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Dikir Barat

4 mins read

Dikir barat is a popular source of entertainment for the Malay community in Singapore. Traditionally a choral ensemble, a dikir barat group typically comprises a tok juara (lead vocalist), a tukang karut (jester), an awok-awok (chorus) of 12–16 persons, and a percussion ensemble of musicians playing the drums, gong, gong-chime, maracas, and sometimes a bamboo flute. The leader of the group is usually the tukang karut.

During performances, a group’s repertoire opens with tepuk sepuluh (introductory clapping), which sets the tone of the performance, then the lagu juara (opening song), which showcases the tok juara’s vocal talents. This is followed by the karut kelantan (segue) into the karut pattani (call and response). Next, the tok juara picks up with the karut yankee (upbeat, catchy song), which has a faster tempo, making it the most upbeat part of the performance. Finally, variations of the wau bulan (song of the moon kite) mark the end of the performance. Song lyrics are usually composed by the tukang karut, who uses an allegorical and allusive style for the lagu juara, and a more direct and incisive style for the tukang karut’s parts.

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