June 14, 2024

Esplanade Singapore to host Malaysia’s renowned Mak Yong group for Malay Festival of Arts

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Renowned local Mak Yong group, Kumpulan Mak Yong Cahaya Matahari is heading to Singapore for a three-day performance.

The group from Terengganu along with their master musicians from Kelantan will be entertaining audiences with five shows over three days at Pesta Raya- Malay Festival of Arts 2024 at The Esplanade Singapore from May 10 to May 12.

The trip is in collaboration with local cultural organisation and NGO Pusaka which will be conducting a special workshop for Singapore arts and culture practitioners on the Menghadap Rebab (the opening sequence of a Mak Yong performance).

This is not the first time Pusaka has presented traditional Malaysian art forms at the prestigious performing arts centre. Previously they’ve done similar shows with different art forms including Ulek Mayang of Terengganu (2014), Kompang Jidor of Johor (2019) and Awang Batil of Perlis (2023).


Mak Yong is a Malay dance-drama tradition found primarily in Kelantan, Terengganu and the Pattani region of southern Thailand.

It was recognised by Unesco in 2005 as a Masterpiece of the Oral And Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The traditional art form which encompasses elements of dance, music, acting, singing and storytelling is a folk tradition that enjoyed the patronage of the Kelantan Sultanate until the 1920s.


The stories of the Mak Yong mostly recount the adventures and destinies of royal-celestial figures, rooted in the mythology of the old Kelantan-Pattani Sultanates, dating back to the Srivijaya Empire (7th-13th Century).

The most elaborate sequence in a Mak Yong performance is the opening song, Menghadap Rebab during which the dancers face east in salutation to the rebab (spiked fiddle) before the main story unfolds.

Master Mak Yong performer, Abdul Kadir Dollah aka Poksu Kadir, will play Raja Besar in ‘Anak Raja Gondang’. — Picture by Karl Rafiq Nadzarin/Pusaka

Meanwhile the Kumpulan Mak Yong Cahaya Matahari was founded by legendary Mak Yong actress Che Ning and has been performing since the 1960s.

The group is now helmed by veteran Mak Yong actress Che Siti Dollah who’s also the main custodian of the Mak Yong in her community.

The performers of this group trace their Mak Yong lineage back seven generations and are committed in keeping the Mak Yong tradition alive by passing it through younger generations in their community in Kuala Besut.

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