Listen To Music
About Shadow Play
Bird Takes delightful flight in dance
[The article below appeared in the Denver Post on Monday, January 25, 1999.]
By Glenn Giffin
It is said often enough that all dance is imitative in origin, and "Cendrawasih" fits that idea.
But this is a beautiful exposition, even without anthropology. The two dancers, Ni Ketut Marni and Ni Nyoman Erawati, in costumes of gold and crimson, became a vision in double, moving largely in unison and without undercurrents of fertility and mating often seen in Balinese dance.
Even Westerners, unacquainted with the religious aspect of Balinese dance - and this is an island where religion and everyday life are intimately entwined - could appreciate it as a thing of beauty ina nd of itself. The ballet master Petipa realized that a visual idea expressed well is magnified when expressed by two, four, eight or an entire corps de ballet. The two dancers here brought several vivid vignettes of an exotic creature.
The idea was expressed wholly in terms of Balinese dance, which uses reduced space (Bali is a small island with a large population) and traditional means. The women seem to crouch - expression lies in gesture, head and eye glances, and quivering fingers. Unlike ballet and most Western modern dance where grand sweeps of the foot and leg are part of the vocabulary, here much of the torso and below is mute.
Gamelan Tunas Mekar is the accompaniment, the percussive orchestra encountered on Bali and Java. The Sunday afternoon performance was a benefit to raise money to bring a whole new orchestra of instruments to Denver.
Why? The current collection of instruments is of the "angklung" variety, restricted in scope (basically four notes only) and designed for use in temple ceremonies to support cremations; its bright and essentially cheerful sounds are intended to speed a departing spirit. A new set of instruments will belnd with the current ones, which are owned by the University of Denver, and enhance the potential of the gamelan itself. It is played by volunteers who've devoted themselves to mastering not just the notes, but also the respect that governs performers in Bali.
This benefit was to raise money to pay for the shipping of the new instruments, the commissioning and purchase of which has already been accomplished.
The sound of a gamelan is one of consistent surprise and delight. Debussy and the impressionists embraced its novelty in their own music at the turn of the century.
Denver Awakens Bali
[The following review appeared in the Balinese magazie 'Gatra' on July 7, 1996 following Tunas Mekar's performance in the Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar, Bali.]
A group of gamelan musicians from the U.S.A. played angklung bravely, surprising the Balinese audience.
Gamelan seems to be spreading around the world. One group of gamelan musicians from the U.S.A. displayed their capabilities with confidence at a performance in Bali on June 23rd, 1996. The group, a Balinese gamelan from Denver, Colorado, appeared under the name Tunas Mekar. Taking place on the outdoor Nretya Mandala stage at S.T.S.I in Denpasar, Bali, their performance (part of the Bali Arts Festival held June 8th to July 6th) attracted an enthusiastic audience. Last year, at the same event, another Balinese gamelan from the land of uncle sam called Sekar Jaya (based in California) played to a similar group. Unlike Sekar Jaya, which entertained the audience with Gong Kebyar ( a Balinese gamelan with a full-spectrum sound), Tunas Mekar bravely performed gamelan angklung. This type of orchestra has received little attention from the Balinese artists themselves. In Bali, angklung refers to a four-tone gamelan which is usually played for funerals. As opposed to kebyar, which is readily found throughout the island, angklung does not occur in every village. However, We want to awaken the Balinese, especially composers, to examine angklung more closely, said I Made Lasmawan, 38, Tunas Mekars teacher and an alumnus of S.T.S.I. in Surakarta (Java).
In recent years, the Balinese have been caught up in a kebyar trend, so Tunas Mekars very deliberate performance of angklung surprised the audience. The admiring crowd enjoyed the show piece-by-piece. The group, which was founded in 1988, performed three concert pieces and three pieces featuring dance. In addition, they showed their talent for playing the ancient instruments, Gender Wayang, and played Joged Bumbung, the music of the joged dance of Bali. This time we didnt play kebyar, said David Woodward, a Tunas Mekar member.
Lasmawan said Tunas Mekar (one of more than 100 American groups) is not only able to play different types of Balinese gamelan, but is interested in Javanese music as well. American people love gamelan. However, the majority of Tunas Mekars members are not professional musicians, but work in a variety of fields. They rehearse twice a week, traveling distances from separate locations to study gamelan. Because of the demands of their jobs, some of the members could not come to perform in Bali. Another interesting aspect: the players dont stick to one instrument, but move around instead.
The sound can be odd due to the limited tones of angklung. My feeling was not quite right when dancing with gamelan angklung, said Ida Bagus Pujawatra, 24, a student at S.T.S.I. Denpasar who danced Oleg Tambulilinggan. I Ketut Partha, 39, a former teacher of Sekar Jaya who helped Tunas Mekars performance by playing kendang (drum), realized that he needed extra concentration, being unused to playing kebyar pieces with angklung tones. But the Americans of Tunas Mekar are able to play and enjoy angklung with their entire spirits. Congratulations!
- Kadek Suartaya
Gamelan Tunas Mekar is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is sponsored in part by the DU Lamont School of Music. Copyright 2003-2007 Gamelan Tunas Mekar Created and maintained by Luminous Moon Design
Gamelan Tunas Mekar is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is sponsored in part by the DU Lamont School of Music.
Copyright 2003-2007 Gamelan Tunas Mekar
Created and maintained by Luminous Moon Design