A small group of four musicians – Vaughan Hatch, Putu Evie, Gede Semara and Prana Gita – performed Baleganjur Bebarongan using six of the instruments from Mekar Bhuana Aotearoa’s Semara Patangian set as part of the ‘Drumwave’ conceived by the Head of Victoria University’s Music Department Sally Jane Norman and composed by Wellington musician and compose Riki Gooch for the first national recognition of the Maori New Year (called Matariki) as a national holiday. Check out the video here:
Mekar Bhuana Aotearoa in association with NZIA (New Zealand Indonesia Association) presents MBA’s Gamelan Semara and Dance course students for a first-time-ever performance of Balinese music and dance at Wellington Railway Station during rush hour on July 15th 2022 4 – 4.30 pm. Free!
Witness this historic event and also enjoy a free cup of coffee!
Kenong: the long extinct Semara Patangian and Semara Pagulingan Saih Lima instruments that were last recorded at Teges Kanginan in 1941. Now, about 80 years later we are resurrecting them in Aotearoa-New Zealand! Struck at the same time as the kempur, this instrument lends a unique feel to its gamelan texture. Our director, Putu Evie Suyadnyani, created this beautiful floral design, a blend of native Aotearoa-New Zealand flowers (pōhutukawa) and light-green leaves in Bali. Let’s pay more attention to the rare instruments or ensembles in Bali so that they don’t become extinct and their original functions can be revived again!
Our founders and director are currently in New Zealand where they are establishing a brand new Mekar Bhuana Chapter called Mekar Bhuana Aotearoa (the original, Māori name for New Zealand). In an effort to spread our message around the world, Vaughan and Evie have brought with them one of Mekar Bhuana’s old gamelan sets that they have termed Gamelan Semara that is a combination of seven-tone Semara Pagulingan (old instruments) and Semara Patangian (with new gender rambat and kemong). The gangsa in this set all gangsa jongkok and have two sets of casings for seven-keys as well as five keys in the old-fashioned (61235) order. The jublag and jegogan remain seven tone as part of the set that includes a 16-pot terompong, ponggang and kangsi, but are also part of the five-tone set that also includes a 13-pot terompong and gumanak. By combining the two sets into one, the ensemble is not a compromise, but rather can stand on its own to faithfully performing both distinct art-forms, but with their own characteristic instrumentation. This ensemble is an addition to the two existing gamelan sets (a Gender Wayang quartet as well as a Besakih-style Selonding) that the founders brought to New Zealand in 1998 and 2015 respectively.
Mekar Bhuana Aotearoa (MBA) has the aim of spreading the beauty of Balinese culture through community music-making and dance. MBA has completed Gamelan Semara Course One with 23 participants and Course Two has 26 participants, which are spectacular numbers for a gamelan course outside of Bali! Registration for Course Three will open on June 30th and the course will start on July 21st: register now before it is full! Follow us on IG, FB and YouTube to keep up with our activities in New Zealand!
Starting a couple of months ago, we’ve started to release many of our historic recordings of rare and once-forgotten court and archaic Balinese music online. Support our years of hard work reconstructing this beautiful music by purchasing these recordings from Apple Music and Spotify.
Donate here to help us complete more reconstruction projects and release even more new and wonderful recordings of lost Balinese music!
