Tayub: The Sensual, Erotic and Controversial, yet Interesting Tradition from Java

Tayub is a itinerant entertainment troupe. Soegio Pranoto, a tayub practitioner from Nganjuk defines tayub as ditaTA ben guYUB (regulated to create togetherness), a philosophy attached in tayub as social dance.  The basic value is same interest to appreciate skill, soul, and art talent, and also the skil of gamelan players and dancers. This similarities created harmony of tayub in a form of a dance with foot beat and movement as the sound of kendang, wave of arms as the rhyme of gambang and the move of head on every sound of gong. Though in its development, ‘social’ (dance) is also defined in a general form of silaturahmi or keeping good social life

Tayub is known as romantic and erotic show. Guests or audiences are invited to dance by tied on sampur, and the guest dances with the female dancer or waranggana with the accompaniment of music requested. At the beginning tayuban was just showing gracefulness and dancing skill with eastern traditional values.
Here are important personnel in tayub:
-Waranggana or Sinden : female dancer in the beginning of the show. Usually they dance joged gambyong.
-Pramugari : The organizer of the show.
-Pengibing: Audience who take part in dancing with waranggana.
-Pengrawit : Gamelan player.
Usually tayub troupe is consisted of 17 people in total, with main members are 2 ledhek or dancers, 2 waranggana or female singers, 2 wirosworo/gerong (male singer). Tayub dancers wear costume, bustier, selendang, jarik/batik and hair bun. Guests who are given sampur or selendang, wear Javanese costume, with blangkon, surjan, stagen and keris. Usually pengibing (male invited to dance) are male age 30 to 60 years. They dance in central Java dance style with various improvisation. The richer the dance movement.

Tayub performance starts from 6 hours from 10 am to 4 pm. From 10 am to 12 am is just gamelan instrument before tayub started. Usually it is held in front of village hall with complete gamelan instruments. Tayub is an art exploring music, dancing and singing with pelog slendro gamelan. Waranggono usually sings pangkur, sinom, palaran and dolanan. There is a mystical belief that human can influence soil fertility by dancing and showing relations between man as symbol of plant and woman as symbol of sawah or farm land.

Tayuban is East Java, Central Java and Yogyakarta society tradition, actually is another kind of dance. Just like Cokek of Betawi. Cultural anthropology assumes that culture was born from a painful historical events. The suppressing feeling in the era of feudalism and colonialism was transform in art show.

Though tayub was initially gambyong art from kraton/ palace, it evolved as degraded arts and become folk at and notorious for its  dirty side, low quality and prostitution tendentiousness. Dr Suripan Sadi Hutomo, filology and folklore expert delineated that that the lower society art level  is that tayuban changed.

Tayub was called as janggrngan where waranggono or tandak or kledek or taledek or ledek dance or ngibing among blandhong or tree loggers on the periphery of forest,  Cliffort Geertz calls it as street dancer, or in Yogyakarta known as mbarang from door to door or in the crowd.

In East Java regions, this kind of social activities can be seen from the participation of community attending wedding when each family give food material such as rice, sugar and the like. This tradition is related to wedding, circumcision, or death event.This causes tayub is related to official celebration.

According to JR Brandon in Theater in Southeast Asia, Islam does not agree with figure in its arts. The impact is that regions with strong Islam identity do not have professional arts performance. But ronggeng and dombret lives well in Betawi and Sunda, though the local society has strong Islam identity. But Brandon is right about tayub, it grew in regions without strong Islam identity such as in Tuban, southern of Lamongan, Surabaya, periphery of Pasuruan, Bojonegoro, Tulungagung, Malang, Nganjuk and Madiun.

The rejection of tayub can be sen in a action to avoid the artist involved. Moslem usually will disagree tayub performance for the alcoholic drink and giving tip to the dancer. Men when asked to dance with dancer usually give tip and slip it to the bustier, between her breats, of the dancer and deemed as vulgar action. Alcoholic drink initially was served to honor attendance. When waranggana or dancers present the drink to the host means the show can be started and the audiences can drink so. The function of alcoholic drink was expected to assist someone’s confidence to dance or ngibing. But since 1970, tayub was reigned by alcoholic drink and various of brands are provided.

Female dancers of tayub were usually mocked up. Currently the sancers are called as waranggono for refine term.  Waranggana can live well with money they earn. But to be tayub dancer is not easy as it looks. Various supranatural ritual should be held by waranggana. Sometimes they are offered to drink alcoholic drink by guests. Such a difficult decision. If they drink it, their voice quality will deteriorate and if they reject it the guests may be upset. One of Supranatural rituals held by waranggana is Gembyangan.

Gembyangan is when waranggana is officially licenced or inaugurated held on Jumat pahing. The first procession is collecting holy water from Sedudo waterfall. To participate in this stage waranggana should at leat capable to dance 10 kinds of Javanese gendhing. All waranggana will be taken to meet the care taker or Sedudo waterfall to get blessed.  Afterwards they should dance in the 137 meter waterfall to show honor. Water collected in a jug and submitted to tayub elder and then sprinkled to the dancers. They are officially waranggana from that moment on.

In Serat Centini, tayub was delineated that it was identical with prostitution as the function of waranggana or tledek were as entertainer of men. Usually story in community goes that waranggana can be booked beyond performance, tledek were also known to have affair with their fans. Few married by rich men.

Tayub popularity decreases as it is identical to female seducer. This negative stereotype is used to discredit that makes tayub fans reluctant.

In the period of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965, PKI made a movement made national situation changed. Traditional arts were in critical situation. Artists activities were stuck for fear of political participation . Especially LEKRA which was affiliated with PKI. ABRI (indonesian military) then made Operasi Karya to umbrella traditional arts.

There are various regulations for traditional arts. Performing arts should get official permission from local police dept. Waranggana or dancers should hold special card. In Nganjuk, there is Waranggana inauguration annualy in Padepokan Legen Tayub, Ngajek village, Tanjunganom. The later mentioned event is held every Besar in Javanese calendar. After 6 months training of dancing and singing, waranggana will be inaugurated in punden Ki Ageng Gribig.

In Tuban tayub plays 1,500-3,000 performances.