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Subject: [Culture, Javanese] Jaran Kepang Performance (part 1)

Article: Sport, lifestyle

Performers of the 'Jaran kepang' (JK) in Suriname are young males about 20 years old who are able to get in a trance. The group consist of: dancers mimicking horses, mask dancers and musicians. They are accompanied by the 'gambuh' a trance guru. The troupe can be as large as 30 participants. Most of them are organized in clubs. The JK in Suriname consist of two parts. The first part is called 'kembangan' or opening like a flower.

The last part is called 'mabuk' which in Suriname is translated as trance but in Indonesia it means 'drunken'. While being in a state of trance the dancers perform individual dances which appear somewhat chaotic. The JK was held for rites of passage ceremonies but at present some are held on birthdays or soccer game half-time entertainment, carnival and for tourists.

Now-a-days, you can rent a group and they are provided with transportation and a meal besides money. Prior to the actual performance, the gambuh checks with the bad and the good spirits. He asks for protection from the good spirits and he avoids the bad spirits or bribes them in a quiet way to be nice. The place of the performance is checked out and permission is asked from the keeper/owner of the grounds. Protection is asked from the four spirits of the wind. Various offerings or 'sajen' are prepared. It is a present to the spirits and one hopes that in return one gets protection. These offerings can consist of a glass of water with some jasmine petals and burning incense.

The gambuh makes all these preparartions to make sure that the JK is not disturbed by evil spirits or evil people. Incense is lighted and burns near the big gong of the gamelan orchestra (Javanese musical instruments). In addition a yellow paste is prepared from the 'kunyit' root. The performers rub themselves in with this paste to protect them from evil spirits and to prevent them to succumb to 'stage fright'...'planken koorts'.


Met dank aan Albert Buys

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