Tue, 08 Aug 2000

'Rodad': Wonosobo's religious art show

By Bambang M

WONOSOBO, Central Java (JP): The cool town located at the foot of Sumbing and Sindoro mountains has charmed millions of people with its breathtaking scenery.

But the gorgeous landscape on the Dieng Plateau is not the only fascination that Wonosobo has to offer. Visitors often come to the town to see its cultural shows, the best known being a religious art performance called Rodad.

Performed by 12 to 16 men and accompanied by Islamic songs, the dance was adopted from the graceful fighting style of the indigenous Pencak Silat martial art.

Standing face to face in two rows, the movements consist of kicking, punching and deflecting the opponent's attack.

A rodad performance usually lasts for about an hour, during which some 15 songs are sung by six to eight singers. Some sing while beating traditional drums locally known as rebana and jidor. Four rebanas and a jidor are usually used.

"Rodad is one of the popular Islamic art performances in the region," said Suprapto, 39, leader of the Putra Remaja rodad group from Tembi village, Wonosobo. He added that almost all the villages in the region have a rodad group.

Many rodad songs consist mostly of Islamic preaching, reminding Muslims not to ignore their duty to say their prayers five times a day and to recite the holy Koran verses. Some songs also tell people to promote peace and be loyal to the Indonesian government.

There are no reliable records on the history of rodad. Mujiyono, an instructor of Putra Remaja, says rodad was created by Kyai Nachrowi, a tarekat Muslim cleric from Yogyakarta. He created the dance after he moved from Yogyakarta to Wonosobo in 1942. Then Kyai Nachrowi built an Islamic boarding school there and began to introduce the art.

In the past, the dance was performed only by young men. They were mostly students of Islamic boarding schools who were learning the Koran.

"Kyai Nachrowi created it to make his students more active in reciting the Koran's verses," Mujiyono says.

Members of Putra Remaja practice rodad every Sunday and Thursday nights after they say their evening prayers (Isya)."We train from 8.p.m.to 10 p.m. in the yard of al-Huda Musholla (small mosque) in Tembi," says Suprato, who is also a potato farmer.

Even though all rodad dances have the basic movements of Pencak Silat, each rodad group has its own style. They also wear different costumes. It's not surprising, therefore, to see some rodad groups wearing Pencak Silat costumes while others choose to wear the dress of the traditional drama ketoprak.

Putra Remaja's shows focus strictly the basic movements of Pencak Silat. Other groups, such as Sari Sakti from Sariyoso village, show a more rigorous fighting style.

Others combine the dance with the use of inner energy. In one performance, a dancer had a large boulder put on his stomach which was then hammered to pieces. In another, a dancer enters a trance and proceeds to eat flowers and glass or drink perfumed oil. By the end of the show, a shaman will bring the tranced dancer back to normal by blowing air into the dancer's ear.

Rodad is often performed in Wonosobo Town Square during special events, such as the town's birthday ceremony to attract visitors. In villages, rodad is performed to commemorate Prophet Muhammad's birthday, wedding parties, and mass recitations of Koranic verses.