Ketoprak: Javanese Folk Art (Part 1 of 2)

Central Java is arguably the center of Javanese culture, with its two cultural cities of Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta). One of many performing arts (folk art) from this province is Ketoprak, performed by both male and female dancers. A typical Ketoprak show usually runs between 3 and 4 hours, with the total number of dancers depending on the story. Dancers wear traditional Javanese costumes and the entire dialogue is in Javanese dialect. The story focuses on Java’s history or Babad Jawa and the characters are realistically portrayed. A single show is often a combination of dance, song, music and acting. Ketoprak is indeed traditional in that it is devised and recited to the audience without the benefit of text. Like wayang orang, performers here do not need to memorize text, but converse on stage through improvisation, using certain sentence patterns familiar to the public.

A different shot of Ketoprak showKetoprak originated in Solo and traveled to Yogyakarta in 1926. The name Ketoprak is derived from the sound of its instrument. At the time, the Ketoprak show utilized lesung (pounder for paddy), flute, rebana and drum. The combined instruments create the various sounds (…dung dung prak prak) warranting the Javanese expression “pating ketuprak,”, hence it was called Ketoprak. This folk art for was created by Raden Kanjeng Tumenggung Wreksodiningrat, regent of Gedong Kiwo in Kasunanan, Solo in 1898. At that time Solo had been suffering from pestilence and as regent, he was sad to see that many of his people had succumbed to disease and had died on the streets. He came up with the idea for his staff to entertain the sick people. The form of entertainment employed combined singing and dancing, and accompanied by pounding. It became known as ketoprak lesung, and a number of groups adopted this form, performing outside the palace and as far as Yogyakarta. Ketoprak, first performed by men only, developed to include women as well as the addition of more musical instruments.

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