Ketoprak: Javanese Folk Art (Part 2 of 2)

The birth of Ketoprak was inspired by a traditional game called gejogan (or kotekan). The game, performed by teenage girls strictly during full moon, created sounds from a paddy pounder, producing a certain unique rhythm. While they pounded, these girls also sang to more accompaniments of kendang (traditional drum) and seruling (bamboo flute). Short stories were also shared and were about daily life, and thus Ketoprak was born. In 1927 one Ketoprak troupe began using the gamelan musical instrument in addition to the paddy pounder. This period saw the transition of Ketoprak from paddy pounder to gamelan. By 1928 Ketoprak performances resorted to the sole use of the gamelan. The costumes also changed with the advent of better fabric like satin—each costume designed in accordance to the story. In the case of Babad Demak (Demak’s History), about the time when Islam arrived in Java, costumes were largely Arabian in style.

Eventually Ketoprak using the paddy pounder was no longer in favor and gamelan replaced it as the preferred musical accompaniment, perceived to be more engaging and facile to the changes of story as well as costumes. Female characters were no longer acted by males but by real females. The Japanese government censored Ketoprak during its occupation of Indonesia (1942-1945). But the art form resonated with many people despite the many films shown at cinemas at the time. Nowadays with a decrease in popularity, Ketoprak tries hard to survive by adapting various stories from outside Java as well as abroad. Costumes have also adapted to the different stories. Ketoprak had initially focused entirely on dance and song but were later minimized in favor of more dialogue. This art form can also be found nowadays in print media, in the form of stories or comics. Some stories are also published in compilations and as books. There was a time when Ketoprak was recorded on cassettes and sold. It was also popularly shown on television, but in the last five years, this, unfortunately, has practically disappeared as well.

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