“Who can tell us how many different types of semara pagulingan there are in Bali,” Vaughan quizzed the audience at Mekar Bhuana’s semara pagulingan performance at this year’s Bali Arts Festival. Read the rest of this entry »
After the purchase of a beautiful iron selonding gamelan set, a duplicate of the ancient 10th century set from Besakih Temple, Mekar Bhuana Conservatory has immersed itself serious selonding study. Read the rest of this entry »
Have you ever tried learning Balinese dance? It can seem pretty tricky with all those flashy eye movements, wrist twist, back arching and finger wiggling! Indeed Balinese dance can be a little challenging the first time you try… Read the rest of this entry »
Mekar Bhuana will perform at the Bali Arts Festival again this year on Sunday June 19th, a day after the festival opening, presenting the material they performed at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010: rare and previously extinct semar pegulingan music accompanying a showcase of gambuh dances. Read the rest of this entry »
Now back in Bali, we are celebrating success in China where our performances in Guangzhou were really well received. Representing Indonesian traditional art-forms at the 16th Asian Games Concert Series, Read the rest of this entry »
Since the death of I Ketut Nagi last month, there is only one musician left in Banjar Singgi, Sanur (I Wayan Mandra who is nearly 70) who remembers the extremely rare pelegongan repertoire learnt in the 1950s from I Kecug of Kelandis. Read the rest of this entry »
With a move to Denpasar, just outside of Sanur, Mekar Bhuana is now on larger, spacious premises, dramatically increasing the conservatory’s capacity to hold group lessons, workshops, seminars, performances and events. Read the rest of this entry »
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing on May 15th of pelegongan advisor, gender rambat expert and grandfather of Mekar Bhuana founders Putu Evie and Vaughan Hatch, I Ketut Nagi. Read the rest of this entry »
Pelegongan and gender wayang maestro, I Wayan Kelo from Br Pande Mas, Kuta, died on Thursday afternoon at age 70 after suffering a stroke and battling briefly with leukaemia. Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday, we (Vaughan, Sudama, Sadera and Suwida) took a trip to Karangasem. Our mission was to meet Srimpu Tusan from Bebandem to learn more about Yayasan Selonding and his magnus opus Selonding – Tinjauan Gamelan Bali Kuna Abad X – XIV. Read the rest of this entry »
Our semar pegulingan group is currently reconstructing one of the longest semar pegulingan pieces known: Semambang Jawa. Now extinct in the village where this version originates (Pagan Kelod), the piece was recorded on cassette tape by Professor Pande Made Sukerta in 1977. A big “matursuksma” goes out to Professor Sukerta for providing us access to this recording. We hope that, once the Pagan Kelod musicians who are members of Mekar Bhuana have learnt this piece, they will pass their knowledge on to their village where the music can be brought to life once more.
Semambang Jawa reveals modulation in and out of three modes: lebeng, selisir and sunaren, which makes it fascinating to both play and listen to. It is also very long and a real challenge to memorise, consisting of two 256-beat pengawak and two 64-beat pengecet. One of the musicians claimed that it could take two years just to remember the pengawak sections, which are are the equivalent four pengawak legong. It is probably the length of these compositions as well as their meditative-like tempo that contributed to their decline in popularity as Bali edged towards modernism and “everything fast and instant”.
Once the reconstruction is complete and funding is secured, our group plans to record this piece as well as several others for a second Mekar Bhuana court music album. Then this music will be documented and accessible to future generations to appreciate and study. Please give us all the support you can!
Our semar pegulingan troupe played to a good sized crowd at the opening of a painting and photographic exhibition at The Mansion last week. Even though dark skies loomed, the rain held off and the performance of eight court pieces were extremely well received. Mekar Bhuana founders, Vaughan and Evie were happy to get positive feedback directly from prominent Balinese including the Vice-governor, the Regent of Gianyar, Cokorda Ubud and Cokorda Peliatan. Hopefully we will be able to generate more support from the Balinese and Indonesian governments for our cultural heritage preservation efforts.
At this event we took the opportunity to perform Tabuh Blandongan, a twenty-minute piece that consists of four long sections (pengawak) and five shorter sections (pengecet). Our terompong player for this piece was only fifteen, and is probably the youngest person who has ever learned and performed this difficult court piece from Pagan Kelod (originally Puri Denpasar style). Three audio samples are on our Audio page.
Don’t miss our performance of rare Balinese court music on December 22nd at The Mansion, Sayan, Ubud. Our semar pegulingan troupe will present seven-tone repertoire from Kamasan, Klungkung (Puri Klungkung) and Pagan Kelod, Denpasar (Puri Denpasar). We will perform three Kamasan pieces and five Pagan Kelod pieces, including recently learnt Blandongan. Blandongan is one of the most difficult pieces in the Pagan Kelod repertoire because of its length and since it features modulation in and out of three scales.
The musical recital will accompany a wonderful, multi-faceted art exhibition, featuring Kamasan style painting by maestros Mangku Mura and Mangku Ni Mura Nengah Muriati, and two young artists, Krina Flower and Casimiro Valentim.
