The Nusantara Princess : Tengku Mariam of Pahang

she played 

the gamelan. its
magic carried across the paddy fields
took us to another time

of ancient ways. nature's 
gifts that subtly change the landscape
the river. the mountains. left behind.

a princess. on 
an amazing ship with white sails
cutting the waves. embracing the wind

she traveled to 
unknown shores. new ways.
a stranger. a husband

people to rule. a kingdom
to enchant. to love. a queen now
they worshiped her.

her legacy


Sailendra. Campa. Majapahit. Patani. Inderapura.

The Nusantara princesses were key to many peaceful treaties. It would be shocking today, but in reality, these marriages still exist throughout royal houses from the east and the west.

Tengku Mariam of Pahang married Sultan Sulaiman of Terengganu in 1913 and brought a full gamelan set with her. The Sultan loved his queen deeply and did everything he could to give the gamelan the exposure and support to become popular and revered. The Tengku Ampuan recorded the dances and her principal dancers taught other palace performers this graceful art form and orchestra music.

Once again I find the story of how the late Mubin Sheppard saved a piece of our heritage. Years later he found Tengku Ampuan Mariam's gamelan set in Istana Kolam, set about finding the old masters to revive the art.

It is said that this song, the Lambang Sari was written by Tengku Ampuan Mariam herself.


  1. This is fascinating, Ninot. I LOVE the gorgeous music. Is there a cd you can recommend, especially one with this piece on it? SO lovely and intriguing.

    1. I must find the CD for you Sherry. There are many types of gamelan with Gamelan Melayu popular in Malaysia, and gamelan Jawa popular in Indonesia. There are precious few recordings with this particular song included.

  2. Ninot Ma'am!
    Beautiful music, one that lingers on. It's just mesmerizing to the heart and soul! Thanks for sharing! You're doing a lot for our cultural heritage, Ma'am!


  3. As a musician, I found this so poignant. The idea of arranged marriages is very familiar to Westerners even if they don't know it - women were always used to secure land, power, wealth, and "keep it in the family."

    I LOVE the music of the gamelan. My aunt lived in Malaysia years ago and loved the country. What a brill post! Amy

    1. Amy darling, I consider you a soul sister now that I know you love the gamelan!

      Where did your aunty stay in Malaysia? The east coast, Sabah and Sarawak are very charming. The west coast is busy. More exciting but terribly busy…Melaka though is charming.

  4. love the story you spin in this...the music is very cool..googled more of it....what a journey that had to be for her as well....

  5. Somehow the sound makes me think of the soul transformed into water droplets - dripping musically. So very lovely. Your reflective poem honours the princess beautifully.

    1. Oh I love the way you hear this legend, Gemma.

  6. Love the poem. Love the music. Love the history of it. It just aches to be shared. Thank you.

  7. Beautiful combination of the music of words and the sound of the gamelan. I love the echoing quality.

  8. Beautiful and such a great complement with that music. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  9. Oh, I love the sound of this instrument. It is so calming and mystical. Nicely presented with the poem and account.

  10. Lovely poem, beautiful ethereal music. Closing my eyes while listening, indeed I am carried away with visions of a different world. Beautiful combination..thank you for sharing.


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