SEMAR The Goodness Adviser
A wayang kulit puppet theatre performed at the New Zealand School of Music (Victoria University campus) on 21st June 2014 to celebrate 40 years of Gamelan in New Zealand, and the 70th year of Jack Body, who has been such a driving force and inspiration behind it.
SEMAR The Goodness Adviser (Semar Sang Pamomong)
Budi S Putra
Poem (modified) Tachibana Akemi
Sang Hyang Tunggal, king of the heavens, surveys the three worlds. He contemplates the earthly realm, and observes a constant stream of troubles and difficulty.
The lesser gods – dewa and dewi, go about their tasks in their inimitable way, and sometimes Sang Hyang Tunggal sighs to himself about the difficulties and disasters that they find themselves in, and how their foolishness brings trouble to all places and beings.
He can, without any doubt, see that they need nurturing guidance that will help them find the peace in themselves and do the best for this realm. So thus, he meditates and receives a miraculous egg containing three descendants for his pantheon of gods: his sons Sang Hyang Antaga, Sang Hyang Ismaya and Sang Hyang Manikmaya.
Although they have not yet appeared in the world their destiny has been foretold. They will be wise and powerful leaders, and advisor to gods, kings and men alike. They will skilfully guide the inhabitants of the three worlds, and bring peace and prosperity to all. It is an unalterable destiny which they must share and equally bear.
Two of the gods, Antaga and Ismaya, argue about who will rule the kingdom of heaven, Njonggring Salaka. The debate gets increasingly hot, and eventually they finally decide to compete with magic to determine who is most worthy and entitled to become the king of the gods.
The battle causes concern for their grandfathers, both Sang Hyang Wenang, who presides over nature, and Sang Hyang Rekatama, who presides over the ocean. The battle of their two grandchildren has had many devastating consequences including damaging the mountains, forests and oceans, as well as other creatures both in their heavenly kingdoms and on the earth.
Their father is displeased by their abysmal efforts, and sets them the task of swallowing the Himalaya Mountains to show that they are worthy of ruling over the three worlds.
Both want this, and show off their magic, each transforming themselves into a huge giant and scrambling to take hold of a Himalayan mountain, hoping to be able to swallow it.
Again, neither of them is the winner, as neither of them are able to swallow the mountains. Eventually Antaga and Ismaya are transformed into the distorted and disfigured Semar and Togog , and their impatience is been replaced by the wisdom that comes from life experience.
Togog and Semar regret their bad behaviour which has resulted in their unfortunate transformation, and lose their right to live in their heavenly kingdom. However, they both realise that they were very stupid, but that there is wisdom to be found in what has happened, and that the mandate given by Sang Hyang Tunggal to be an adviser for goodness in the world is a noble task. Both finally agree to give thanks and to relax and entertain themselves with singing, dancing and humour.
(1) – Dream music
Miracle egg with two or three Gunungan
Sang Hyang Tunggal (SHT) and two wives walking slowly across screen from right to left
SHT stops on right and wives on the left with the miracle egg in the middle
Sang Hyang Tunggal: (almost at the end of Dream music) Hong Wilaheng awi genam mastu, Oh my lord, my humble obesciences…
The three worlds are under duress and at risk from the constant trouble strife. The inhabitants of these worlds are lacking in the wisdom that will help them to live their lives. All things suffer because of this. Without self-knowledge, everybody in these worlds will succumb to misfortune and the whole of the three worlds will face chaos and endless trouble.
(2) Hatching music
It is my most earnest desire that they have a Pamomong – a good and kindly adviser who will embody and show the necessary wisdom required to exist peacefully in the world. I humbly desire to bring forth from this egg a powerful son who will become a great king and ruler of the three worlds.
The three puppets move forward and touch the egg, then disappear (move backwards towards the light)
Rise in volume and intensity with loud bit for egg breaking open.
The egg hatches and three gallant and handsome dewa emerge. They look around and then shoot-off in every direction, exploring the world around them before coming together as a group.
