In the 1930s Wayan Limbak worked with German painter Walter Spies to create the Kecak from movements and themes in the traditional sanghyang exorcism ritual and the portions of the Ramayana. This collaboration between artists worked to create a dance that was both authentic to Balinese traditions but also palatable to Western tourist’s narrow tastes at the time.
What makes the Kecak special is that the accompanying music is provided by the human voice, the gamelan suara, a choir of a hundred men or more sitting in concentric circles, swaying, standing up, lying prone as the story develops.Amongst the swaying masses the voices of the storytellers can be heard telling the unfolding tale.
The story is a fragment from the Ramayana, the Hindu epic which finds its expression in many forms, not only in dance, but also in painting and carving. Prince Rama, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Ayodya, and his wife Sita have been banished from the kingdom by King Dasarata as a result of trickery by Rama’s stepmother. The story begins with the arrival of Rama and Sita accompanied by Rama’s brother Laksmana in the forest of Dandaka.
note: This photograph was taken during my film camera days. It is a scanned copy of a printed version I found in my shoebox.