To Balinese Hindus, the Barong is the protector of their island. He is also the material form of the god Siwa who regularly transforms himself into a Barong when coming face to face with his consort in her powerful guise as the witch queen Rangda. The tense and delicate balance between the Barong’s positive energies and Rangda’s dark powers forms the quintessential centerpiece upon which the Hindu Balinese world pivots. One of the most popular Barong plays narrates an episode from the Mahabarata epic called the Tale of Kunti Sraya. Although Indian in origin, the play is distinctly Balinese in flavor and incorporates all major forms of Balinese theatrical performance including refined female dances (pelegongan), barong (bebarongan), masking (patopengan), opera (pearjaan), drama (pengambuhan) and complex musical patterns.

The cast of Barong: The Tale of Kunti Sraya comprise both professional Balinese dancers as well as NUS students. Students enrolled in the class SE2224: Unmasked! An Introduction to Traditional Dance in Southeast Asia, spent a week in Bali in September learning the various roles needed to produce a Barong performance that would meet Balinese nods of approval. They are joined on stage by members of the NUS community including students from SE1101E: Southeast Asia: A Changing Region, and dancers from Eka Suwara Santhi, Singapore’s only Balinese dance group. Musical accompaniment is provided by Gamelan Pinda Sari from the village of Pinda in Bali.

Barong: The Tale of Kunti Sraya celebrates the close relationship that has developed between the Department of Southeast Asian Studies and the Balinese people. It is a collaborative effort and part of an ongoing series of exciting artistic showcases that bring NUS students out of the classroom and into the dynamic cultural worlds of Southeast Asia.

Location: Lecture Theatre 13, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, National University of Singapore