Gamelan music and dance are a unique and colourful part of everyday Balinese life. There are more than 80 different types of gamelan orchestras in Bali and hundreds of dances. However, few people are aware that some of these art-forms are rare and even endangered. Due to modernisation, globalisation, misguided tourism and a generally faster-paced way of life, the older traditions have lost popularity—in some cases, disappeared completely.
Mekar Bhuana is active in the documentation, study, reconstruction and performance of these rich and wonderful, yet undervalued art-forms. Based on more than 23 years of research, we work closely with senior guru from the villages, as well as professional musicians and dancers, to document, study and re-popularise a near-extinct tradition. View our video profile (still in Indonesian – English coming soon): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnzLxzpl2KU
Mekar Bhuana’s Philosophy:
Mekar Bhuana means “to blossom around the world”, symbolizing the hope that the ancient music and dance music of Bali will be better known again not just in Bali but also in the rest of the world.
Mekar Bhuana educates about the intrinsic value of Balinese art-forms which more than a millennium ago were inspired by the natural beauty of the island’s tropical surroundings. Mekar Bhuana does this by teaching about their roots in agriculture and how this agrarian lifestyle gave birth to the complex art-forms that Bali is famous for today.
Students at Mekar Bhuana don’t just learn about Balinese cultural art-forms but also about how to understand and care for its fragile island environment. Our centre aims to be zero waste via composting, recycling, up-cycling and gardening. If students can appreciate these things, they will also better appreciate the beautiful artistic environment that has emerged as a result.
Mekar Bhuana’s Aims:
– to increase local and international awareness about rare and endangered Balinese performing art-forms
– to help encourage villages and courts to preserve their valuable art-forms, including original gamelan instruments, instrumentation, playing style, repertoire, dance costumes and local style
– to learn rare performing art-forms from local guru and reconstruct gamelan repertoire from recordings and notation – to record, document rare performing art-forms
– to produce and release CDs, VCDs and DVDs of rare performing art-forms
– to provide a centre where anybody can come and learn these rare art-forms. We want people to appreciate the beauty of these unique styles of music and dance. Our musicians and dancers continue to study and are capable of performing a number of rare styles from villages across Bali.
– to increase the level of performance and tour professionalism in traditional performing art-forms – to improve the local performance conditions, reciprocation and treatment of traditional performing artists
– to protect the rights and sensibilities of traditional performing artists
– to encourage the establishment of a unification of performing arts troupes in Bali in order to improve performance terms and conditions
– to one day provide an complete archive of traditional performing art-forms that is accessible to the general public and a place where people who are passionate about Balinese gamelan and dance can gather, learn and share their valuable knowledge and experience.
At the moment, we are focusing on medieval court music and dance, by learning compositions from guru or old recordings. Our musicians then play the music on the antique orchestras at the centre. Mekar Bhuana’s concept of faithful preservation is analogous to creating a living museum—like playing Mozart on baroque instruments. In Balinese, Mekar means ‘to blossom’ and Bhuana means ‘the world’. We hope that these old art-forms will one day blossom again not only in Bali, but around the world.
Learn more about Mekar Bhuana’s profile on our Linkedin page.
Catch one of our practice sessions while you are in Bali (currently not possible due to the covid 19 pandemic). Contact us to find when one of our troupes are practicing. Donations are most appreciated and help keep our centre sustainable.