Jl. Pramuka No. 19A
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Reog Ponorogo : History And Journey Towards ICH UNESCO

Reog Ponorogo : History And Journey Towards ICH UNESCO

Reog Ponorogo cultural heritage has been inscribed in the national inventory/register number: 201300028 in 2013 and has been registered since 2010 then updated in 2022 by the Regency Office of Culture, Tourism, Youth and Sports, Ponorogo, East Java, located on Jalan Pramuka No.19A Ponorogo.

The inventory of Reog Ponorogo involves communities, groups, and individuals, i.e., Sanggar Tari Kawulo Bantarangin, Paguyuban Reyog Putri Sardulo Nareswari, Reog Taruno Mudha, Simo Budi Utomo, Margojati Jolosutro, Singo Manggolo, Taruno Jayengrono, Margojati Jolo Sutro, Singo Budoyo, Simo Budi Utomo, Sanggar Tari Candra Waskitha, Padepokan Tari Langen Kusuma, Kartika Puri Joglo Paju, Singo Manggolo Yudo, Singo Mulyo, Galuh Suryo Hanggolono, Sardulo Sentono, Singo Bantarangin, Gedhong Manggolo, Niken Gandini, Paguyuban Bujangganong Ponorogo, Gajah Manggolo, Reog Taruna Suryo, Komunitas Kawulo Ponorogo Etan, Singo Yudha, Reog Watoe Dakon, Dapur Seni Probo Wengker, Seniman Kecil Reog Ponorogo, Yayasan Reyog Ponorogo, Simo Lodro Lelono, Handoko Kurdho, Sanggar Passwetan, Singo Bedjho Gumelar Surakarta Hadiningrat, Mudho Manggolo Sakti, Singo Liman Budhoyo Bantarangin, Suryo Manggolo Bantarangin, Sanggar Sardulo Aji Manggolo, Paguyuban Reyog Ponorogo Jabodetabek (PJPR), H. Achmad Tobroni, Ponorogo (Practitioner), Dewa, Solo (Instructor/Trainer), Y.F. Sukasno (Chair, Reog Gandekan Solo), Agung Nugroho, Ponorogo (Mentor, grup Reog Putri), Fitri, Kota Metro Lampung (Master), Agung Prayungan, Solo (Head, Konco Reog), Marji, Ponorogo (Master), dan Darno, Jakarta (Practitioner)

Reog Ponorogo’s brief history has been the pride of the people for generations. Reog Ponorogo has been around for more than two centuries. This info comes from the manuscript of Kanjeng Gusti Pangeran Adipati Anom Amengkunagara III Ing Surakarta, a Pupuh in Serat Centini. However, according to legend, Reog has existed since the Kediri Kingdom in the XI century. The story is about a marriage proposal from Prabu Kelanasewandana, the king of Wengker to Dewi Sanggalangit from Kediri Kingdom. This legend is considered to be the oldest version of Reog history. To this day, the legend of Prabu Kelanasewandana is still one of the storylines of Reog art performances in Ponorogo. The storyline became known as the Bantarangin legend version of the Reog art performance.

Apart from the legend of Prabu Kelanasewandana, there is the Suryongalam legend, the history of Reog performing art in the Hindu-Buddhist period. This version tells of a Demang Suryongalam from Wengker by the name of Ki Ageng Kutu (the name Kutu Village, in Jetis District derives from it) who used Reog to criticize the reign of King Brawijaya V of the Majapahit Kingdom (in the 15th century). King Brawijaya V was considered unable to carry out his state duties properly because of the domination of his empress. This legend is also one of the choices for the storyline of Reog performing art in Ponorogo. There are three characters in the Suryongalam version of the Reog performance, i.e., ganongan, jatilan, and dadak merak.

The two legends are clues that Reog performing art has been existed since the Hindu-Buddhist period. The art continued to be developed until the early period of Islam in Java by King Katong (Bathoro Katong) at the end of the 15th century. In this version, there are 4 characters which are modifications of the Bantarangin version, namely the kelana dance, ganongan, jatilan and sudden peacock dance. Before Bathoro Katong came to power, Reog is known by the people of Ponorogo as barongan, played by waroks. During the reign of Bathoro Katong barongan was converted into reog and used as a medium for Islamic da’wah (conveying the message of Islam). The word “reog” comes from the word “riyokun” which means husnul khatimah (good ending). So that Bathoro Katong’s struggle in spreading Islam in Ponorogo is blessed by God.

After the end of Bathoro Katong’s reign, Reog continues to be performed and preserved to this day. During the Dutch and Japanese colonial periods, Reog performances were restricted to avoid mass gatherings for fear of the emergence of nationalism or rebellion. After Indonesia’s independence, Reog gets to be free to perform. During the Old Order (1960), Reog was often used by political parties as a means to gather the masses. By 1965, a number of arts organizations, such as BREN (Barisan Reog Nasional) which was founded by the Indonesian National Party and CAKRA (Cabang Reog Agama/Branch of Faith-Based Reog) which was founded by NU. In 1997, the government organised FRN (National Reog Festival) with the aim of improving people’s welfare and promoting Reog to a national level. FRN was held alongside Grebeg Suro/Islamic New Year.

Reog Ponorogo manifested the domain of oral traditions and expressions; performing arts; social practices, rituals, and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship.

Reog Ponorogo Performing Art is a communal dance form and presented as dance theatre performance consisting of a dancer wearing a giant mask made to resemble a tiger’s head decorated with peacock feathers (Dadak Merak) and others wearing the king, warlord, knight, and cavalry soldier costumes. The performing art involves dancers who play the story’s characters of warok, jatil, bujangganong or pujanggaanom, kelanasewandana, and barongan. The principal dancer of Reog Ponorogo performance is pembarong who dances while holding the Dadak Merak to his face by biting a holder. Dadak Merak is the main character costume, a giant tiger-headed character with magnificent peacock feathers. There are two legends, which stories are often told in the Reog Ponorogo performance, the legend of Suryongalam (Ki Ageng Kutu) and the legend of Bantarangin. The Reog storyline based on the legend of Suryongalam (Ki Ageng Kutu) contains political satire delivered by Demang Suryongalam (Ki Ageng Kutu) from Wengker against the reign of King Brawijaya V who was considered weak because his empress (Princess of Campa) was too domineering. Meanwhile, the Reog story plot based on the Bantarangin legend focuses more on the story of a marriage proposal by Prabu Kelanasewandana from the Bantarangin kingdom to Princess Sanggalangit from the Kediri Kingdom. Reog Music is an ensemble of musical instruments accompanying Reog performance consisting of kendang, kempul/small gongs, kethuk-kenong/a type of bonang, slompret/trumpet, tipung/small kendang, angklung, penembang/singer, and penyenggak.

The tradition-bearer of Reog Ponorogo was originally male. In the development of Reog Ponorogo over time, it can be performed by both male and female. In fact, nowadays there are female Reog groups, where all the Reog performers are girls. In general, in reog performances, there are specific roles for men or for women only. Men usually play the characters of barong, warok, bujangganong, and clanasewandana, while women play the roles of jatil and pengrawit. Character dancers of the performing art of Reog Ponorogo portraying warok the mighty knights credited with supernatural abilities and leadership, jatilan the formidable cavalry soldiers, bujangganong the patih, klanasewandana the king, barong the king of Lodaya forest, and pengrawit the players of Reog musical ensemble accompanying Reog Ponorogo performances. 

The Reog Ponorogo Performing Arts was initially practiced and developed in Somoroto Village, Ponorogo Regency which later spread to all sub-districts and villages in Ponorogo Regency. Reog also continues to develop and spread across almost all provinces of Indonesia such as: East Java, Special Capital Region of Jakarta, Lampung, Riau, East Kalimantan, Bengkulu, Jambi, Papua, West Papua, South Sulawesi, Central Java, Special Region of Yogyakarta, West Java, Banten, Bali, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, West Nusa Tenggara, and known to exist in some countries: the United States, the Netherlands, Korea, Japan, Hongkong, and Malaysia, among others. Today, there are 367 Reog Ponorogo communities within Ponorogo Regency, 167 across Indonesia, and 13 in 6 countries, of which 5 Reog groups are located across America, the Netherlands, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong and 8 Reog groups in Malaysia.

