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Full Circle

Day 117: Yogyakarta

Michael Palin - Full Circle'It's something called a gamelan orchestra,' I begin, about to embark on a long explanation.

'I thought so!' He exclaims. 'The man who's teaching me to play a saxophone leads a gamelan orchestra.'

'In London?'

'Yes.'

This unlikely piece of synchronicity is oddly comforting. Ridiculous, I know, but when I go back into the garden the music of Java reminds me of home.

The music is only half of the evening's entertainment. Joan has also found a dalang, a puppeteer, to present the traditional shadow play which they call wayang kulit. A good dalang is a bit like a pop star out here. They have their own 'roadies' who set up the cotton screen, arrange the lighting and bring them cups of tea during the performance, which could last up to eight hours. The best of them can command three million rupia for the night (around three thousand pounds). For that they have to create an entire epic, working, providing the voices and doing the sound effects for forty or fifty separate puppets.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 117
  • Country/sea: Indonesia
  • Place: Yogyakarta
  • Book page no: 171

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