Kedahan Malay people

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Kedahan Malay
Oghang Utagha / Melayu Kedah
ملايو ﻗﺪﺡ
CO 1069-502-115 (7893044798).jpg
A Kedahan Malay man and his son standing in front of a decorated vehicle in Alor Setar, Kedah, 1937.
Regions with significant populations
Perlis, Kedah, Penang and northern Perak (Malaysia), western part of Southern Thailand & Southern Myanmar
Kedah Malay, Baling Malay, Malaysian, Thai, Burmese, English.
Historically Animism or Hindu-Buddhist, today mostly Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Malaysian Malays, Thai Malay, Burmese Malays, Chulias

Kedahan Malay (Malay: Melayu Kedah, Jawi: ﻤﻼﻴﻮ ﻗﺪﺡ ) or commonly known as Orang Utara is a sub-group of Malays that is native to northern Malaysia (in the states Kedah, Penang and Perlis as well northernmost parts of Perak) and in southernmost parts of Thailand (in the provinces of Phuket, Trang and Satun) and Burma (in Mergui Archipelago). They are among the earliest settlers in the Malay peninsula. Kedahan Malays comprised at least 15% of the total Malaysian Malay population.


According to history, Kedah was very popular among Arabian traders. Thus, this has led to interracial marriages between Arabs and Malays. Due to Arabic influences in the Kedahan Malay language, some Kedahan Malay are of Arab descent. However some of the Kedahan Malays that resided on the island-state of Penang might have Indian and/or Chinese blood and some who lived in Thailand might have Thai blood.[1]

Kedah Valley[edit]

Kedah Valley is an area where the majority inhabitants are Kedahan Malays. The valley covered the Satun province of Thailand and the three northern states of Malaysia (Perlis, Kedah, Pulau Pinang) with at least an area of 25,908 km square.


Nowadays, most Kedahan Malays known themselves as Orang Utara or People Of The Northern Region instead of Kedahan Malay since that they resided the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. So are their language, which is called Pelat Utara or Northern Dialect.


The Kedahan Malays have their own unique variety of Malay known as Kedah Malay or Pelat Utagha (northern dialect) as known by its native speakers. It is related to other varieties of Malay spoken in the peninsular but has its own unique pronunciation and also vocabulary. Kedahan Malay language can be divided into several sub-dialects, namely Kedah Persisiran (standard) or Kedah Hulu, Kedah Utara, Perlis-Langkawi, Penang and some others (sub-dialects spoken in Satun and Southern Myanmar). For instance instead of using kamu to denote as 'you', hang (English pronunciation: hung) is used instead and cek for 'i/me' instead of aku in other Malay varieties in the peninsular. Besides proper Kedah Malay, another variety of Malay spoken is Baling Malay, which is distinct from Kedah Malay and more closely related to varieties of Malay spoken in Southern Thailand and East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Kedah Malay is considered distinct enough to have its own ISO code that is meo.

Customs and culture[edit]

Kedahan Malay woman in traditional attire, 1930.

Kedahan Malay shares the same customs and traditions with other Malay in Peninsular Malaysia. The only thing that make them different is just their spoken dialect. Many aspects of Kedahan Malay culture includes:

Dance theater[edit]

  • Mek Mulung
  • Mak Yong Kedah
  • Jikey
  • Boria (theatre): The most famous Kedahan culture of Indian origin. It is quite similar to a musical theater. The theater used a fully Kedahan Malay language while the song used a mix of standard Malay and Kedahan accent or sometimes, a fully standard Malay. This theater is said to be created after the hybrid of Malay and Indian culture in Penang.
  • Inai dance
  • Canggung dance

Art theater[edit]


  • Berendul (pronunciation: be-ghen-doi): A group of men would sing traditional Kedahan folk songs to a newborn baby in celebration of birth of the child.[2]


Martial arts[edit]

  • Silat Kuntau Tekpi: A Silat Melayu style that was founded by Panglima Taib bin Wan Hussain who was a Panglima (Palace Warrior-General) of the empire of Kedah. It is also a 'sister-art' of silat styles that stemmed from Panglima Tok Rashid, including Silat Kalimah and Silat Cekak.
  • Silat Cekak:[3] A Silat Melayu style that was founded by Ustaz Hanafi, a Kedahan Malay but is now popular throughout Malaysia and to some extent in Indonesia as well.

In popular culture[edit]


  • Raja Bersiong
  • Rempit V3
  • Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa
  • Cun (2011)

Television series[edit]

  • Cinta Anak Kedah
  • Makbul
  • Dari Kodiang ke Kolumpo.

Notable Kedahan Malay[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Berendul". MyKedah.Com. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  3. ^ "Budaya Melayu". Melayu Online. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  4. ^ Ryan McChrystal (4 May 2016). "Zunar wins Cartooning for Peace Prize: "Talent is not a gift but a responsibility"". Index On Censorship. Retrieved 2017-02-12. 

Further readings[edit]

  • Asmah Haji Omar (2008). Susur Galur Bahasa Melayu. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP).
  • Dato’ James F. Augustin (1996) Bygone Kedah. Alor Setar: Lembaga Muzium Negeri Kedah Darul Aman
  • Intisari Kebudayaan Melayu Kedah (1986). Alor Setar: Majlis Kebudayaan Negeri Kedah.