Ghazal Parti a fading art in Penang

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GEORGE TOWN: The art of boria is alive and well in Penang, but ghazal is disappearing, according to a cultural officer.

Penang is synonymous with boria, the group performance of singing and dancing punctuated with comedy sketches and Mohd Rizal Ismail, state director of the National Culture and Arts Department, says there are 10 active boria groups in the state.

“Boria is still widely popular here and will remain so. But I’m afraid Ghazal Parti is disappearing. Only one group has sustained, the Ajenda Ghazal Party in Kepala Batas,” he told Bernama here.

Not many people were aware of the cultural art. although ghazal parti has been around for more than 100 years.

Ghazal parti is presented in concert by musicians, singers, dancers and comedians who perform on their feet, unlike Johor ghazal, which is performed seated.

Performers were originally all men because the women were not allowed to dance in the past.

“So the dancers wore women’s attire. But the community eventually came to a realisation and since then, those chosen to dance were all women,” he said.

He noted that ghazal parti used to be a crowd puller in the north of the peninsula. “The performance interspersed with slapstick comedy, normally starts at night and can go on till midnight or early morning.”

Mohd Rizal said one performer, the late Hassan Putu Mayong, was among the comedians in ghazal parti who endeared themselves to the audience by their performance.

“We realise that this heritage must be preserved and continued for future generations. So the department has taken the initiative to hold an apprentice programme to train the youth in ghazal parti,” he said.

A ghazal parti group consists of eight to 12 performers aside from musicians whose number depends on the musical instruments used.

BERNAMA