Solo is a hub for traditional performing arts, with many regular performances taking place. In this article I provide a guide to some of the routine events, but you should ask around when you get here, since schedules can change and performances are sometimes cancelled. In particular, many performances are cancelled during Ramadan.
In order to follow the schedule for many of the routine performances you need to be familiar with the Javanese calendar. This is a five day calendar, with days named Pon, Wage, Kliwon, Legi and Pahing. This calendar runs in parallel to the usual seven day calendar, thereby coinciding once every 35 days. Javanese mark auspicious and significant days according to this 35 day cycle, with dual names such as Jumat Kliwon (where Jumat is Friday), which is the coincidence of Friday with Kliwon.
Since many of the regular performances follow this 35 day schedule it is wise to check a Javanese calendar to find out when these days fall. Calendars are everywhere in Solo, so just ask at the place you are staying at, or look for one online. Public performances in Solo are usually funded by a private sponsor or institution, and are therefore free to watch. Most wayang kulit shows run all night from around 9pm to 4am, while other performance genres tend to be shorter in length. The audience is free to chat, eat, drink, smoke and come and go as they please.
The Javanese way to refer to evening events is to call them by the eve of the next day.For example, Malam Jumat is the eve of Friday, that is, Thursday night. This can be somewhat confusing at first.
Here is a list of some routine performances in and around Solo. I’m sure there are others I have missed.
Wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre with gamelan music)
- Every Malam Jumat Kliwon (the eve of Friday Kliwon) at TBS, 9pm – 4am.
- Every 14th of the month at the home of Ki Purbo Asmoro, Gebang, Mojosongo, 9pm – 12am.
- Every Minggu Pahing Malam (Sunday Pahing evening), at the home of Ki Purbo Asmoro, Gebang, Mojosongo, 9pm – 2am.
- Every Malam Rebo Legen (the eve of Wednesday Legi) at the home of Ki Anom Suroto.
- Every Malam Selasa Legen (the eve of Tuesday Legi) at the home of Ki Manteb Sudarsono.
- Every Malam Minggu Legi (the eve of Sunday Legi) at Balai Agung, next to the Alun-alun Utara, a small intimate venue.
- Every Malam Minggu Pahing (the eve of Sunday Pahing) at SMKI, gamelan high school, in Kepatihan.
- Every third Friday of the month at RRI (Radio Republic Indonesia) Surakarta, in an unusual theatre-like setting, 9pm – 3am.
Klenengan (gamelan music concert)
- Every Malam Selasa Legen (the eve of Tuesday Legi) at Balai Soedjatmiko, Gramedia, a different group performs each month, 8pm – 11.30pm.
- Pujangga Laras, approximately once a month but different dates and locations, 8pm – 2am.
- Every Malam Setu Pon (the eve of Saturday Pon) there is a radio broadcast at the Mangkunegaran Palace, 9pm – 11pm.
- Every 26th of the month at SMKI, 8pm – 10pm.
Wayang orang (wayang wong), with people acting instead of puppets
- Every evening except Sunday at Gedung Wayang Orang, Sri Wedari, 8pm – 10pm.
There are also frequent performances of wayang, dance and gamelan music at ISI Surakarta, the city’s arts institute, in Kentingan.