Ketjak: Ramayana Monkey Chant

May 5, 2008

I first heard Ketjak in Fellini’s SATYRICON and then later when I studied Indonesian music as an undergraduate. Last year I heard a riveting realization of Ketjak in the film BARAKA. (see below) I love the first performance (above) for its raw power. I was taught that this was an example of hocketing, or rhythmically making sure that notes fill up all the cracks when performed by a lot of people. A lot of the guys bouncing along in this performance are playing microsyncopations and have to stay TOTALLY focused to keep with it. The composer (?) gives them periodic breaks. In the BARAKA performance, the leader has such remarkable facial expressions.

Here are the program notes provided for the YouTube post.

A thin slice of the larger ouvre of Balinese music, the Ketjak, or Kecak, was developed in the 1930s using ancient dance and chant forms, and portions of the Vedic epic, the Ramayana. People starting hearing about this more recently because of the excellent film “Baraka,”and clips of that are posted around. This clip is old footage from the 70s, and has a great monkey. We used to listen to this stuff for hours back in the 60s, cranked up to top volume, while we watched the walls crawling with psychedelic hieroglyphics.

There is some dispute about the comments of the narrator at the beginning. Most of the “corrections” that people have posted are so riddled with profanity I’ve had to remove them – apparently it’s a touchy subject..

I guess we should take the narration with a grain of salt, however…

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