The spread of Reog performing art outside Ponorogo Regency occurred along with Ponorogo residents who traveled for various purposes, such as work, official trips for embassies, tourism visits, and academics. Currently, the process of learning or transmitting knowledge and skills related to Reog Ponorogo is mostly done through sanggar. Some sanggar have existed for generations, there we can find the elders, so that Reog skills are not lost and follow standard rules or pakem. In the sanggar, the reog dancers learn to harmonize dance and music movements. Every player or novice music player in the Reog Ponorogo group is usually introduced and taught to all existing musical instruments, so that players are able to create harmony and synchronization. In addition to local performing arts studios, Reog Ponorogo’s skills are also taught in a limited number of schools at the junior and high school/vocational school levels in Ponorogo. In formal education, such as in SMP/Junior High School 1 Jetis and SMA/Senor High School Muhammadiyah 1 in Ponorogo Regency, the transmission of knowledge and skills is carried out through intracurricular and extracurricular activities every once to twice a week. The transmission of knowledge and skills carried out in formal education is taught by the teachers and the school’s alumni using a teaching module. Reog learning in schools faces many obstacles such as the lack of human resources, the supporting equipment for performances, the teaching time, and the tight schedule of the school curriculum. This makes learning Reog skills in schools less than optimal compared to learning in sanggar. Knowledge and skills within families, especially of Reog artists, are passed down by parents who have knowledge and experiences to their children and close relatives for generations as was done by Mrs Rickatanti Lolasari, owner of Sanggar Mudho Manggolo Sakti, Metro Lampung.

Reog Ponorogo has been performed at ceremonies of tolak bala (ward off misfortune), village clean-ups, weddings, Islamic holidays, national holidays, circumcisions, celebrations, folk festivals, welcoming guests, and before communal Qur’anic study/recital. In addition to being a place to practice art, the performing art of Reog Ponorogo also aim to strengthen the relationship between the people of Ponorogo, because every performance of Reog Ponorogo is able to attract people’s attention to gather. Reog Ponorogo performing art’s social values are shown in the mutual cooperation of lifting Reog props to the performance venue, the food and drink the locals provide voluntarily, and help each other if there is a shortage of performers. Reog Ponorogo is also used as a medium of communication by gathering large numbers of people. Stakeholders can convey moral, social, development, or other messages to communities, sanggar/local studios, groups and audiences during rehearsals and performances. The social functions are inseparable from the cultural significance of Reog Ponorogo. For the community, Reog Ponorogo is like the blood in our veins, the identity, and pride of the people. Reog is inseparable part of their lives. Before the pandemic, Reog performances can be seen almost daily in different regions, especially in Ponorogo Regency. But today, Reog Ponorogo is in danger of disappearing due to social restrictions during the pandemic.

At present, Reog Ponorogo is in danger of disappearing so that protection and promotion efforts are required, which include:

  • Research, Documentation, and Inventory. These activities have been conducted by academics, Reyog Ponorogo Foundation or Yayasan Reyog Ponorogo, and the Reog Ponorogo Performing Art Nomination’ Assisting Team for the nomination to UNESCO ICH. The objective is to know the current condition of the Reog Ponorogo Performing Art.
  • Identification and Definition. These activities have been carried out to identify the values, meanings, identities, and social functions of Reog Ponorogo, which are then defined in the language that is easily understood by the general public. 
  • Preservation and Protection. These activities have been carried out to ensure the availability of raw materials, especially for the manufacture of dadak merak, through peacock breeding initiatives. However, the initiative still needs to be improved because the result has not met the needs. Likewise for the goat’s skin, to replace tiger’s skin to make the giant mask made to resemble a tiger’s head. The Reog Ponorogo community is always involved in every Reog Ponorogo performance event to avoid misuse, decontextualization, and excessive commercialization.
  • Promotion and Enhancement. Reog Ponorogo Performing Art is in danger of disappearing; therefore, promotional activities are carried out to raise awareness especially among the younger generation so that they care and are willing to participate in the Reog Ponorogo Performing Art. One of the activities to increase community participation, the government and the Reog Ponorogo community collaborate in organising Reog Ponorogo performances in all villages on the 11th day of every month which is attended by the entire communities, groups, and individuals in Ponorogo Regency. In addition, the Reog Ponorogo Performing Art is performed every full moon on the main stage of Ponorogo Square. At the national level, Reog Ponorogo usually performs in the National Reog Festival (FRN), which is held once a year in conjunction with the Grebeg Suro/Islamic New Year celebrations. However, all of these activities, including direct promotional activities at the international level cannot be carried out during the pandemic.
  • Transmission. Reog Ponorogo’s knowledge and skills have been passed down in schools, local performing art studios or sanggar, and within families while adhering to health protocols. However, people cannot perform Reog Ponorogo Performing Art in public spaces. (f)         Revitalization. The value, meaning, and social function of Reog Ponorogo are currently in danger of disappearing. Therefore, the Ponorogo Regency Government together with the Reog Ponorogo community have agreed to revitalize Reog Ponorogo so that it continues to be sustainable.
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