Thursday, May 28, 2009

Karang Tumaritis

On Tuesday of this week (26 May) at the invitation of Mas Kristiadi I attended the live broadcast of the weekly talk show Karang Tumaritis. I knew both Mas Kris and the main host Mas Altianto from Mas Alti's Wirobrajan arts lab sessions. Mas Alti invited to appear as a guest on the show, and Mas Kris thought it would be a good idea if I came once to observe the format.

There are 3 regulars on the show - the famous kethoprak actress Yati Pesek, Mas Alti and a siter player who also plays a kind of servant named Robet. They led off with some comical dialogue (written by Mas Kris) and then two guests from the kraton appeared and spoke about the status of the kraton lands in relation to certificates. One of the guests was the sultan's younger brother.

Mas Kris shared a copy of the script with me before the show and I noted the appearance of Semar. I asked him what actor would play Semar and he said it was someone very famous. As it turned out it was Mas Kris himself, who did two brief monologues with a wayang kulit puppet (shot in shadow). Mas Kris kept closely to the written script, but the other actors diverged wildly, with much improv.

All dialogue in the show, and costumes, are Javanese. After the show, Mas Kris spoke about this as a 'not for profit' part of the station's profile. Guests are not charged for appearing - though they commonly use the show to promote their own interests and businesses.

Mata Hari, the opera

Last night I attended a vocal rehearsal of Vincent McDermott's opera, Mata Hari, at ISI's pascasarjana campus. Originally performed in English in the US, the opera has been translated into Indonesian and will receive two performances in Taman Budaya Yogyakarta in July. The opera features a cast of 5 principals and a chorus of 16, along with an orchestra of 10 gamelan players and 5 Western musicians. The music is complex, with frequent changes of metres and much use of dissonance. There are 8 scenes and the running time will be about 90 minutes. The conductor is Ed van Ness and the director is Joned Suryatmoko.

I met Vincent before the rehearsal and had a chance to talk to him about his work and life. Vincent has been living in Yogya for the last 5 years, and has a Batak wife and a two-year-old child. An academically trained composer, Vincent was introduced to gamelan around 1965 while he was living in Amsterdam for a year by Ernest Heins. Heins brought him to the Kunst sound archive and Vincent promptly fell in love with the rich sonorities of Javanese gamelan. Trained at Penn, he taught for many years at Lewis and Clark in Portland, Oregon, and founded the gamelan programme there. He also established the William and Mary gamelan. Vincent originally came to Yogya as a Fulbright professor of musical composition at ISI after his retirement from Lewis and Clark. He had previously visited Solo on a number of occasions, with stays ranging between 1 and 3 months. He realised quickly though that Yogya was a better destination for long-term living, due to its mixture of modern/Western and classical/Javanese musical scenes, and has stayed on.

Mata Hari is one of two operas that Vincent has written featuring gamelan. (The other has a libretto by Kathy Foley and is about Panji.) Mata Hari puts forward the conceit that the dancer Zelle received a boon of dance from Nyai Roro Kidul, goddess of the south seas. When she becomes too arrogant, the goddess abandons her and she is executed.

I found the singers to be very strong, the rehearsal pianist quite sharp, and van Ness very sensitive musically. There was a real sense of purpose in the rehearsal - no fooling around. At van Ness' request I spoke to the singers for a few minutes about the historical Mata Hari and answered a few questions. A shame I won't be able to see the performances....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Diskuski with Pardiman at Wirobrajan

Last night (18 May 2009) I attended a Monday night performance/discussion event at Jl Gatotkaca 7, Wirobrajan, the house of Alianto. This was another intimate, small-scale exploratory event attended by leading Yogya figures in dance, music, theatre, art and tv/film. The night was rainy and not everyone who had intended to come arrived. We started late as well. Pardiman, leader of the vocal group Akapela Mataraman offered a beginning for an interactive performance. Actually, two beginnings - the performance had to restart when Alianto left to get a video camera to record the event.

In the first event he introduced himself (in a mix of Javanese and Indonesian) as a servant of the master of a royal house. Restarting, he said he was a seeker of mystical knowledge, who had just completed studies of the esoteric art of prasasti under a respected guru figure. He asked us first to clap. Then he showed how a birth day can be turned into sound. For example '3 March' was two repeated sung 3 figures (3/3). We each presented our own interpretation of our dates of birth, then sang these together and Pardiman improvised a melody over this. He then said that objects also have a sound. He made a number of sounds that mirrored architectural forms. He then approached a pillar, with both hands outstretched in front of him, and an Islamic melody emerged. He explained that the saka was bekas mejid (once part of a mosque). We were instructed to applaud agin. This ended the event.

