10 Things You Should Know About: Pantun

In the latest episode of our popular 10 Things You Should Know series, we share facts about Pantun, a poetic form in Malay culture.

10 Things You Should Know is a series of short animated videos on aspects of Malay culture and heritage. In our latest video of the series, we share 10 facts on Pantun, a poetic form in Malay culture. This series of animated videos is produced in collaboration with Wisma Geylang Serai.

You can also watch this video on Youtube.

1.Pantun comprises two or four rhyming lines structured in two units: the foreshadow (pembayang) and the meaning (maksud). The a-b/a-b rhyming scheme connects the final syllable of the first line with the third line; likewise for the second line with the fourth.

2. Most pantuns are about romantic or familial love, community and nature. The pembayang is usually crafted with imagery, similes and metaphors, through the description of nature or human relationships.

3. In contrast to the pembayang, the maksud directly expresses the message of the pantun. The tone of this message, be it positive or negative, must match with the symbolism of the pembayang.

4. Floral colours and scents from flowers such as the rose, lotus and jasmine are frequently used to describe commonly perceived female attributes or evoke courting scenarios.

5. Cats and birds often portray positive images, whilst crocodiles and monkeys portray the least favourable attributes. 

6. Pantuns are used to transmit cultural values and moral guidance from elders to youngsters, and to resolve conflict and differences of opinions in a cultured, indirect manner.

7. It can be used by courting couples to express love, or more formally, during a proposal or wedding ceremony, or in speeches by community leaders.

8. This literary art is also commonly transmitted through dondang sayang, a genre of Malay love ballads usually performed to express love towards one another.

9. In popular culture today, pantuns are frequently used in advertisement jingles by personalities in the Malay world, promoting food and everyday products.

10. In 2020, pantun was inscribed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of Indonesia and Malaysia.


[1] “Musical Practice of ‘Malay Traditional Forms” by MusicSg


[2]“Pantun, Music & Dance” by Liyana Nasyita Shukarman


[3]“Pantun” by UNESCO


[4] “Pantun” by Malay Heritage Foundation


[5] “Rebranding Heritage: What’s up with Pantun?” by TFR News


10 Things You Should Know is the first of a series of videos on Malay culture and heritage, created by ArtsEquator and commissioned by Wisma Geylang Serai. It is a continuation of an earlier series by ArtsEquator, featuring batik, gamelan, Malay dance and others, which you can check out here.
The videos in this series are sponsored by Wisma Geylang Serai. The money earned from paid advertising goes towards covering ArtsEquator’s running costs and paying our writers and content creators. We have a strict policy regarding which content which can and cannot be sponsored. To read more about our editorial policy, please go here.

About the author(s)

Muhd Noramin Mohd Farid (Soultari) is a choreographer, arts educator and researcher from Singapore. He received his Doctorate in Theatre and Dance studies (2021) from Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. He is a recipient of the ASEAN-India Youth Award (2018), Singapore Youth Award (2017), National Arts Council Scholarship (2017) and Goh Chok Tong Mendaki Youth Promise Award (2016). Amin is the Joint-Artistic Director of Bhumi Collective, a multidisciplinary performing art and producing company. He writes occasionally for Arts Equator, Straits Times and the Esplanade Theatres by the Bay.

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