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French students learn, collaborate on traditional Javanese performing arts

Stefanus Ajie

The Jakarta Post

Surakarta, Central Java  /  Thu, July 26, 2018  /  10:04 am
French students learn, collaborate on traditional Javanese performing arts

The group attended gamelan workshops and learned about the Javanese culture at Surakarta Banjari House, with local trainers from Surakarta Sanggar Pamor studio.  (Stefanus Ajie/JP)

Locals at Jogobayan village in Surakarta, Central Java, recently prepared for a Javanese traditional theater performance Ketoprak Ngampung titled "Seje Angite (Different Wants"), this time made special with a collaboration with visiting French performing artists. 

Frenchman Christophe Moure, together with 23 members of the French Sanggar Seni Pantcha Indra studio, had prepared from July 12 to 25 for the performance. The group had attended gamelan workshops and learned about Javanese culture at Surakarta Banjari House, with local trainers from Surakarta Sanggar Pamor studio. 

"We especially came to Surakarta to study more in-depth about Javanese gamelan. Not only how to play it, but also the culture which applies to the instrument's use, the philosophy within each tool, as well as studying how gamelan could be applied to various Javanese cultural activities," Moure said. 

Moure, along with his wife Kadek Puspasari, established Sanggar Seni Pantcha in Paris in 2012, creating a platform to study gamelan, dances and wayangs from Java and Bali. 

Read also: Surakarta International Gamelan Festival slated for August

Because there is a limited number of people that can teach in France, classes usually comprise of surface-level lessons, such as playing the gamelan. Moure sought to learn directly from the source in order to know more about gamelan itself and the Javanese culture. 

In addition to the daily gamelan classes in Banajarsari, participants also learned about traditional Javanese culture, the art of tatah sungging for the making of leather shadow puppets, visited gamelan centers in Bekonang, Sukoharjo, as well as studied the Javanese philosophy in the Sukuh temple, Karanganyar.

French students studying Javanese cultural history and philosophy at the Sukuh temple, Karanganyar regency, Central Java.French students studying Javanese cultural history and philosophy at the Sukuh temple, Karanganyar regency, Central Java. (Stefanus Ajie/JP)

The group also attended various performances in Surakarta, including shadow puppets, keroncong (Portuguese-tinged pop), ketoprak (traditional theater) and classical Javanese dance. 

Zen Zulkarnaen, Banjarsai House manager, expressed enthusiasm at the workshop, saying it was a chance to bring together Indonesia and France. 

"The guests from France not only wanted to learn about gamelan, but also to know the culture closer, so this opportunity is used as an exchange of cultures between both people to study, which is also why participants resided at the homes of Jogobayan residents throughout the workshop period," Zen said. 

It is hoped that the residency program will invite a more comprehensive collaboration between locals and the French guests. 

The results from the bonds forged and lessons learned at the workshop were conveyed in a Ketoprak Ngampung performance, a public theater performance embracing a simple concept with a natural setting. 

The play told the story of a controversial marriage between Mas Bule (a foreign man), played by Moure, and Mbok Tamiya, an old widower from Kadipaten Jobobayan. 

Another performance, which also marked the end of the workshop, took place on July 24 with a shadow puppet play titled Dewi Sri, which was performed at the yard of Rumah Banjarsari (House of Banjarsari). (liz/wng)