Saturday, February 26, 2011

R.I.P. H. Abdul Adjib

Inna lillahi wa inna lilahi rojiiun. The world of Cirebonese performing art has lost another of its great figures, the dalang tarling H. Abdul Adjib who died today (26 February 2011).

Adjib (also known as Adjid) was the director of the tarling company Putra Sangkala, founded in the 1960s. He was one of a cohort of actor-director-musicians who defined this music theatre genre, which combines singing, melodramatic acting and drum, gongs, suling (bamboo flute) and guitars. Others of this cohort include Jayana, Uci Sanusi and Sunarto MA. Only Sunarto is still alive. Since the 1990s, Adjib also had a career doing Islamic solo performances combining sermons and singing. Adjib is best remembered for his tarling musical version of the folk tale Baridin, and the song Warung Pojok (Corner Food Stall).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Anoman Duta in Vancouver

I've recently been invited to do a wayang with Gamelan Madu Sari of Vancouver, Canada. This will be for Gong! The Vancouver Gamelan Festival, celebrating 25 years of gamelan in Vancouver.

Also on the programme festival will be my friend Nyoman Wenten, who teaches at CalArts.

The lakon will be Anoman Duta (Anoman the Envoy), in a 90-minute telling of this iconic tale of the Ramayana. I'll be basing the story mostly on Cirebonese sources, though the gamelan will be playing mostly Solo style pieces (perhaps with some new compositions thrown in), and most of the wayang (borowed from resident artist Sutrisno) are in Yogya style. A real mix.

My telling will play up some of the grotesque elements of the story - including Anoman's meeting with his god-brother Gunung Parasu, the various demons of Ngalengka, and the like. I also hope to interweave the rather more serious story of Wibiksana, who changes sides to ally himself with Rama, even though it means fighting against his homeland.

Should be fun.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spiderman Wayang ad

Just ran into a fun TV ad for the Spiderman movie franchise on Indonesian television featuring wayang versions of Spiderman and various Spidey villains - 'our play is not here [in the world of wayang], but on Trans TV'. The sabetan skills aren't great, but worth a look - and listen too to the pesinden's melody, based on the old cartoon show.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Limbukan from Anom Suloyo

From time to time I surf youtube looking for unusual wayang videos. Here's a rather random one, a very 'kampungan' Limbukan from dalang Anom Suloyo.

The dancing at the screen by Limbuk seems rather gratuitous juxtaposed with the bump and grind routines of the two penyanyi dangdut left of the kotak.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ki Dalang Udaya R.I.P.

Inna lillahi wa inna lilahi rojiiun. I received a text message today from my friend Purjadi that Ki Dalang Abihudaya from Palimanan, Cirebon, passed away on 5 February 2011.

Udaya, as he was better known,was one of the most respected puppeteers in the Cirebon area. After the death of his father, Abyor, and his two uncles, Wari Priyadi and Akirna Hadiwekasan, Udaya took charge of the running of the Sanggar Wening Galih, a small arts centre located in the shadow of Palimanan's factories. This sanggar was best known to puppeteers for its annual 'tutup panggung,' a collective end-of-season ritual where puppeteers performed for puppeteers for free. I contributed to the tutup panggung on a number of occasions. The sanggar also trained many musicians.

Udaya prided himself on being the people's puppeteer. He spoke primarily through the straight-thinking Cungkring in performance, and used wayang as a vehicle for the expression of lower class aspirations. He was not liked by many wayang patrons. He disrupted song requests with battles, as he believed wayang was a verbal art form that should not be compromised by songs. He was a great storyteller and the source of many, many stories. He was known to challenge his assistants to pull out any wayang in the puppet chest, which he would instantly deploy as the main character in the first scene of a newly created story.

I devoted a chapter to his work in my PhD thesis, An Inheritance from the Friends of God (Yale, 1997).

Udaya was one of my 'sesepuh' or elders in Cirebon, somebody I regularly turned to for artistic inspiration, advice and philosophical engagement. Too many of these are now deceased - Saal, Darmabakti, Wartaka, Sujana (Gegesik Kidul), Basari. Yet they live on still in the region's arts.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wayang Kulit in Thessaloniki

Off tomorrow to give a talk about and solo performance of wayang kulit in Thessaloniki, Greece, for a festival of Asian theatre organised by my PhD student Athina Dragkou. I've always resisted giving wayang kulit performances without live gamelan accompaniment, but for this occasion I am experimenting with a contemporary wayang style developed by Ki Slamet Gundono (pictured above) that combines wayang puppetry with storytelling. I had the opportunity last month of seeing Ki Slamet rehearse and perform one of his contemporary wayang in Cirebon, and am excited to try this new style out. We'll see how it goes.

The Indonesian news service Antara has a short article about the festival - which also features mask expert Margaret Coldiron, who got her PhD at Royal Holloway. Have a look here.