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.


Richard said...

Interesting contrast in the performance styles of Dalangs H. Rusdi and Taham, especially the inclusion of central Javanese gamelan pieces in Rusdi's wayang.I also visited Pa Sujana last summer, and wonder how often his wayang wong group is performing these days?

Matthew Isaac Cohen said...

Sujanapriya's wayang wong group performs only a few times a year. It is not an expensive group to hire (perhaps 3 million rupiah), but performances only last about 2 or 3 hours and so are not suitable for hajatan. The sanggar, which has 2 sets of gamelan, is active however in training young women for performing decorative dances at acara pernikahan.