A Javanese word meaning 'shadow' or 'ghost', wayang is a theatrical
performance of living actors, three dimensional puppets, or shadow
images held before a screen lit from behind. The word can also refer
to the puppets themselves. Most often the chants are in the Kawi (Old
Javanese), as archaic a language today as Shakespearean English.
Wayang performances are staged when a transitional event occurs in the
life of a family (a birthday, wedding or important religious
occasion), or as ritual entertainment during family feasts or
selamatan. Coming of age (puberty, circumcision, a promotion in rank,
even the building of a new swimming pool could be an excuse for a
show. As well as providing entertainment, wayang teaches the meaning
and purpose, as well as the contradictions and anomalies, of modern
life. Even government policies are explained in terms of wayang
theatre, not only by the puppet master, but also in newspaper
editorials and even in government statements.
The Dalang, the wayang puppeter,is the playwright, producer, principal
narrator, conductor and director of this shadow world. He is an expert
in languages and highly skilled in the techniques of ventriloquism.
Some dalang even carve their own puppets, maintaining a cast of up to
200 which are kept in a katok, or big wooden box. He must be familiar
with all levels of speech according to the dramatis personae,
modulating his voice and employing up to nine tonal and pitch
variations to suit each puppet's temperament. The dalang has a highly
developed dramatic sense, and if he has a good voice, his chants are
beautiful and captivating to hear. He must also be intimately versed
in history (including complex royal genealogies) music (melodies,
modes, phrases and song), recitation (both gamelan and spoken),
eloquence (an extempore poet creating a warm or terrifying atmosphere)
and posses a familiarity with metaphysics, spiritual knowledge and
perfection of the soul. Travelling from village to village and city to
city, he has as many fans as a film star.
A shadow play using two-dimensional puppets. Handcrafted out of
buffalo or goat parchment, the puppets have the appearance of paper
dolls but with arms that swivel. The wayang kulit can be likened to a
combination 'Punch and Judy Show' and Shadow Graph'. Since a wayang
kulit puppet is a stylized exaggeration of a human shape, it is really
a shadow of a shadow. Many different styles of wayang kulit exist.
Palembang performs its own version, using its own dialect banjar is
popular. In Jakarta, wayang kulit is performed in the local Batawi
dialects. But by far the most popular is the wayang kulit form
practiced in Central and East Java and on Bali, where it has been
developed as a spellbinding medium for storytelling.
This masked theatre mimes the stories of the wayang golek, using
dancing men who act like puppets. Somtimes the dancers themselves
speak their roles; at other time the dalang speaks for them, while the
actors just march on and off the stage. Although classical Javanese
language (kawi) is most often used, it is spoken in a less stylised
form than in wayang orang. Troupes on Java consist of male dancers;
female roles are taken by boys aged between eight and 14, before their
voice changes. The mask, which are shiny and beautiful, are often
similar to the heads of Golek puppets. Each region of Java and Bali
features a different style of topeng masks, costume and dance. The
most active topeng centers are in East Java and on Bali. On stage, the
masks with their large and mysterious eyes seem suspended in the air.
An entire wayang topeng troupe consists of perhaps 25 people, and a
set of topeng traditionally contains 40-80 pieces.
wong in Javanese, these are abstract, symbolic dance plays, with or
without masks, employing actor-dancers that dress up like golek
puppets. Masks are usually only worn by actors playing animals or
monster roles (for example, the King of Demons in the Ramayana). A
dalang may recite and chant, but the dialogue is most often spoken by
live actors and actresses wearing shiny costumes of gold and black,
and rich deep-coloured batik silks. Because of its hilarious antics,
wayang orang is more of spectacle to Westerners than other wayang
forms. But it is also by far the most expensive form to stage. A
boxful of leather or wooden puppets is much cheaper to maintain than a
whole troupe of live actors who have to be fed, clothed, transported
and paid. Consequently, wayang orang is the rarest wayang form.
WHERE TO EAT
Ayu Joyo Royal
Lunch & Dinner
Jl. Rotowijayan 5
Phone: (0274) 375348
Jl. L. Adisucipto 169
Phone: (0274) 561164
Jl. Kaliurang km 13
Phone: (0274) 95168
Music & Restaurant
Jl. C. Simanjuntak 81-
85 Tel. 0274-562367
Pakuningratan 70 Tel.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a variety of
places one can stay and enjoy such performances as those mentioned
above. The following list of places to stay are a small selection that
provide in house entertainment. All of these places to stay offer
somewhere to eat and drink. Many of the hotels have restuarants that
cater for tourists offering a good choice of food.
There are several direct flights daily from Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya
and Bali. Night trains from Jakarta, though comfortable, arrive at
Luxury buses with hotel pick-up and drop-off services operate from
Bali via Surabaya.
Fast, comfortable trains run from Jakarta through Yogyakarta to
Surabaya. First or executive class service includes air-conditioning,
airline-style seats and complimentary beverage and meal service. The
night trains from Jakarta, though comfortable, arrive in Yogya in the
early hours of morning while the dawn service arrives in the late
Many sites of interest are easy walking distance from Jl. Malioboro,
the main tourist area where several hotels are located. Otherwise,
metered taxis and chauffeur-driven rental automobiles are abundant.
The typically innovative Yogyanese tourist authorities have been
teaching rudimentary English to pedicab a pleasant option for visiting
most attractions. There is also the option to rent a bicycle, a nice
way to see the sights at ones own pace.
Wayang Orang (Human
Located on Jl Brigjend Katamso (east of Kraton). Every evening
performs wayang Ramayana.
Located on Jl. Solo, west of Adisucipto Airport, every evening
performs Ramayana Dance at the restaurant or in the garden.
Arjuna Plaza Hotel
Located on Jl. Mangkubumi, south of Tugu, every Thursday evening
performs Ramayana Dance.
Ramayana Ballet at
It is a colossal live presentation with the backdrop of the
grandiose Prambanan Temple, 15 km east of Yogya. The two hours
ballet is presented alternately in Yogya and Solo dance style by
five dance troupes of Wisan Murti, Cahyo Gumelar, Sekarpuri, Guwa
Wijaya and Roro Jonggrang foundation led by Sri Paku Alam VIII.
Formerly, the performance was organized only for dates under a full
moon of May to October. The open area offers the complete Ballet,
while the close arena presents aselection of different acts. The
tickets are available at several Travel Agencies or could be
purchased at the ticket windows just before the show.
Roro Jongrang Foundation provides Yogya-Prambanan, cheap round trip
Located on Jl. Prawirotaman . It performs wayang with different
stories every evening.
Every Sunday morning performs a Classical Court Dance.
The name wayang comes from the Javanese word for ‘’shadow’’ of the
puppets that the spectators are watching. The traditional repertoire
is originated from classic Hindu mythologies, Ramayana and
Mahabharata epics, adapted to the local traditions. Wayang shows
usually last throughout the night.
Yogyakarta is an ancient historical city; museums and a bustling
nightlife will undoubtedly keep you entertained if not entranced at
this marvellous place.