TRADITIONS & Communities

 Photo credit: Ahmad Fikry Mohd Anwar

Photo credit: Ahmad Fikry Mohd Anwar

MAK YONG (KELANTAN)

Mak Yong is a Malay dance-drama tradition found primarily in the north-eastern Malaysian state of Kelantan and the Patani region of southern Thailand. Recognised by UNESCO in 2005 as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Mak Yong encompasses elements of dance, music, acting, singing, and storytelling. Mak Yong is a folk tradition that enjoyed the patronage of the Kelantan Sultanate until the 1920s, absorbing many refinements of palace arts in the process. While distinctive to the Kelantan-Pattani region, the tradition is also practised in diasporic communities in the larger Malay archipelago, particularly in Riau.

The stylised movements of the Mak Yong involve subtle gestures of hand and arm, soft hand positions, slow steps and graceful turns. The principal roles are pak yong (lead male character), mak yong (lead female character) and peran (clown or attendant). The repertoire consists of 12 main stories including Dewa Muda, Dewa Pechil and Anak Raja Gondang. The stories of the Mak Yong mostly recount the adventures and destinies of royal-celestial figures, rooted in the mythology of the old Kelantan-Pattani Sultanates, dating back to the Srivijaya Empire (7th-13th Century). A few of these stories are derived from Buddhist Jataka tales. The most elaborate sequence in a Mak Yong performance is the opening song, menghadap rebab, during which the dancers face east in salutation to the rebab (spike fiddle) before the main story unfolds.

KUMPULAN MAK YONG
CAHAYA MATAHARI

Kumpulan Mak Yong Cahaya Matahari is one of the most renowned Mak Yong groups in Malaysia. Founded by the late Che Ning, whose charisma and status as a principal Mak Yong actress is legendary, the group is now helmed by Che Siti binti Dollah, a veteran Mak Yong actress who is the main custodian of the Mak Yong in her community. The performers of this group trace their Mak Yong lineage back seven generations and are committed to the transmission of the Mak Yong tradition to succeeding generations. Kumpulan Mak Yong Cahaya Matahari features the granddaughter of Che Ning, Rohana Abdul Kadir, in the principal Pak Yong role, alongside her sisters, her father and other seasoned Mak Yong performers. The music ensemble is lead by master gendang player Pak Su Agel, one of the most accomplished musicians of Kelantan.

 Photo credit: Karl Rafiq Nadzarin

Photo credit: Karl Rafiq Nadzarin