ONE CHILD’S PAS­SION FOR PUP­PETS

Ka­marul Bai­haqi Ka­marul Baisah’s tal­ent has made him the coun­try’s youngest ‘tok dalang’, writes

New Straits Times - - Entertainment -

SIX-year-old Ka­marul Bai­haqi Ka­marul Baisah, or Aqi, is blessed with a spe­cial gift. Though he may have just re­cently started school­ing, he is the coun­try’s youngest tok dalang (wayang kulit pup­pet­mas­ter and sto­ry­teller).

Once he gets a hold of his shadow pup­pets and goes on stage, the Pasir Mas-born child, who is the el­dest of three boys, sur­prises and in­spires many with his nat­u­ral tal­ent at ma­nip­u­lat­ing tra­di­tional wayang kulit char­ac­ters as Sri Rama and his favourite, Ma­haraja Sura.

A fo­cused and dis­ci­plined per­former (de­spite be­ing play­ful off­stage), Ka­marul Bai­haqi presents ev­ery wayang kulit char­ac­ter’s lines well and speaks flu­ent Ke­lan­tanese Malay, the tra­di­tional lan­guage of the pop­u­lar art form.

“Since I was 3, I en­joyed wayang kulit. I have al­ways fol­lowed my fa­ther to his shows,” he said at the Tuanku Bainun Chil­dren’s Cen­tre in Ta­man Tun Dr Is­mail, Kuala Lumpur, re­cently.

His fa­ther, Ka­marul Baisah Hussin, 34, has been a tok dalang for two decades and al­ways en­cour­aged his son to at­tend his wayang kulit per­for­mances.

“My son would ob­serve my ev­ery move as a tok dalang, and mem­o­rised them be­fore retelling the sto­ries by him­self,” said Ka­marul Baisah.

Along the way, he coached his young son to per­fect his move­ments while his mother, Zamzuriah Za­hari, taught him to play tra­di­tional drums to ac­com­pany his per­for­mances.

Ka­marul Baisah al­ways stressed to Aqi that wayang kulit sto­ries were time­less le­gends of Malay cul­ture, as well as In­dian le­gends mod­i­fied to suit Malay mythol­ogy.

Zamzuriah, 35, from the Na­tional Arts, Cul­ture and Her­itage Academy (Aswara), who is also a maky­ong lec­turer, said Ka­marul Bai­haqi was prob­a­bly first ex­posed to wayang kulit while he was still in her womb.

“I at­tended per­for­mances dur­ing my preg­nancy, and when he was a baby, he used to cry a lot and could only sleep to the mu­sic of wayang kulit,” she said.

Ka­marul Bai­haqi’s tal­ent was recog­nised by Aswara’s wayang kulit master Mohd Nasir Yu­soff, a friend of his par­ents. The boy was able to count the tempo and fol­low the beat of a gong at 3.

“He of­ten fol­lows me or his fa­ther to Aswara and it is like a sec­ond home for him,” said Zamzuriah.

Ka­marul Bai­haqi, a stu­dent of SJK(C) Ser­dang Baru 2, takes reg­u­lar lessons like his fel­low class­mates. How­ever, he al­ways makes time to re­hearse wayang kulit in the evenings.

“We draw up daily and weekly timeta­bles for him, so that he has an hour or two to fo­cus on his pas­sion.

“While he still has a long way to go to un­der­stand the clas­sics deeply, he is ca­pa­ble of telling sim­ple sto­ries, which re­volve around princes de­feat­ing vil­lains,” said Zamzuriah, who is do­ing her Master’s de­gree in so­cial sci­ence at Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia.

Ka­marul Bai­haqi plans to be­come a suc­cess­ful tok dalang and wayang kulit lec­turer like his fa­ther, who in­her­ited his an­ces­tors’ knowl­edge of shadow pup­petry.

“I want to master the tra­di­tional form of wayang kulit. It en­ables me to tell colour­ful sto­ries to my friends,” he said.

Ka­marul Bai­haqi per­formed a wayang kulit piece ti­tled, Shad­ows, or­gan­ised by kakiseni at the Tuanku Bainun Chil­dren’s Cen­tre re­cently.

It is based on the book of the same name by Maya Za­harudin and il­lus­trated by Shu­fitri Shukardi.

Search’s re­mas­tered ‘Fenom­ena’ al­bum is lim­ited to 1,000 units.

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