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Bali - Tari Kecak Uluwatu

Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
Excited on the way to the theatre - see the mass of people already there behind my back...

Kecak originated in the 1930s in Bali but has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance which is considered sacred and shall never be performed to tourists or for entertainment purposes. The most common piece is the Ramayana Monkey Chant, a piece performed by a circle of at least 150 performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting "cak" and moving their hands and arms. Actors in the scene depict a battle from the Ramayana, where the monkey-like Vanara led by Hanuman helped Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. Interestingly enough, this is exactly the same story we see in the walls of Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.

But if Thai are primarily Buddhists while Balinese are Hinduists, how could this be possible? The answer is that "The Ramayana" is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. Since it is very old but useful, as it depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king, the Ramayana was an important influence that spread around different countries in Asia. This is how the characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana became fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. As there are many versions of the Ramayana in Indian languages, besides Buddhist and Jain adaptations; and also Cambodian, Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malaysian versions of the tale.

To participate in the Kecak dance, you should buy the tickets as soon as you arrive to the temple (at least 1h before the show) use the time to explore the area and then rush to the scene, so you can grab a good seat to experience the local art in one of its purest forms. While the public is mostly foreign, it feels like a very pure and untouched event within the local culture. A rare experience these days...

Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
The singers are all male, no instruments are used only voice (see video for additional details)
Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
The mythological bird concept is intertwined with the Phoenix. Its name is Garuda in Bahasa, like the airline and the national symbol!
Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali
The men singers use ther bodies to create shapes (like trees) as part of the performance.
Kecak at Uluwatu, Bali

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