Tag Archives: Indonesia

Kecak beyond tourism

cak-inovatif

Kecak, one of the most popular dramatic dance forms performed for tourists on Bali, was developed cooperatively by Balinese artists and Western expatriates—most prominently I Wayan Limbak and Walter Spies—with the explicit purpose of meeting the tastes and expectations of a Western audience.

Driven by economic considerations, in the late 1960s kecak was standardized into the kecak ramayana known today. Kecak ramayana does not appeal to Balinese audiences in an artistic sense; instead it is perceived as a traditional way of generating income for the community. In contrast, kecak kreasi or kecak kontemporer has been developed by local choreographers since the 1970s.

With its use of both pre-1960 traditional elements and Western contemporary dance, kecak kreasi is rooted in the contemporary Balinese performing arts scene. These dances appeal primarily to a Balinese audience, showing that kecak as a genre can be more than income from tourism; in its contemporary form it is valued by Balinese audiences on the basis of its artistic value.

This according to “Performing kecak: A Balinese dance tradition between daily routine and creative art” by Kendra Stepputat (Yearbook for traditional music XLIV [2012] pp. 49–70); this issue of Yearbook for traditional music, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Above and below, Cak kolosal inovatif at SMA/SMK Negeri Bali Mandara in September 2016.

BONUS: A taste of the tourist version.

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Gender wayang music of Bapak I Wayan Loceng

Loceng

Gender wayang music of Bapak I Wayan Loceng from Sukawati, Bali: A musical biography, musical ethnography, and critical edition by Brita Renée Heimarck (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2015) is at once a memorial to I Wayan Loceng (1926–2006) and a tribute to his great musical genius.

This new critical edition documents nine compositions from the esteemed Balinese gender wayang repertoire. The music derives from the musical mastery of Loceng, arguably the most renowned gender wayang expert in Bali, who lived in the village of Sukawati.

This edition places the music within a historical, cultural, and biographical context and introduces a broad theoretical framework that contains a new definition for the discipline of ethnomusicology, and substantial discussion of the genres of musical biography, musical ethnography, and ethnomusicology of the individual.

The book also introduces pertinent scholarly perspectives, offers biographical information pertaining to Loceng, delineates the cultural concepts and contexts for performance and background of the shadow play tradition in Bali, and clarifies key aspects of the music itself.

Above and below, I Wayan Loceng in action.

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Historic Balinese gamelans

Gamelan Gong Gde Denpasar

In August 1928 representatives from the German record companies Odeon and Beka were sent to Bali; their efforts resulted in 98 recordings on 78 rpm discs of a wide variety of examples of Balinese music.

As it happened, at that time Bali was undergoing an artistic revolution. A new style known as kebyar was rapidly gaining popularity, and older ceremonial styles were literally disappearing, as their bronze instruments were melted down and reforged to accommodate the new style’s requirements; the Odeon/Beka recordings preserve several musical traditions that were later lost.

These were the recordings that inspired the young Canadian composer Colin McPhee, who first heard them in 1929. McPhee went to Bali in 1931 and remained there for nearly a decade; his activities included making painstaking transcriptions of Balinese pieces.

This according to the commentary by Edward Herbst that accompanies the CD The roots of gamelan: The first recordings—Bali, 1928; New York, 1941 (World Arbiter, 1999).

Above, a Gamelan gong gede group in Denpasar around the time the recordings were made; this tradition dates from the 15th century. Gong gede survives today, as the video below attests.

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Acehnese aesthetics

Among the people of Aceh, Sumatra, four concepts of space—cardinal directional, upstream-downstream, central-point-in-circle, and geometric—guide dance formations, the making of rapa’i Pasè frame drums, and the colors and associations of  performing costumes and stage decorations.

The upstream-downstream concept, which stems from the tendency to travel upstream for raw materials and downstream for trade, associates upstream spaces with an inward-looking, mystical attitude and downstream spaces with an outward-looking attitude and commercial success. The cardinal directional concept, which is related to the upstream-downstream concept since most rivers in Aceh run between north and south, relates specific colors and metals to the four directions.

The central-point-in-a-circle concept enacts Perso-Arabic models, such as the building of towns around a central mosque, connecting Aceh with its historical links to the larger Muslim world. The dominant geometric concept, which probably dates to before 300 B.C.E., is expressed in straight lines, parallelograms, diamonds, and curved forms including figure-eights, ovals, and leaf and flower shapes.

This according to “Some implications of local concepts of space in the dance, music, and visual arts of Aceh” by Margaret J. Kartomi (Yearbook for traditional music XXXVI [2004] pp. 1–49). Below, an Acehnese dance celebrates the winnowing and planting of rice.

Related article: Balinese aesthetics

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