Further reading on the subject of Nobat

Britannica Online: Before Malaysian independence, the nobat, an old royal instrumental ensemble dating back to about the 16th century, played exclusively for important court ceremonies in the palaces of the sultans of Perak, Kedah, Selangor, and Trengganu.

http://themalaynobat.blogspot.com/: The Selangor nobat is identical to Perak’s in terms of instruments and repertoire. Even the players are from the same orang kalur family of Perak. The serunai player, Tuan Haji Lop Zahari (wearing glasses) is a retired Perak player whose son is now playing with the Perak ensemble.

http://www.musicmall-asia.com/malaysia/classical/nobat.html: Ku Zam Zam Ku Idris (1994) describes the Malay Nobat, a court music genre originating in the Malay Peninsular from the days of the Melaka Sultanate. Essentially a secular form, it is the music of the rites of passage of the Sultans and ‘Anak Gahara’ of Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan’s Pasukan Gong Gendang Besar Diraja. (Mohd. Anis, 1997). Mohd. Ghouse (1992) states that nobat music is played to accompany religious as well as royal ceremonies, by 6 musical instruments played in ensembles: 2 wind instruments, 2 types of drums and, only in the state of Kedah, a gong. Malm (1974) suggests that the nobat was brought over to Malaysia by Indian-Muslim traders in the days of the Melaka Sultanate. He also states that 4 types of instruments were used: the serunai, the nafiri, a small kettle drum and two barrel drums.

Jabatan Muzium Malaysia: Special ceremonial music to accompany official court functions only be played by royal commad. The orchestra are made up of drums, flute, trumpet and gong performed by a group of royal musicians originated from the same clan or family. Principal occasions which call for Nobat accompaniment are the installation of a ruler or at his funeral or marriage.

Nobat music titles

The titles are as follows:

  1. Gendang Berangkat
  2. Puteri Mandi Mayang
  3. Dang Gidang
  4. Rama-Rama Terbang Tinggi
  5. Kumbang Si-Kumali
  6. Arak-Arak Atandis (Arak-Arak Antelas)
  7. Aleh-Aleh Panjang
  8. Aleh-Aleh Pandak
  9. Lenggang Che’ Kobat
  10. Jong Beraleh
  11. Anak Raja Basuh Kaki
  12. Gendang Perang
  13. Nobat Tabal*
  14. Nobat Raja*
  15. Nobat Khamis*
  16. Nobat Subuh*

[*]Nobat Subuh, Nobat Khamis and Nobat Raja are only played in the morning and afternoon, whilst the Nobat Tabal is played only during the coronation (pertabalan) and demise (kemangkatan) of a Sultan.

This video by YM Raja Iskandar Raja Halid shows the musicians of the Royal Nobat of Perak during a rehearsal session:

Further reading:
Raja Iskandar Raja Halid. Repertoire of the Malay Nobat. The Malay Nobat. 2009. Available from http://themalaynobat.blogspot.com/2009/06/repertoire-of-perak-nobat-misa-melayu.html

The nobat

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  naubatnau 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.

Further reading:
Raja Iskandar Raja Halid. The Royal Nobat of Perak – Between Daulat and Music.