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    Tropical Storm Tour: Bali Part 20

    Sunday, September 13, 2015
    Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

    On the road from Ubud to Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    On the road from Ubud to Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    A women's temple ceremony in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    A women’s temple ceremony in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    I rented a bicycle again today and headed back over to Setra Br. Pekraman Penestanan Kaja to see if the cremation ceremony had already taken place. Arriving there, I detected a faint burning smell in the air, so I suspected that it had. Plus, not many people were around, so I headed straight back to Ubud. I showed the ticket seller Nur Astika a photo I took of a schedule that was printed on a big poster in front of the temple, and after translating it, she said the cremation already took place last night. Dang! I missed it because I had to return the bicycle I rented at 6:00 pm. As a consolation prize to myself, I bought a ticket from Nur to see the Suara Sakti bamboo gamelan up in Bentuyung village, who I had already seen once before in 2010.

    A women's temple ceremony in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    A women’s temple ceremony in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    A women's temple ceremony in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    A women’s temple ceremony in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    After snacking on a bowl of vegetable curry with rice at Arimas Warung, I pedaled three kilometers north up Jalan Suweta, past many family compounds and rice fields, a few temples and shops, and some villas with stunning rice terrace and jungle views. The moment I arrived at the venue and hopped off my bike, a Balinese lady urgently beckoned me over to a temple next door. I glanced in through the gate and noticed a ceremony was going on. Then the lady literally tied a sarong around my waist and a udeng around my head and sent me packing through the gate. I felt kind of awkward when I first stepped inside, like an oversized Michelin Man dazed by the headlights of a thousand Mitsubishi trucks. I noticed that all of the attendees were women and girls, save for an elderly male priest who walked around flinging holy water on anything and everything. A few minutes later, he sat in an elevated shrine, rang a bell and and doled out more offerings.

    Suara Sakti bamboo gamelan in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    Suara Sakti bamboo gamelan in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    Suara Sakti bamboo gamelan in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    Suara Sakti bamboo gamelan in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    After a little while, I beat a retreat to reserve a seat for the show in the venue, then visited a little shop next door for a cold bottle of orange juice and some snacks. While I was taking a few photos of the bamboo gamelan instruments back at the venue, the lady who loaned me the udeng and sari returned to retrieve them. As soon as I handed them back, she hit me up for money. I gave her 5,000 rupiah, but she held up two fingers, so I doubled it to 10,000. When she said 20,000, I shut her down and walked away. By showtime, only around a dozen people had arrived to watch. Either visiting foreigners don’t have much love for bamboo, or Bentuyung village is just too far away for most of them–even though there are free shuttle vans from Ubud. After a priest blessed the audience, the stage, the instruments and the musicians with holy water, the performance began.

    Suara Sakti performs the Panyembrama dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    Suara Sakti performs the Panyembrama dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    Suara Sakti performs the Gopola dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    Suara Sakti performs the Gopola dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    The program opened with Truntungan, a long instrumental in which all of the bamboo–both small and large, short and long–produced a full range of sound, from high to really low-pitched. Some kind of huge organ also added in a fat, somewhat homely melody. Five beautiful women entranced the audience with the second number, Panyembrama, a welcome dance that gives offerings to the Gods. Next up, four young boys performed Gopola, a farmer’s dance that gave thanks for good crops. Another deep instrumental called Tabuh Kreasi Jegog Campur came next, followed by Belibis, a dance in which the women twirled about and extended their long dresses like the movements of teals. Ornate costumes were deployed for Mekepung, a dance which depicts the water buffalo race from Negara, Bali. Another instrumental called Tabuh Surya Nyalantare put some new Jegog music on display.

    Suara Sakti performs the Belibus dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    Suara Sakti performs the Belibus dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    Suara Sakti performs the Mekepung dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    Suara Sakti performs the Mekepung dance in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    For the grand finale, Tabuh Mebarung, the giant bamboo gamelan called Surya Agung (Great Sun) was unveiled. This thing was so huge, it took four men standing side by side to strike all of the bamboo rods with huge mallets. During this song, the audience was invited to step forward to feel the heavy, low pitched vibrations emanate through the stage. I walked up and put my hand, then my whole arm on the stage, but, frankly, I could not feel much. Then we got invited to climb up on stage. I did and just used the opportunity to shoot a panoramic video of the musicians playing, the last third of which was marred by a foreigner who stepped in the way. I hate when that happens!

    Suara Sakti performs on the Surya Agung bamboo gamelan in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.
    Suara Sakti performs on the Surya Agung bamboo gamelan in Bentuyung, Bali, Indonesia.

    When I climbed back down and sat in my seat, I saw couple of foreign ladies laying around on the stage, laughing and shooting photos of each other, which really amused some of the Balinese musicians. This amazing show drew to a close with an instrumental finale called Penutup. Afterward, I bought a CD of the same music from the performance for 70,000 rupiah, and the guys seemed really appreciative. Cruising back down the hill into Ubud, I was lucky I brought my headlamp with new batteries in it, as there were quite a few long, dark patches between street lights. I was also lucky Nur had reminded me of that.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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