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Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

The Differences and Similarities Between Mek Mulong and

Mak Yong

Short History
Mek Mulung and Mak Yong are considered as the most famous traditional malay theatre
which reflect the Malay traditions to the global.
• Mek Mulung
It is traditional Malay theatre which is unique to the northwest state of Kadah in Malaysia.
It is consisting of many elements such as, acting, singing, dancing and music. All the
musicians and actors in Mek Mulung theatre are exclusively male, playing both male and
female roles.
Mek Mulung was founded in a poor family that makes living from entertainment field.
That family after long success journey attached to Mek Mulong and the group was named
Mek Mulung.
However, Mek Mulung became popular since the late 18th century and incorporates most
elements of Mak Yong, Menora and Hadrah. The theatre features a repertoire of stories
from local legends, which according to a source, amounted about 20 original stories, with
few of them survived today.

Figure1: Mek Mulung Theatre

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

• Mak Yong
Mak Yong (also Makyung) is a folk theatre and ritual performance that has taken root in
communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. As one of Southeast Asia’s age-old
traditions, it “developed from animistic beliefs and shamanistic activity”, melding
“rituals, song, dance, stories, and music” (Yousof 2004: 38)
Mak yong is a form of Malay traditional dance theatre combining acting, dance, singing,
drama, romance and comedy in a single presentation. This form of dance theatre is
believed to be originated from the old Malay Kingdom - stretching from the Patani region
of southern Thailand through Kelantan, a north-eastern state of West Malaysia.
Furthermore, one of the unique features of this dance theatre is that, the main characters
are all women, and the men play the peripheral characters to add humour and side relief
to its intricate web of multiple plots.

Figure2: MakYong Theatre Poster

However, there are a lot of differences between both theatre, their origin, the performance
and the act. But they are both expressing the traditional theatre in Malaysia, everyone on
his own way.

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

Performance format.
• Mek Mulung
The performance of the theatre is consisting of acting, singing, acing and music part.
These parts are performed based on the flow of the theatre. The performance format of
the theatre is as following:
1. The start is with ritual known as " bertabuh" ceremony by Muluna Mek
2. Then "bertabik" song is played as the opening song
3. After that, from five to seven dances is performed
4. Finally, "hikayatnya" will be presented by Pak Mulung the storyteller.
The story is about a princess who was cast off in the forest with her maidservant.
Fortunetellers managed to convince her father, the king that his daughter would bring
misfortune to the kingdom. The maidservant then made up songs and tales to entertain the
princess who was sad and crying. The princess eventually grew into young woman who
loved the songs and tales by her maidservant which took the lead of performances. Also
Mak Yong has many repertoire stories which are:
1. Dewa Muda
2. Dewa Pecil
3. Raja Besar Senyanya
4. Endeng Tejeli
5. Anak Raja Gondang
6. Raja Bongsu Sakti
7. Gading Bertimang
8. Raja Tangkai Hati
9. Dewa Indera Indera Dewa
10. Raja Dua Serupa
11. Raja Muda Lakleng
12. Dewa Panah
13. Raja Muda Lembik
14. Raja Besar
15. Raja Timun Muda

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

• Mak Yong
The performance of theatre is consisting of combination of acting, singing, dancing,
drama, romance and comedy. The art of Mak Yung is well known through the generations.
However, the typical Mak Yong performance is formatted as following:
1. Starts with an offering
2. Dances
3. Acting
4. Music
5. Improvised monologues
6. Dialogues
7. A story can be presented over several consecutive nights in series of three-hour
Mak Yong is also associated with rituals in which shamans attempt to heal through song,
trance-dance and spirit possession. There are two ritualistic performances in Mak Yong
theatre in the opening and closing. The origin of Mak Yong's rituals are rooted within an
animistic beliefs framework.
Mek Mulung and Mek Yong are having some similarities in the characters such as, The
Rja (King), Permaisure (Quen), Awang Selamat and Awang Pengasuh, Inang, and
antagonistic characters with magical power.

Costume and probe

• Mek Mulung
The nature of the theatre is reflecting the traditions in Malaysia, thus, actress and dancers
in the show wear certain traditional clothes.
1. Pak Mulung wear a pair of Malay shirt, barsamping, headdress and sibai.
2. Inang character wear piece of headgear.
3. Para Peran uses a normal wear. It may be piece of sarong and sash with shirt or
normal pants and shirts.
4. Tak Wan wear some normal clothes with black mask.

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

5. Dancers wea baju kebaya.

The mask and 'kain bebat' which used to tie their waist on each actress is what differentiate
the roles of each actress. The mask is one of the props used in the show which has been
made from wood. Also, bundle of rod called " Rotan ke Tujuh " and a stick called "
Tangkat Wan " was used.
However, Mek Mulung show is normally conducted in a place called 'bngsal'. This place
is like hut which is opened from the edges and covered from the top.

Figure 3: Mek Mulung family

• Mek Yong
Mek Yong used to be performed in the space known as Bangsal. Since the nature of stage
space has not been standardized, in door performance is also possible, for court
performances and recently various social events. The space/soil on the platform should be
cleansed by the troupe leader who is normally the "Peran Tua" or any other appropriate
Clothes and wearing are the national attire of Malaysia mostly for all the actress as
1. Pak Yong wear a tight-fitting clothes and pants made from satin cloth matched
with long samping cloth and a belt. At the chest, there will be decorated sibarlayan

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

(border) or fine colorful beads like the collar or flying clothes.

2. Peran Tua Dan Muda wears barsamping, pans and small hut.
3. The Wiseman wears some normal clothes with muffler.
4. Princess wear a Malay dress.
5. Court attendant wears a normal Malaysia dresses.
6. Mak Yong silk kebaya with gold and diamond brooch.

