Boria is a kind of performance that incorporates singing, music and dancing. This 3-in-1 element is the most unique performance art in the world.
Usually, messages carried across in a Boria performance are of current affairs issues but conveyed in a light manner, sometimes even comical. Interestingly, Boria performances do not have a fixed script so the lines delivered may differ from one performance to the other although done by the same group of people consecutively.
Boria was first performed by the Syiah tribe every 10 Muharram on the Muslim calendar, in memory of the murder of Saidina Hussein by the troops of Muawiyah Bin Abi Suffian. This art was initially performed by men only, and even if there were female characters in the script, men would be dressed as female to carry out those roles.
When Boria started to get popular in Penang, it was still only an all-male affair, until religion dictated that men could be not dressed as women. It was then that women started to involve themselves in the art.
Nobody really knows how the word Boria came about but there are a few opinions. Some think that Boria is the name of one of the popular Boria actors, while others think that it originated from the Hindustani word, Borai, which means ‘psychotic’ and truly, some performances are rather over the top.
At this point, Boria is a dying art and while there are younger people beginning to get involved in performances of Boria, senior citizens make up the audience.
Also, Penang remains the only state where Boria is performed on a large scale publicly. For instance, there is a Boria Festival this August 2014. As for the rest of the states, most learn Boria as part of the syllabus for performing arts in institutes of higher learning.
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