists of:
1. Gendang nobat (1)
2. Gendang peningkah (2)
3. Nafiri or serunai (1)
4. Serunai (2)
5. Negara (Nengkara) (2)
There are altogether nine instruments, including the Tok Setia Guna, the primary nobat instrument. It was mentioned in the Adat Lembaga Negeri Perak that the baloh is made of a special wood called teras jerun and the skin of a pregnant woman! The current baloh is made from deer skin.
The nobat can only be played by the orang kalur. It is being rumored that other than the orang kalur, the nobat would not play in tune, and even the nafiri is said to remain silent if it is being played by a non-orang kalur.
Raja Iskandar Raja Halid. The Royal Nobat of Perak – Between Daulat and Music.