Kelantan is hailed as the cultural haven of Malaysia. Located on Jalan Mahmud one block behind the museum, reached via either Jalan Sultan Ibrahim or Jalan Hospital which is close to the Perdana Hotel, the cultural centre or Gelanggang Seni is a place where Kelantan’s rich cultural heritage may be witness.
This is where you will get a first hand experience of some popular folk arts and favorite past times of the Kelantanese. You can enjoy the cultural performances and traditional games and pastimes handed down through generations. Wayang Kulit (shadow puppetry) shows, Silat (the Malay art of self defence) performances and Gasing (top spinning) displays are all available here.
Silat is an ancient Malay martial art, incorporating a lot of interestingly dramatic stances. This particular style of Silatis performed to the increasing tempo of the traditional drums and the wailing of the ‘serunai’.
You may watch Wau (giant kite) chase each other playfully in the azure sky. There are three main Wau shapes here, the famous Wau Bulan or moon kite, named for its crescent like tail shape, the Wau Jala Budi or women kite,
which takes on the curves of a women, and the Wau Burung Puyuh, the barred busted quail kite. Each Wau is designed according to its own set of elaborate motifs, adhering to the traditonal style of artwork expected of each design. It is accompanied by a hummer, which produces various buzzing and purring sounds when soaring upon the wind. But apart from creating the kite, one must be able to set the kite to flight.
You may also see tops the size of dinner plates spin rantically for hours and listen to the rich resonant of the Rebana Ubi (drums). The fun goes on even though the sun has set.
In the evenings, there will be cultural performances featuring traditional Malay music while the shadow play will be the highlight of the evening. The cultural performances such as the mak yong, wayang kulit and main puteri take centrestage.
The Wayang Kulit or shadow play, is an old form of storytelling, originating in the country some 250 years ago. This theatrical entertainment seems to possess strong roots in Javanese and Hindu tradition.
The Wayang Kulit is an exciting play of lightd, the master puppeteer, or ‘Tok Wayang’ sits behind the back lit semi transparent screen, animating his characters, each carved intricately upon buffalo and goat parchments. These characters have swiveling arms, which allow them to express themselves through their dramatic hand actions.
The Tok Wayang modulates his voice, weaving between characters, and giving birth to a myriad of captivating personalities. The silhouettes float across the screen, telling the stories told so many yeras ago, each time enchantingthe audience, transporting them to the kingdoms of old.
Mak yong, mounted on Saturday night, are enced by Thai tradition and providing a fine balance between singing, dancing, romance and comedy – colorful enough for outsides, though hardly fast-moving. The tok dalang manipulates the puppets (made from buffalo hide and mounted on rattan sticks) and modulates his voice to create drama and suspense.
Despite a growing tendency towards commercialism, with souvenir stalls and performers wearing logo T-shirts, a visit to the center is still the easiest way to see many of the arts that are dying out elsewhere in Malaysia, and the standard is consistently high. As you enjoy the countless hours of local entertainment, remember that you won’t get the same myriad of pleasures anywhere else in the country. Demonstrations are held daily.
The cultural centre is open three times a week from March to October each year except during Ramadan (check with the Tourist Information Center for detail). It will also be closed during the months of November and December. Show Times: 3.30 pm – 5.30 pm (Sat, Mon & Wed) and 9.00 pm – 10.30 pm (Sat & Wed). Admission is Free.