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    Mekar Bhuana Conservatory Performances in Singapore Rave Success

    Mekar Bhuana’s four-day tour to Singapore with performances at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay was a resounding success. Over two nights, the 26-strong semar pegulingan troupe presented five performances of rare court repertoire to thousands of enthusiastic music lovers.

    Mekar Bhuana is truly grateful that a festival was concerned enough with the preservation of endangered traditional music to invite the semar pegulingan troupe to perform only instrumental music. Normally, a touring Balinese performance troupe will present mostly dance music at international festivals, because this is considered more attractive for audiences, but the “risk” taken by the festival organisers paid off – audience reaction was really positive. “I was rapped at how the audience responded to this old classical music. The troupe played to packed audiences and received standing ovations at every performance. The organisers seemed to be really satisfied at how this debut festival ran, and I’m sure next year’s will attract even more music lovers,” coordinator and co-founder Vaughan Hatch enthuses.

    When the conservatory gets major performance opportunities such as the invitation from the Esplanade, it adds greatly to the musicians’ enthusiasm to learn and preserve the old and rarer styles of Balinese gamelan music. “We reconstructed court music from old recordings by writing it down and listening over and over,” says team leader Nyoman Suwida, “It was hard at first but now we hear the results – we have recreated something that had almost died out.”

    Whilst Balinese court music, with its roots in slower Javanese music, is slower and more refined than modern Balinese gamelan, it has got a lot to do with how it is presented to audiences. Mekar Bhuana’s group is made up of mostly younger musicians, and the group tries to learn a variety of pieces in different scales to keep listeners interested – and this worked in Singapore. Vaughan explains: “I think that the way we presented the repertoire was important: interspersing longer, serious court pieces with shorter, more lively pelegongan ones, and also playing in many different modes to keep the performances tonally varied.”

    This was the first time that an old complete orchestra of this type had played overseas and it gave the audience a rare opportunity to hear different court and village styles presented in one performance. It was also the first time some pieces, which the conservatory had reconstructed from old recordings, had been heard for many decades. One of the pieces, a composition by world-famous Kuta composer I Wayan Lotring (deceased) had never been recorded until Mekar Bhuana released their tour edition audio CD. This recording can be purchase from the conservatory online at www.balimusicanddance.com/multimedia/recording

    Mekar Bhuana would like to thank all of their sponsors: Garuda Wisnu Kencana Foundation, Sourcing Bali, Wayan Woodwork, Dijon, Made Wijaya, Tugu Bali, PT Multi Bintang, Antida Studio, Bali Advertiser, Maurizio Colorni, Meriem Peillet, Johan Wahyudi, Win Fried H Brendgens, I Wayan Widia, PT Sosro, Trish Dooney, Lyn Mitchell and Carl Valiquet for their dedicated support in helping with the troupe’s preparation costs. La Gazette, Bali Advertiser and blog.baliwww.com kindly supported the troupe in their capacities as media partners. A special thanks goes out to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore for their kind support and hospitality whilst the group was in Singapore.

    It is not easy for traditional gamelan and dance troupes to get sponsorship, and there are few funding sources at present. Most funding sources, on the contrary, are involved in projects to support artistic development rather than preservation. The organisations and individuals that supported Mekar Bhuana meant that the conservatory could achieve many goals before they left for Singapore: “Without sponsorship, things would have been much tougher – we couldn’t have had so many practices and we certainly couldn’t have made our tour t-shirts or recorded our first audio CD,” said Mekar Bhuana director Putu Evie Suyadnyani, smiling. “The t-shirts and CDs were very popular in Singapore and we sold quite a few, which helps with our conservatory’s ongoing preservation projects.” Mekar Bhuana’s founders hope to gain more public and governmental interest in their preservation projects and performances, and constantly appeals to organisations and individuals for support, funding and sponsorship.

    For more photos and video of Mekar Bhuana’s performances in Singapore, visit their website: www.balimusic.org

    About – Mekar Bhuana Conservatory is dedicated to the preservation of rare Balinese performing art-forms. Jl. Penyaringan 42, Sanur; T: +62 361 8427030; Mob: +62 81999191104; E: info@balimusicanddance.com ; W: www.balimusic.org

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