Whether it is a Korean Confucian ceremony or a Qawwali devotional from Pakistan, observation will tell us that many Asian religious practices are imbued with music, and vice versa. On the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali this generalization holds. The presentation of the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are full of music. With this CD, Les Musiques Du Ramayana, Vol. 3: Bali -- Sunda, portions of both Balinese and Sundanese versions of the Ramayana are presented. The Ramayana, whose composition is attributed to the holy man Valmiki, first appeared sometime between 4 B.C. and 4 A.D. It is a momentous story full of moral dilemmas, monolithic battle scenes, and fantastical episodes. For the first 15 minutes on this CD, the Wayan Wong version of the Ramayana is heard. This ritualistic Balinese genre is a choreographed adaptation of the Wayang Kulit, or shadow-puppet theater. Instead of the dancing shadows of the Wayang Kulit, the Wayang Wong uses living masked dancers to convey the twists and turns of the epic. The orchestra used in the Wayang Wong is known as the gamelan Batel Pewayangan. Played with the typical virtuosic synchronization associated with Balinese gamelan performances, the Wayang Wong presented on this CD shimmers and undulates with lucidity, precision, lightening fast hocketting, and melodic refinement. Following this track comes a marionette version of the Ramayana. Known as the Wayang Golek, this Sundanese take on the epic is the most popular form of theater on Western Java. Most often performed at night, the Wayang Golek begins with a half-hour musical overture and then morphs into instrumental passages, divine vocal incantations, and lively dialogic bandying. Such instruments as the rebab (a two stringed bowed instrument) and the kendang (conductor's drum) are heard among a number of gongs and metallophones (e.g., saron panerus, gambang, bonang, and kempul). In sum, the third volume from a series of CDs dedicated to revealing cultural variations on the Ramayana, Les Musiques Du Ramayana, Vol. 3: Bali - Sunda is an exquisite set of recordings that underscores the deep connection between religion and the arts in Asia.
AllMusic Review by John Vallier