Semporna Town, Malaysia
Decorated LEPA boats in Semporna
25th Regatta Lepa-Lepa 2018 Sabah assemblyman Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran calls for campaign
to revive popularity of Regatta Lepa in Semporna There is concern among certain quarters that Regatta
Lepa’s popularity is fading – as such, Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran (BN-Senallang),
when debating the 2018 state budget on Monday, said it was time to
review the programme’s content before it loses its appeal entirely. Assemblyman Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran called upon the
Sabah legislative assembly to help ensure that the Regatta Lepa does not
lose its significance in Sabah. Nasir also urged authorities to diversify tourism
packages so that the industry is not monopolised by big players only;
and to include rural folk as part of homestay programmes. "This state-level tourism event must be elevated to
remain competitive as one of the main tourist attractions in
Semporna," Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran (BN-Senallang)
November 20, 2017 Monday
Sabah assemblyman Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran calls for campaign
to revive popularity of Regatta Lepa in Semporna
There is concern among certain quarters that Regatta Lepa’s popularity is fading – as such, Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran (BN-Senallang), when debating the 2018 state budget on Monday, said it was time to review the programme’s content before it loses its appeal entirely.
Assemblyman Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran called upon the Sabah legislative assembly to help ensure that the Regatta Lepa does not lose its significance in Sabah.
Nasir also urged authorities to diversify tourism
packages so that the industry is not monopolised by big players only;
and to include rural folk as part of homestay programmes.
"This state-level tourism event must be elevated to remain competitive as one of the main tourist attractions in Semporna,"
Datuk Nasir Tun Sakaran (BN-Senallang)
REGATTA LEPA is to choose the most dazzling boat from the beautifully built, brightly adorned LEPAs lining up at the waterfront.
On the decks of the boat lepas are smiling dancers and musicians dressed in equally colorful traditional attires of the Sea Bajau.
In the lepa's they also have a group of musicians and a couple dancer and the lepa's will make a round infront of the VIP's and the judge's stage.
In this competition the judges will give a point for their performence related to beautiful lepa's and the best dancer's.
This dramatic cultural event held every April Semporna town of Sabah. This festival is to celebrates the Bajau tradition for their craftsmanship skilled in ‘Lepa’ -- a ‘boat that hand-made crafted’ in Bajau Semporna language
During the Regatta festivals is a competition of decorative Lepa boats, a time to show off which Lepa boats are the best.
The most beautiful traditional sailboat judged base on its decoration, local ethnic music and dances performed on board, sambulayang (sails) and tipas-tipas (small flags).
On that day, thousands sail into town in all kinds of boats including the gaily-decorated lepa and traditional jungkong to compete for prizes.
The flotilla of colorful banners ridden lepas in the upper background makes quite an introduction before you see the paddler in the foreground.
It was a beautiful sight to see the silhouettes of sambulayang sails from various Lepa-lepa boats as they skimmed across the sea water.
A typical Lepa boat measuring 5 meters in length and 1.5 meters wide.
These boats were used in almost every aspect of Bajau life - their floating homes, their fishing boats and their transport vehicle.
Indigenous wooden boats brought the Sea Bajau increasingly to settle in Sabah's shores since the 1970s drawn by Malaysia's better economy and security.
They speak their own dialect, and are fluent in the ways of the sea. This is their mobile home on the water.
Traditional Festival Costume of Bajau Laut tribes (sea gypsy people) of Malaysia.
the Bajau Laut people are not only good in costume, they are also skilled at making large mats for use at home.
See more about Sea Bajau of Semporna...
WHERE TO STAY IN SEMPORNA
Semporna is divided into the OLD town area and NEW town area:
- The old town is near the bus station
- The new township near the waterfront.
Accommodation in the old town is cheaper and basic.
The new town by the sea has more choices for tourists. A few offer sea views.
Accommodation is in high demand during Regatta Lapa Lepa festival. It’s wise to book ahead of time.
