In times of cross-border conflict and religious strife, Sethu (Bridge) connects cultures and ways of understanding. An international cast led by Ragamala Music and Dance Theater comes together with spiritual energy for a powerful retelling of the epic Hindu myth, the Ramayana, on Saturday–Sunday, September 11–12, 7:30 pm, in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This captivating outdoor spectacle features 50 performers from Bali, the Twin Cities, and around the globe and combines Bharatanatyam (South Indian classical dance), Javanese gamelan, and Balinese kecak (the famous “monkey chant” rarely heard outside of Indonesia). Concept by
; created in collaboration with
I Dewa Putu Berata
of the Bali-based gamelan ensemble
, leader of
The Schubert Club Gamelan Ensemble
, and vocalist
. Commissioned by the Walker Art Center and presented as part of its artist-in-residence (AIR) program.
: Sethu will be presented on Monday, September 13 at 7:30 pm, if the Sunday performance or both weekend shows are canceled due to weather. Performances are free to the public.
Ramayana: The Story of Rama and Sita
The epic story of Rama and Sita—their marriage, their exile to the forest, their battle with the demon Ravana, and the restoration of their kingdom—originated in India, but for 2,000 years has traveled throughout Asia, absorbing regional traditions and inspiring diverse reinterpretations. It is a complex text that does not provide easy answers, but rather functions as a paradigm through which Asian culture perceives itself (adapted from text by Philip Lutgendorf, Chair, South Asian Studies Program, University of Iowa).
Wayne Vitale, director of the California ensemble Gamelan Sekar Jaya, has spent 25 years researching and documenting Balinese musical traditions, including kecak. Preferring the old Indonesian spelling of the word—ketjak—he offers a brief background into the island’s famed “monkey chant”:
A unique blend of music, movement, and dramatic action, ketjak was created in its present form in the 1930s as a new accompaniment for the Ramayana dance drama. Ketjak was based on a ritual exorcism in which young girls are put into a trance with prayers, incense, a female singing choir, and rhythmically interlocking chanting performed by a male chorus. The ancient ketjak ensemble consisted of perhaps a dozen men, each making the distinctive tjak-tjak-tjak sound blending into a complex rhythmic pattern. In modern ketjak (often called simply “tjak”), the chorus of chanting men can be enlarged to 100 or more chanters/dancers, who sit in concentric circles around an oil lamp at night. Instead of simple repetitious chanting, the chorus performs a highly structured piece of vocal music and movement of an hour or more in length. The chorus may sing melodies derived from the arja opera tradition and also may use themselves as Busby Berkeley–style props, becoming Hanuman’s monkey army or the waves of an ocean.
I Dewa Puta Berata
Artistic Director of Gamelan Cudamani, Bali, Indonesia
“The need for mutual respect and understanding on an international level is more pressing than ever before. I hope our collaboration will allow us to further this purpose through the creation of a work that will . . . remind us of the endless things we have to learn from one another.”
Artistic Director of Ragamala Music and Dance Theater, Minneapolis
“I was challenged by the possibilities of diverse artistic fusion. And at a time when intercultural conflict is at the top of the news and the front of everyone’s mind, and when popular images of India and Bali are of terrorism, border conflicts, and inter-religious strife, the experience of art gains relevance.”
Composer and lead vocalist, Plymouth, Minnesota
“The fact that the culmination of this creative endeavor is in an open sculpture garden in the United States strengthens my belief that we, as citizens of this world, have many common grounds to thrive in and enrich each other’s lives as we continue to explore and seek them.”
Music Director for the Indonesian Performing Arts Association of Minnesota (IPAAM), and Leader of the SCG Ensemble (a joint production of IPAAM and The Schubert Club), The Schubert Club Gamelan Ensemble, St. Paul
“It is about a willingness to learn and find differences and similarities between the four artists. . . . I believe Sethu is the perfect means to teach cultural education, collaboration, and peaceful coexistence.”