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Students learn about Indonesia through Bali

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Brooke Grasso
Staff Writer

Music and dance group Gamelan Burat Wangi put Balinese music and culture center stage Saturday night at Pomona College with traditional Indonesian music and dance for an audience of more than 200 people.

The concert was composed of eight performances.

Performers played unique instruments such as gongs, jegogans and ugals along with the traditional dances Kecak and Legong to convey different cultural ideals.

“One of the beautiful things about Gamelan is the sense of community,” Terry Ryan, Claremont resident, said.

As the audience entered Bridges Hall of Music, smells of incense filled the air while red and gold instruments covered the stage.

Each song was performed by a harmonious combination of instruments that are customary to Balinese music.

“The sound is so unique,” performer Anna Inuzuka said.

Inuzuka plays an instrument called the pemade. It is a bamboo-made instrument that has keys like a xylophone, can play two octaves and is usually the leader of the melody.

Many of the songs were accompanied by dances. The choreography was synchronized with the musical instruments and the body gestures reflected the meanings of the songs.

Balinese dancers performed Legong, a dance involving frequent eye movements and facial expressions, along with fluent finger movements to enact stories.

“The dancing was great,” Ryan said. “It went well with the music.”

The dancers intrigued the crowd with their colorful traditional Balinese clothing and intricate headpieces.

Elaborate gold jewelry accented the women’s red and gold long dresses and vibrant makeup. The dancers presented authentic Balinese culture and captivating visuals to the musical performance.

“They represented a dance form with outstanding visuals,” San Diego resident Nikhil Varaiya said.

Varaiya was originally from India and came to watch his daughter in the performance.

Music director I Nyomen Wenten made a special appearance near the end of the show. Wenten danced solo in full costume, including facemask, in “Topeng Arsa Wijaya.”

Wenten is one of Bali’s most accomplished musicians, dancers, teachers and performers. Born in Bali, Wenten holds his doctorate in ethnomusicology from UCLA.

The group members are very fond of Wenten and all of the hard work he has put into their show.

“He has done so much to spread culture and bring attention to such unique music that brings people together,” Inuzuka said.

As the audience thought the performance was coming to an end, the group came out with a shocking and unexpected presentation.

One of Bali’s original styles, Kecak, involves singing that resembles the noises of a monkey. Also known as the Ramayana monkey chant, the dance involves a group flailing their limbs and yelling “cak.” Kecak was originated to fend off evil.

The last performance of the concert caught the audience off guard, as the rest of the performance had consistently used instruments.

Kecak had no instruments involved; yet the audience was amused to see such a different style.

“The last performance was my favorite,” Ryan said, “It seemed like they had a lot of fun.”

Once the Kecak ended, the performers took the stage and received a standing ovation from a pleased audience.

“The concert portrayed Balinese culture and dance well,” Varaiya said.

Brooke Grasso can be reached at

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