Matah Ati: A Tale of Love Through War

1 Comment 24 October 2010 / by

last night, had a ‘date’ with mbak shinta who informed me last week about this production called Matah Ati. the performance is part of Malay Festival of Arts “Pesta Raya” that was brought by Esplanade Singapore. This Pesta Raya is part of its program to present the best of regional Malay arts and culture in various genres. Matah Ati represents Indonesian culture, a production on classic Javanese tale of love during war. It’s quite interesting that the production I saw last night was actually a world premiere that showcases artists of high calibre, most of whom have spent years perfecting their craft of Javanese dance and music. It’s a grand scale of transforming the arts and Indonesian culture into a performance that really moves me, something I haven’t really seen a lot in our country.

Thanks to mbak Shinta who had invited and informed me about this production. Of course, I jumped into the invitation right away althought the truth is I haven’t really seen any live performance for quite a while now. I kinda missed it. The fact that I knew so little about this production really developed my curiosity. It was said in the synopsis that it will be presented in Javanese with subtitles. so i thought, is this a live performance or a movie? the built-up curiosity drove me to know and come see it for myself.

it turns out, it was much better that i had expected. Matah Ati is a live performance .. a musical of historical javanese tale. it was wrapped in classical dance, gorgeous costumes and mind-blowing visual! it’s so hard to explain it because i didn’t expect it coming. it’s like watching a broadway show with soul.

i’ve always fond of classical dance, indonesian culture and everything in between. sadly, i came about to understand and appreciate them only after i left the country to study abroad. even more sad is that i rarely find that kids my age truly appreciate the culture. we only got angry when we found them being stolen by others, but what exactly do we do to appreciate them? nothing! not many people would want to see javanese classical dance, unless they are close to the royal family or family of dancers. recently, i went to visit bali and insisted i want to see and introduce the live performance to naia. first thing people asked when i said that.. “are you sure you won’t get bored? the dance usually takes hours!” well, the performance only takes an hour and bored? oh my, you are so wrong! i want naia to appreciate her culture from young. it was surprising that she was actually enjoying the entire show.

Before the Show

of course, i didn’t take her to see Matah Ati but this production is an answer to what we have been missing. if Indonesians can produce more productions like this (that was done professionally, beautifully and very-well prepped) .. i’m sure many young generations would appreciate more about our culture… which means more productions like this would be created than the cheap-with-no-message-horror movies we’ve been seeing on the indonesian film industry.

briefly about the tale itself, Matah Ati is a tale about Rubiyah, a village girl in the 18th century Java. the story revolves around her and her becomings to adulthood, falling in love with Prince Raden Mas Said who was leading the war against the dutch with his army. Rubiyah then became a leader of the women’s army legion, as part of her service to the kingdom and to her Prince. a special bow and arrow is bestowed upon her and she leads her team of 40 female warriors into the war and to victory. this whole tale is done against a beautiful backdrop of love, happiness, passion and desperation, and integrates the traditional javanese customs, traditional live gameloan music and contemporary techniques.

After the Show

i really take this a fresh of breath air. i can’t really say much about it as i’m no expert, but i’m glad i went to see it. not sure though, why the world premiere is held in singapore, instead of indonesia. but i’m proud nonetheless. the show will then travel to other countries like malaysia, japan, hongkong, beijing, and jakarta. many people came and supported the whole crew. the people who sat next to us, surprisingly are not only indonesians or malays, but westerners who came to appreciate our culture. my only wish is that more indonesians would appreciate their own culture, and it would not be a once a year thing to see a production like this, and more of them in indonesia too! mbak Atilah Soeryadijaya is the writer, director, producer and costume designer for the whole production. hats off to her for bringing such production and celebrating the female javanese warriors.

after the show, i had a chance to greet the people behind the production. mas Jay Subyakto is the artistic director who had done a wonderful job mixing history with choreography and traditional music to show the contemporary side of Indonesia as nation through the combination of stage technology. the whole show was staged in 15 degree slanted metal with electronic trap door and modern lighting. it was AWESOME! good job, well done mas Jay!

The Closing


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a worker by choice, a mother and a wife by nature / owner of / co-founder of the urban mama / the urban muslimah | email: slesta[at]slesta[dot]com

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