LES AVENTURES DU PRINCE RAMA – THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE RAMA
– MUSICAL AND DANCED THEATER FROM BALI
MUNDI – 2008
There is little to say about this
show and this music. It has to be seen and listened to for it to be enjoyed,
not spoken about or read about.
The story, legend or mythological
tale is extremely complex and it deals with the main Hindu gods – and their
demons too – and how they got mixed in human history by descending on earth
under the appearance of human beings: Vishnu seems to have been particularly
attracted by the adventure. You will also discover how monkeys and human beings
are competing at controlling this earth. But the story itself is so complex
that it is not easy to summarize it.
Let’s say violence, love,
domination, exploitation and liberation, war ane eventually peace are all mixed
up marvelously. But what makes this show special is of course first of all the
“dalang” or the story teller. He is a tremendous actor who can cover all the
characters, including the monkeys, and I must say his vocal range is amazing
including all kinds of grunts and woofs, clicks and snarls, groans and growl,
and other glottal noises you can imagine. I am pretty sure he has a monkey in his
family, and as an ancestor it must be who provided him with the necessary art.
When you have the “dalang” well
settled in you ears you can move to the music. Percussions, pipes and many
other instruments I guess produce a music that can be as soft as a breeze in
spring now and then and as violent as a storm, a tempest or a blizzard at other
moments. The musicians are numerous and flexible and they do not really have
one tone or one style. They can create various atmospheres and different
tensions or a mesmerizing soft and sweet musical or rhythmic fabric that wraps
you up into hypnosis and enjoyment. This music knows everything about orgasmic
pleasure and your ears become reverberating gothic naves dug out in the rock of
a cliff, like the one in Saint Emilion,
And now and then the “dalang”
finds some support from the musicians who become a choir and there too the
effect is superb. You must keep in mind that you only have men on the stage and
that is important with the characters. Any actor is able to play any part, man,
woman, eagle, monkeys, gods or demons. The voice is anyway provided by the “dalang”
and eventually by the choir when necessary, and the actors are only strutting
on the stage, dancing, prancing, gesticulating or whatever can characterize the
characters they impersonate. They wear masks of course to represent who or what
The costumes are a deluge of
colorful fabric, embroidered silk, feathers and plumes, fur and tulle. The
texture of these costumes and the colors of the various materials will
fascinate your eyes all along, end yet the show will surprise you with the
final fifteen minute long Kècak, the symbolic battle and redemption, with all
the musicians and actors in war attire, or rather only wearing something like a
generous loincloth, divided in two camps for the battle and then working on
concentric circular figures for the redemption. They have no musical
instruments any more. The “dalang” has gone truant and the musicians and actors
are a big choir with two groups again, those who give the basic rhythm and
those who sing words or some rhythmic hammering sounds now and then. And when
they all stop one voice can start an incantation alone with the choir that will
pick the incantation from him and develop it to the point when they will give
it back to one or two soloists.
And you will of course love the
ballet going along with this music, singing, song, prayer, in fact all along
from beginning to end.
Though it is from a very distant
and different culture than ours you will be captured by the charm of it, and I
mean the charm any magic philter has to entirely wrap you up like a mummy with
unbreakable links, ropes, ties or bonds and you will feel in you the need for
it to go on for ever, for a long time, till tomorrow and beyond.
How can we enjoy it forever?
Simple. The CD that goes along with the DVD will give you the music and you just
set the CD on repeat and replay in a loop, and you will be able to just
dissolve yourself into that cosmic pith and marrow that can lure your mind into
is the great first poem blessed and glorious, which gives long life to men and
victory to kings, the poem which Válmíki made. He who listens to this wondrous
tale of Ráma unwearied in action shall be absolved from all his sins. By
listening to the deeds of Ráma he who wishes for sons shall obtain, his heart's
desire, and to him who longs for riches shall riches be given. The virgin who
asks for a husband shall obtain a husband suited to her mind, and shall meet
again her dear kinsfolk who are far away. They who hear this poem which Válmíki
made shall obtain all their desires and all their prayers shall be fulfilled.”
And let’s conclude with the final
eight lines in Ralph T. H. Griffith, M. A.’s translation (1870-74):
No widow mourned her murdered mate,
No house was ever desolate.
The happy land no murrain knew,
The flocks and herds increased and grew.
The earth her kindly fruits supplied,
No harvest failed, no children died.
Unknown were want, disease, and crime:
So calm, so happy was the time.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU