Mekar Bhuana’s Interactive Semara Pagulingan Performance at Bali Arts Festival Fascinates Balinese Public
“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. Whoever answered correctly received Mekar Bhuana semara pagulingan CD. This interactive sequence, which included quizzing a local audience about classical court gamelan, was a first at the Bali Arts Festival. Now in its 38th year, the Bali Arts Festival has traditional been very “us” and “them” with the performers on stage and audience watching. Mekar Bhuana director, Putu Evie, thought that it was time for a change – time to get the audience involved – and not just with the dancers as one may see in a joged or comic mask dance. She wanted to encourage locals to appreciate gamelan instruments, and in particular to learn something about those instruments that in most parts of Bali were obsolete or extinct altogether.
As with most performances of classical or archaic music at the Bali Arts Festival (especially those which don’t have any dance with them, like this one), the audience was only about three quarters full at the start, but by a couple of pieces, and particular when the interactive session was in full swing, the audience filled out with standing room only at the back. This demonstrated that a local audience can indeed appreciate old-style music, as long as it is presented in an interesting and creative way.
Mekar Bhuana co-founders, Evie and Vaughan, hope that these types of interactive music performances can become more of a regular feature at the Bali Arts Festival because they serve to educate and encourage local audience to appreciate the beauty and value of the huge variety of gamelan traditions. It also illustrates to people that even though it seems that Balinese gamelan music is alive due to all the ceremonies that are held in Bali on a regular basis, that there is indeed music, instruments and even entire genres of Balinese gamelan orchestras which are not only rare but even extinct.
© 2017 Mekar Bhuana