Bangsawan (1870–1940): An Analysis of Modern Performance Elements and Its Role as Transitional Link Between Traditional Malay Theatre and Modern Malaysian Drama

  • Zainal Abd LATIFF
  • Gan Eng CHENG


Bangsawan is a transitional theatre which played its role as a transitional link between traditional Malay theatre and modern Malaysian drama. Bangsawan served as an entertainment and an important link in the history of Malaysian theatre. Bangsawan was first performed in the 1870s as an adaptation of the Gujarati Parsi theatre which toured Malaya. The term tiruan wayang Parsi, or imitation wayang Parsi, was used to describe local troupes performing Parsi plays in the Malay language. By the 1920s and 1930s, Bangsawan had created its own “culture” in terms of stars, fashion, music and dances. It was the new medium of cultural expression for Malay’s urban dwellers. Bangsawan declined after 1945 when audiences were lured away by the cinema and the disaster of World War II. This article will reveal the important moments in the life journey of Bangsawan from 1870 to 1940. This article will also analyse the modern characteristics in Bangsawan and compare it with traditional theatre, mak yong (An ancient Malay dance theatre form incorporating the elements of ritual, stylized dancing and acting, vocal and instrumental music, song, story and formal as well as improvised spoken text. (See Ghulam’s Dictionary of Traditional South-East Asian Theatre, 1994, p. 160.)) and modern Malaysian drama.


Malay traditional theatre Silat Bangsawan Malay modern theatre 


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) and, if applicable, The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zainal Abd LATIFF
    • 1
  • Gan Eng CHENG
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Malaya Kuala LumpurKuala LumpurMalaysia

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