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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Kecak Dancing - The Ramayana Monkey Chant 凱卡克舞 ケチャダンス

Updated: Jan 14

Kecak, known in Indonesian as tari kecak, is a form of Balinese Hindu dance and music drama that was developed in the 1930s in Bali, Indonesia. Since its creation, it has been performed primarily by men. The dance is based on the story of the Ramayana and is traditionally performed in temples and villages across Bali.

Also known as the Ramayana monkey chant, the dance is performed by a circle of as many as 150 performers wearing checked cloths around their waists, percussively chanting "chak" and moving their hands and arms. The performance depicts a battle from the Ramayana, in which the monkey-like Vanaras, led by Hanuman, help Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. Kecak has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance.

The kecak dance is typically performed by about fifty to one hundred men wearing only loincloths; their upper bodies are left bare. They form concentric circles, in the middle of which is a traditional Balinese coconut oil lamp. First they move their bodies rhythmically to the left and to the right, chanting the words "chak ke-chak ke-chak ke-chak" continuously, in slow rhythm. Gradually the rhythm speeds up and by turns they lift their hands, trembling, into the air. The kecak dance is performed for dance-dramas and the story presented is taken from the Ramayana Hindu epic. The bare-chested male kecak chanters play the role of Rama's troops of Vanaras (apes) and Ravana's troops of Rakshasas (giants).

The duration of the performance is around an hour. The story of the Ramayana is depicted, beginning with Sita and Rama's exile in the jungle of Dandaka. The performance reenacts the appearance of the Golden Deer, the abduction of Sita by Ravana, the battle between Ravana and Jatayu, the search for Sita by Hanuman, and ends with the battle between Rama and Ravana. The kecak chanters chant and sing in accordance with the mood and milieu of the story.

Kecak dance performances in Bali usually take place daily in the evening at Balinese Hindu temples such as Uluwatu Temple and Tanah Lot. There are also dance stages used exclusively for kecak performances in Ubud, Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Batu Bulan, Pandawa beach and other places in Bali. Kecak performances also take place on other occasions, such as for cultural and entertainment displays. Dancers usually come from local villagers of the surrounding area of the performance; they usually have a main job other than dancing which they finish before performing the kecak dance. The dancers' income from the dance usually comes from tickets sold to the spectators.

The dancers consist of two types: the kecak male-chanters and the main Ramayana dancers who play the roles of Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, Ravana, Hanuman, Jatayu, etc.

The dancers who represent the core Ramayana characters are considered an essential part of the dance. Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and the Golden Deer, whose movements are gentle and smooth, are sometimes played by female dancers who are trained in such styles of movement.

Mystical Bali, Indonesia is a destination close to home in Singapore and Australia where I live. This is a wonderful place for photography, full of great hotels and food, picturesque locations and friendly locals.

Kecak Dancing is a much sought after theme by travel photographers...this is my rendition of it and I chose a monochrome theme so that it will fit well as a fine art photographic print suitable for different interior decors. This is also one of my most awarded works and is available for sale directly from my webpage/ shop.

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