Songkok tradition continues

They've been around for centuries now and any visitor to Muslim countries like Indonesia or Malaysia will have noticed the black oval-shaped hat atop many a man's head; In Malaysia it's called a songkok and in Indonesia, it is known as a peci.

Songkok is a brimless hat, resembling a skull hat or skull cover and it has become the symbol of being a Malay muslim and it is worn with pride.

No one knows when they becme so popular, but with Islam putting down roots in the archipelago more than six or seven hundred years ago, followers were encouraged to cover their heads, which is considered a good deed for Muslims to do so.

"It looks a bit like the Turkish Fez, without the turban wrapped around it," said Asril who now makes songkoks in Seremban.

Asril has made them since he was a child, helping his father and said it was a family tradition and very much second nature to him.

"My father fled Sumatra after the Japanese invasion in the 1940's and he came here with his wife and this is what he did to survive," he said.

When asked how many songkoks he has made over the years, he laughs and admits he has lost count.

The 65-year old former soldier spent twenty one years in the army as a Warrant Officer before retirement saw him continue to help his dad make the special hats,and then taking over the business when his father passed away.

When Asril is not making songkoks he loves travelling and recently spent ten days solo-backpacking around Australia in Melbourne, Sydney, and then on to Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Asril is not so sure if any of his children will take on the task of songkok making but with one of his brothers also making and selling songkoks, the centuries old tradition is in good hands.

Asril in his songkok shop in Seremban checks the walls of one of the velvet songkoks.

To see how a songkok is made click on the link below and watch this video of a Penang songkok maker.


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