A state rich in culture


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 13 Dec 2016

Kitemaker Shafie Jusoh launching the traditional wau bulan at Pantai Geting on the outskirts of Tumpat, Kelantan.

KELANTAN offers a rich culture and tradition, combining not only from its neighbour Thailand but other influences from Chinese, Indian and Javanese.

Malaysian Historical Society Kelantan branch treasurer Noor Azran Mohamad Noor said the state’s culture was mostly influenced by other states, which were portrayed in many of its arts such as Mak Yong traditional dance, Dikir Barat and shadow puppet play (wayang kulit).

Despite having a Malay-majority population, Noor Azran said some Chinese dialects were spoken with a little mix of Thai, especially in areas like Tumpat.

Citing Mak Yong as an example, he said the traditional dance was once performed exclusively as a royal theatre under the direct patronage of the Kelantan Sultanate.

The performance, which was believed to have originated from the Kingdom of Pattani, Thailand, more than 200 years ago, still draws in a huge crowd without much changes from its original form. It is believed that Mak Yong originated from an old folklore and ritual in honour of Mother Earth’s spirit Ma Hiang or Yong which means “divinity”.

However, by the 1920s, the performance slowly became a popular form of entertainment for common folk, which comprised a traditional dance, opera, drama and comedy, said Noor Azran.

In wayang kulit, the puppet master known as the Tok Dalang manipulates the puppets against a lit screen while narrating the story and giving life to the characters.
In wayang kulit, the puppet master known as the Tok Dalang manipulates the puppets against a lit screen while narrating the story and giving life to the characters.

“The performers are often accompanied by traditional musicians who play the rebana ubi, gendang and tetawak, among others,” he said.

Another unique culture which was once popular in the state is cock-fighting (laga ayam), which was a common tradition among the royals and aristocrats.

“They used to a have a special ring in Kota Baru for cock-fighting, once a popular game enjoyed by the royals and the upper class,” he said.

Kelantan’s other colourful culture includes the popular wayang kulit or shadow puppet play, which is believed to have originated from Java, sometime in the 14th century.

“They are brought by travellers from the various places to Kelantan. The performance is special as it combines not only Javanese elements but also Chinese, Indian and Siamese influences.

“The show mixes great tales of the Indian epics from Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as some local folklores.

It is believed that the Mak Yong originated from an old folklore and ritual in honour of Mother Earth’s spirit.
Once performed exclusively as a royal theatre, it is believed that the Mak Yong originated from an old folklore and ritual in honour of Mother Earth’s spirit. It became a popular form of entertainment for common folk by the 1920s.

“Many do not know this but there are some Chinese performers who spoke in fluent local dialects when they perform the shadow puppetry,” he said.

Kelantan Tourism and Culture Ministry’s director Mohd Aidil Afizie Mohd Daud said wayang kulit was still performed in many parts of the state, including the Gelanggang Seni (Cultural Centre) in Kota Baru, Waqaf Baru and Tumpat. These performances are by the locals.

“Visitors can also watch the gasing (top spinning), as well as Wau Bulan (kite flying) at the Gelanggang Seni,” he said.

Dikir barat is a musical form that involves singing in groups, often in a competitive setting. It is performed either with or without percussion instruments but the actions of hand clapping are further incorporated to produce rhythm.
Dikir barat is a musical form that involves singing in groups, often in a competitive setting. It is performed either with or without percussion instruments but the actions of hand clapping are further incorporated to produce rhythm.
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