Atama Katama, a Malaysian DJ who has been spinning dance music across Malaysia for the past 15 years, has recently turned his attention towards indigenous issues and language. Katama, who has been playing dance music through the 1990’s at hip hop clubs, told Reuters that his curiosity was piqued when a fellow DJ asked about his indigenous roots in Sabeh. Katama is the son of Ambrose Mudi, a Sabeh singer-songwriter, says he took inspiration from the instruments that his father would play, and that he grew up around.
Katama has shifted his dance DJ sound with new songs that incorporate samples of Sabeh instruments and people speaking in the indigenous language about issues that are pertinent to the Sabeh people like land rights, corruption, and illegal logging. His most recent song, “I Know How to Sumazau – Interlude” (sumazu referring to the indigenous dance) released this November, is partly in English and partly in Sabeh, and is a perfect example of Katama’s unique fusion of indigenous culture and languages, hip hop, and dance.
“I see this as amplifying, giving voice to the voiceless, disseminating injustices to the greater community, and creating understanding and solidarity,” Atama said. “Forests are being molested, our resources uprooted, our land is being raped, and our rivers turned murky. Our peoples have become fearful and angry as their futures [and] their customary lands are now submerged in floods. Here we are on the world stage. Let’s not just stand and watch—let’s talk and defend our lands while we are dancing this song together.”