Monday, 13 December 2010

This Week's Picks (#23)

The next several series of This Week's Picks are inspired by an often overlooked important aspect of music: the visual. Music is almost always accompanied by costumes, dress, dance, makeup, and/or theatre. The visual can be as simple as a pair of shades on a blues singer or as elaborate as the grand performances of Japanese kabuki theatre.

This week, our picks will focus on the theatrical side of music from around the world.  Please enjoy!

Japanese Kabuki

Kabuki is an elaborate Japanese performance form. The kanji characters that make up the word "kabuki" mean "sing", "dance", and "skill". It originated in the 1600s and characters were played by both women and men. Now, known as yaro kabuki it is only performed by men. There are three categories of kabuki theatre: historical, domestic, and dance. Today, kabuki is the most popular traditional Japanese dance style.

Indonesian Wayang Kulit

Wayang kulit refers to the most famous of Indonesian wayang (Indonesian theatre), the shadow puppets. The puppets are made of leather and their articulated limbs are maneuvered  by sticks. The performances are accompanied by gamelan orchestras in Java and gender wayang ensembles in Bali.  The stories are usually taken from Ramayana, Mahabharata or the Serat Menak.

Indian Bharata Natyam Dance

Bharata Natyam is a traditional dance accompanied by classical music (light instrumentation and a voice). The dance is highly technical and includes detailed neck, head, eye, feet and hand movements that help tell a story. The more famous of these gestures are the mudras, or spiritually symbolic gestures, generally involving the hands. Generally, a woman dances solo and demonstrates both feminine and masculine aspects of movement.


  1. I’ve just come from India and have had the pleasure of watching a number of Bharata Natyam performances. I loved it!

    Her movement is so fluid. Even though this type of dance is really technical, a seasoned dancer can move seamlessly from one difficult position to another. She makes the dance look incredibly natural and organic.

    I can't wait to go back.

    Bristol, England

  2. Something more for you from the wonderful Burma! Happy Christmas!! J