Gamelan Sari Raras

27 Apr

Gamelan music is a thrill to watch on its own, but it’s especially delightful as the accompaniment to wayang kulit, Indonesian shadow puppet theater.

This centuries-old art form is traditionally performed at community-wide gatherings, beginning in the evening and lasting until dawn. Last weekend I got to see a truncated two-hour version of “Gatutkaca’s Journey” at UC Berkeley featuring their campus ensemble, Sari Raras.

The dhalang is the single person in charge of handling the puppets, narrating the story (all well known, but he or she must incorporate current events, pop culture or fart jokes) and directing the gamelan with narrative cues. Midiyanto is Cal’s resident dhalang.

One of the best parts of these performances is they encourage the audience to move all around the stage, just as they would in a Javanese village. I got a prime spot behind the kenong. Not so great for vocal acoustics, though.

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