Records on the origin of Boria are fairly limited but it was first mentioned by H.T. Haughton in 1897 which according to him, it was first brought to Penang in 1845 by the Muslim soldiers of 21st Madras Regiment. It was originally played to celebrate the annual Shiite festival, the Mourning of Muharram. In 1910, R.J Wilkinson, a Straits Civil Service officer and a noted scholar of Malay studies, made a comparison between the boria of Madras and Penang, and established that the resemblance was only in name, for the show as then known in Penang had evolved to a totally different form.
A typical Boria troupe consists of a leader, a chorus, comedians and musicians. The performance normally begins with a short comic sketches and followed by a song-dance routine featuring a juxtaposition of choral and solo parts. The song-dance routine commonly performed in a western music style and with dance forms such as rumbas, cha-cha-cha or soul.
Boria’s theme varies from Arab warriors, European traders to Chinese shopkeepers around which the costumes and comic improvisations revolved. The main melodic instruments has consistently violin but various Western, Malay, or Indian drums and Chinese cymbals are also used in the performance.
- Rahmah Bujang (1987). Boria: a form of Malay theatre (Local history and memoirs). Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. xii,1 & 2. ISBN 978-9971-988-58-6.
- "Boria". Dance Malaysia. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- "Music for Theater: Boria". Musicmall Production Pte Ltd. 2004. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- Terry Miller & Sean Williams (2008). The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian Music. Routledge. p. 236 & 237. ISBN 978-0-415-96075-5.