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Page 18

The Evening Walk

chattering chattering chattering

noises so faint

drawing nearer

rising lowering louder now clear

kecak kecak kecak

issues forth in a thunderous union

in the black indigo night

there’s a bright shining light

around it sit circles of men

their bare torsos are gleaming

and sweat forth is streaming

with hands outstretched and fingers that tremble

in the language of monkeys

sing Hanuman’s tale

the chanting is mighty

lauds battles and fighting

sweet Sita and love that is loyal

reaching crescendo the night has surrendered

to a roar like the roar of the sea

now a serpentine melody

a bamboo flute trailing

its haunting notes wailing

the rhythm of gongs ring resounding

the magic of night’s sweet embrace

as I walk on to Ubud

with fireflies lighting the way

 

One hundred and fifty men sitting in concentric circles chanting, always perform the Kecak or Monkey dance, after sunset. They are illuminated by a large flaming torch in their midst. There is a narrator but usually no musical instruments other than the human voice. The storyteller relates the story of the Ramayana accompanied by the male voices chattering like monkeys – forming a loud chorus.

The Kecak is based on a great mythological Hindu epic from India. The Ramayana is the story of prince Rama, a heroic figure, whose life is full of many trials and tests. Rama is the incarnation of the god Visnu, and his destiny is to destroy the wicked ogre king Rawana.

Rama and his beautiful wife Sita, along with his brother Laksmana, are exiled to the forest. The wicked demon king Rawana of Langka abducts Sita. Prince Rama searches for his beautiful wife Sita and is helped in his search by the monkey king Sugriwa aided by the monkey armies. Hanuman finds Sita on the isle of Langka. A terrible battle ensues and Sita is finally rescued and prince Rama destroys the wicked ogre Rawana.

The chattering of monkey soldiers in chorus then rises to a frenzied crescendo as the narrator reaches the climax of the story. Originally, this chanting choir of men was part of a Sanghyang trance dance. This modern form of kecak was developed in the village of Bona, near Gianyar where the dance is still performed on a regular basis.

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