The stage setting for Mak Yong show does not change from the begging of the show to
the end which reflects the symbolic and anti-relism nature of the show. Furthermore, Mak
Yong show does not consume many props, it is only "Rotan Berai" for Mak Yong (King)
and wood dagger.
However, Similarities in Mak Yong and Mek Mulung includes the bundle of seven rattan
sticks held by the character of the king, called "rotan ke tujuh" (in Mak Yong a similar
rattan bundle is called "rotan berai"), and props such as the masks for jesters, "golok" or
machete (made of wood), and a piece of wood referred to as "tongkat wak" (wak's cane).

Music Instrument
Both Mek Mulung and Mak Yong theatre have high dependency on the music. It is used
in the mostly all of the performances.
• Mek Mulung
The orchestra of Mek Mulung is predominantly percussive and consists
of rebana, gong and kecerek (concussion sticks). A small oboe, the only melodic
instruments in the orchestra, complements other instruments. The musicians also do the
singing, typically in syllabic style, with little vocal ornamentation
The instruments used in the show are:
1. 1 Semborong
2. 2 Ibu Semborong
3. 1 Anak Semborong
4. 1 Gong
5. 1 Serunai
6. 2 Cerek and 3 hingga.
Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

Figure 4: Instruments used in Mek Mulung

• Mak Yong
The music that accompanies 12 surviving stories is played by an orchestra of one
bowed lute (rebab), two suspended gongs, and a pair of double-headed drums
(gendang). A heterophony (simultaneous variation of the same melody) between a
solo voice, a chorus, and the rebab creates a music with a Middle Eastern flavour.
Music in Mak Yong consists of songs - accompanied vocal, and purely instrumental
music. The songs function to explain the content of the Mak Yong’s narrative,
introducing the characters and various dramatic and theatrical elements.
Instrumental music is purely incidental to portray various dramatic moods as well as
accompaniment to various dances. The opening music known as ‘Lagu Bertabuh’,
functions as an overture, a form of instrumental ‘warm up’ and indication of the
beginning of the performance - ‘a call to performance’.

The instruments used on the show are:

1. Rebab
2. Gendang Ibu Dan Anak
3. Tetawak Ibu Dan Anak

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

Figure 5: Instruments used in Mak Yong

It is obvious that there are many differenes in the instruments used on each show. The
types of instrument are totally different but the number of instruments in Mek Mulung is
larger which reflects the musician nature of the theatre.

Lead Actor/ Actress

• Mek Mulung
Mulung is the main character is the show. He was usually assisted by three “Orang
Peran” which are “Perantua”, “PeranMuda”, “PeranKiau”, and an oracle called
TokWak, a host and a few dancers. Most of Mek Mulung members comprised of Mek
family and relatives.
• Mak Yong
In fact, there are no actual scripts for the Mak Yong theatre. The texts, referring to
scripts and songs, are handed down orally. Mak Young is considered as the main actor
of the show. Anyhow, Mek Yong theatre included two types of textual concept,
standardized and non-standardized concepts.

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

Comedian Character
There is a small difference between Mak Yong and Mek Mulung in the comedian style.
It was observed that the comedian show is more obvious in Mak Yong and specially in
men than Mek Mulung theatre.

• Mek Mulung
Dancers are used as a "chorus" especially when there is a scene in the story. The dance
started immediately after the song “bertabik”. Dancers begin dancing while sitting on the
floor by way of “membuka sembah”. The dance is ended with “susunan sembah” while
sitting. However, The Mek Mulung has strong spiritual elements. Each dance is performed
by dancers using different finger movements.

The performance normally begins with a ritual known as bertabuh where all musical
instruments will be played simultaneously. Then, an opening song called bertabik will be
sung in group and accompanied by dancing movements. There are up to 7 types of dance
in Mek Mulung:

1. Tarian Sembah
2. Tarian Gambang
3. Tarian Puteri Mabuk
4. Tarian Menora
5. Tarian Sirama
6. Tarian Puteri Masuk Bilik Air
7. Tarian Sedayung

The singing of bertabik then followed by the recitation of stories from Hikayats by Pak
Mulung, and roles from the stories will be visualised by actors performance. The transition
between scenes in the stories will be marked with a singing and pantun exchange. The
theatre is typically performed in series and can take up to 3 nights to complete.

• Mak Yong

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

Mak yong is also one of traditional dance that is popular in Malaysia. Experts believe that
Mak yong appeared well before the Islamization of the country. Itwas introduced in
Kelantan under the patronage of the royal courts. In the 20th century it existed as a folk
theatre with an all-female cast.

However, the dance drama Mek Mulung exclusively found in Kedah, incorporates the
elements of Mak Yong, Menora and Hadrah. The basic dance movements of Mek Mulung
are limited, abbreviated and crude compared to those of Mak Yong Kelantan. In their
execution, no effort is made to coordinate the movements of individual dancer. Unlike
Mak Yong Kelantan which incorporates movements of the torso, head, hands and fingers.
Mek Mulung movements mainly focused on the arms, especially thr up and down
swinging movements. However, it employs similar circular floor pattern as in Mek Yong.


"Kelantan refuses to lift Mak Yong ban". The Star. 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2017.

"Mak Yong Malaysia". UNESCO. 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2017.

Mohamed Khalaf Siddek Drama I Petroleum Engineering 17815

Prof. Dr Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof: "Mak Yong as ritual", Vol. 8: Performing Arts. The
Encyclopedia of Malaysia, 2004.

"Mek Mulung". Dance Malaysia. Retrieved 23 September 2010.

MEK MULUNG : Apa kesudahannya?

Terry Miller & Sean Williams (2008). The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian
Music. Routledge. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-415-96075-5.

"Mek Mulung". Kedah State Library Corporation. Retrieved 23 September 2010