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In 1825, The cremation of I Dewa Agung Gede Kusamba, the King of Klungkung was attended by lower-ranked monarchs from all the other Balinese kingdoms and contributed generously to the rite.

Although the King had quarreled incessantly with his nominally subordinate neighbors, the Kings of Badung and Gianyar dispatched court Gambuh dancers and musicians to help with preparations for the ceremony.

The combine group created a special new performance for the cremation. The innovation was called dadap because two dadap trees, traditionally associated with funeral rites on the island, were planted at opposite ends of kalangan (traditional Balinese arena stage).

The all-male company of dancers surprised and delighted the public by singing the dialogue of the play, as in Western opera. The new form came to be known as Arja and proved to be very popular among the general population.

In the Gambuh performance, emphasis is allotted more or less equally among three major elements : music, dance, and literary-theatrical features.

In Arja by contrast the vocal music became paramount, especially after 1920s when women replaced male performers in the four principal roles and the Kawi language replaced by Balinese at the same time.

Another point of emphasis in Arja is humor and clowning. No fewer than eight penasar (jester) appear in the list of standard characters.

Arja is technically very demanding. Not only must the performer sing beautifully, but she must be able to dance well at the same time. The melodic patterns sung are pre-establish, but much of the content of the play is improvised during the performance.

The singer must co-ordinate the phrasing of the vocal line with the phrasing of the gesture and fit both precisely to the accompaniment. Long training and great inherent talent are required.

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