Kedahan Malays

Kedahan Malays (Malay: Melayu Kedah, Jawi: ملايو ﻗﺪﺡ) or commonly known as Orang Utara ('Northerners'), is a sub-group of Malays who are 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 and constitute over 75% of the Kedah state population, thus making them the largest ethnic group in the state of Kedah.

Kedahan Malays
Oghang Utagha / Melayu Kedah
ملايو ﻗﺪﺡ
A group of Malay band and dancers with painted faces in Kuala Muda, Kedah, 1905.
Total population
3.1 million
Regions with significant populations
 Malaysia (Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Northern Perak)
 Thailand (western part of Southern Thailand)
 Indonesia (Langkat regency in North Sumatra)
 Myanmar (Southern Myanmar)
Kedah Malay, Penang Hokkien, Baling Malay, standard Malaysian, Thai, Burmese, Indonesian, English
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Malaysian Malays, Thai Malays, Burmese Malays, Chulias Kensiu, Jahai


A Kedahan Malay man and his son standing in front of a decorated vehicle in Alor Setar, Kedah, 1937.

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

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.


An old traditional Kedahan Malay style house.

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 peninsula but has its own unique pronunciation and also vocabulary. Kedahan Malay language can be divided into several sub-dialects, namely Kedah Persisiran (coastal dialect; standard) or Kedah Hulu (interior), Kedah Utara (northern Kedah), 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 saya / aku in other Malay varieties in the peninsula. 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

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:


Kuih Bunga Pundak
  • Nasi Daging Air Asam
  • Kuih Dangai
  • Kuih Peneram
  • Pek Nga[2]
  • Karas[3]
  • Pulut Mangga
  • Pulut Durian
  • Nasi Lemuni
  • Kuih Bunga Pundak[4]

Dance theater

  • Mek Mulung[5]
  • Mak Yong Kedah[6]
  • Jikey[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • Inai dance[9]
  • Canggung dance: A dance originating from Perlis but also very popular in Kedah and Penang[10]

Art theater


  • 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.[12]


Martial arts

  • 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:[14] 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.


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

Television series

  • Cinta Anak Kedah
  • Makbul
  • Dari Kodiang ke Kolumpo.
  • Mak Cun
  • Kak Marr

Notable Kedahan Malay

See also

  • Kedah Wayang kulit Seri ansun
  • Malays (ethnic group), the ethnic group located primarily in the Malay peninsula, and parts of Sumatra and Borneo
  • Malay race, a racial category encompassing the people of South East Asia and sometimes the Pacific Islands
  • Malaysian Malays, a constitutionally defined group of Muslim Malaysian citizens
  • Malay Singaporeans
  • Malay Indonesians, ethnic Malays in Indonesia
  • Thai Malays, ethnic Malays in Thailand
  • Sri Lankan Malays, an ethnic group in Sri Lanka of Indonesian ancestry
  • Cape Malays, an ethnic group or community in South Africa
  • Cocos Malays, the predominant group ethnic group of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, now part of Australia
  • Overseas Malays, people of Malay ancestry living outside Malaysia and neighbouring ethnic Malay home areas
  • Burmese Malays


  1. Y.S. Teng & S.G. Tan (1979). "Genetic flow from Indians to Malays". The Japanese Journal of Human Genetics. 24 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1007/BF01890105. PMID 110968.
  2. Petah Wazzan Iskandar & Embun Majid (26 March 2018). "Peknga, gulai ikan temenung memang terbaik". Harian Metro. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  3. Aizat Sharif (23 November 2016). "48 jam buat cucur peneram [METROTV]". Harian Metro. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  4. Kuih Tradisional di Malaysia "KUIH TRADISIONAL DI MALAYSIA: Kuih bunga pudak". 4 November 2015. Retrieved 2019-05-19. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  5. Zinitulniza Abdul Kadir (2014). MEK MULUNG: Kesenian Perantaraan Manusia dan Kuasa Ghaib Warisan Kedah Tua. ITBM. ISBN 978-96-743-0772-1.
  6. Wazir-Jahan Begum Karim, ed. (1990). Emotions of culture: a Malay perspective. Oxford University Press. p. 63. ISBN 01-958-8931-2.
  7. Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof (2015). One Hundred and One Things Malay. Partridge Publishing Singapore. ISBN 978-14-828-5534-0.
  8. Rahmah Bujang (1987). Boria: A Form of Malay Theatre. Institute of Southeast Asian. ISBN 99-719-8858-5.
  9. Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin (2000). Teater tradisional Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. p. 57. ISBN 98-362-6479-5.
  10. Ismail Hamid (1988). Masyarakat dan budaya Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia. p. 166. ISBN 98-362-0257-9.
  11. Siti NurazlinaJamaludin (4 October 2018). "Wayang gedek masih subur di Kedah". Utusan. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
  12. "Berendul". MyKedah.Com. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  13. Patricia Matusky & Tan Sooi Beng (2017). The Music of Malaysia: The Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions. Taylor & Francis. p. 329. ISBN 978-13-518-3965-5.
  14. "Budaya Melayu". Melayu Online. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  15. "Surin Abdul Halim bin Ismail Pitsuwan". The Patriots. 2017-12-04. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  16. 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 reading

  • 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.
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