From Hang Tuah to Hanoi - Raja Mohamad Alif heads to ACL Hanoi

UiTM lecturer Raja Mohamad Alif bin Raja Mohamad Adnan represents Malaysia at this year's ACL Festival's Young Composer Competition in Hanoi. The University of London graduate has submitted a piece called ‘Taming Sari’, based on the historical figure Hang Tuah.

As the composer's programme notes explain: ‘Taming Sari’ is a composition for an ensemble consisting of 7 instruments (Trumpet in Bb, Oboe, 2 violins, viola, violoncello and double bass). 

The Malaysian traditional dagger called the Kris is the main inspiration for the composer to create the piece. Taming Sari is the name of a Kris owned by a legendary Malay warrior named Hang Tuah. Taming Sari is the most well known Kris in Malay literature, it was said to be so skillfully crafted that anyone wielding it was unbeatable.

The composition focuses more on texture, dynamics and timbre rather than the conventional characteristics of a piece of music which relies more on melody, harmony and rhythm. The various textures and timbres of the piece symbolize the texture of the Kris – created using several types of irons. In order to focus on the textures, dynamics and timbre, the composer disregards harmony, use minimal rhythmic movements, does less melody writing and writes the music based on a focal pitch – the note G. The musical structure/form of the piece is based on the changing hands of the Taming Sari from Hang Tuah to his childhood friend Hang Jebat. In this context, the trumpet represents Hang Tuah, the Oboe represents Hang Jebat and the string section represents the Taming Sari.


Raja Mohamad Alif is a Malaysian composer and also a music composition lecturer at one of the top universities in Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). He has recently acquired a Master of Music Degree from Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, majoring in composition (2014) prior to that he studied at UiTM, graduating with a Bachelors degree in Music Composition (2013), and a Diploma in Music (2011).

In addition, he has had substantial experience teaching beginning, intermediate, and advanced level classical guitar lessons to students both as a private tutor and as a teacher at various music schools in the Klang Valley.

As a versatile music educator, he has held various roles including training students for music recitals and performances as well as assessing and evaluating students’ musical development. As well, during the period of his studies, a number of his compositions were performed by professional musicians such as the Bridges Ensemble from Melbourne, Lachlan Dent from Australia, Nathan Fischer from USA, Tazul Tajuddin from Malaysia, Ross James Carey from New Zealand and Chroma Ensemble from United Kingdom. Furthermore, his compositions have been premiered in several events in Malaysia and the UK.

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  1. I have the privilege to work with Raja and experienced Taming Sari with WayangbKulit Kelantan. His composition really 'gave life' to my wayang kulit and brought a different layers of energy to my performance. The 'emotion' of Taming Sari was maticulosly aranged which allowed me to explore layers of rich energies that embedded in the composition! I hope to work with your composition again in the near future!!