Wayang kulit meets Japanese puppetry

26 October 2015

IN CONJUNCTION with DiverseCity 2015: Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival, two countries came together to put on an interesting show.

The joint performance saw Kelantan’s wayang kulit and 400-year-old Japanese puppetry theatre performance known as edo ito ayatsuri ningyo being staged side-by-side.

Held for four nights at the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex by the Malaysian Institute of Translation & Books (ITBM) and Kraftangan Malaysia, the audience was taken on a journey with Ramayana, who went to Japan to look for a wife after dreaming of a Japanese princess.

Even though shadow play is an ancient form of entertainment, the show was given a modern touch by including some pop culture references which drew laughter from the audience.

It was also interesting to note that while the Kelantanese shadow play uses leather puppets with various characters and edo ito ayatsuri ningyo uses marionettes to create human-like movements, the two forms went well together.


1 Roslan, the ‘tok dalang’, heading the shadow play team behind the screen. 2 The joint performance featured the Kelantanese ‘wayang kulit’ (background) and ‘edo ito ayatsuri ningyo’, a 400-year old Japanese marionette puppet show. — Photos: CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

Roslan, the ‘tok dalang’, heading the shadow play team behind the screen.


The highlight of the show was when the Japanese princess marionette, after agreeing to marry Ramayana, went behind the screen and turned into a shadow puppet, to show that she had gone into Ramayana’s world.

Istana Budaya Wayang Kulit Kelantan Melati Wangi Group tok dalang (master puppeteer) Roslan Harun, who headed the shadow play team, said the play used the Kelantanese dialect.

“Even though times have changed, it is still important to use the Kelantanese dialect so that the tradition will be maintained,” he said.

Similarly, the princess in the story spoke Japanese.

It mattered not that the audience was unable to understand Kelantanese or Japanese as there was a flow to the story.

The Edo marionette puppeteer was Shiokawa Kyoko and Nakamura Toshiko played the shamisen (a traditional Japanese instrument).

The audience was also treated to a mix of traditional Malay instruments such as theserunai (flute), gendanggedombak and geduk (drums), kesi (finger cymbals) andcanang (gong).

DiverseCity 2015, which runs until October, is a performing and visual arts event featuring dance, literature, comedy and music.

For details, visit diversecity.my



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