Sara Frederica Santa Maria – Portuguese Dance of Melaka

Sara Frederica Santa Maria – Portuguese Dance of Melaka

The music and dance of the Portuguese-Eurasian community of Melaka is cheerful and vivacious, with traditional folk costumes

SARA Frederica Santa Maria, 52 years old, was born and grew up in the Portuguese Settlement in Melaka. She started dancing when she was 13 years old, and became a member of Tropa de San Pedro, taught by Reverend Father Agusto Sendim from Portugal and the priest’s assistant, Christine Kanagarajah neé Rodrigues, a Singaporean who learned the dance from her experience in Portugal and came back to Melaka to teach the community the traditional dances.

Sara’s late father, Aloysius Santa Maria, documented the traditions, culture, and language of the Portuguese of Melaka. Having inherited her father’s documentation and papers, Sara wished to continue his life’s work.

In 2012, Sara established her own dance group which trains children, to pass the traditions she learned to the younger generation. In Melaka there are three groups of Portuguese dance groups – Tropa de Santa Maria (Sara’s group), which consists of children as young as seven years old; Dommarina, made up of members in late teens to mid 30’s, and young mothers. The third group is the 1511 O Maliao Maliao dance troupe, whose members are now aged 70 years old.

Portuguese Eurasian music and dance

The music and dance of the Portuguese-Eurasian community of Melaka is characteristically cheerful and vivacious, using instruments such as guitars and tambourine, accordion, tambour or the Malay rebana.

Couples dance in colourful costumes similar to the folk costumes of Portugal – the men wear black bolero jackets and hats while the women wear colourful embroidered skirts. The main songs and dances include the branyo, tianika, maliao and farapeira. One of the most emblematic melodies of the Portuguese-Eurasian community of Melaka is the Jingkli Nona.

The main styles of the music and dance of the Gente Kristang are branyo and mata-kantiga. The lively branyo is derived from the Portuguese folk dance known as corridinho, found in the Algarve region of Portugal.

Since the early 16th Century, branyo has been performed in Malacca as part of the Portuguese festival of Introdu or Shrove Sunday, before the holy month of Lent.

To this day branyo is still played during weddings and festivities such as Festa Senjuan (Saint John’s Feast) and Festa San Pedro (Saint Peter’s Feast).

Adiguru Cendana is a community arts programme that aims to sustain the development and ensure continuity of Malaysian traditional art forms, implemented by Cendana (Cultural Economy Development Agency) in collaboration with cultural organisation Pusaka.

A total of 34 masters of traditional arts throughout the country have received Adiguru Cendana grants.

source – The Vibes

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