I sat in an open courtyard of the Ubud Palace at Ubud, Indonesia among the hum of talk, the odd whine of a mossie, and the quick slaps of those under attack among the audience. We waited as the Gamelan Orchestra assembled and tuned their instruments.
The orchestra was a wonderful sight, so much gleaming brass among the red and black garments of the musicians and such an unusual array of instruments to the untrained eye.
The lights went out in the open air theatre and the stage lighting remained. The Dance began. The dance epic adapted from the Indian Mahabrata Epic “The Death of Kicaka” is a traditional dance to the Hindu gods. The dance handed down from generation to generation, probably since the Hindu religion moved along with people fleeing the crumbling Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Majapahit in East Java in the 13th 15th century.
The music of the Gamelan orchestra was something like I had never experienced before, an assault to the unaccustomed ear, with such an array of discordant sounds, but yet, brought together in an amazing harmony of their own. I was enthralled by this music.
There was only one voice to be heard against the music and that was of an orator who told the Epic story in wonderful resonant tones. The beautiful Balinese dancers in their richly colored costumes, with delicate hand movements emphasized by long golden finger nails, glided gracefully through the scenes acting out the story accompanied by the male dancers who, unlike the female dancers, wore dramatic masks throughout the performance depicting their characters.
This performance of Balinese culture and tradition was a wonderfully enriching experience which even visits to the fairytale Javanese Temples of Prambanan and the quite awesome Borobudur, could not eclipse.