Indonesia Culture

By | October 16, 2021


According to itypeauto, the most important part of the theatrical activity is centered on the island of Java, where traces of Buddhist and Hindu influences have remained even after Islamization. This is demonstrated by the most typical of local shows, the wayang kulit (or wayang purva), a shadow theater of which there is written testimony since the middle of the century. XI d. C., made with leather silhouettes that bear the names of the characters of the Indian epic and repeat, with many variations, the adventures. The texts are generally based, despite the insertions of comic and grotesque elements, on the contrast between good and evil, with the triumph of the first and consequent moral teachings for the spectators. The performance, which is generally assigned apotropaic functions, begins at nine in the evening and continues until dawn: the puppeteer, or dalang, stands behind a screen of white fabric (kelir) illuminated by a copper lamp (while the audience takes place both behind and in front) and moves the figurines reciting and singing the parts alone with the fundamental accompaniment of an orchestra (gamelan). A derivation of the wayang kulit, with a more pronounced popular character, is the wayang golek, or doll’s theater, performed by all-round puppets. In addition to wayang topeng, or theater of masks (which marked the appearance of the actor in flesh and blood), and the derivatives topeng barongan, or theater of living masks, and topeng wong, or theater of the speaking actor, which in his time gave rise to the recent wayang orang, in which the actors, having removed their masks, have also welcomed adaptations of Western theater classics into the repertoire, important in the past were the elegant and highly refined dances, reserved for the entertainment of the courts of Solo and Yogyakarta and generally performed by concubines of the sovereigns. Only since 1918, on the initiative of the son of the Sultan of Yogyakarta, are they also taught to those who are not part of the aristocracy, while since 1963 the tradition is nurtured by a national dance academy based in the same city.

These dances, especially those inspired by the epic Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana show obvious links with various forms coreiche India, particularly with the dances kathakali. There are two main forms of Javanese dance: that of the bedaja type (or bedojo), which seems to derive from ancient animist sacrificial ceremonies and is performed by nine young women between the ages of 13 and 25 (in the bedojo, reminiscent of the Indian style bharata natyam, the mudras are stylized until they become decorative and extremely subtle hand movements), and that of the serimp type, danced in perfect synchronism by four little girls of royal blood. The influence of Javanese culture has spread since the 10th century. XI to Bali, where nobles, priests and scholars emigrated in large numbers after the Islamization of the fifteenth century. Here this culture of distant Hindu origins found its most evocative expression in the barong, a dance performed with animalistic masks, and in the legong, where the recurring theme of the struggle between good and evil is expressed in dramatic dances inspired by ancient legends and entrusted to a body movement technique based on exceptional tensions and deformations of the limbs. The dance engages the whole village: girls aged between seven and fourteen take part, while the music, which increases the power of suggestion of the performance and helps to find arcane obsessions through the ritual, is entrusted to men and performed with xylophone-like percussion instruments. Manly dances are the baris, armed dance, and the more recent kebyar, solo dance, a mimed interpretation of the gamelan accompanied by rapid and whimsical fan movements.


The only centers in Indonesia where significant musical traditions have developed are the islands of Java and Bali. Both have a harmony set on two distinct scales: pelog and slendro, both pentatonic, but the first (“feminine”) has a major third and the second (“masculine”) a minor third. The instruments mainly used are idiophones (gong, metallophones, xylophones) and, since the modulation is not known, the melodic construction is extremely simple, while great importance is attributed to the timbre. A common feature is also the systematic use of orchestras (gamelan) with quite numerous ensembles and since the instruments used have a fixed sound it is necessary to use different orchestras for the execution according to the pelog or slendro scales . The musical tradition, which developed in a completely autonomous way in Bali, has undergone strong Persian, Muslim, Indian and Chinese influences in Java. The years of economic and cultural opening towards the Western world have allowed the birth of a music different from that tradition. Pop-rock singers and groups have appeared on the national scene, enjoying the favor of the younger generations.

Indonesia Culture