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Romli Mahamud, the last living master of the Awang Batil or musical storytelling tradition of Perlis in Malaysia, is set to perform in Singapore over three nights from May 19 during Pesta Raya at Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.

PUSAKA, a Malaysian cultural organisation established to conduct research and create a comprehensive archive of traditional artforms, said the storyteller better known as Pak Romli will perform three stories.

The stories are Awang Akar Larak, Awang Nakal, and Awang Parang Besar where Pak Romli will perform in the Northern Malay dialect one story each night.

English synopses of the stories will be made available through QR codes for audiences who wish to read them, said PUSAKA.

It is literally a one man traditional theatre as Awang Batil is a solo performer who narrates his stories as he beats the batil, a brass bowl or belanga, a jar commonly used to store water. The storyteller also plays other instruments such as the violin, serunai (flute), rebana (tambourine) and gendang terinai (drum).

During the narration, the Awang Batil uses two masks, the Hulubalang (warrior) mask and the Wak Nujum (royal soothsayer) mask, when the respective characters appear in the stories.

Some of the most well known Awang Batil stories include Raja Dewa Lok, Raja Bersiung, Raja Berdarah Putih, Anak Lang Pak Belang, Jabat Jabit, Abu Nawas, Cerita Angan-Angan and Awang Ada Duit Semua Jadi.

Awang Batil performances were traditionally held at weddings and evening festivities and often continued till dawn, with some performances going on for two to five days.

These longer stories are usually told when someone has personally invited the Awang Batil to his home, typically after the rice harvest season.

According to PUSAKA, Pak Romli comes from a lineage of Awang Batil storytellers who have passed on their legacy and stories.

His late father, Mahamud Awang (bin) Wahid was the most famous storyteller from Kampung Pokok Sena in Chuping, Perlis. Almost all the instruments used during the show were made and used by Pak Romli and his forefathers.

Visit mes/awang-batil-of-perlis for more details.

The Singapore Pesta Raya Malay Arts Festival honours the diversity and richness of the Malay community by showcasing the best of theatre, dance, and music from the Nusantara (Malay Archipelago).

It is a celebration of the community's icons and treasures, highlighting the vibrant cultural heritage of this region.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency