Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ketjak, the Ramayana Monkey Chant

A tangent related to something I was looking for led me back to the Ketjak, generally referred to in English as the "Ramayana Monkey Chant." Balinese Gamelan has had a profound influence on Western academic music, which is understandable given its complexity. There's something pretty fabulous about the compelling rhythm of those metallophones and gongs...

While the ketjak is a creation of this century, it is descended from something much more ancient — the trance dance, the dance of exorcism called sanghjang; its ancestry is clear. Ostensibly, the ketjak is a reenactment of the battle described in the Ramayana epic — in which the monkey hordes came to the aid of Prince Rama in his battle with the evil King Ravana — complete with a chorus imitating monkeys, as they chant the syllable tjak.

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