Jakarta

`Marawis' percussion groups
popular during Ramadan

CULTURE JAM: Detailed carvings in the middle of a lute show the Betawi influence on Indonesia’s marawis music. This music was originally only played using percussion instruments.
CULTURE JAM: Detailed carvings in the middle of a lute show the Betawi influence on Indonesia’s marawis music. This music was originally only played using percussion instruments.

The name marawis - referring to a family of percussion-based music originally from Yemen - comes from one of its component instruments; notably, a small drum.

This music has penetrated many parts of Indonesia, including East Java, South Sumatra and North Sulawesi.

In Indonesia, marawis has mixed with local musical tastes and developed distinctive sounds in each area. In Jakarta, for example, marawis blended with Betawi culture forming a musical ensemble of percussion and lute.

A marawis band often consists of at least 10 musicians, each playing while singing. Usually, all band members are male and wear Muslim clothes with long pants and a peci (skull cap).

Marawis songs are traditionally in the form of hymns praising the Prophet Muhammad. However, more recently marawis songs have also been used to exchange poems or for entertainment at wedding parties.

Marawis music produces three types of tunes; Zafin, Sarah and Zaife.

Zafin has a slower and more flowing rhythm suitable for hymns about the Prophet and Malay songs, whereas Sarah and Zaife are more upbeat and are often played energetically. Sometimes, people dance to these tunes to lift the mood at gatherings.

During Ramadan, marawis is very popular when it comes time to break the fast. However, numbers of marawis groups are diminishing in Indonesia and are only preserved in a few regions, including Jakarta.

Text from various sources
-- Photos by R. Berto Wedhatama

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