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Saving cultural heritage through wayang keroncong

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

-  /  Sun, March 11, 2018  /  12:01 pm
Saving cultural heritage through wayang keroncong

Congwayndut, an abbreviation of Keroncong Wayang Gendut (Fat Puppeteer Keroncong), seeks to highlight local culture through its comedic wayang performances. (JP/Stefanus Ajie)

A group of wayang keroncong (Portuguese-tinged pop puppeteers) from Surakarta, Central Java, has found an innovative way to preserve local culture. 

Named Congwayndut, an abbreviation of Keroncong Wayang Gendut (Fat Puppeteer Keroncong), the group seeks to highlight local culture through its comedic wayang performances. 

One of its members, 37-year-old Dwi Suryanto known to friends as "Gendut" (Fatso), said the combination of keroncong music and wayang was part of the group's effort to popularize the traditional art among the younger generation. 

"Keroncong is a type of music that people identify with Java, especially Surakarta. To attract young people, we combined it with other types of music," he told kompas.com after a hilariously entertaining performance at Balai Soejatmoko in Surakarta on Wednesday. 

Established in 2010, the group has performed shows across the country and abroad.

"I founded the group with around 15 other people. Supported by my friends, it aims to regenerate the fans of wayang. We fear a future where wayang no longer interests the younger generation."

Read also: 'Wayang kulit' craftsmanship still flourishing in Wonogiri village

During each performance, the group does not always speak Javanese. 

"When in Singapore, we perform using the Malay language and the response was very positive. People always thought that wayang could only be performed alongside gamelan, but our group proved them wrong because any musical instrument will do," he said.

Interestingly, the group has members who are not Javanese.

Muhammad Subhan, a member from Makassar in South Sulawesi, said he joined the group because he considered keroncong wayang alternative entertainment.

"If we strive to stay true to the authentic tradition of wayang, it will be very difficult. Some of our friends have backgrounds in ethnomusicology outside of Javanese karawitan [music ensemble]," said Subhan.

He added that the instruments used during each performance came from different regions in Indonesia. 

"The one I just played, for example, was a percussion called taganing -- an ethnic musical instrument from North Sumatra. We also use kendang from West Java," he said. (kes)