Three dewa walking left and right
Gunungan movements – indicate that something is happening
Three dewa together on the left of the screen, and SHT on the right
(3) Mysterious interlude
SHT: My sons, born of the womb of the universe. You are of divine origin. Great things are foreseen in you. You will bear a great responsibility and face a great many challenges. Your influence will continue without being limited by space or time.
One of you majestic dewas is destined to become the king of the three worlds, but which of you it is cannot be known. So it is that you must prepare yourselves, for it may be any one of you…
(4) Energetic interlude
Antaga moves to follow Sang Hyang Tunggal, but Ismaya forcefully stops him. Agitated conversation.
Ismaya:Hey Antaga – hold your horses there ! Don’t assume that it will be you who is chosen to be the new king. There are others who might be better suited to the role. You need to have intelligence to know all that can be known and the wisdom of of the ages. Look – you’ve still got bits of egg-shell stuck to you, and yet you want to rule the universe. I, however, have all of the requisite qualities.
Antaga:No way bro ! I’m way more eligible than you – I was made from the firm shell of the egg, and you were only made from the slimy white part – just in case you hadn’t noticed.
Ismaya:You’re just made of crappy old egg shells – I’m made from the life-giving and nutritious white – the source of biological life !
Manikmaya:Neither of you should be king – you’re both fools. I wouldn’t even want you to be in charge of sorting out the recycling before it is put out in the morning. I’m not interested in this competitive nonsense – no good will come of it. I will leave to your own ends…Manikmaya turns and leaves
Antaga:It should be me !
Members of the gamelan all shouting me ! canon – come shambling rabble
(5) Battle music
First battle – (Antaga and Ismaya)
Forests are destroyed, animals running etcetera
SHT appears before them and intervenes, separating them, telling them that:
(Narration – in Soft ‘Outro’ part of battle music)
SHT: Battle and warfare hasn’t achieved anything at all – it has only brought harm to the earth and all who dwell in her realm. Look at you both – haggard and worn out from your efforts. Perhaps I should have provided you with some guidance to bring about a clear result. I will set a task for you – whichever of you is able to swallow the Himalayas in one gulp, will be crowned King of the gods of the Suralaya heaven.
SHT turns and leaves
(6) Second battle music
Antaga and Ismaya become Semar and Togog. They move backwards towards each other, bump into each other (bum to bum), and then turn to face each other. (This is the cue for Jasons piece).
(7) Clown music
(8) Guitar and violin for Semar and Togog dialogue
Semar: Hey Togog – We wore ourselves out fighting – for what ! Look at what we have become ! – that was pretty dumb wasn’t it. Nothing was gained – and we lost our good looks – well I lost mine – you seem to have been improved by our transformation. Now we are equals ! Oh well – one shouldn’t dwell in regrets over what has happened in the past.
Togog:Well I’d always wanted to look like a frog so that you didn’t feel alone. I did it for you Semar. Enough of the serious stuff – it’s about time for a song don’t you think ? Do you know any good Justin Bieber songs
Semar:I only know the Beatles, but I know everything that they ever sang.
Togog:How about Swara Suling ?
Semar:I don’t remember the Beatles singing that…
Togog:Of course they did. Let’s play Swara Suling…
(9) Swara Suling
Semar:Hey Togog – that was nice – much better than Justin Bieber
Togog:Now it is your turn to choose another great Beatles song. Do you know any ?
Semar: How about Praon ?
Togog: Wasn’t that from the famous album “LuMayAn” (sings first part of “LuMayAn” to the tune of “Let It Be”)
Semar:(Whacks Semars ear) – That’s not Praon
Togog: Celine Dion ?
(10) Start playing “My heart will go on” with suling part played deliberately badly,Togog sings along with it
Semar: Praon – Pih-rah-on
Togog: Don’t you like Celine Dion ?
Semar: Are you deaf ?(Grabs Togogs ear)
Togog: Huh ? Dave ? Dave’s not here.
Semar: Dave ? Who’s Dave ?
Togog: He’s not here !
Semar: (rubs his temples) Oooooo I feel a headache coming on. Pra – on !
Togog: Why don’t you like Celine Dion ?
Semar: Gamelan please play Praon and stop him from spoiling this performance.