Annual Regatta Lepa Festival Dates
|2018||20 – 22 Apr 2018|
21 – 23 Apr 2017
265 decorated lepa boats took part 24th Regatta Lepa
|2016||22 – 24 Apr 2016|
|2015||24 – 26 Apr 2015|
|2014||25 – 27 Apr 2014|
|2013||26 – 28 Apr 2013 20th anniversary|
|2012||20 – 21 Apr 2012|
|2011||22 – 23 Apr 2011|
|2010||23 – 25 Apr 2010|
|2009||18 – 19 Apr 2009|
|2008||18 – 20 Apr 2008 15th anniversary|
|2007||20 – 22 Apr 2007|
|2006||14 – 16 Apr 2006|
|2005||16 – 17 Apr 2005|
|2004||10 – 11 Apr 2004|
|2003||14 Apr 2003 10th anniversary – Regatta Lepa is declared a national festival|
|2002||14 Apr 2002|
|2001||08 Apr 2001|
|2000||09 Apr 2000|
|1998||29 Mar 1998 5th anniversary|
The Bajau community on the East Coast of Sabah have a very unique lifestyle – They live on Lepa and only come ashore for food, water supply and during this LEPA festival.
LEPA: In Sabah East Coast Bajau community dialect, lepa means "boat". The lepa boat is a cultural legacy inherited by Bajau people from many generations ago. The existence of lepa is believed to originate from the fishing community who live in Bum Bum Island and used by the Pa'alau people along the coast of Semporna.
One can see the Sea Bajau (Bajau Laut) fish on the clear and shallow water of Semporna. The live in their boats on the sea most of their life. Present day, some groups have settled on tiny islands.
From an event observed only by the sea gypsies of Sabah, the Regatta Lepa Semporna is now an official state festival; an important agenda in the national tourism calendar.
More about :THE TRADITIONAL LEPA BOAT OF THE BAJAU
Judging the most beautiful LEPA
Every one is excited as the colorful
sails take to the sea to compete for
the prize of the most beautiful
lepa. This is judged based on its
decoration, local ethnic music and
dances performed on board,
sambulayang (sails) and tipas-tipas
(small flags). Points are awarded
based on decorations, the
intricacies of the carvings and
designs, ethic music, regalia and
traditional dances performed on
LEPA : The high light of LEPA event is to choose the most
dazzling Lepa from the beautifully,
colorfully adorned boats which are
lined up at the waterfront.
On the decks are smiling dancers and musicians dressed in equally colorful traditional attires.
Other attractions in Regatta LEPA : include sea sports such as rowboat, sailing and kelleh-kelleh (small dugout boat) competitions, lepa tug of war, and duck catching competition. Colorful cultural night performance.
More about the Sea Bajau of Borneo : THE BAJAU OF SABAH
“I also welcome the involvement, support and commitment of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in upholding and elevating our ethnic cultures,...”
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman
speech delivered by Minister of Tourism Culture and Environment
Datuk Masidi Manjun
at the launch of the 24th Regatta Lepa festival
22nd April 2017
"Continuous publicity by the government through the federal and state tourism ministry, as well as the private sector, has raised the festival's popularity to a reputable level,..."
Datuk Sri Nasir
during the launch of the 18th Regatta Lepa Festival
"The Regatta Lepa-Lepa is an annual event held to highlight the Bajau community. More specifically, it highlights the age-old seafaring East Coast Bajau’s strong skills in boat craftsmanship."
WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature)
The lepa boats are heavily decorated with colorful sambulayang in contrasting combinations of red and other bright colors. Traditionally in red, white and black.
The colorful sails are made from medium weight cotton.
Sambulayang is raised on special occasions like weddings, national day celebrations, welcome State leaders and Regatta LEPA.
This decorative sails hang from a 5 to 7 meters tall T-framed mast topped with a ceremonial umbrella to symbolize sheltering of inhabitants from sun and rain.
Flags, banners and buntings are strung from the bowsprit and cross members from front to stern fluttering gaily in the breeze.
The skills to make a Lepa-Lepa are passed down from generation to generation with fathers teaching their sons and grandsons and so on.
The Bajau feel that this is their identity and heritage that needs to be instilled in the hearts of their descendents.
This is a legacy that must never be left behind even in the construction of a modern Malaysia.
The Bajau are skillful in weaving and needlework.
Young Bajau girls design and make their own traditional headgear which is worn during auspicious occasion such as Regatta Lepa-Lepa festival.
The dancer uses janggay, the ornamented metal nails to enhance graceful hand movements accentuated by the shoulder and sensuous hip movements.
Bajau dance usually presented during formal festivities such as weddings.
A Bajau Dance with both male and female dancers is called Daling-Daling.
The whole afternoon is one big dramatic audio-visual arc: the colorfully decorated lepas, arriving one by one, are manned by families dressed in equally colorful traditional costumes, and on every boat, a complete kulintangan ensemble is playing at all times.
Some of them will be moving at any given time, which yields an interesting aural effect. A dancer, usually one of the family’s teenage daughters, is dancing on each lepa prow.
