Mak Yong is an ancient dance-theatre form incorporating the elements of ritual, stylized dance and acting, vocal and instrumental music, story, song, formal as well as improvised spoken text. It is performed principally in the state of Kelantan, Malaysia. Many theories have been advanced to explain the genre's origins, though it's generally acknowledged that it's deeply rooted in animism as well as shamanism.
Today, the genre is performed in three basic styles:
(a) As non-ritual theatre for entertainment per se,
(b) As ritual theatre associated with healing and done in combination with the shamanistic main puteri; and
(c) As urban commercial theatre.
Briefly early in the present century, an unsuccessful attempt was made in Kelantan to create a palace version of mak yong.
The mak yong orchestra is made up of a three-stringed spiked fiddle (rebab), a pair of double-headed barrel drums(gendang) and a pair of hanging knobbed gongs(tetawak) while the genre's musical repertoire consists of approximately thirty pieces, most of them accompanied by singing and dancing. No stage-properties and few simple hand-properties are used.
The mak yong repertoire consists of a dozen or so stories, still existing in the oral tradition, dealing with the adventures of gods or mythical kings. The principal, and earliest story in the mak yong repertoire, entitled 'Dewa Muda', has tremendous spiritual significance.
Mak yong performances last from about 9.00pm to midnight, and it takes several nights to complete a story.