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Each of the unique CDs listed in this web site represents not only fascinating music but also amazing stories to go along with them. Kecak is a celebrated trance dance that tells a story from the Hindu scriptures... the Ramayana. I had seen these performances before and was so captivated that I knew I had to record and film one of them. I went to Indonesia to study the music and culture. I spent time in the small village called Payangan. Teachers from both Java and Bali would come to Payangan to teach their music using the local instruments.
We had several sets of these strange instruments including Javanese gamelan, Balinese gamelan, bamboo instruments and even an ancient set of instruments called Sloending gamelan. Gamelan is an indonesian term that refers to an entire set of instruments. The Javanese gamelan consists of many tuned gongs hanging from ornately carved wooden stands. There are also different sizes of xylophone-type instruments in wonderfully decorated wood boxes with tuned bamboo resonators. Two basic scales are used with these instruments. They are called Pelog and Slendro. Both scales include notes not found on our western piano... they are notes "in between the cracks". Needless to say the music was amazing as was the accompanying religious ceremonies. One evening as I sat at dinner I asked one of the local men "Wayan" if he knew any groups that performed the Kecak Monkey dance... "Why sure. My village has a group". "Great" I replied. "Tell them I want to record and film them". A couple of days later Wayan told me that they would be happy to perform and told me when it would take place. When the afternoon arrived, I was calmly eating lunch and asked Wayan if we were on time. "No problem". I finished and hopped on the back of his small motor cycle. He started off at a very high rate of speed down the two lane road narrowly missing chickens, dogs and kids. I was holding on for dear life and very frightened. My only protection was a plastic, toy army helmet!
We finally arrived at the village temple. I was quite shaken but alive and it turned out that the whole village was there waiting for me. Wayan told me the wrong time and was too polite to interrupt my leisurely meal... I felt badly that they waited but soon I was in the middle of the amazing performance of over 60 singers and dancers chanting, dancing and singing a very strange exotic and haunting melody. It was fantastic! The performance tells of the abduction of Princess Sita by the evil king Rahwana (see picture above). He takes her to his castle. She is eventually rescued by a huge army of monkey soldiers led by the hero Hanuman and is aided by the huge winged creature called Garuda. The dancers and singers were dressed in elaborate costumes and sent me on a sonic and visual journey into ancient Hindu mythology. The only problem was that the temple was right next to a busy street, and noisy motorcycles kept whizzing by. When we were headed back to Payangan (at a slower pace this time) I told Wayan that I wanted to do it again but that we had to find a better location. Over the next several days we scouted the island and finally found the perfect spot. It was near some verdant green rice fields with many coconut palms. We rescheduled the dance and this time the entire village showed up to watch. The light was perfect and the performance stunning. Be sure you check out this amazing music.
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