BirthDersana, Pacitan, East Java, Indonesia (1961)
Javanese puppet master (dhalang in Javanese, dalang in Indonesian) of wayang kulit purwa (shadow theatre). Born in East Java in 1961 to Dalang Sumarno, Ki Purbo Asmoro’s lineage includes at least six known generations of dalang and reportedly many more (Ki is an epithet of respect accorded to a senior dalang). He attended the high school of performing arts in Surakarta and performed wayang to earn money while studying. He continued at ASKI (Academy of Music) in Surakarta and eventually earned an MA in Performance Art from University of Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta.
Since he won the 1992 dalang contest for Central Java, Ki Purbo’s career has flourished. He is married to Sudi Rahayu, a sindhen (also pesinden, female singer) who has performed with him. He teaches pedhalangan (traditional wayang arts) at ISI Surakarta (Institut Seni Indonesia, Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Surakarta/Solo) and performs nationally and internationally. Emerging dalang who cite his influence include Yogyakarta artist Seno Nugroho.
Ki Purbo is known for combining classical form with respectful innovation and has avoided the campursari style, which mixes pop and light comedy into wayang performance. Since 2005, he has toured to the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Bolivia, Singapore, Austria, Thailand, Greece, France, and India. International performances are translated simultaneously into English by Kathryn (Kitsie) Emerson, using digital media. In 2007, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA) purchased a complete set of Purbo Asmoro’s wayang and invited him to perform during the exhibition. His work with Emerson’s translations is making wayang more accessible to an Anglophone world.