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Gamelan troupe from Bali spectacularly evocative

Gamelan Cudamani, November 12, 2007

The Vancouver Sun

by David Gordon Duke

Gamelan, Bali’s great gift to the world of music, was the feature of a co-presentation between the Chan Centre and Caravan World Rhythms on Monday evening, a one-night-only performance by the spectacular Indonesian performance troupe Cudamani.

The clamorous sounds of gamelan orchestras have captivated composers from Debussy to the post-minimalists; ensembles have sprung up in countless non-Indonesian settings, including several here in Vancouver. Cudamani is a somewhat revisionist group of just over 24 singers and dancers, founded in the late 1990s with the express intent not only to preserve performance traditions but to explore new initiatives as well.

Cudamani has a particular interest in keeping its musical traditions grounded in authentic social practices. To this end, Odalan Bali: An Offering of Music and Dance is structured along the lines of a village religious festival – albeit one slickly tailored for a formal concert-hall setting, and very much adapted to the two-hour-long attention span of western audiences.

On Monday evening the program began with the members of the troupe establishing the fiction of preparations for the ceremony. Snatches of chant, songs, and the rhythms of mundane tasks gradually stylized and gelled into performance as an enthralling Mecaru ceremony, designed to appease mischievous spirits, sets the stage for the Odalan, or temple ceremony, proper.

The second part of the evening sampled dances and rituals: seven distinct segments ranged from the aggressive, virile rhythms evoking a village cockfight to the grace and elegance of the sacred Rejang and Legong Gering dances. Truna Gandrung (Young Man in Love danced by exultantly the exquisite Dewa Ayu Eka Putir) was a stunningly intricate ‘star turn with simply extraordinary music. The musical ensemble, strikingly disciplined at the best of times, gloried in breakneck rhythms of staggering complexity.

With determinedly theatrical pacing, the penultimate event of the program was Barong, a lion dance with a magnificent two-man costume and utterly beguiling choreography – an effective climax to the proceedings before a simple closing ceremony swiftly brought an evening of remarkable artifice and artistry to a tight and peaceful close.

Wed Nov 14, 2007