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Lesson Transcript

Fira: Hi everyone! I’m Fira!
Gina: And I’m Gina. Welcome back to IndonesianPod101.com! This is All About, Lesson 10, Popular Culture in Indonesia. What are the main topics we’re going to cover in this lesson, Fira?

Lesson focus

Fira: Let’s start with music. Indonesia has some of the most beautiful and complex music in the world. For example, gamelan music; a primarily percussive orchestra with drums and metallophones.
Gina: What are metallophones?
Fira: They’re like xylophones, but with metal keys rather than wooden keys. Also included in the orchestra are the gongs. Actually, the English word for "gong" comes from the same word in Javanese.
Gina: I heard that for gamelan music you don’t have to be a trained, professional musician to become really proficient. Anyone at any level of musicality can try it out if they want, is that right?
Fira: That’s right. And aside from gamelan music, Indonesia is also known for its colorful and dramatic dances.
Gina: So that’s our second topic; dances! I know that a lot of tourists like to see traditional dancing in Indonesia.
Fira: When you have at least three hundred different ethnic groups, each group is going to have its own styles of dancing. And they are all different, from very subtle to very obvious ways.
Gina: What are Balinese dances like for example?
Fira: It’s quite different from any dance style that most of our listeners may know about, such as ballet, ballroom dance, or hip-hop. It’s very earth-centered, which means there’s hardly any leaping. Instead, the emphasis is on control and balance. For instance, a basic position, called an agem, requires that you bend your arms, and have your elbows back and raised to eye level. For the males, you have to shrug your shoulders for as long as ten to fifteen minutes.
Gina: Ouch! That sounds painful. But I guess you get used to it!
Fira: Yeah, haha! One dance is called the baris, which is a warrior’s dance. This can be performed in a group or as a solo performance. Another great one is called Topeng, where dancers portray several masked characters.
Gina: Oh, I’ve heard of this one! That’s the dramatic form of dance where the masked characters interpret traditional stories of kings, heroes, and myths.
Fira: Yes! Topeng means "mask", and the performance is accompanied by gamelan music.
Gina: Sounds beautiful! Okay, what’s next?
Fira: Have you ever heard of something called Wayang?
Gina: Oh, do you mean shadow puppets?
Fira: Yes, that’s right.
Gina: I’ve watched the shows and I’ve often wondered how they make the puppets with all those decorative details.
Fira: The puppets, usually made from water buffalo hide, are engrained with patterns, painted, and decorated with gold leaves. Then rods from the buffalo horns are attached to make the body and arms. It depends on the character, though.
Gina: Wow! Not a simple task! What I found most amazing about the performance was that it can last up to nine hours! The one I went to was from eight PM in the evening until about five AM the next morning. And there’s no intermission!
Fira: Yeah, it’s hard on those putting on the performance! But of course the audience are free to go outside, eat, talk, or even fall asleep. Usually people do so during the more philosophical parts of the performance. The only person who is required to be on stage for nine hours is the dhalang, or "the shadow master."
Gina: The shadow master is really impressive! He or she must be able to narrate, sing, manipulate the puppets, provide social and comedic commentary, provide voices for up to sixty characters, direct the gamelan orchestra, AND stay awake and seated throughout the entire nine-hour period!
Fira: Amazing, isn’t it? It’s definitely a test of mental and physical endurance. As they say, it’s not easy being a dhalang. But, if you are a dhalang, you are rewarded handsomely for your efforts. One of my dhalang friends said that the most famous Javanese dhalang charges fees of at least five thousand dollars a performance, which is a large sum of money in Indonesia! The shadow master is also transported to the performance venue by limousine! Now that’s luxury.
Gina: Wow, have I chosen the wrong career!
Fira: Yes. However, they are burdened with a sense of obligation to perform for ritual and social events in their home communities.
Gina: Still, that’s a burden I wouldn’t mind bearing! Well listeners, we’ve learned some important things about popular culture in Indonesia in this lesson!
Fira: It was fun! We’ll see you for the next lesson!


Gina: Until next time, bye everyone!
Fira: Sampai jumpa lagi