A discussion slowly got under way. Alianto said that this was a good way for Pardiman to travel as a solo performer - while his full group required at least 7 performers, in this way he could draw sounds out of an audience. A number of people spoke about the need to develop this dramatically in order to make an audience engage with the concept, and also to think further about the structure of the event. Pardiman said that he thought clapping itself could be played with - and conducted us in clapping.

A rather more free discussion followed - in which I spoke briefly about my book-in-progress for Palgrave, and others present (some of whom had heard me speak at Garasi, others at Sanata Dharma) chimed in their thoughts and impressions and provided valuable research leads. Alianto then suggested that I lead a discussion at Wirobrajan on the theme of performing Java in Europe. I left Wirobrajan well after midnight but the discussion was still going on, facilitated by the introduction of Korean alcohol. One event leads to another, leads to another....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cirebon: 12-17 May

I spent 12-17 May in Cirebon, during which time I managed to see two wayang kulit shows by senior Indramayu puppeteers (one by Ki Dalang Haji Anom Rusdi in Losari, the other by Ki Taham in Tugu, Sliyeg), met with friends and colleagues including Opan, Santoso, Purjadi, Kartani and played tourist in visits to Kraton Kasepuhan, Grage Mall, Sangkan Urip and Linggajati. I visited the house/sanggar of Sujanapriya (currently living in the pusat informasi right next to the kelurahan in Astana Gunung Jati). Sujana leads a wayang wong troupe and makes very nice wayang wong masks- I purchased two of these. We also visited the workshop/house of Abdul Bari, who lives in Gang Mesjid at Astana. Abdul Bari is best known for making small and life size replicas of various pusaka kereta (such as Singa Barong) but when we visited was busy making tasbe. I also delivered an Indonesian-language talk at STAIN -- based on an old-ish paper of mine on culture in Cirebon during the late colonial period.

Rusdi's performance showed many signs of influence of Central Javanese wayang - gamelan 2 prangkat, a large specially-designed panggung, impressive sound system, flashy lights, two comedians (one a little person) who performed very crude comic interludes, Central Javanese dalang outfit complete with keris, a prologue featuring a jin, kayon bolong, use of Central Javanese terms of address (eg koko prabu), flashy sabetan, Central Javanese musical pieces and a number of new instruments (including a drum kit and a beri special ordered from Jakarta). Rusdi spoke about how he devised this new style of performance with the assistance of Ki Enthus. He performs to 'melayani konsumen' -- an openly populist attitude - and, he says, his consumers 'doyan' this style, showing it is effective. This is lowest common denomintator wayang. There are bound to be people who find offense in a dalang slipping a rope over the neck of a little person and slamming him against the kotak in rhythm to the gamelan music.

Taham's performance in contrast was much more low key. Taham, according to his daughter Wangi, hasn't performed at all in the last two years due to his advanced age. The occasion was a kaolan of a haji from Tugu (a village that is absolutely fanatical about wayang) who vowed to sponsor a performance by Taham. Taham was in fine form - and while some of his puppet movement was weak and his sulukan and puppet voices were also not strong - he remained a fine story telling and his characterisation (particularly of Kresna, Gatotkaca and Cungrking) was superb. Rusdi and his son Dian were in attendance (they came in the sidnen Duniawati's car) and Wangi also brought along a few guests staying at Mulya Bhakti - a couple of film makers making a film on TKI and their Indonesian guide, a woman named Uji who works at Via-Via. The performance ended at 2am. Sadly the sound system was poor and I had trouble following much of the dialogue as a result. But it was an honour to be present at the show - Wangi commented that she did not know whether her father would perform again, and thus she videorecorded the whole performance.

Selingan at Sonobudoyo

When I originally thought about coming to Yogya for my sabbatical, I recalled the Yogya of the 1990s, a time and place when there were many venues for touristic performance. I performed wayang kulit occasionally in Yogya during 1990-1991 - there was not much money, and tourist audiences were small and not always appreciative, but I enjoyed the experience a lot.

The multiple crises starting in 1997 brought about the near end of this vein of performance, and today there is only one venue where tourists come to see wayang kulit performed nightly - the Sonobudyo Museum in the alun-alun lor.

