Music and Puppet Artistry in Java

Sang Angklung UdjoBandung is the home of a musical arts school called Sang Angklung Udjo. It is here that students from age 3 years and up learn to master the instruments of the Javanese orchestra as well as Wayang Golek puppetry. Both are incredible to witness and are easily a Bandung must see. This was my first time and I look forward to enjoying the experience again.

The concert, or as they would rather it be called, demonstration, lasts for a little over 2 hours.  If you think that’s a long time to be sitting, a full version would traditionally last 7 hours, hence the term demonstration.

It starts out with an explanation of what you are about to witness but the explanation does not do it justice. Not from lack of effort by the emcee but simply because words cannot adequately capture the value of this performance.

The two hours consist of angklung solos as well as full orchestral renditions of modern music done in traditional format, childrens recitals, dance, an unveiled puppet show (which for me was one of the highlights as you get to see the puppet masters skill), and an interactive portion.

It was the interaction portion which scared the daylights out of me.

I am freaked out when anyone tries to make sing in public when I’m not prepared.  It’s just not fair of me to inflict that kind of torture on others.  Even the thought that this may happen during the course of the evening is disconcerting to me.

I remember once on a bus in Rotorua, New Zealand, the driver, on the trip back from a traditional Maori hangi (food cooked in an earthy pit), got everyone to start singing a song from their respective countries. I could feel my heart start to race and sweat beads form on my wrists and forehead.

Right from the mere mention of his plan…I wanted off the bus!

But, back in Bandung, it turned out to be very relaxing and enjoyable as the entire audience performed various melodies while being directed by the orchestras conductor.  It was a group effort and not any one single individual (me) was being put on the spot.

The angklung is kind of like the harmonica in that each  note is specific to that angklung. So you need eight angklung to play do, re, me, fa, so, la, te, do…am I getting too involved?

You will see it and enjoy it when you are there, I guarantee it. (See video below)

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40 thoughts on “Music and Puppet Artistry in Java

  1. Entertaining article. Video was a real plus. I have friends in music ministry that travel to Czech Republic and Hungary for things like this but i’ve never watched a video or anything about it. I’m with you about being put on the spot to sing…nervous wreck. lol Thanks for sharing your unique experience.

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  2. We just love experiencing the music of different countries. It’s amazing what different instruments and vocal styles are in the world. I think we will have to check this out if we are ever in Bali

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  3. I love that you added the video. It’s always a bit hard to understand music through written accounts 🙂 Though I couldn’t imagine listening to anything for 7 hours (unless it were The Beatles and I was on a 7 hour ‘shroom trip)

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  4. Thanks for a glimpse of a part of the world and culture I have never experienced Tim. The clip was great and it’s refreshing to see the young musician enthusiastically demonstrating their talents and making such uplifting music with these unique instruments.

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  5. I am now just imagining you singing TIm that must have been fun. How different is this instrument from the Marimba? Demonstration indeed, that long? It does sound intrguing though.

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  6. Those kids are Killing it on their instruments. They are so talented for being so young. I can sing and play the guitar. I was ok on the guitar. I understand how much discipline it takes to learn an instrument. Thanks for sharing their beautiful music. 🙂

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    1. They are a talented bunch Crystal and if you go on youtube you will find a bunch of videos of them and or the angklung. There is an especially cool one of a Rhianna song.

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  7. I would love to see the Sang Angklung Udjo demonstration. It would be fascinating to get a bit of an explanation and then see and hear the students.

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  8. I can speak without much notice in a public setting, but have never sang in front of anyone EVER. The me that sings in the car would most likely freeze. I can’t imagine sitting through any kind of show for seven hours, though I would give my front teeth to sit through Wagner’s Ring Cycle 😉

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  9. I have done things when I’ve suddenly had to get up and speak and then there are the organized events. I think I prefer the ones when you are just put on the spot to do something because you laugh at it and people know you haven’t had time to prepare so it’s freeing, they get it and understand whereas if it’s planned there are a whole slew of nerves just building up to it and if you make a mistake you know people are thinking “Wow! and she prepared for this? Too bad!”

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  10. I would have loved to see that unveiled puppet show. I’m not much for puppets themselves, but I’m amazed at what the artists have to do to get them to work. I always want to see behind the scenes!

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  11. Well, I loved the video and being the ham that I am, do not have a problem being called upon to speak without notice. Singing were surely empty the room because I am tone deaf. Like you, I sing in the shower and in the car. I have never been to the part of the world you describe. Maybe one day. Trying to think of anything that even comes close, and I am drawing a blank. I enjoyed your post! Something totally new for me!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Laurie. The kids at this school were really quite incredible and their talent and enthusiasm extra-ordinary; was a pleasure to be there.

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  12. Hey Tim, I love the combination of music and puppet artistry and this version is entirely new to me. The fact that one needs 8 angklung to play our scale probably says a lot about the collaborative outlook of the performers. Although not an accomplished singer I would brazen it out, if only to make everyone else feel better about their own performance !

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  13. This was highly entertaining! I never saw this when I was in the region of the world…but I did see the Monkey Dance in Bali which was very interesting indeed! But I would have enjoyed the puppet artistry also…maybe I should try and get to Bandung 🙂 That angklung is cool! And really…is the voice that bad??? LOL I’m sure yours was among many harmonious tones.

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    1. It’s no so much that the voice is bad, I think I do a great rendition of Heartbreak Hotel while in the shower, it’s more nerves. It’s that public speaking thing but I am getting better at that. I can speak better than I can sing that’s for sure.

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    1. Personally I don’t know how you could go wrong but as we both know; things do change. I just read your post on Lembongan and loved my time at Dream Beach as well.

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