Strike a chord

I’m tone deaf. Don’t care much about music anyway. But gamelan music, all that complete cacophony, somehow strikes a chord with me. I even enjoy listening to young men study and practice in the temples in Bali. These pictures, however, were taken in the royal palace in Yogyakarta.

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I remember it was fascinating to find bits and pieces of the erstwhile Hindu kingdom in Java – not just the temple ruins, but the shadow puppets with their deep symbolism, and the music that goes with it.

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The Ramayana epics are still widely performed in festivals and temples across the now-Buddhist nations, but I was surprised to find it in the palace of the Muslim ruling family in Yogyakarta.

There are many workshops around the palace, hand-crafting puppets from buffalo hide, using natural dyes, and the craftsmen who show visitors around didn’t even understand my question regarding a potential conflict with their faith. It’s our culture, they would say.

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And then go on explaining the details about Shiva and Vishnu, and their favourite story, the relationship between Rama and Sita. This seems to be a famous scene but I can’t find the meaning 😦

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I wish I knew more, I only remember snippets. Gold is dignity. Red is anger. Vishnu (below) is black. Evil characters have bigger noses. Virtuous characters have slit eyes. The round behinds represent earthly desires and connections to mundane ideas, the head is about intellectual and spiritual powers.

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Oops, this was supposed to be about music, wasn’t it? But can’t you hear the gamelan orchestra in the background? I certainly do.

The image in the header happens to be from the royal wedding in Ubud, Bali.

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