The Sacred Entertainment: Réak, Ceremonial Horse Trance Music from Priangan (Discrepant)


Kasenian réak is a community-based Indonesian performance art. It commonly celebrates life achievements like weddings and circumcisions. The music comes from the Priangan area of West Java and the style is seni lungsuran, part of a family of Javanese horse dances who’s traditions date back before the 8th century. Performances last about 9 hours and feature costumed dancers and parades.

This music is trance music, percussion and pipes, that weaves in and around itself endlessly – seemingly improvised. It’s hard to keep track of, or note its intricacies as it’s impossible not to drift away within a few moments of pressing play. Occasionally though you’ll be jolted back though by some of the changes in tempo and intensity of the playing. This is music you experience, not music you listen to.

These are field recordings, you can hear kids chattering and birds during the announcements. They were clearly recorded during a ceremony, and this trance inducing nature is intended to foster spirits entering the bodies of dancers, and when possessed they can perform super human feats such as eat burning charcoal and glass, or breaking bricks with their foreheads.

Even devoid of its context, its impossible not to be seduced by this incredible music. Whilst its pitched as one side traditional, the other traditions with a modern twist, the reality is that it’s all quite remarkable, hypnotic and experiential.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.