Sabahnites would like to share about this folklore that we came across .. about this dance and its legend.
Tarian Alai Bubu (Alai Bubu Dance) derived its name from the ‘bubu lukah’, a traditional fish trap made of bamboo. According to folklore and legend – and this was a long time ago before the people of Sabah embraced religion – the Bisaya tribe lived by the sea.
In accordance with their customs and pagan practices – a widow will be buried at sea together with her departed husband in the ‘bubu lukah’. This is to ensure that the couple shall remain together forever; in life and in death.
It was believed that Shamans were the intermediary between the spiritual world and our world. The Shaman would utter spells to call upon the spirits of the ‘bubu’ (the departed couple) to heal them when there are illnesses or bad luck had befallen upon the village.
During the healing ceremony, the spirits will enter the bubu, causing the bubu to mysteriously move by itself, like it was dancing (‘mangalai’). The bubu would be clothed so it looked like a human dancing.
However, those ‘rituals and practices’ are no longer being done as Sabahans now are predominantly Christians and Muslims. Only the very elderly Sabahans would remember these rituals.
Even though these are no longer pagan practices, the Tarian Alai Bubu is still performed (albeit less commonly) during celebrations such as weddings, engagements, and home blessings as festive and cheerful celebrations to the accompanying music from the gongs and kulintangan (traditional musical instruments).