I approached Sonobudoyo (at the recommendation of the local branch of the Culture and Tourism ministry) shortly after arriving in Yogya and was given the opportunity to perform a single 'selingan' show - one of two slots that Sonobudoyo has annually that are outside of the normal schedule. This show was not for tourists, as I initially expected, but for school children, mostly 10-12 year old kids, that is the same age as my daughter Hannah. It was a way to increase the 'apresiasi' of wayang kulit. All local schools in walking distance from the museum were invited. I also invited some 'friends' from facebook and others via hp.

I was instructed to do a Ramayana lakon - this is the regular fair at Sonobudoyo and all the puppets are set up to do this - and chose to the classic 'Sinta Colong' (Abduction of Sinta) episode, an abbreviated version of a lakon I did at the British Library in May 2009.

The performance coincided with the opening of a topeng exhibit, which meant that the kids (and me) sadly had to sit around waiting for an upacara to run its course.

Once the show got off the ground though it went smoothly with three or four blunders on my part (a mix up between two puppets, tangled up puppets in the fight scene, a mistaken voice, a suluk in the wrong pathet). Again, at the request of the Museum, I performed in a combination of Indonesian and Javanese, with some English thrown in.

The highlight for the kids was definitely the Limbukan, which featured a contest with door prizes. The kids eagerly rushed forward to identify puppets, musical instruments and musical pieces. My daughter Hannah also appeared in the Limbukan as a guest star, doing a little wayang kancil story (Kancil dan Buaya) she has been working on with Nanang for the last couple of months. The kids cheered enthusiastically at a little trick I taught Hannah with a monkey puppet.

A photographer, Denny Wijaya, took pictures and generously sent me them after the show-- for which much thanks! -- and a reporter from the Jakarta Globe will be covering the event for this English language paper.

There is a chance I will perform again at the Museum - either next month or possibly next year. Thus: to be continued....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Anoman Obong

Ki Seno Nugroho performed Anoman Obong at the monthly Ramayana wayang series sponsored by RRI, TVRI and Pepadi at Sasono Hinggil last night (Saturday 10 May 2009) to a large crowd. Seno said in the Limbukan said the ticketed audience (I paid Rp 8000 for my seat) was made up of real wayang devotees- different from the odd assortment of people who show up at his performances 'outside.' Indeed, Seno is one of the few Yogya puppeteers with a fan base, and many of them were in attendance.

It was an enthusiastic performance, with a strong supporting gamelan and 8 very attractive pesinden (a number of whom were ISI Yogya students). Mas Seno commented in the Limbukan about the importance of rehearsal (latihan)-- with training/studies (sinau) one can become competent (bisa) but only with rehearsal can one become good (apik). It was clear that the group has been rehearsing - there was a tight action-packed prologue showing Anoman's capture and numerous fast musical transitions.

Characterisation as always was strong. An angry and self-centred Dasamuka insulting everyone left and right; a beleagured Gunawan Wibisono left half-dead after being struck by Dasamuka and attacked again by the monkeys when he goes to help Rama. Sabetan, sulukan and language were all polished as always.

Again, the Goro-Goro went on too long for my taste but at least Mas Seno had the good sense NOT to include a perang kembang. In general though I think there was not enough plot development in this lakon - it felt to me like half of Anoman Duta elaborated to a full night's performance. This was perhaps not Mas Seno's fault entirely - the lakon was given to him by the organisers of the series I believe.

There was also a group of students from one of the parawisata academies handing out a very simple audience survey for a skripsi. I filled it in - and was gratefu to get a little snack box after for my efforts. The shoe is on the other foot.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


'Don't mock me, that's how kolaborasi [mixed media collaborations] go,' said Fitri Setyaningsih, one of the four performers in a fashion-dance performance to a fellow dancer from the audience after the show.

The occasion was a dance performance sponsored by the French cultural institute LIP at the upmarket Sasanti Restaurant (neary Yogyakarta's Hyatt Hotel) on 8 May. Three dancers Nita Azhar (from France), Fitri Setyaningsih (an ISI Surakarta-trained dancer who lives in Yogya) and Emily White (an American studying dance at ISI Yogyakarta) danced around Sasanti's garden in the high fashion of the Spring 2009 Paris season. Choreography (such as it existed) was by Marie Barbottin and dresses by Marie Labarelle. Tickets, though free, were very limited (available for one day only at LIP a week before the event - one ticket per person), and the audience was a combination of Yogya's glitterati, expats and artists.