Lepa and kumpit boats in Regatta Lepa
|Lepa Boats||Kumpit Boats|
The traditional "lepa," a Bajau Laut houseboat is
about 8m long and measures 1.5m wide at the center, where it is
Very flat and often equipped with outriggers, it glides smoothly over the sea, but is not a great fit for boat engines.
|For this reason, it nowadays often is replaced by the "kumpit," a slightly larger boat that is used in lieu of the lepa in daily affairs.|
There are two types of boats made by the
The Kumpit (Sappit), is a bigger boat used mainly as a mode of transportation and when fishing in the deep sea.
The Lepa-Lepa boats are smaller in size and usually seen at ceremonies like the Regatta, weddings and other religious occasions.
Lepa- Lepa is still widely used today among the Bajau. It is mainly used to transport, travel when fishing and to relay the religion of Islam to others. Islam was first introduced to the Bajau in the early 17th century. When the Bajau adopted this religion and its way of living, they translated its teachings onto their boats in the form of carvings.
Few actually knew that the carvings on the Lepa-Lepa were of specific excerpts from the Quran. These carvings are similarly found on Muslim gravestones and at the pulpit in the mosques. The Bajau people used this concept to share Muslim teachings with those who lived around them. These carvings are unique to the Bajau and are deeply rooted in their religious history.
The traditional lepa way of life that the Regatta Lepa
celebrates each year might, for most Bajau Laut, be a thing of the past, a
nostalgic reminiscence of their recent forefathers’ world, characterized by
single boats scattered over a vast water surface.
Fifty years earlier, kulintangan music was a means to reach people on other boats; the sound of gongs carries much farther over water than a human voice possibly can.
Although the lepa boats, as these people’s only living space, have become a rare sight as the Bajau Laut celebrate the 16th Regatta Lepa, the kulintangan ensemble's music remains a communication form that is as nostalgia-laden as it is natural, and as evocative of the past as it is a part of the present.
Kulintang is a modern term for an ancient instrumental form
of music composed on a row of small, horizontally-laid gongs that function
melodically, accompanied by larger, suspended gongs and drums.
As part of the larger gong-chime culture of Southeast Asia, kulintang music ensembles have been playing for many centuries in regions of the Eastern Malay Archipelago — the Southern Philippines, Eastern Indonesia, Eastern Malaysia, Brunei and Timor, although this article has a focus on the Philippine Kulintang traditions of the Maranao and Maguindanao peoples in particular.
Kulintang evolved from a simple native signaling tradition, and developed into its present form with the incorporation of knobbed gongs from Sunda.
Its importance stems from its association with the indigenous cultures that inhabited these islands prior to the influences of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity or the West, making Kulintang the most developed tradition of Southeast Asian archaic gong-chime ensembles.
Technically, kulintang is the Maguindanao, Ternate and Timor term for the idiophone of metal gong kettles which are laid horizontally upon a rack to create an entire kulintang set.
It is played by striking the bosses of the gongs with two wooden beaters.
Due to its use across a wide variety groups and languages, the kulintang is also called kolintang by the Maranao and those in Sulawesi, kulintangan, gulintangan by those in Sabah and the Sulu Archipelago and totobuang by those in central Maluku.
By the twentieth century, the term kulintang had also come to denote an entire Maguindanao ensemble of five to six instruments.
Traditionally the Maguindanao term for the entire ensemble is basalen or palabunibunyan, the latter term meaning “an ensemble of loud instruments” or “music-making” or in this case “music-making using a kulintang.”
Considerably independent from political contexts,
strategies, and implications, the Regatta Lepa attracts around 15,000
visitors, mostly Malaysian, every year.
The program is similar every year and the official part spreads over two days.
Traditional lepa boats competed for the much-coveted Regatta Lepa award. The Regatta Lepa's central event is the selection of the “most beautiful” lepa.
Together with the lepa boats, hundred of kumpit boats also gathered at the moorage in order to partake in the celebration.
In the evening, the "Ratu Lepa," or "Lepa Queen," was crowned.
The next morning, Saturday, marked the event's official start and began early, virtually after dawn.
By 8am, the official program had commenced, which included a race of the lepa boats and, later in the day, the evening launching ceremony for the overall event featuring both national and local performers and notables.
Sea sports activities abounded, such as traditional boat tug-of-wars and canoe racing competitions (keleh keleh).
The event concluded with the central procession of lepa boats before the judges and the awarding of the prizes for the most beautiful boats.
