alive and well
in Jakarta

Image Courtesy by PERIPLUS

The cultures of Central Java, the source of art, music and dance, remains prevalent in Jakarta, representing much of what little most outsiders know of Indonesia. An important example of Javanese culture is the highly stylized wayang. This traditional puppet theater is based on the Hindu Ramayana and Mahabarata epics, combined with themes from Javanese folklore. Wayang is used to teach morals as well as to entertain, and is seen as a highly influential popular art form for spreading morality and social criticism.

Many politicians and successful businessmen are seen as dalang, the skilled men who control the puppets in wayang performances. Life in Indonesia has a way of working much like the plots of all-night wayang performances - slowly and with many unpredictable twists and turns.

Essential to a wayang performance is the gamelan orchestra, a set of bronze gongs and other percussion instruments including a xylophone, a type of two stringed violin and a flute or two. It may take some getting used to but, the sound of the gamelan, in both its Javanese and Balinese forms, has been compared to "liquid moonlight".

Wayang Orang (Dance Drama)
The stories of the Javanese Wayang Wong or Wayang Orang dance drama usually relate episodes of the Mahabarata and Ramayana Hindu Epics.

The Bharata Theater performs the Wayang Wong dance drama every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening. The performances start at 8.15 p.m. and last till about midnight.

An offshoot of the Wayang Wong dance drama is the modern popular Javanese theater which takes its stories from popular folk legends and from history. Like the Wayang Wong, the Ketoprak show is accompanied by gamelan music but is simpler in costume and dialogue. Performances can be seen in Jakarta at the Bharata Theatre every Monday and Thursday evening, beginning at 8.00 p.m.

Traditional Indonesian Dances
Performances of traditional Indonesian dances from the various regions are on stage in Jakarta at Taman Mini (Indonesia in Miniature Park) every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 14.00 p.m. and at the Ancol Art Market every Saturday evening or Sunday morning.

Wayang Kulit (Leather Puppet Shadow Play)
Wayang Kulit, the leather puppet shows, are performed every second and last Saturday night of the month at the Central Museum in Jakarta.

The Wayang Museum in Fatahillah Square in downtown Jakarta stages abbreviated versions of the wayang kulit every Sunday morning. The performances last about one hour.

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