The dance, which featured also Didik Nini Thowok as a 'guest artist' (appearing at the start and end in a noh mask and a long gown), was vague and spontaneous, with little in the way of technique, drama, or meaning. Fitri explained before the show that the concept behind the dance was a banyan tree with its long roots. What we saw instead was a series of costume changes. A dancer climbs a tree. Another dancer splashes around in a pond. A dancer imitates a bird. The semi-improvised movement was accompanied by rather bland neo-ethnic music improvised by the musical trio Enola & Improvasi. Marie Le Sourd, LIP's director, explained that this was the result of a 5 day workshop and was only 'work in progress'. But the question is progress to where?

My sense is that most of us at Sasanti were present for the occasion - not the performance. It was a meet and greet sort of event - and there certainly were a lot of attractive, rich, interesting and talented people present. Mas Didik's photographer explained that one of the major purposes was to get a video of Mas Didik performing in noh style to post on youtube. 11 videos on the Didik channel and counting....

Apparently the two Marie-s have created like dance-fashion events in France in the past. More rehearsal, better lighting and a lot more dancers and a faster pace might have helped.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Miliran, where I am living, was apparently once known as a kampung of artists. It still is, I guess, to some extent: our Pak RT is an ex-wayang wong dancer and kethoprak actor, and a neighbour practices saron daily. But it is also part of a perumahan, a modern housing project, and I have had less interaction with my neighbours here than my neighbours in London.

One of the pleasures of living here has been the constant flow of itinerant salespeople with their different cries and sounds (of infinite interest to my daughter) and the performers who pass by. Some have little talent, but the drummer and singer from Banyumas (pictured above) who have been touring by foot around Yogya for the last 2 weeks or so and performed here last week are exceptions. With all the talentless beggars singing songs at intersections, it felt good to hear a nicely executed Javanese lagu dolanan...

Tiga Perempuan

Yesterday (2 May) I spoke to Pascasarjana students at Universitas Negeri Semarang and rushed back to Yogyakarta in order to see Tiga Perempuan, a new play by the Padangpanjang-based theatre company Teater Sakata, at Teater Garasi.

I arrived late and thus missed the opening but saw enough to make it worthwhile blogging about it.

Teater Sekata was formed in 2000 and has performed a mixture of Indonesian and European plays by Ionesco, Wisran Hadi, Genet, Riantiarno etc. Tiga Perempuan (Three Women) was the first script by Sakata actress Via Suswatia, directed by Tya Setiawaty. This play performed by three youngish actresses concerned three Minang women living together in a traditional house (rumah gadang) - one with many boyfriends, another who is preparing to leave Sumatra to study, a third who is a faithful wife.

Much of the language was in bahasa Padang - which made the play difficult to comprehend - and the acting style was prone to over-the-top melodrama with shouting, crying etc.

What was wonderful though was the integration of live Dendang Saluang music - a constant backdrop to the action. The final scene in which one of the three women is left alone on stage in a state of emotional distress near to terror. She is joined by the two Dendang Saluang performers who rock back and forth with her as they make music. Her emotions, her lifestory and confusion, becomes mixed with the music of tradition. A stunning tableau.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Keluarga Tut

Last night (30 April) I saw Teater Gandrik Yogyakarta perform their adaptation of Keluarga Tut (The Toth Family) an absurdist comedy by Hungarian writer Istvan Orkeny.

Gandrik, one of the best known theatre groups in Indonesia, is well known for its folky satire and topicality. While Orkney's play is set in Hungary during set in WWII, the Gandrik production routinely references local (Yogyakarta) culture, with frequent semi-improvised comments in a mixture of Javanese and Indonesian. Acting drew upon some of the conventions of kethoprak style clowning.

Briefly the play concerns the visit of an army Major on furlow to the rural house of the Tut family. While initially taken as a great honour, the Major overstays his welcome. The Major drives the Tut family's patriarch to despair after he insists that the family stay up night after night assembling cardboard boxes.

I really liked Djaduk's jazzy live music, appreciated the shadow puppets battle scene that opened the show and enjoyed the comic acting of the leads. But the singing and dancing was rather rather amateur and the pace was plodding (more than 3 hours without an intermission!). I also didn't get many of the jokes pitched at the 'lesehan' audience sitting on the ground in front of the stage, and the jokes I did get weren't all that funny to me. Tired from the Hari Internasional Tari, I found myself dozing off at moments.

There were some definite highlights - one of which was a mime-filled scene in which the Major and Tut family patriarch sat down together for a man-to-man chat in the latrine. Tut sprays the toilet basin first and tells the Major that it is all clean. The Major feigns shock though when he sees there is still a lombok in the basin. Tut picks it out and pops it in his mouth, saying 'tidak pedas' (not too hot) as he chews on it.

