KETOPRAK PART 1: The Javanese Ketoprak Journey

This area has various functions, such as water inflitration,  city lungs, public recreation, and also as the cultural center for the city dwellers. And, seems, this place has been part of culture evolution. Well, yes, this place is Taman Balekambang, located in Surakarta, Central Java.  Here we can watch ketoprak show, as one of agenda when visiting Surakarta.  In 1921, KGPAA Mangkunagoro VII, erected Taman Balekambang. Initially this park was a pond, and city forest dedicated to the king’s princesses, GRAy partini and GRAy. Partinah, and later in teh future made history in the evolution of ketoprak in Java. Balekambang ketoprak troupe entertained Surakartans and people in the vicinity in 1950, with a very modest stage.  Nowadays a theater building built in the end of the 80ies, replaces the old building and used as the arena of ketoprak artists.

Historian believe that ketoprak arised in the second half of the 19th century in the vicinity of Kasunanan Surakarta and Kasultanan Mataram Yogyakarta. Ketoprak is a new art and it is an agrarian art.

The agrarian culture can be seen vividly in hardwork to cultivate the land together, and the merry of harvesting time together. When they work there are jokes. Actually the jokes are the elegancy of the Javanese  who live in harmony as the embryo of folks drama. This became the base of expression.

As a local wisdom, ketoprak art is very close to society-legends, characters and pronunciation. Psyshologically, ketoprak is just like Homo Ludens, humans who like to play.

Kethoprak is not only evolving in the center of Javanese culture. We can visit Blora which can be reached by driving to the northeast of Surakarta, where located a village which tries to conserve ketoprak. This village is Wado, one of 17 villages in Kedungtuban district. Wado is accessible from Cepu-nearby East and Central Java border, which is popular for its oil industry.

Visiting Wado is very joyful. We can interact with friendly locals. The village houses are mostly Limasan, made of teak wood and have been dwelled from generation to generation. Blora traditional peformances can also be seen here, such as ketoprak, tayub, barongan, wayang kulit, wayang wong. In the past there was krucil performance yet, it is no longer exist. Currently there are 5 villages with ketoprak troupe.

Ketoprak is performed in Wado village in 1960s. There were two troupes: Wado Kidul and Wado Lor. Yet, since 1980s, this traditional performance faded.  Wado has Krida Madya Budaya troupe. After 2012 harvest, they started their first debut, collaborated with Kridha Mudha from Tanjung village. The show of ketoprak in Wado Village perform its local people daily life.

Nowadays, the troupe still rent stage, costume, gamelan, sinden and pengrawit. Some of the actors are from other villages. All ketoprak actors are  village officials.