Tony Johor Kaki Travels for Food · Heritage · Culture · History

Adventurous Culinary Traveler's Blog with 63 million+ reads 📧

Gubang / Gobang Dance at Letung, Jemaja Island, Anambas, Indonesia


One of the most fascinating things I saw during my trip to Letung on Jemaja Island in Indonesia's Anambas group of islands was the Gobang or Gubang dance during the opening night of Padang Melang Festival 2018. Gubang is a mystical dance unique to Jemaja Island and performed only during special occasions.

The performers wore masks and move in stomping and bobbing movements in rhythm with gongs, drums, kumpang and chants. All performers are male and the masks symbolise ghosts, spirits and otherworld beings. Gubang is performed only at night.

The origins of Gobang is unclear but there are many legends about how it came about. In one version, a local boy got lost in the forest and came back with this spiritual ritual. In another story, it's the Orang Laut (Sea People) who brought Gubang dance to Jemaja Island when they came ashore.


Our host Pak Edi related a version which has it that a group of Jemaja villagers got lost in the forest while looking for firewood. In the dark night, they saw beings performing the Gubang. The frightened villagers brought the dance with them when they found their way out of the darkness, and Gubang dance became a Jemaja tradition ever since.


In yet another legend, about 500 years ago a group of 3 fishermen heard strange sounds from the forest while they were having a good catch of fish off Jemaja Island. Curious, they went ashore to investigate and saw a group of beings dancing but could not see their faces clearly - some looked grim, while others seemed to be grinning. Happy or sad, it's hard to make it out in the dark.

The fishermen watched the beings dance from night and till dawn when they disappeared. When the fishermen went back to their village, they emulated the movements of the dance they saw, believing that it would protect them from misfortune and bring good luck. The tradition continued to this day.


Whichever version of the origin of Gubang you believe in, Jemaja islanders treasure the tradition. Young people are encouraged to master the unique ritual. Gubang is now sometimes performed during major events in Indonesia beyond its birthplace in Jemaja Island, even in the national capital Jakarta.

Gubang is a must experience for culture and dance enthusiasts.


Where: Kampung Letung, Palau Jemaja, Anambas Regency, Riau Province, Indonesia 
GPS: 2°59'40.1"N 105°43'28.5"E | 2.994469, 105.724575  

Date visited: 26 - 29 Jul 2018 (Padang Melang Festival 2018)

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments submitted with genuine identities are published