Wayang kulit at Sono Budoyo

I am performing a wayang kulit at the Sono Budoyo museum on 11 May, and in preparation for this visited a tourist performance of a Ramayana play on 28 April. These abbreviated performances, which run about 2 hours, are held nightly - though sometimes they are cancelled for lack of visitors, it was explained. The company has three dalang in it - who take turns performing. (The dalang not performing play gamelan - apparently the drummer at this performnace was the best of the three dalang.)

Tickets for the show cost Rp20,000. Nearly everyone attending was a foreign tourist - with a few guides along for the ride. While a leaflet was handed out at the start, there seemed to be little comprehension of what was going on. Many were more interested in getting pictures than in seeing a dramatic performance. The gong player encouraged a young boy to step into the gamelan so he could photograph the simpingan from up close. While some of the audience sat and watched the puppets, they were encouraged to go round back and watch the shadows. Not everyone stayed for the whole show.

I found the performance to be dutiful rather than spirited, and with one or two exceptions was very conventional. A slip by the pesinden in the execution of the gending dolanan Slendang Biru during the goro-goro gave the puppeteer a chance to rib her - which caused the gamelan players to laugh. Otherwise there was very little humour.

There was also a stand outside of the venue (a small air conditioned hall) where wayang making was demonstrated before and after show. I presume there were also puppets for sale - but didn't get a chance to see this myself.

Plencung Two

I attended the monthly performance at Padepokan Seni in Kasihan, Bantul on 27 April. This month it was Teater Ruang from Solo performance performing Plencung Two, the second version of an intense physical theatre work for 2 adult and 4 child actors. (The first version featured just 2 adult actors.)

The only illumination for the work was fire - first matches struck by performers and then a single lamp that illuminated parts of the actors' bodies - heads, legs, hands. There was little text - the most memorable being a monologue spoken by a child about a flood.... not of water but of technology -- playstations, cell phones, televisions etc. Actors walked around the stage mostly on their hands. It was difficult to see what body part belonged to whom, and occasionally grotesque combinations of parts were formed. This was dystopia - a world where people fragmented, technology replaced human relations, and the vision of the spectator was unable to bring clarity or wholeness. I was reminded of Bali's leyak, the witches whose bodies fragment, and basic Balinese fears (described so richly by Bateson and Mead) about the fragmentation of the self.

Before and after the performance, the company's director and some of the actors spoke in a moderated conversation. They were asked why they had such long hours of rehearsal - including rehearsals starting in the evening and going on to the morning. The director answered that it was out of imposed boredom (kejenuhan) that ideas originate. He admitted there was some truth to the accusation that he is anti-humanist (anti manusiawi). The adult actress in the production spent so much time rehearsing on her hands that she cried and begged for time off - which he offered (for 2 days). However, he asked, what is more anti-humanist - the slumped postures of a person at a playstation or riding a motorcycle, or the intense physicality he requires of his actors?

UNIMA Indonesia

For the last couple of months, I have been helping out a group of young Yogya-based pupeteers, namely Maria "Ria" Tri Sulistyani of Papermoon Puppet Theater, contemporary dalang Catur 'Benyek' Kuncoro and animator and dalang Ananto Wicaksono. Together, we arranged a planning meeting to establish UNIMA Indonesia, a national centre of the international puppet organisation. I am a member of British UNIMA (BrUNIMA), and was appointed to sit on the exec committee of BrUNIMA. I also currently serve on two international commissions.

Only one Indonesian puppeteer, I Made Sidia from Bali, attended the last UNIMA Congress in Perth, and it was my feeling (and Made's) that Indonesia needs a greater voice in this international organisation. UNIMA has made repeated overtures to establish a national centre in Indonesia, without success.

This meeting took place at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta on 26 April, and attracted perhaps 35 puppeteers, puppet experts and cultural organisers from all over Java, with Dewa Wicaksana (head of ISI Denpasar's puppetry department) representing Bali. Both Senawangi and Pepadi, the two existing national wayang organisations, were represented, and there was much lively debate about the place of the local (particularly emphasised by Slamet Gundhono and Jlitheng Suparman), the need for autonomous expression, the value of exchange and cooperation. Enthus Susmono offered many humorous comments along the way.

The day before the meeting a small group of participants from out of town and the organising committee toured Yogyakarta puppet sites.

