“The Phantasmagoria of Jahtilan” is a music performance by Raja Kirik in collaboration with singer Silir Wangi and performer Ari Dwianto. This project investigate the Jathilan horse dance, a folk trance dance popular in Java, Indonesia, as a way of regaining strength despite defeat. Jathilan is an acronym of “Jarane jan tjil-thilan”, which translates to a horse that dances irregularly. The current form of Jathilan developed after the Java War (fought between Javanese rebels and the colonial Dutch empire from 1825 to1830) as a folk practise to grapple with the defeat by the Dutch Empire and the devastation caused by the civil war between the Javanese population and the Javanese aristocracy who supported the Dutch. In Jathilan people use stick horses made of bamboo as a form of appreciation as well as an expression of support for rebel leader Prince Diponegoro’s horsemens who fought bravely against the Dutch colonial forces. Despite the actual defeat of the rebels, Jathilan itself always depicts an imaginary victory of the local rebel cavalry against demons, monsters, or the colonisers. This heroic performance therefore has multiple purposes: to entertain, to encourage, to heal, and to unite people against oppression.
Raja Kirik’s “The Phantasmagoria of Jathilan” is an artistic exploration of the Jathilan tradition, re-interpreting its musical, vocal, and dance forms. Syncopated electronic rhythms combine with the metallic percussion of homemade instruments that is as trance-inducing as it is bellicose. Beautifully monotonous singing in a captivating repetitive melismatic style weaves through lilting melodies that gust out of makeshift wind instruments. With frantic, seemingly endless forward propulsion, the music of Raja Kirik inhabits a wide emotional breadth, cycling from disappointment to anger to loneliness.
During the piece, the dancer embodies various heroic characters, such as Bujang Ganong, Menak Jinggo, Hanuman, or the non-fictional hero prince Diponegoro. At times the dancer also becomes a dance instructor and MC, who interacts with the audience.
Produced by Raja Kirik
Phantasmagoria of Jathilan:
Yennu Ariendra: Electronics, Voices
Johanes Santoso Pribadi: Handmade instruments
Silir Wangi: Vocals
Ari Dwianto: Dance
Recorded in Yogyakarta and Vilnius by
Yennu Ariendra and Johanes Santoso Pribadi
Mixed and Mastered by Yennu Ariendra
Cover designed by Wok The Rock
Images taken from installation art “Subterranean Thunder #1” by Jompet Kuswidananto at Kohesi Initiatives, Yogyakarta. Curated by LIR.
Photos by Yudha Kusuma Putra