Kecak and Fire Dance in Bali, an amazing experience

Bali’s unmistakable kecak fire dance is a spectacle that should be experienced by every visitor to this famous Indonesian island. This mesmeric musical drama presentation is native to Bali and is considered to be representative of the local culture and traditions. The dance is almost always performed exclusively by men, and it is often the case that the performers improvise, making each performance unique.

Kecak is also known by the name ‘Ramayana Monkey Chant’ which is a self-explanatory title. The musical drama is enacted by a group of 150 or even more participants, bare-chested and wearing a checked piece of cloth around the waist. The performers form a circle and as the drama unfolds in the centre, the seated participants chant the syllable ‘chak’ repetitively, creating a percussive effect. The seated men also move their bodies and throw up their hands and arms in accordance with the rhythm.

The story being enacted is taken from the renowned Hindu epic the Ramayana. The story goes that Sita, the beautiful wife of the noble Prince Rama is abducted by the demon king Ravana. With help from the loyal monkey king Hanuman, Rama travels to the abode of the demon king and finally succeeds in reuniting with Sita. This well-known plot is enacted with great vibrancy by the kecak performers.

However there is no doubt that the spirit and theme of this performance art is native to Bali. Kecak has its origins in the sanghyang, an indigenous dance of exorcism which reputedly features the power to induce a trancelike state. The all-male chanted chorus is also derived from this origin.

The idea of combining this chanted chorus with the Ramayana-derived drama and native dance elements came from Walter Spies, a German musician and painter. Whilst staying in Bali in the 1930s, Spies became intrigued by the sanghyang and came up with the idea of adapting it in this way. The kecak has moved from strength to strength since then.

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Pushpitha Wijesinghe is an experienced independent freelance writer. He specializes in providing a wide variety of content and articles related to the travel hospitality industry. Google+

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