Gamelan Sekar Jaya
Jegog: Live at the Bali Arts Festival
1. Teruntungan Bebek Putih / 7:14
2. Subak / 9:51
3. Curing Beroh / 17:24
4. C’ret Nong / 6:13
5. Pemiketan Tresna / 10:37
6. Jaran Dauh / 12:16
The Gamelan Jegog
Bali is an island blessed with a bewilderingly rich variety of musical ensembles, and the gamelan jegog stands out for its impressiveness and sheer thundering resonance. The gamelan jegog, comprised of giant bamboo marimbas, originated in Jembrana, West Bali in the early twentieth century. The instruments are tuned to an unusual four-tone scale used by no other form of gamelan in Bali.
Sound is produced on the jegog by striking the bamboo tubes, which act as giant resonators. These bamboo tubes range from modest to gigantic—up to ten feet long in the case of the bass jegog, the instrument for which the whole ensemble is named. Part of the energy and power of jegog music derives from the sheer physical strength needed to play the instruments. The size of the bass jegog is so large that two players must squat on a platform above the tubes, often using both hands to wield the heavy rubber mallets. Its resonant boom, which anchors the rest of the orchestra, can be heard for miles across Balinese rice fields.
Gamelan jegog remains very much a regional specialty, characteristic of the flavor of the western reaches of the island, with a unique repertoire that has developed its own complex textures and idiomatic forms of interlocking figuration. There are just a handful of gamelan jegog instruments outside of Jembrana, and music enthusiasts must still head West to seek out expert jegog teachers and instrument makers. The passionate playing and ensemble perfection of the Jembrana groups continue to set an unsurpassable standard. In contrast to the refined, stately traditions of bronze gamelan associated with the Balinese courts, gamelan jegog boasts homegrown performance traditions remarkable for their athleticism and unrestrained exuberance. The jegog accompanies the annual water-buffalo races in Negara, Jembrana’s capital city, and is often played along with dances deriving from the Indonesian martial art pencak silat. The most popular and notorious tradition may be the competitive musical battle known as the jegog mebarung. The uninhibited frenzy of the jegog mebarung is anything but a polite trading of compositions. More accurately, it is a contest of endurance, concentration, and group virtuosity in which both orchestras play simultaneously, overlapping each other as furiously as possible until exhaustion forces one side to surrender. For the listener, the result is a mind-bending, pulsating, phase-shifting wall of sound, as unsynchronized tempi and varied tunings collide at high volume.
The Roots of Jegog Music in America
The history of gamelan jegog within the United States starts with Gamelan Sekar Jaya (GSJ) in 1987. Former GSJ musician Kate Beddall studied with I Wayan Gama Astawa in the West Balinese town of Tegal Cangkring. Unable to transport an ensemble of such massive proportions back to the United States, Beddall did manage to bring home six tingklik -- small, portable versions of the jegog instruments with keys made of bamboo planks rather than tubes, most often used in Jembrana by children or by musicians as practice instruments. The tingklik became a regular part of GSJ’s performances until the Fall of 2003 when Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead) donated a partial set of full-sized jegog instruments to the group. Gamelan Sekar Jaya musician Samuel Wantman along with David Hermeyer embarked on the task of restoring the donated instruments and duplicating them to complete the fourteen-piece ensemble—the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. After finding a temporary home for the instruments at San Francisco’s School of the Arts, GSJ’s gamelan jegog performers have continued studying with Balinese master artists—both locally with artists who come to the Bay Area via GSJ’s artist-in-residence program, and abroad in extended individual trips to Jembrana, Bali. They have performed new works and classic jegog pieces throughout the Bay Area on formal stages, and in festivals, conferences, and benefit concerts.
A historic moment in GSJ’s jegog ensemble evolution occurred when I Gede Oka Artha Negara joined GSJ artist-in-residency program as a jegog specialist in 2010. Bapak Gede Oka started playing jegog music as a child, and is the son of I Ketut Suwentra, the founder of Suar Agung, one of the most recognized jegog groups within Bali. Bapak Gede Oka’s residency with the group allowed the musicians of GSJ to refine their technique, learn new repertoire, understand the emotive subtleties of the music, and prepare for the landmark jegog tour to Bali.