(12) Sendhon Tlutor
Semar:It’s time for us to separate and go to our respective worlds. Togog will bring goodness and wisdom to the world of giants, whilst I, Semar will be responsible for the goodness and wisdom of the noble classes. We will be the PAMOMONG (advisors) who have the task of advising, warning and being an embodiment of wisdom and kindness.
(1. Ending – Farewell
Semar:It’s time for us to separate and go to our different worlds. Togog will bring goodness and wisdom to the world of giants, whilst I, Semar will be responsible for the goodness and wisdom of the noble classes. We will be the PAMOMONG (advisors) who have the task of advising, warning and instilling kindness, for a peaceful life that embodies peace and wisdom.
(Togog and Semar both go their separate way and leave – dancing (Togog to the left and Semar goes to the right) – dancing to Jason and Rupert playing imbalan on Balinese Drums)
Semar seems to drift off into the sky.
Then there is a tree on one side of the screen. The Jack puppet walks from the other side as if looking for something. He is humming to himself. (A favourite piece ?) Like looking at the flowers. Semar appears very briefly in the sky, and then disappears.
Jack looks up and ums…ahhh…hmmm…ahhh…yes….
Sits under the tree and slowly arranges himself. Then he begins to recite…
(Wistful, dreamy, slightly romantic)
What a delight it is
When on the bamboo matting
In my grass-thatched hut
All on my own, I make myself at ease.
Ummmms to himself then Ahhhhs too. A wistful sigh.
Semar rises from inside of Jack – rotates a few times above him, and then parks in front of him.
Jack: What a delight it is
Rare writings from a friend
I open out
The first sheet
Or a score
That has never – been read before
Semar: A tune that has never been played
Jack: A sound never heard
Semar: A world not yet explored
Jack: Never before –Hooray ! Encore !
Jack: (Looks towards Semar – squints a bit) You look somewhat familiar…
Jack: What a delight is
When, composing a final score,
Finding the sound that I want,
Under a stone.
Or at the butchers shop, or a country fair.
Semar: Like tuning all of the instruments to one single note.
Jack: And letting the breath of the sky make them all sing.
Jack: Like looking at a photo of you on the wall.
Semar: And seeing yourself looking back.
Jack: What a delight it is
When, after a hundred days
Of racking my brains,
That verse that wouldn’t come
Suddenly turns out well.
Semar: That awkward passage
Jack: That cannot be conceived
Semar: Nor traversed.
Jack: Nor played.
Semar: Unfathomable !
Jack: What a relief it is
Semar: When it comes out well.
Jack: What a delight it is
When, skimming through the pages
Of a Book, I discover
A man written of there
Who is just like me
Semar: And me
Jack: There is no one like you
Jack: And you
Jack: What a delight it is
When, of a morning,
I get up and go out
To find in full bloom a flower
That yesterday was not there
Semar: Such a surprise indeed
Jack: The surprise is when you realise
Semar: That it had been there all along
Jack: Sometimes our eyes let us down (Exaggerated wistfulness and regret)
Jack: What a delight it is
When you think that you are alive !
And then you find that you aren’t,
And then are, and then aren’t again
Jack: It’s like popping-in – for a bit of spicy – hee hee
Semar: Like having a cup of tea at Taihape !
Jack: A cup of tea at Taihape ! Oh goodness gracious me…
Jack: What a delight it is
When I blow away the ash
To watch the crimson
Of the glowing fire
And hear the water boil
Semar: In my reckoning, boiling water means a cup of tea
Jack: A cup of tea !
Semar: At Taihape…
Semar: So it is that we might drink our tea, and then depart, so fare ye well, and maybe we’ll meet again…
Semar rises, turns a few times and then descends, merging into Jack
Jack rises and moves slowly off, as the Kayon are arranged to indicate the end of the performance.
Theme from “close to home”
What Jack Body has done for us is similar to what SEMAR does as pamomong. Jack fostered the dissemination of gamelan in New Zealand. His dedication and hard work in guarding the success of gamelan in New Zealand is a manifestation of his love for art in his soul.