The ancient, time-honored art form known as wayang kulit (literally, “leather puppet theatre” or “shadow puppet play”) is found in many arts of South-East Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia. Within the former there are at least four distinct traditions – this book focuses on the music of the tradition known as Wayang Kulit Siam (or Wayang Kulit Kelantan). As the name would imply, this form of puppet art originated from the east coast state of Kelantan. Not only is Wayang Kulit Siam recognised as the oldest form of shadow puppet in Malaysia, it is also the most famous and important.
Malaysian Shadow Play And Music: Continuity of an Oral Tradition is an important ethnomusicological study focusing on the musical and dramatic aspects of wayang kulit hitherto neglected by scholars. Based on interviews and recordings conducted by the author in the villages of Kelantan, as well as on her experience as a student performer in one of the finest and most skilled wayang kulit troupes in Malaysia. The book is divided several informative and easily readable sections, beginning with a useful overview of the various types of wayang kulit in Malaysia. Other sections continue the discussion on the main theatrical conventions: puppet design, performance structure, musical repertoire, orchestral instruments, and characteristic features of the music of wayang kulit Siam.
The text is complemented by very useful photographs of performers, instruments, performing areas, and puppets … the book’s coverage of its principal subject matter is well done. This is an excellent and important book that provides information not available elsewhere. It should prove useful to anyone interested in the traditional performing arts, folk literature, or cultural history of Southeast Asia. – James D . Chopyak, California State University Sacramento
This book is a welcome addition to earlier works on wayang kulit Siam by Amin Sweeney and Ghulam Sarwar which analyse the dramatic repertoire, types of puppets and ritual aspects. Matusky’s manuscript is important as it is the first comprehensive ethnomusicological study which deals with the musical repertoire and instruments of the wayang kulit Siam. – S.B. Tan, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume 59 / Issue 03 / October 1996, pp 613-614
About the author
Patricia Matusky is an ethnomusicologist who has done music field research and taught for many years in Malaysia. She authored many articles on the traditional music of Malaysia in encyclopedias and international journals. Her publications as co-author include Muzik Malaysia: Tradisi Klasik, Rakyat dan Sinkretik (The Asian Centre 1997) and Pengantar Muzik Malaysia, Vols. I-II (The Asian Centre 1998-99) with Tan Sooi Beng, and Muzik Wayang Kulit Kelantan (The Asian Centre 1998) with the Dalang Hamzah Awang Amat. She graduated with a BMusic, AMLS (Information Science) and PhD (ethnomusicology) from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor USA), and MA (musicology) from Hunter College of The City University of New York. Her early research focused on the music of the Malay shadow play and other theatrical music, while continuing research involves Malaysian musical instruments, folk and classical Malay music and the music of Sarawak, Malaysia. Matusky also studied and apprenticed with Hamzah b. Awang Amat, one of the most highly skilled and time-honoured dalangs in Malaysia.