An American Jegog Group in Bali
In 2010, Gamelan Sekar Jaya’s jegog group received an invitation to perform at the illustrious Pesta Kesenian Bali (PKB), or Bali Arts Festival, an annual showcase of art and music. With GSJ’s fortuitous connection with Suar Agung, the subsequent logical step for the group was to plan an international tour to Bali.
In June of 2010, the musicians and dancers of Gamelan Sekar Jaya convened in the small West Balinese village of Sangkar Agung, home to jegog group Suar Agung. This lovely rural outpost was far from Bali’s teeming tourist centers, a place where almost no English was spoken, and a slow and tranquil pace of life prevailed. It was here at Suar Agung’s yayasan (music foundation) that the musicians of GSJ would encounter the brutal shock of the physical strength required of jegog musicians in Bali.
The group had been forewarned of the physical adjustment of playing on modern-day jegog instruments; Mickey Hart’s instruments were older, dating back to an era when musicians sat down to play, while current-day jegog instruments are built on a larger scale, raised so that players stand behind the instruments, swaying with the beat of the music. However, this knowledge failed to prepare the musicians with the intensity, ferocity, and speed that the music required.
Combined with the massive size and heavier weight of the instruments and mallets found in Bali, the musicians of GSJ quickly found themselves with badly blistered hands and sore muscles, facing tropical heat which made one single practice cost liters of water in sweat, and monitoring the real danger of fainting from exertion. Meanwhile, GSJ witnessed the mental acuity and unbridled athletic vigor of the musicians of Suar Agung—many of them strapping men and laborers by day who could effortlessly whip through complex figurations at speeds beyond the threshold of collapse, while synchronizing themselves in a nearly telepathic demonstration of the group-mind.
As Americans emulating these Balinese musicians who were raised on jegog music, Gamelan Sekar Jaya was humbled and pushed to the limits. A mebarung competition was planned with Suar Agung – were GSJ’s musicians crazy? The Balinese themselves were far too encouraging and gracious to ever suggest that a foreigner’s imitation might be a pale one. At once demoralized and invigorated, GSJ hoped at least to perform with enough feeling, energy, and collective attunement to show proper respect to Bali’s masterful artists.
This was the atmosphere in which the Gamelan Sekar Jaya found itself as the musicians and dancers stepped onstage in front of the packed audience at the Bali Arts Festival for the highest-profile show of the group’s tour. We humbly offer up the results to your ears here.
Performed live at the Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar, July 8th, 2010
Teruntungan Bebek Putih (Traditional)
Most Balinese performing arts originate as devotional intent and are used in ceremonial contexts. In the jegog tradition of West Bali, each group maintains a tertuntungan-style opening piece, intended to summon the gods and audience while “warming up the bamboo.” This arrangement comes from the village of Sangkar Agung, famous for its jegog tradition.
2.Subak / Composer: I Dewa Putu Berata (2009)
In Bali-Hindu culture, cycles of life and seasons are honored in ritual and offerings. Inspired by Dewi Sri Lakshmi, the Goddess of the Rice Harvest and Fertility, this new dance piece depicts workers irrigating rice fields, tilling the soil, and planting rice shoots. This composition brings a unique dynamism to the music, by incorporating idioms and interlocking patterns from other genres of Balinese music not commonly found in jegog repertoire.
3.Curing Beroh / Composer: I Nyoman Ridia
A piece that is as old as the art of jegog itself, this composition is typical of the classic canon of jegog works. Curing Bero is a composition that mimics the sound of birds singing in a particular scale, with “curing” depicting the type of bird and “bero” describing the musical scale.
