Dalang I Wayan Wija: Balinese Music and Shadow Puppet Ensemble

The following text is taken from Front Magazine, vol. VII, no. 1, p. 8, September/October 1995:

The Western Front continues its tradition of artistic exchange with artists from Bali and Java by presenting Wayan Wija and the wayang kulit theatre from the village of Sukawati, Bali. Balinese wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) is only one aspect of the rich performance traditions of Bali, which include masked dance, dance drama, and many types of musical ensembles. These artists are of the highest order in this difficult genre and are well known for upholding the finest classical repertoire as well as creating new and exciting musical plays.

Born in 1952 in Sukawati, Bali, the son of a renowned dalang, I Wayan Wija began instruction in the art of wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) at the age of 11. After early lessons with his father, he studied gender with the master musician I Made Rijin, and worked with the innovative dance-drama artists Sardono at Bali’s Conservatory of Performing Arts. The skill and innovation of his early performances quickly led to an illustrious career of both teaching and performing. Wija has performed throughout Asia, Europe and North America, including the Asia Pacific Festival in Vancouver in 1985, and has received numerous awards and international recognition.

The Ensemble will be performing Wayang Tantri, a unique form of wayang kulit created by I Wayan Wija in 1980. Derived from old Javanese narratives, Wayan Tantri uses animal characters to relate philosophical stories of every day life, evoking the animist traditions that preceded the Hindu cultural penetration of Indonesia. The music of Wayang Tantri is also innovative in that it extends the conventional gender wayang accompaniment, usually consisting of four genders (metallophones) to include a larger ensemble of up to eight musicians. The originality of the music is equally enhanced by basing the music in the pelog scale (as opposed to the traditional use of the slendro scale) giving the performance a distinct and regional flavour.

The group of gender accompanying I Wayan Wija include I Ketut Partha, Wija’s younger brother, and leader of the musical ensemble; I Wayan Mardika Bhuwana, and I Ketut Buda, both born in the village of Sukawati and who have had a long, outstanding relationship of performing with Wija. Vancouver musicians will be joining the ensemble on a variety of instruments, and a workshop will be conducted in conjunction with the performance.

The Western Front is honoured to present this widely celebrated and innovative group of master musicians and traditional dalang.

Co-sponsored by the Vancouver Community Gamelan and the Montreal Semar Pegulingan Ensemble.