Musical and dancing heritage
Iban music is percussion-oriented. The Iban have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung ensembles – percussion ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drones without any accompanying melodic instrument. The typical Iban agung ensemble will include a set of engkerumungs (small agungs arranged together side by side and played like a xylophone), a tawak (the so-called ‘bass’), a bendai (which acts as a snare) and also a set of ketebung (a single sided drum/percussion).
The Iban as well as the Kayan also play an instrument resembling the flute called ‘Sapek’. The Sapek is the official musical instrument for the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is played similarly to the way rock guitarists play guitar solos, albeit a little slower, but not as slow as blues. One example of Iban traditional music is the taboh.
The Ibans perform a unique dance called the ngajat. It serves many purposes depending on the occasion. During Gawais, it is used to entertain the people who in the olden days enjoy graceful ngajats as a form of entertainment. Iban men and women have different styles of ngajat. The ngajat involves a lot of precise body-turning movements. The ngajat for men is more aggressive and depicts a man going to war, or a bird flying (as a respect to the Iban god of war, Singalang Burong). The women’s form of ngajat consists of soft, graceful movements with very precise body turns. Each ngajat is accompanied by the taboh or the body.