The Struggle for Common Sense with Sabdo Pandito Rakjat

©Kayan Productions/Anggoro Tri Wicaksono

For the last show of the year, Indonesia Kita wraps up a dynamic year, with a three-day sold out show of Sabdo Pandito Rajkat, led by the creative team of Butet Kartaredjasa, Agus Noor and Djaduk Ferianto. And this time, Butet Kartaredjasa and artist Sudjiwo Tedjo shared the stage with the saxophone-playing puppet master or ‘dalang’ also lending a hand as director.

The 3 and a half-hour show is a tale of sensibility and morality amidst a commotion of social and political uncertainty, showcasing the life of the late puppet maestro from Semarang, Central Java, Ki Nartosabdo whom our late first president Soekarno most adored. With a thick encapsulation of Javanese culture, we are asked to question our morals and fighting for what really matters; ensuring that a “suara rakyat” or voice of the people, must be heard even through all attempts of quenching the thirst of power.

Ki Nartosabdo was well-known for his literary interpretation of classic wayang tales that are innovative in the 50’s and 70’s which sends a flood of people to his performances even if they take all night, as most wayang performances do. Part of this achievement was his distinguishable ability to implement good-natured humor, philosophy, life advice, while still staying true to the essence of puppet plays such as the idea of upholding morality above conflicting self interests. So, it leaves little room for imagination that Sujiwo Tejo was appointed as director and a role of Ki Nartosabdo himself, as he is also known for his unusual and wittily inspirational rhetorics when observing social and cultural matters of our country.

In Sabdo Pandito Rakjat, Ki Nartosabdo runs a karawitan or an arts school with a lively lineup of students. They are the GAM trip, Sruti Respati as a sinden, and Cak Lontong and Akbar as his two sons whom eventually duels, comically and satirically of course, for the role of Arjuna. In fact, the whole entire play resembles a bubble-wrap of political and social tension that are just seconds from being popped by each character, leaving the audience reeling with laughter and occasional shakes of the head. As the play progresses, we see Ki Nartosabdo, full of ambition and ideals, contemplating whether to subdue to pressure as society doubts the credibility of his inventive artistry. On top of all that, he has to tend to his sons’ quarrel that threatens the need for him to take sides as well as mending past ailments with his wife Kuntiplayed by Happy Salma. One of the most memorable moments of the play was intense, yet playful dialogue between Tejo and Salma, thus showcasing their experience in the world of stage performance. Still, Ki

As the show closes, we are reminded that we as children of this vast archipelago if 13,000 islands must never forget to carry out the mission of maintaining its diversity or bhinneka tunggal ika as our most dignifiable asset in the eyes of the world. Furthermore, it is particularly important that we listen to our hearts, and the voice of those oppressed by those abusing their power.

It is also good to highlight that Sabdo Pandito Rakjat is a star-studded show with Happy Salma, Nini and the youngest daughter of the late Gus Dur, Inayah Wahid who lit up the stage with her sudden critical jabs at current issues in, both sensational and controversial. Bintang Indrianto, played his part to revive Ki Nartosabdo’s iconic songs with an injection of jazz, and this is where jazz singer Bonita comes to uniquely accompany Sruti Respati’s wide range of vocals. Furthermore, Didik Nini Thowok, takes part in this play to dance in tribute to Ki Nartosabdo, whom he had a chance to meet back in the day. Through Sabdo Pandito Rakjat, a call for unity and tolerance is of outmost need, when everything else around us seem to shake in restlessness and uncertainty.