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Performing Arts

Salawat Brahi


The rebana of Salawat Brahi.
From Sri Hastanto's Collection

Salawat Brahi is performed as part of an Islamic sectarian religious ceremony. It is a solo vocal as a kind of introduction by male or female vocalist followed by a mixed chorus sung by all members of the sect. The membranophone rebana and kendang create an interlocking rhythm when the chorus has been established. In a religious ceremony the salawat is usually performed from 9.00 p.m. until dawn. Nowadays it is also performed as an artistic presentation that lasts about two hours.

Reasons for selection

Salawat Brahi is found in Cirebon (West Java Province). It was one among some hundred kinds of Islamic music in Indonesia called salawat. Salawat Brahi, however, is extraordinary salawat since this is not performed by a group of artists nor musicians but all members of the society of Islam, Sunan Gunungjati: men, women, old, young, even children who gather and perform this salawat as part of their religious ritual. The music is basically vocal accompanied by simple rhythm of rebana (one- headed drum)and kendang (two-headed drum).

Area where performed

Bayalangu, Cirebon (one of regions in West Java province)

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Ceremony

Detailed explanation

Sunan Gunungjati, one of wali (Islam disseminator in the former time), is very popular in the region of Cirebon. The people of Bayalangu village are believed to be descendants of the wali. They have their own Islamic religious ritual using Salawat Brahi as a part of the ceremony. Salawat is a praise to the prophet Mohammed that can be sung or just recited. In Salawat Brahi the praise is sung using Arab language and also Javanese-Cirebon language.

The performance starts at 9.00 p.m. All members of the sect, around 50 people (men, women and children), sit together in a special house or in a cemetery where Sunan Gunungjati and his descendants are buried. They also bring some offerings that are placed around their area. One of the leaders of this sect (male)begins to sing an introduction passage and is followed by another leader (woman)singing the same passage with a kind of canon technique. After a while the congregation join together and form a chorus. The melodic sentences change from free rhythm becoming metrical. The children also sing along with their parents. When the rhythm has been established, the kendang and rebana are played in a simple interlocking pattern.

When the song comes to its climax the people seem to be unconscious. They are singing and clapping their hands in certain places. From the beginning until the end of a song, the chorus, drums, hand clapping, and voice of night insects build a magical atmosphere.

Publication and textual documentation

already available

Audio documentation

already available

Visual documentation

already available

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Directorate for the Arts, Directorate General for Culture, Department of National Education, Republic of Indonesia.

Data provider

Dr. Sri Hastanto
Director for the Arts
Directorate for the Arts, Directorate General for Culture, Department of National Education
Address: Gedung E Lantai-9 Komplek Depdikbud, Jalan Jenderal Sudirman, Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia