Sahur Tradition in Indonesia

June 21, 2018 | Ahmad Gabriel


It is 2:30 AM on a cold dark morning in the suburb of Jakarta. The youths ngarak bedug, parade to the street pounding out crude rhythms on their drum breaking the morning’s silence. They sing traditional religious songs, chanting verses and random songs such as of Jakarta’s soccer team to wake up the neighborhood.

Ngarak beduk is a tradition that has continued for hundreds of years to wake up the neighborhoods in Jakarta for pre-dawn meal (sahur) in the holy month of Ramadan. Fasting is the religious duty of all Muslims during Ramadan. Before fasting from dawn to sunset, the faithful consume sahur before the morning prayer.

Some 6 to 10 youths walk around neighborhoods singing songs and chanting verses to wake people up for sahur. There are other traditional percussion instruments, such as a slit-bamboo tube (kentongan), a tambourine (rebana), a tambourine with jingles (genjring) as accompaniments to the sound of the mosque’s big drum (bedug) pushed around on a wheeled cart.  The youths are doing different tasks of pushing the cart, beatings bedug, kentongan, rebana, genjring while chanting or singing songs. A more modern drum is used in some places where bedug is not available. It is common to have 2 to 3 ngarak beduk groups to wake people up to prepare sahur.



Similar to that in Jakarta, in Kuningan West Java this tradition is named ubrug-ubrug. They sing and chant traditional Sundanese songs and shalawat to the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments such as kohkol, genjring, flute and bedug. The voices blend in harmony makes up a traditional music that is different from any other.

The tradition is called percalan in Salatiga, Central Java. At nights, the youths stay overnight at the mosque and wake up to do percalan around the village in the early mornings. Other than traditional musical instruments, uniquely they also use used buckets, scrap metal and other recycled musical instruments so that the resulting sound is more varied.

Meanwhile, Brebes has a tradition called burok. Burok is a large puppet or giant figure which made of bamboo frame with a beautifully carved mask or face. The youths carry burok around the village while playing the typical music of north coast of Java (Pantura) and singing Islamic songs. In addition to playing music, the youths also knocked on the neighbors’ doors to make sure they wake up and prepare for sahur. The neighbors respond positively to this tradition and think it is very effective. Once awake, many follow and enliven the procession until the burok and its musical accompaniment finished making its round.

In Makassar, this long tradition of awaking people for sahur is called paraga. This tradition basic movements follow sepak takraw and acrobatic movements. The movements are, uniquely, performed while walking and singing, and dropping the takraw ball is prohibited. An acrobatic formation of a human pyramid is part of attraction. All of these movements require good body balance and coordination techniques. A slight mistake can cause fall and injury. In addition to waking and entertaining people, the residents value this tradition as an effort to preserving a unique culture that is slowly dying.

Not much different from the other regions in the archipelago, this tradition is known as bagarakan sahur in South Kalimantan. In the upstream areas of South Kalimantan, youths often use musical instruments, such as drums (babun), suspended gongs (agung), and flutes. In Barabai area, bagarakan sahur goes around the village on a cow-drawn cart playing the various instruments to wake people up.

The tradition of waking people up for sahur (membangunkan sahur) in Bungku Town (Kota Bungku), Marowali, Central Sulawesi is not by way of drumming the drums and walking around the village, but through a tall bamboo structure called dengo-dengo. Dengo-dengo means a place to rest. Dengo-dengo is a towering structure nearly 15 meters high made of bamboo poles for support, a 3 × 3-meter square of wood plank for the floor and sago palm leaves for the roof. Dengo-dengo is erected by way of mutual help between villagers (gotong-royong) before Ramadan.

Dengo-dengo, the tradition to wake people up for sahur, has been around in Bungku since the spread of Islam circa the 17th century. The structure is also equipped with gongs, drums, and tambourines and attended by about eight people. Almost every neighborhood (RT) has a dengo-dengo. At the time of sahur, the guards of dengo-dengo beat the gongs and drums and tambourines to wake people up for sahur. Dengo-dengo is deliberately made high so that the sound can go far. Dengo-dengo is also used by residents during late afternoon as a place to rest while waiting to break the fast. That is why, dengo-dengo is always crowded with locals.



The unique tradition of waking people up to have sahur in Ramadan illustrates the diversity of Indonesian arts, culture and creativity, which is used to help others, to safeguard the cultural tradition and to pass on to younger generation of the region.

Ahmad Gabriel
Ahmad Gabriel dilahirkan di Jakarta, 13 April 1987. Menyukai dunia menulis, sastra dan desain saat nyantri di PP. Al-Amien Prenduan dan pernah menjabat sebagai Ketua Sanggar Sastra Al-Amien. Saat ini diamanahi sebagai Ketua Departemen Pengembangan Wilayah DPP Pemuda PUI.
Tags : Puasa, Ramadhan, Sahur

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