4.C’ret Nong / Composer: I Made Terip (2004)
Adapted from gamelan angklung repertoire, C’ret Nong is inspired by, and named for the syncopated sound of the cicada insect (nongceret) found in the mountains and often heard in the late afternoon. This was the first piece composed specially for Gamelan Sekar Jaya's jegog ensemble, during I Made Terip’s residency with the group.
5.Pemiketan Tresna / Composer: I Gede Oka Artha Negara (2010)
Pemikitan Tresna (“Strengthening the Bonds of Love”) is a dance work created by I Gede Oka Artha Negara and Ni Ketut Arini to explore the way in which parents pass along their experience and knowledge of finding a true love. From courtship to the delicate process of weaving familial bonds, this work offers a glimpse of a Balinese perspective on love-in-the-making. The frenzied nature and complex interlocking sections of this piece, as well as the inclusion of extra instrumentation (kendang drums and ceng-ceng cymbals) makes it exemplary of the new trends in modern jegog compositions.
6.Jaran Dauh / Composer: I Nyoman Ridia
Composed by the prolific I Nyoman Ridia, this version of the celebrated composition was further adapted by I Gede Oka Artha Negara. Jaran Dauh (“Rearing Horse”) was originally known as Jaran Dauk (Black-Maned Horse), after the horse used in battle by the Raden Pata, a Javanese sultan. Both are fitting images for the work’s dazzling array of musical and orchestral techniques and its unbridled energy.
Gamelan Sekar Jaya is a sixty-member company of musicians and dancers, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, specializing in the performing arts of Bali, Indonesia. Founded in 1979, Sekar Jaya is now recognized internationally as “the finest Balinese gamelan ensemble outside of Indonesia.” (Indonesia’s Tempo Magazine) The group has sponsored the creation of more than eighty new music and dance works by Balinese and American artists in major projects supported by the NEA, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MAP Fund, the National Dance Project, and many other foundations and individuals. Over the last three decades, GSJ has created new works in exciting collaborations that stretch the boundaries of culture, genre, and ethnicity; and blur the distinctions between traditional and modern. Gamelan Sekar Jaya has performed throughout California, the US, and Bali—in venues ranging from LA’s Hollywood Bowl, to New York’s Symphony Space, to remote village squares in Bali.
Dan Bales, Scott Barnes, Susanna Miller Benningfield, Kathy Bouvier, Alexis Brayton, Phil Cox, Matthew Gleeson, Barbara Golden, Suzanne La, I Gede Oka Artha Negara, John Noble, Laurel Smith Pardue, Paddy Sandino, Heather Sansky, Samuel Wantman, Kwan Wong
All tracks recorded July 8th, 2010 at Taman Budaya Arts Center, Denpasar, Bali.
Recording Engineer: Robert Weber
Mixing and Mastering: Charlie Wilson - Sonic Zen Studios
Cover art: I Ketut Wirtawan
Text: Matthew Gleeson, Samuel Wantman, Sara Gambina-Belknap, Suzanne La, Paddy Sandino
SPECIAL THANKS: (listed alphabetically)
Ni Luh Estiti Andarawati, Ni Ketut Arini I Made Arnawa, I Dewa Putu Berata, Mickey Hart, David Hermeyer,
Suzanne La, I Made Moja, I Gede Oka Artha Negara, I Made Mangku Pastika (the Governor of Bali), I Putu Putrawan, Ida Ayu Ketut Suciawani, I Wayan Pasek Sudipta, Emiko Saraswati Susilo, I Ketut Suwentra, I Made Terip, Samuel Wantman
Pesta Kesenian Bali (Bali Arts Festival), Sanggar Çudamani, Sanggar Warini Foundation, Banjar Taman Kaja (Ubud), Sanggar Tripitaka (Munduk) , Gamelan Dharma Swara (New York), Yayasan Suar Agung,, Banjar Sangkar Agung (Negara)
This album is dedicated to the memory of Ida Ayu Ketut Suciawani (GSJ Guest Dance Director 2007).
This recording was made possible with the generous support of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, and independent contributors.