Friday, October 14, 2005



- A spell binding medium for storytelling, the wayang kulit is a traditional theatre form that brings together the playfulness of a puppet show, and the elusive quality and charming simplicity of a shadow play.

- Its origin remains a mystery, though it appears to have a strong Javenese and Hindu influence.

- Today, it spread out, in various forms and guises, across Asia - Turkey and China to Indonesia and of course, Malaysia.

- Here, it is most popular in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in Kelantan, the heartland of Wayang Kulit, where it took root mere than 250 years ago.

- There used to be 4 main varieties of the form in this country, the Wayang Kulit Siam of Kelantan, the Wayang Gedek, performed by the Thai communities of Kedah and Perlis, the Wayang Kulit Jawa, performed by the Javanese communities in Selangor and Johor, and the Wayang Kulit Melayu, performed by the Javenese communities of Terengganu.

- Now only the first two are performed.

- Wayang Kulit of Siam is the most indigenous of these styles. It is principally performed in the state of Kelantan.

- Wayang kulit Siam makes use of a local version of the Indian epic, Ramayana.

- Existing only in the oral tradition, this version is known as Hikayat Maharaja Wana.

- The Hikayat Seri Rama provides material for the principal story (cerita pokok).

- Local extensions of and accresions to the epic have resulted in the creation of a large number of Ramayana branch stories (cerita ranting).

- These have traditionally been more popular than the pokok story.

- The wayang kulit siam orchestra consists of a pair of double-headed drums (gendang), a pair of single-headed goblet-shaped drums known as gedumbak, a pair or vertically standing drums (gedug) hit with beaters, a pair of hand small cymbals, (kesi) and a pair of inverted gongs (canang), also beaten with sticks, and, finally, a pair of hanging knobbed gongs (tetawak).

- Wayang kulit siam performances are done in two varieties:
(a) those done purely for entertainment and
(b) those intended for ritual purposes such as the salutation of teachers
(sembah guru).

- Ritual performances, known as wayang kulit berjamu, are extremely rare. They incorporate a host of ritual activities as well as trance.