Enjoy Antique Semar Pagulingan Music this Full Moon
In Bali, full moon is an important event—an occasion to be celebrated, a time to rejoice and making beautiful offerings to the gods. On the tenth full moon, hundreds of temples celebrate their seven-monthly temple anniversaries.
This month happens to be the tenth full moon (sasih kedasa) and Mertasari Temple, an old temple located by the beach in Mertasari Sanur, will hold its temple anniversary (odalan). There will be many music and dance performances over several days, including semara pagulingan court music by Mekar Bhuana Conservatory. Also, based in Sanur, Mekar Bhuana is going to entertain the gods as well as the local community with this rarely heard music. According to palm-leaf scriptures Aji Gurnita and Pra Kempa, a semara pagulingan orchestra is the most suited to accompanying high priests as they recite their mantra before worshippers pray at temple ceremonies.
If you are interested in hearing this music before they leave for Singapore, the orchestra will play on April 9th at 1pm for several hours in the inner sanctum (jeroan) as the high priest (pedanda) officiates. Full temple dress is essential and please be sensitive to Balinese temple etiquette.
The group will present a combination of seven-tone semara pagulingan and pelegongan repertoire from Kamasan, Klungkung, Banjar Pagan Kelod, Denpasar, Gianyar, Banjar Tegal, Kuta and Banjar Teges Kanginan, Ubud. Some of these instrumental pieces have been learnt from expert guru, others have been reconstructed from old recordings that were sourced from outside Bali. Mekar Bhuana hopes that one day these valuable recordings will be readily available to people to listen to in Bali. The conservatory also plans to record the pieces they have learnt to sell both in Singapore and in the future in music stores in Indonesia and online.
Mekar Bhuana also preserves the use of near-extinct instruments by re-popularising their function. Modern semara pagulingan orhestras have been slimmed down to resemble modern ensembles such as gong kebyar or semarandhana. The conservatory believes, however, that these rare instruments are important elements in the sound-scape of this ethereal music.
This year Mekar Bhuana has been invited to bring their complete semara pagulingan, played by 26 musicians, to perform at the Esplanade in Singapore as part of an international festival called A Tapestry of Sacred Music. It’s not every day that an old semara pagulingan has the opportunity to perform overseas and present this seriously classical music to an international audience. In fact, this is the first time several different court art-forms will be performed outside of Bali by one group.
Mekar Bhuana will not only be ambassadors for traditional Balinese music, but also for Balinese and Indonesian tourism in general. At the Esplanade, a huge international events centre, they will present five non-ticketed performances at the open-air stage over nights of May 2nd and 3rd.
Currently the group is doing a sponsorship drive in Bali to cover local preparation costs. This is an excellent opportunity for local businesses or organisations, not only to support rare Balinese performing art-forms, but also to extend their market by reaching the Singaporean public directly.
Thus far, Mekar Bhuana has been supported by a number of culturally aware organisations, companies and individuals, including Gede Sanat Kumara, Sourcing Bali, Wayan Wood Work, Made Wijaya, Yayasan Pembangun Sanur, PT Multi Bintang, Bali Advertiser, La Gazette, Win Fried H Brendgens, Maurizio Colorni, Meriem Peillet, Johan Wahyudi, I Wayan Widia, PT Sosro, Trish Dooney and Lyn Mitchell. Unfortunately, the conservatory has yet to receive support from local government, in spite of the fact that these performances are very positive for Balinese tourism.
Anyone interested in supporting Mekar Bhuana by becoming a sponsor, or even a permanent patron, can contact their founder and director Putu Evie Suyadnyani on email@example.com or (0361) 8427030 / 081999191106. The conservatory and its members greatly appreciate your support and generosity.