An unexpected treat of exploring new surroundings is discovering its incumbent cultural mores. Songs, music, literature, cooking, art; in all its myriad forms, the presence of traditions imbues its home with a symbolic depth and creates a symbiotic link with the practitioners. For the visitor, such activity brings their new destination to life, as lights and sounds and narrative combine to share an unspoken story drawn from aeons of history.
Enter Madura. Enter Pamekasan. Enter Uldaul and its occult celebration of waterborne, godlike beings. The complicated story revolves around the machinations of a sea deity, the subtle nuances of the tale lost on the uninitiated. Instead, the superficial elements indelibly etch their marks on an observer’s psyche.
It’s a sight familiar to all carnival-goers. The endless procession of floats, seemingly bypassing the boredom of repetition by utilising unique and colourful designs. Giant anthropomorphic beasts stalk in their wake, getting in amongst the audience, their crystalline eyes casting a ghostly pallor on shocked watchers.
The music is of a traditional Madurese structure, at once upbeat and traditional. Its cadence is of the jazzy, big-band variety while the call and response vocals – shared by scores of performers – point to the communal nature of the unheralded Uldaul festival.