Traditional cultural and artistic expressions in dance, music and theatre that are specific to the major ethnic groups in Singapore.
Nanyin (南音), or "music from the South", is a style of music that can be traced back to the southern province of Fujian in China.
Dikir barat is a performance art that involves a chorus of about 12-16 people, a lead vocalist, a jester and a percussion ensemble.
Indian classical music is a genre of music rooted in ancient Indian texts and the two major traditions are Carnatic music and Hindustani music.
Chinese opera in Singapore include Teochew, Cantonese and Hokkien forms, with common elements in the performer's movements and music.
Bangsawan is a Malay operatic theatre form that features performing arts elements such as song, dance, and melodramatic narratives.
Traditional Chinese puppet performances are closely linked to Taoist and Chinese religious festivals, and there are variations across dialect groups.
Wayang kulit is a form of traditional theatre, consisting of shadow puppet performances.
The traditional dance heritage of the Malay communities in Singapore is wide-ranging and diverse, and include zapin, joget, asli and inang.
Indian classical dance is rooted in an ancient text, the Natya Shastra, which contains texts related to gestures, expressions, steps and postures of Indian classical dances.
Dondang sayang is a poetic and musical art form performed by the Chinese Peranakans in Singapore and Malaysia, involving the singing of pantun in spontaneous repartee.
We are currently conducting documentation work on the following elements. If you wish to contribute information on these elements, please visit this page.
Malay Musical Ensemble
A typical Malay music ensemble comprises various percussion, wind and string instruments like gong, suling (a bamboo flute) and gambus (a 12-stringed lute) respectively. However, recent innovations have resulted in Western instruments like violin, flute and accordion being incorporated into the ensemble.
Kirtans are the performance of devotional music from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, typically put on in gurdwaras (Sikh temples). A musical recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib is known as Shabad Kirtan, and various Sikh associations in Singapore offer programmes to teach youths how to perform kirtans.
A gamelan is a musical ensemble which originated from Indonesia and comprises various traditional percussion instruments like gendèr (metal bars suspended over a tuned resonator, similar to a xylophone), kendang (a hand-played drum) and kenong (a gong placed sideways in a cradle and struck with a stick). Gamelan music often accompanies performances such as wayang kulit (shadow puppetry).
Jinkli Nona Song and Branyo Dance
The jinkli nona is a Portuguese Eurasian folksong traditionally played at Eurasian weddings. The song, which means "fair maiden" in the creole language of Kristang, is about a man who wants to marry a woman. Branyo refers to the dance which often accompanies songs such as the jinkli nona. It is usually performed by dancers in black, white and red costumes traditional to the Minho region in Portugal.
The dragon dance is a traditional performance where a team of "dancers" use poles with a dragon head and tail attached to the front and end respectively to mimic the movements of a dragon. The largest dragon head ever to be used in a dragon dance in Singapore was 1.5m high, 1.2m wide and 2.0m long. It is usually performed during festivals and celebrations for good luck.
The inventory will be a growing inventory where we will continue to add more intangible cultural heritage elements as well as more research and documentation materials over time.
As at April 2018, the inventory consists of research on 50 elements and more will be added progressively.