These activities were spread over two locations: the pier, where the lepa and kumpit boats docked, and the Semporna town padang, consisting of a few traditional-style huts built around a dance stage.
performing arts world wide
Three days in April every year, the sleepy fishing town of Semporna, East Coast Borneo (Malaysia) turns into a bustling little hive of activity, dance, and music: the Regatta Lepa takes over.
The Southeast Asian island world is home to several maritime communities whose people often are referred to as "sea nomads" or "sea gypsies," names that appeal to the exoticist imagination especially of Ang Mos (“redheads"), as white travelers and residents are called winkingly in Malaysia and Singapore. The Sama Dilaut, one of these sea-going peoples, live all over the Philippine Sulu Archipelago, southwestern Mindanao, Sabah/Borneo, east Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and many of the eastern Indonesian islands. In East Coast Borneo, the Bajau Laut, as the Sama Dilaut around Semporna, Sabah/Borneo call themselves, have strong ties with their related communities in the Philippines. Locations in both countries as well as other, often sacred, sites in the archipelago play important roles for them. Some of these Bajau Laut have maintained their nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, living in houseboats and only temporarily setting up makeshift huts on small islets in the Celebes and South China Seas, the eery borderlands between the Philippines and Malaysia. Not quite in keeping with romantic Ang Mo dreams about unlimited freedom and vagabond life, clear turquoise waters and simple living, however, others have become sedentary, living in the stilt houses of the so-called "floating villages" that started to grow considerably in Semporna during the 1960s. And yet, they remain “Bajau Laut”: “Sea Bajau.” .................
The Bake (pronounce Bahkuh) Society , was founded in 1984 as a counterpart to
the Ethnomusicological Centre “Jaap Kunst”. The society, named after the
illustrious musicologist and singer Arnold Bake, organizes conferences, seminars
Each boat a beauty dancer
Every LEPA family has they own beautiful girl welcoming visitors with graceful igal-igal dance.
During the Regatta Lepa, the boats are decorated with brightly colored sails known as sambulayang and tipas (small triangular flags).
The highlight of the event is the sail-past of the lepa, each boat decked with smiling dancers and lively musicians, hoping to be crowned ‘Most Beautiful Lepa’ – the grand prize of this much-anticipated water festival.
More onigal-igal Bajau dance.
Each Boat an artistic masterpiece with elaborate carvings
The LEPA Boat is sleek and typically made of ubar suluk (red seraya) wood. An artistic masterpiece with elaborate carvings depicting the sea and animistic designs. Other sea-themed motifs include fishes, mermaids, sea horses and waves. These intricate carvings normally cover the stern to the bow, side to roof and mast.
Those you saw in in competitions
are vary in size, some were build for this annual competition.
The body of the Lepa consists 4 main parts :
1) the pointed bow (tujjah),
2) its boat body (lepa),
3) the walled-house structure (tapi) and
4) the sago palm leaves-made roofing (kajang).
More about elaborate carvingsof LEPA LEPA
One can view a traditional LEPA boat at Sabah Museum in Kota Kinabalu City.
In the museum's Heritage Village displays a Lepa house boat. This boat was used as an abode by a local community in the Semporna.
The Sabah Museum Heritage Village is situated within the Ethnobotanical Gardens in the Sabah Museum Complex. Formally, the Sabah Museum Heritage Village was known as The Sabah Museum Traditional Houses.
The annual Regatta Lepa held every April in Semporna. During the event, the waterfront of Semporna town is decked with a colorful line-up of boats, each one more brilliantly decorated.
These LEPA boats are the proud heritage of the Sea Bajau of Malaysia.
PHOTO above : 15th Regatta Lepa, 18–20 April, 2008
They live their lives on their elaborately carved Lepa, which in the Bajau language refers to a single-mast sailing boat. It can only be made using the Red Seraya wood (Shorea plagata).
For generations, these nomadic people lived on these boats.
The Bajaus who live most of their lives out in the sea have inherited peerless skills in making intricate wooden boats.
Once true nomads of the seas, the Bajaus would only come ashore occasionally on land to collect fresh water, firewood and to bury their dead.
Lepa Boat is a Malaysian heritage that is slowly disappearing. The new generation are moving on land where they turn their interest to modern vehicle of steel. This art of traditional wooden boat building of their grand fathers has to be nurtured as a national treasure.
In appreciating the importance of the Lepa, the Lepa Regatta in this fishing town of Semporna is a premier event for Malaysia.