Address : Bangun Kerto, Turi, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Art is dynamic and never static. From time to time, traditional arts undergo development and assimilation with global culture, resulting in many breakthroughs in art and culture. One of the performing arts which is a product of assimilation of different traditions is Topeng Ireng. Also known as Dayakan Art, Topeng Ireng, literally means black mask, is a new creation. It is a metamorphosis of Kubro Siswo Dance.
It remains unknown as to who created Topeng Ireng. According to some stories though, it started to develop among people living at the slope of Merapi-Merbabu Volcanoes in 1960s. At that time, when people wanted to build a mosque, before they installed the dome, they would carry the dome around the village first. The procession involved all the village people in the neighborhood where the mosque was to be set up. They would dance with the accompaniment of sounds of tambourines and hymns. This is what later developed into Topeng Ireng.
The name Topeng Ireng came from the phrase “Toto Lempeng Irama Kenceng”. Toto means to order, lempeng means in a straight line, irama means rhythm, and kenceng means fast. Thus, in a Topeng Ireng performance, the dancers march in a straight line accompanied by fast and energetic rhythm. This dance is a traditional art which combines Islamic art as a method of proselytization and martial art or the pencaksilat. So it is understandable why it features energetic music with Islamic lyrics in every performance.
Beside being a method of Islamic proselytization, Topeng Ireng is also meant to illustrate countryside life in Merapi-Merbabu slopes. The firm movement signifies the physical strength of the people when dealing with nature for survival.
Before widely known by the name Topeng Ireng, the performing art used to be called Dayakan. It was not without reason though. Dayakan came from the type of the costumes the dancers were wearing during the performance. The lower part costume resembled that of Dayak people. Later on, the term Dayakan was considered to contain racial prejudice. Thus people changed it to Topeng Ireng. Weirdly though, since 2005 some people began to revive the name Dayakan so that the art is now known by two names, Topeng Ireng and Dayakan.
The main attraction of Topeng Ireng is obviously the costume of the dancers. Every dancer is wearing a head-dress of colorful feather arrangement like that of Indian chiefs. In accordance with the head-dress, their makeup and wardrobes are also like that of Indian people, fringed and full of bright colors. The lower part costume looks like that of Dayak people though, something like skirt. As for footwear, they put on gladiator-esque shoes or boots fitted out with bell bracelet to produce tinkling sounds in every movement.
Every Topeng Ireng performance is very lively with the sounds of music and singing. There are footsteps that produce tinkles in turn, the dancer’s yelling, the music, the voice of the singers, not to mention, the crowd. The music accompanying the performance is played with usual musical instruments such as gamelan, small drums, terbang, bende, flutes, and tambourines. The rhythmic strains of music will blend with the dancers’ movements and loud yells to make the show attractive, energetic, and deeply religious. The dancers will look very expressive during the show.
Topeng Ireng dance is actually easy to learn because it is relatively simple. There is no complicated movement as the most important thing in this dance is the harmony of the dancers. The more the dancers are, the prettier the dance will look. And since there is an element of pencaksilat in it, the dance is really like pencaksilat movements with some modification.
Another uniqueness of Topeng Ireng, compared to other folk arts, is that the movement changes. From time to time, there is a new innovation in a Topeng Ireng performance. They develop the artistic features and choreography of the dance in order to keep their audience’ enthusiasm as well as to attract young people to join the Topeng Ireng group.
Topeng Ireng performance contains two kinds of dances. The first is called Rodat, which means two sentences of syahadat (Muslim confession of faith). This section features basic pencaksilat movements accompanied by Islamic hymns. The other dance is called Monolan, in which the dancers are wearing animal costume. This dance contains mystical elements and higher level of pencaksilat movements. The performance duration is very flexible as there is no fixed rule in this matter. It can be 15 minutes, 10 minutes, or even 5 minutes.
As a folk art, Topeng Ireng is performed in special occasions like Bersih Desa ceremony, cultural procession, local festival, and so on. The venue changes but the most often area to feature Topeng Ireng is those at the slopes of Merapi and Merbabu.
If you want to watch this performance, you should come to the northern part of Sleman Regency, precisely in Wonosari Village, Bangunkerto, Turi, Sleman. There is the Siswo Kawedar Topeng Ireng Group that is well-known among people. Although there is no show agenda, every Tuesday and Saturday, the group practice from 19.30 West Indonesian Standard Time until late. So if you want to get to know about this dance, just visit this place at that time. You can also call Siswo Kawedar Group’s contact person, Subardi (087831187922), for their schedule of Topeng Ireng show.
Turi can be reached by private and public transportation. As the place is situated in northern part of Sleman, where there are lots of Sleman main tourism destinations, the road is already in a good condition.
There is no ticket to watch the show. People only have to sit and watch. But it will be different if the show is performed in a hall or certain tourism object because entrance ticket will be applied.
F. Accommodations and Other Facilities
The show is carried in a yard, neighborhood hall, or the village court, so people will not get any facilities. Those who want to watch the show will have to stand among others. And to continue the trip, there are many other tourist destinations around there which are really worth-visiting. Some of them are Salak Pondoh Garden, Kaliadem Lava Tour, Ullen Sentalu Museum, and Kaliurang.
If you need a place to stay and at the same time, want to feel the cold air of Merapi slope, there are many hostels in Kaliurang with various tariffs. However, if you want to experience living in a green countryside, there are lodgings in Srowolan and Pentingsari Tourism Villages.
Text: Elisabeth Murni
Translation: Reza Daffi
Photo(s): Collection of Jogjatrip.com
(Primary data and various sources)