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Home » Arts & Culture

Shadow Puppet: Old and New Style  

by on Saturday, 12 December 20092 Comments | 3,013 views


Shadow puppet is one of Balinese art performance that undergoes great changes in many ways only in the course of twenty years. Out of hundreds shadow puppeteers all over the island only some of them adopt the changes, some of them adopt only few changes and some remain with traditional style.

The significant changes that are adopted by the modern shadow puppet are mainly in the lighting, musical accompaniment, characters of the puppet, and content of the story.

Cenk Blonk

Speaking of lighting, traditional shadow puppet uses lampu blencong, a traditional lamp which uses coconut oil and a burning wick. The lampu blencong is hung between the dalang (puppeteer) and the puppets so the shadows show up clearly on the screen. The shadows look alive as if they are dancing on the screen because the flame of lampu blencong always flickers. The modern shadow puppet use sophisticated laser lighting that can produce light in various colors and level of the brightness can be adjusted. The color of the light and level of its brightness is usually changed based on the plot of the story such as the red light with high level of brightness is usually used for fighting scene. The constant light that is produced by the modern lighting make the puppet looks static.

Cenk Blonk

Musical accompaniment in traditional shadow puppet is usually two pairs of gender wayang (a kind of metalophone used in traditional wayang performance). While the modern shadow puppet usually use gamelan gong but not a whole set, it is also accompanied by two or three female singers. The difference in the musical accompaniment results in the difference of the crew. The crew of a traditional shadow puppet performance usually consists of seven people (a puppeteer, two assistant of the puppeteer and four musicians) while the modern shadow puppet usually consists of more than 20 people.

Wayang Purnama

In character of the puppet aspect especially on the number of the characters, the shadow puppet performance also undergoes a change. Modern shadow puppet adds some characters to the character inventory of traditional shadow puppet. For example the modern Parwa shadow puppet (a kind of shadow puppet that performs the Mahabharata epic) incorporated some animal characters from Tantri shadow puppet (shadow puppet that perform Tantric fables).

And the change on the content of the story is the main reason of the popularity of the modern shadow puppet over the traditional one. The modern shadow puppet story put more emphasis on give more portion to slapstick comedy rather than the story while the traditional shadow puppet stress on the story and giving good advice for the audience.

Cenk Blonk

Cenk Blonk

Cenk Blonk

Cenk Blonk

Cenk Blonk

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    • ashlee shin said:

      Hello, this is a student in Taejon Christian International School forging a study on the Indonesian Wayang Kulit theatre. I was wondering if you would be willing to provide me with information about the Indonesian Shadow Theatre.

      1) When staging the Wayang Kulit performance, what are the lighting considerations for the theatre piece?
      2) Are there any special lighting angles?
      3) How should the stage be set up to best display the puppet images to the audience?
      4) Where are the musical crew placed during the theatre?

      If you are unable to provide me such information, perhaps you can refer me to someone who would be able to assist me in answering such questions.

      Thank you for your time and I look forward hearing from you.


      Ashlee Semin Shin, Taejon Christian International School, South Korea

    • sidarta said:

      For adequate information on wayang in english please refer to Fred. B. Eiseman. Jr’s book entitled “Sekala and Niskala”. this book comes in 2 volume.
      1. the traditional form of lighting in wayang kulit is using a wick lamp which is hanged above (and in front) the puppeteers head behind the curtain.
      2. as far as i know, there is no special lighting angle in modern shadow puppet performance, only modern lighting equipment placed in traditional lighting angle (behind the curtain in the center of the stage above the head of the puppeteers)
      3. the musical crew on the back of the curtain behind the puppeteer.

      you can also check this article for further information

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