The Kecak dance, as it is now called, involves a chorus of at least 50 men. They sit in concentric circles around an oil lamp and begin to slowly chant: cak-cak-cak-cak is the sound they make. Up to seven different rhythms are interwoven, creating a tapestry of sound similar to the gamelan. One man is the kempli or time beater and his “pong” cuts through the chorus. A juru tandak sings the tale of the Ramayana as the drama progresses. Tourists call this the “Monkey Dance,” because at the end of the play the men become the monkey army sent to rescue Sita. The cak sound also resembles the chattering of monkeys.
Kecak is performed solely for tourists. One would never see it in a temple ceremony. Even though it has its roots in the Sanghyang trance dances, the Kecak dancers themselves do not go into trance.