Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Braided Horse: Kuda Kepang

Kuda Kepang dance is a type of Javanese folk dance, which is also quite popular with the Malaysian Johor community.

There are various opinions about the origins of this dance:

1.      There are opinions that relate to the origin of Kuda Kepang with "Wali Songo" who lived in Java during the 15th century. In an effort to spread Islam in the interior of Java, Wali Songo faces with the difficulties to reach the people there. He got the idea of ​​dancing while horseback riding. In the transition period, the horses changed with leather or bamboo to replace the real horse.

2.      Some people may think the origin of this dance has to do with Saidina Ali. In an attempt to mimic the army steps of Saidina Ali, the Kuda Kepang dance was formed.

3.      Other opinion linking the origin of the dance with paradise. A heavenly horse named Kuda Sembrani descended on to Java to search for its lost friends. After seeing them, they dance in pleasure.

According to belief, Kudang Kepang is governed by supernatural forces. Therefore, a special ceremony needs to be performed before the actual performance. If this requirement is neglected, then untoward things will happen to the players and the spectators.

The rite begins with the spirit worship rituals. Then the bomoh will perform a ritual for opening circuit and that may last for an hour. Below prayer is normally recited:


Ya Nini Dayang, Kiki Danyang Seng manggoni kawasan iki.

Aku jalok sawap pandanganne.

Yo, yo. ya Allah, ya Allah.

Aku dikongkon bukak gelanggang iki.

Biso podo selamat kabeh.

Wong seng main jarangsemberani iki.

Kabeh sak enengi.

Ya yo, ya Allah, ya Allah".

Nini Dayang and Kiki Dayang here refer to local spirits.

After that the shaman will stand in the middle of the arena, raise his head towards the sky and recite the below prayer:

"Ya Nini Dayang, Kiki Danyang

Seng manggone awang-awangan

Seng jenenge

Jaran Semberani

Aku njalok turun semurup

Supoyo seng main

Jaran Semberani iki

Podo selamet kabeh

Yo yo.

Bi `s-mi `llahi `r-rahmani `r-rahim

Kerusi belakangku, mutu jalil dipangku

Kadimu kananku, kan juga naiiranya empat

Ojo merosak, ojo membinasa ahli kumpulan aku".

Shaman will also provide a "meal" to "guardian". Dish is coconut, rice, ripe bananas, incense, white cloth, needles, thread, white chicken, rice, eggs and potpourri. Minimum number of dancers is nine and the maximum 15 people. These dancers usually consist of men only.

One interesting happening in this dance is that some dancers will "naik sheiks" (drunk) or "possessed" after the show officially ended. Those who are "naik sheikhs" would make strange gestures that could not be done by the sane. For example, jumping as high as six or seven feet, scaling on a smooth bamboo or wood or a piece of string, also peels the coconut with teeth. When the dancers are "naik sheikhs", the music accompanying dancers will need to play continuously. If not, the dancers will became angry and attack the players of the music.

When the movements of the dancers are getting wild and cannot be controlled, the shaman will read the mantra to the crown or their ears after they were apprehend and pressed to the ground by competent guards.

The shaman will recite the below prayer:

"Bi `s-mi `llahi `r-rahmani `r-rahim

Malaikat wadi wadi manikam

Sing jogo darang tulang

Kulit tulang

Pulih podo bahaya

Bukan aku kabeh jampi

Bukan aku punya tangkaldengan kalimah sudah tiba berkat doa

La ilaha Illa `llahMuhammad `r-rasulullah".

After that they will recover in a state of fatigue. It is believed that apart from entertainment, Kuda Kepang can also be used to treat rare diseases such as possessed by ghosts or souls of the dead and so forth.

It is believed that the Kuda Kepang is to be stored properly. If placed in an inappropriate place, the spirit of the Kuda Kepang will run amok and damaging future shows.

It is forbidden to wear red in the fear that this might anger the spirits, or to display any mirrors or glasses, for the fear that the dancers might break them and eat the broken pieces.

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