~ Mak Minah ~
(14.9.1930 ~ 21.9.1999)

Ceremonial singer… noblewoman… cultural representative of the 
Temuan tribe… free spirit and a friend to all.

Mak Minah (Menah Kuntom) was born in Pertak, Ulu Selangor, between the
First and Second World Wars. Those who remember her in her youth report
that she was extremely feisty and perhaps even a little wayward.  But
her second husband, Batin Anggong of Gerachi, was a mature tribal leader
who groomed Minah for the important role of Batin’s wife, and taught her
all the songs he knew. They had a daughter and five sons – the eldest of
whom, Ramsit, is now Batin of Gerachi.

When Batin Anggong died, Mak Minah moved back to Pertak to live with her
sister Indah.  It was around this time that Minah befriended Antares and
Rafique, two musicians seeking sanctuary in Kuala Kubu Baru from the
clangour of the Klang Valley. Before long a musical collaboration began
which led to the formation of Akar Umbi – a  “trance-ethnic” fusion
group – and widespread acclaim for Mak Minah as a cultural
representative of her tribe. Her goodnatured willingness to be a friend
to all made her an ideal ambassador for the marginalized Orang Asli

Audiences everywhere were uplifted by Mak Minah’s soulful voice. Her
songs reflected the love and reverence indigenous peoples feel for the
land. They were a powerful antidote to the cynicism and myopia of a
“modern” worldview centred on money and power.

Offstage, Mak Minah was a fearless and outspoken advocate of cultural
and spiritual autonomy for the Orang Asli. She fiercely opposed the
State government’s plan to relocate two Temuan villages for a dam
project on Sungai Selangor which would destroy the wild beauty and
sanctity of the Pertak area.

“I will fight the dam as long as I live,” Mak Minah repeatedly said. But
it is a heart-rending fight that has set brother against brother, mother
against son, neighbour against neighbour. The psychological conflict and
uncertainty exhausted her.

Mak Minah’s passionate love for the rainforest where her tribe has lived
for countless generations is an inspiration to all of us who share an
alternative vision – one where mutual respect for all tribes and the
healing of the earth take precedence over economic and political

The last time I saw Minah alive was around midday on the 21st. The day
before I had taken her to the clinic because she was complaining of
aches all over her chest and back, and she had no appetite. The doctor
said Minah had a viral infection and prescribed some medicine,
suggesting that she drink lots of Glucolin to get her energy back. I was
on my way to Kuala Lumpur and told Minah I'd look in on her the next
day. At 3 a.m. I received a phone call informing me that she had died in
her sleep at 7:03 p.m. at the Kuala Kubu Baru hospital. Her
granddaughter Sembo and another friend were by her side. A week ago she
turned 69 and three weeks earlier she had returned happy and fulfilled
from Sarawak, after performing with Akar Umbi at the 2nd Rainforest
World Music Festival.

Mak Minah had a very sweet smile on her face when they buried her on a
hill we shall henceforth call Bukit (Mount) Minah. Ironically, she was
the first to be interred in a virtually inaccessible new tribal
gravesite allocated to Gerachi Villagers in view of the government's
determination to inundate the old Temuan burial site with the proposed
Selangor Dam. Minah swore to resist the dam to her last breath and she did.



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