Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bali: Days 8-9

Day 8: Monday, July 5, 2010

On Monday morning our program director told us that we would be performing the next day as part of a temple odalan.  An odalan is a 3-day celebration of a temple's anniversary, occurring every 210 days (following the lunar calendar).  It is a very important celebration and I was very honored to be invited to participate in this festival.  Monday was then, of course, spent rehearsing as up until this point we had only learned two of the three pieces we were going to be playing at the temple the next day.  I was playing kendang on this third piece and it was so difficult to learn!  I had never played a drum before in my life and I didn't think I was ever going to be able to learn my part.  My teacher would play the pattern for me to repeat and I'm sure I had a look of "You have got to be kidding me!" on my face the entire time.  At one point I honestly panicked and thought I should just give up - it's so hard being a beginner sometimes!  Of course, once I understood the pattern I was able to do it without really paying attention, but wow.  That was stressful for a bit.

Once rehearsal ended - well past 4pm - I headed back to the hotel to rest a bit and get ready for my evening.  The Ubud Festival had been going on for several days at this point and I hadn't yet managed to make it to one of the evening performances.  Ubud is the city near the village where I stayed and I was very anxious to see one of the performances.  Several of the previous nights had been rained out.  In fact, Cudamani, the gamelan with whom I'm studying, performed the evening before and actually had to run off stage carrying their (heavy!) instruments with them to get out of the rain.  It had been raining all day during rehearsal on Monday too, but I was hoping it would stop before the night's performance because I was REALLY excited to go.

As it turns out, the rain did stop and the sky cleared to reveal a beautiful curtain of sparkling stars over the Ubud Festival.  I got there a little after 8pm, which gave me plenty of time to grab a seat in one of the front rows so that I would have a good view of everything on stage.  The soccer field where the festival took place, as I predicted, was a giant mud puddle and all of the chairs were soaked, but I got over the muddy sandals quite quickly and I sat on my sweatshirt to prevent wet pants so there was really no trouble.

The night's festivities began with a gamelan jegog from West Bali!

This is a rather unique gamelan as the instruments are all made up of bamboo tubes, the largest of which are sometimes more than 3 meters long and the players actually have to sit on top of the instrument's frame to play them!

I had wanted to see a jegog live ever since I saw a video in class and I had no idea they were even performing until I showed up that night.  What a treat!  There was a very interesting (for lack of a better word) dance that accompanied a few of the songs, but it was entertaining and I really enjoyed my time.

I was a bit confused by this dance
I think the dance was supposed to depict some type of jungle scene with birds and other animals and maybe hunters?  I wasn't quite sure.

See the tails?  They were detachable and used a whips
At 11:45pm the reason I went to the festival finally started.  My new friend Ayu Eka was dancing and I was very eager to see her perform.

You see, back in Wisconsin during my class, we actually studied Ayu Eka, reading articles and interviews, watching videos, etc.  I couldn't believe upon arriving in Bali that I was actually going to meet her!

We're actually friends now and just last night spent a good deal of time chatting on Facebook, but I digress.  So yes, I was finally going to see the Ayu Eka perform and she did not disappoint.  What a phenomenal dancer!

It was so bizarre, too - after she finished dancing, she changed out of her costume and then came and sat next to me and my roommate in the audience, as if nothing happened!  She's incredible.

The final piece (that I stayed to listen to) was a performance of the piece I had heard in rehearsal on one of my first days in Bali.  Remember, the one that totally blew my mind and made my jaw drop?  Yeah, I got to see it again and it was just as unbelievable as the first time!  My roommate recorded the whole thing, so now I have it and am able to listen to it whenever I want.  Sweet!

After that piece was over, we chose to head back to the hotel because it was already 1am and we had an early morning the next day with the temple odalan.  I'm so glad I stayed as late as I did, though!

Day 9: Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On Tuesday was the temple odalan for which we would be performing.  Did I mention that this was a private house temple for a high Brahmana priestess?  They kept saying that she was pretty much as close to God as you can get while still being human, so this was a bit stressful for us as foreigners invited into her home to help celebrate the anniversary of her temple.  It was what is called our "ngyah" (nie-YAH), or our offering.  It is thought that everyone should offer whatever they can to the ceremony whether it be food, money, transportation, offerings, or in our case, dance and music.  It didn't matter whether we were the best performers or had no idea what we were doing, it was only important that we were there giving what we could.

When we arrived at the house, it was hot and sunny and we all sat around drinking tea and eating snacks until we were needed.

Just hanging out
Of course, as fate would have it, it began pouring rain and continued to drench the area for the rest of the day as soon as we needed to move locations.  With the constant rainfall, all of us program members, all of Cudamani (the Balinese gamelan musicians), and several little girls who had danced as their ngyah were crammed onto a tiny platform with the gamelan where we once again drank tea, hung  out, and occasionally played a piece or two for the ceremony.  Everybody there kept apologizing for the rain, but I think it was a great experience to be there and see what an odalan entails and to be a part of Balinese culture for a day.  I felt like I was actually experiencing a part of Balinese life that tourists don't really get to see - it wasn't a perfect day with beautiful weather and warm sand on a beach with fresh coconuts, it was rainy and we spent a great deal of time sitting and waiting and not knowing what was going to happen next, and we all adjusted.  We did what we had to do and nobody complained, we all just enjoyed each other's company and went with the flow.  It all felt very Balinese.


  1. Again the costumes are stunning!! It is awesome that you got to meet someone so famous and that she is so down-to-earth.

    Also, I think that I would have fainted if someone told me I would have to perform for such an esteemed religious figure... I'm glad that it went well despite the rain!

  2. AWESOME. You and Ayu Eka are pals..(I read those articles too haha) and the rich decoration just stuns me. How amazing that you got to see a jegog too. Jegog, the sound of the pure bamboo, always felt the most "tropical" to me for some reason. Not that I don't like gong kebyar or semarandana- I do, but there will be a special place in my heart for jegog.