News – Addendum to Press Release about Performance at Puputan Badung: Reconstruction of Recording from 1928
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!