Destinations in Indonesia
Randai, the distinct Minangkabau Performing Art combining Literature, Music and Pencak Silat
The Randai of the Minangkabau in the highlands of West Sumatra merges story telling with drama, traditional Minangkabau dance, song, music, rhymes, and self defense pencak silat actions. Most intriguing of Randai is that it is always done in a circle, which, according to local wisdom is the symbol of unity, the unbroken link of Minangkabau society with all its traditions and based on Islamic learnings from the Holy Quran.
As Randai also pulls in its spectators, performances are mostly played at a level with the audience and not on a raised platform. The audience is then free to make comments or clap to cheer on performers. .
Unlike the Saman Dance of Aceh, where dancers sit tightly in a straight row, Randai performers remain in a circle, starting with slowly moving their feet while recounting the story alternately in groups. Although Randai is meant as folk entertainment, the dance contains moral messages and advice, where all movements follow instructions from one or more leaders, known as janang.
Most popular tales are the Cindua Mato, Malin Deman, Anggun Nan Tongga, and others. The Randai is aimed to entertain and is usually performed at weddings, harvest festivals and at the end of the Ramadhan fasting month celebrating Idul Fitri.
A Randai group normally consists of 14 to 25 members. They train for months depending on the drama they will be performing. Rehearsals can take hours so these usually take place over the weekend, as members may come from many professions, some of whom are farmers, traders or craftsmen. Group members are called anak Randai, or children of Randai.
In a Randai performance there are also supporting actors. Some are called “waves” who perform wave movements following the pencak silat art. There are also musicians who play traditional instruments such as the talempong, gendang, serunai, saluang, puput batang padi, bansi, rebab and other musical instruments.
The leader is the narrator who speaks in a clear voice. Then there are also pasambahan players who hold a dialogue about Minangkabau values and express moral wisdom through symbolic language. And there must of course be the pencak silat performers who show off their prowess in the martial art.
The vocal kaba literature in Randai is never absent because of its lyrics which adhere to prescribed syllables through poems, sung poetry, and rhymes. These prescribed rules in narrating the story are known as gurindam.
Gurindam, together with the dance choreography which is based on silek (pencak silat) martial art, are the essence of Randai that make up the distinct Minangkabau traditional theatre.
Although Randai is in fact a form of traditional theatre, yet the Minangkabau themselves also view it as dance, where in their philosophy, dance combines physical movements with emotions that are rooted in pencak silat as important learning media taught in every village school, mosque and other traditional Minangkabau educational systems. Until this day Randai is still very much loved especially by rural communities.
However, in this modern day, the Randai can be seen performed all over Indonesia. In fact, at the University of Hawaii in the United States, a number of students have already managed to perform this dance, with narrations in the English language.
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