Traditions & Communities

 Photo credit: Cheryl Hoffmann

Photo credit: Cheryl Hoffmann



The Mah Meri people are one of the 18 tribes of Orang Asli (indigenous people) living in West Malaysia. Most of them reside in Pulau Carey, Selangor. The Mah Meri are known for their wood carvings and also for the richness of their songs and dances. One of the most well-known dances of the Mah Meri people is the mask dance, called Mayin Jo-oh – a traditional dance performed to invite the ancestral spirits, or muyang, to join in the festivity. In this dance, the performers wear grotesque masks and perform with movements and gestures to relate everyday events such as fishing and celebrations.

The masks worn in the Mah Meri Mask Dance depict the spirits of birds and other animals that inhabit the Mah Meri's surroundings, such as the swamp and the sea. The female dances wear skirts of nipah leaves and plaited nipah head dress. The female performers dance anti-clockwise around an earthen mound, called a busot, while the male masked dancers performed clockwise around the women. The dance is performed accompanied by the music from the tuntog (bamboo stampers), jule (viola), tambo (double-headed drum) and a-tawa (brass gong).