We visited first the wayang museum Kekayon, located about 7 kilometers out of town. The museum is basically the work of a single collector- with puppets in glass cases displayed to make scenes. Most of the major traditional wayang genres are represented, some by new puppets, some old. Many of the puppets, perhaps most, were commissioned by the collector. Thus there is a room dedicated to the 100 Kurawa siblings, with sketches and puppets of them all. (Most kotak or sets of puppets have no more than 10 of these, and very few dalang will have their names memorized.) There are also a scattering of more traditional puppets - one representing a rock star; a small set of puppets from an experimental wayang produced circa 1975 in Yogya. Puppets from other traditions are also represented and around the museum there are statues and ornaments of a variety of cultures (Chinese, European etc) to illustrate that wayang is a meeting place of different cultural streams.

Kekayon has volunteered space for a UNIMA Indonesia secretariat, and this offer is being seriously considered. The present owner of Kekayon said that this would be a way to 'menghidupkan' (bring life to) the museum, which is looking rather tired and desolate - there was some structural damage during the 2006 earthquake, and visitor numbers are low.

We then visited the studio of legendary puppet creator Sukasman, best known for his daring new buta, setan and punakawan figures and his wayang ukur productions. Sukasman has been experimenting with wayang for decades; his wayang ukur was performed at the UNIMA Congress held in 2000 in Germany. His studio has a full working theatre in it - with a gamelan, a raised podium for a stage, provision for lighting and sound equipment - and is decorated by stone carvings on the walls and a huge unicorn statue.

Sukasman spoke to us at length about his approach to making puppets, bringing out various diagrams (see above) and puppets - including 4 different Gareng puppets. He also interpreted many of the figures and other aspects of wayang in terms of sexual symbolism. Formerly, Sukasman was very angry about his figures being imitated by other carvers and used by puppeteers without his permission. He now has a more laissez faire attitude, and recognises that he is part of a larger tradition, and that he can always make new figures.

From Sukasman's studio, we visited Papermoon. Ria showed her work on her computer and spoke about a range of community projects she has conducted in Sumatra, Papua and Java- including teaching kids how to construct puppets out of recycled goods.

The final stop was Ledjar Subroto's house on Jalan Mataram. Ledjar brought out many of the puppets he will be bringing with him to the Tong-Tong Festival in Holland - ranging from portrait puppets, puppets in the Willem series, wayang revolusi, wayang kancil, Batman, different sorts of kayon etc etc. It was an impressive assemblage.

Djaduk Ferianto on Rhythms Meeting

Composer and musician Djaduk Ferianto delivered an informal address (obrolan) at Padepokan Seni on 24 April about his experience touring Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco, India and Switzerland with Rhythms Meeting, a group of nine musicians from six countries (see also Djaduk, who plays a variety of wind instruments (including sax) and also sings, was one of two Indonesian musicians in the group. The other was Purwanta, a contemporary gamelan musician who was in the audience for the event and also spoke briefly about his experieces.

Djaduk's talk took the form of slide show in which he explained various photos taken in the journey, mostly not of performances but of sights and social gatherings. He spoke eloquently about jazz as a metaphor for social interaction, the hardships of touring (food, inadequate equipment), the joys of friendship and free exchange among artists.

The musicians in the group spoke English to each other, but none had English as a first language. Yet somehow through signing, laughter and guesswork they communicated. Djaduk saw music everywhere - even in the dhobi women of urban India (a popular tourist destination). His constant companion was a bottle of kecap manis - which he spread over everything he ate, including pizza, bringing the sweetness of Yogya cuisine to exotic dishes. (Stuffing down a pizza before a gig, Purwanta commented, 'what is important is to be wareg' -- or have a full stomach.' Not all the gigs provided adequate equipment - speakers in a restaurant-theatre in India fell well below par - and some of the musicians complained loudly about this. But Djaduk coped and was proud of the fact that the group enjoyed most the warm intimacy of Indonesian audiences.

There were many surprises along the way. The group spent some time rehearsing in Patravadi's art centre in Bangkok, a centre which Djaduk said was very much like the Padepokan Seni in many ways, except that Patravadi had erected two statues of herself. Thais working and studying at the Patravadi Theatre would bow before these statues went they went by out of respect. Djaduk said he was initially astounded that anyone would be so vain to erect statues of themselves while still alive. But then he reflected that many Indonesian artists now are writing their own biographies and life stories, another sort of monument to vanity.

After the event, I spoke briefly with Padepokan Seni's director Jeannie Park, who said how important it was for Indonesian artists to speak about their experiences of touring in these sorts of formats. Only then will realistic expectations be possible, and plans drawn up for future international collaborations that build upon past experience.