Exhibition opens at 6.30pm and recital starts at 7pm.
We would like to amend our earlier press release and mention that Mekar Bhuana wishes to acknowledge the generosity of Arbiter Records(www.arbiterrecords.com) and Edward Herbst for providing us with their newly restored audio versions of the 1928 Beka 78 r.p.m. records. These original Titih recordings will be released by Arbiter in 2010 on their Bali 1928: CD#3, but they were given to us prior to this release date to aid our music reconstruction project. The quality of these newly mastered recordings is enabling us to hear the individual instrumental parts more clearly than has been previously possible. It is wonderful that such kind people support the reconstruction of near-lost Balinese music, and I’m sure the current generation of Balinese, especially the people from Banjar Titih, will be delighted to hear this music once more. We hope that more recordings such as these will become available to the Balinese as times goes on.
On October 8 (tomorrow), Mekar Bhuana will perform at Maha Bandana (“to create something impressive”) – a three-day event at Puputan Square in Denpasar to elevate the value of Denpasar heritage and culture, whilst remembering the battles with the Dutch in 1906 that ended in mass suicide on the part of the Balinese kingdoms, called “Puputan”. As the main instrumental performance before the processions in the late afternoon, our semar pegulingan troupe will present two different original styles from Denpasar: Banjar Pagan Kelod and Banjar Titih. Upon receiving the invitation to perform, the musicians from Mekar Bhuana have reconstructed the oldest recording of semar pegulingan known (also the oldest Balinese gamelan recording known). The piece chosen was Tabuh Ginanti, played by the group from Banjar Titih, a banjar in Jl Sumatra, Denpasar. Sadly, in 1928, with the explosion of the kebyar style from the north, this gamelan set was melted in 1952. The vintage record that this recording is taken from is the compilation of Balinese music that inspired Colin McPhee to travel to Bali to study about Balinese gamelan. He was particularly taken by the scale of the semar pegulingan from Titih, commenting: “It is a scale of indescribably tonal beauty, remarkable for the unusual minor third occurring between deng and dung and the resulting near major second found between dung and dang.”
Our group first notated the piece and constantly referred to the crackly recording for the gangsa configurations (nguncang, in Balinese) and to work out the kendang patterns (the hardest part, because they are the most difficult to hear). Practice is coming along well now and we are confident that we will have the piece ready for tomorrow.
So, now after almost 60 years, the Titih semar pegulingan style will be heard once more. This reconstruction effort demonstrates the importance of recording to preserve traditional music the world over. Without such recordings (I’m sure that there are many more that are sitting in basements and attics across the world!), beautiful music like this would be lost forever.
A big thanks goes out to Denpasar City Cultural Department for giving us this opportunity to expose this rare music to the Balinese general public – hopefully the lyrical art-form of semar pegulingan will someday experience the popularity that it deserves!
If you are in Bali on October 8th, get down to Puputan Square at around 5.00pm. We will perform for just 30 minutes and also accompany the dance of the king and Sidakarya masked dance. See you there!
Dari Komunitas Kreatif Bali (http://komunitaskreatifbali.wordpress.com) Acara Obral Rabu Malam, Denpasar July 1, 2009 – Ternyata bukan hal sederhana macam berjumpa dan mendengar sharing dari tetamu saja yang di dapat dari OBRAL alias Obrolan Rabu Malam ini. Read the rest of this entry »
Preservation of Rare Balinese Gamelan: a South Bali Model for the North?
Whilst studying gamelan on a scholarship in Bali, ethnomusicologist Vaughan Hatch became aware of how many Balinese performing art-forms were either endangered or extinct. Read the rest of this entry »
Mekar Bhuana conservatory has been invited to demonstrate rare semara pagulingan styles and the results of their preservation projects at the International Conference and Festival on North Balinese Culture to be held at the Bali Taman Hotel in Lovina, Buleleng July 30-August 2, 2009. Read the rest of this entry »
After nine years of ongoing preservation project, practices and performances, Mekar Bhuana have finally released their first audio recording. A compilation of semara pagulingan and pelegongan gems, further details are available about this outdoor recording on the Recording page under the audio tab.