Gong, angklung and gender wayang of Peliatan under the direction of Anak Agung Gedé Mandera.
- Gender Wayang : Angkat - Angkatan
- Kapi Radja
- Legong : Lagu Condong - Bapang - Pangkat - Garuda
- Legong : Lagu Condong - Pengipuk - Garuda
John Coast, a British soldier imprisoned during World War II, worked as a slave laborer on the Siam-Burma railroad, where a fellow prisoner was a Javanese dancer. The nascent impresario in Coast emerged through stagings of dance performances:
“A month or two later, speaking a limping Malay [the lingua franca of the land before the arrival of independence and Bahasa Indonesia] and having graduated from prompter to stage manager, I was endeavoring to form a company that would put on some Javanese dancing. So absorbed did I become in this utterly new experience, that though a prisoner, I felt perfectly happy.”
Upon his liberation, Coast set his aim on the islands: “It was my interest in this dancing that led me next to Indonesian politics, so that for some years I was working in Java with the unrecognized Indonesian government, having unusual adventures [gun-runner, drug courier, spy] as I strove humbly to help in the struggle for Indonesian independence.”
With Indonesian statehood and Coast settled in Bali, he first searched out Rantun, the cook who had worked over a decade earlier for Colin McPhee, and mentioned in his book, A House in Bali. Interested in dance, Coast traced the great legong tradition in Peliatan village.
Coast also knew of McPhee’s work with their gamelan (which took the name Gunung Sari, after the temple Pura Gunung Sari at which the members worshipped), asking a local nobleman and musician Anak Agung Gedé Mandera, “I keep thinking of what I have read about Peliatan’s famous gamelan in the years before the war would it not be possible to start rehearsing again? It is known that Peliatan only has a Djanger now.” After mentioning Mandera’s old friend McPhee, the Anak Agung asked Coast what he had in mind: “It is simple. I want you to rehearse your famous gamelan, train new dancers and work together with me. As you progress, we will look for tourists to watch the club at work and you will fix a fee for them to pay. Then the club will get heart from receiving extra money, other than from the Djanger’s performances. And if we get on happily with one another and are satisfied with our work well, my big idea is to take a really first-class group of dancers abroad.”
The idea of foreign travel aroused hopes and bitter memories for Anak Agung Mandera: “In the Dutch time  we were taken . . . to the Paris Exposition with the orchestra. . . but the Dutch kept us Balinese apart, like serfs, and we saw little of Paris or foreigners. Today, Indonesia being a free country, it would be all quite different.”
After consultations with astrologers, Mandera suggested as a guru the master musician who had taught Legong earlier, McPhee’s collaborator Lotring, who lived in nearby Kuta but was often absent, living as an itinerant instructor of dance and gamelan. After an encounter best described as a show of respect in which Mandera and Coast were refused by Lotring, the accomplished Gusti Madé Sengok, a female teacher in Peliatan and one of the finest living exponents, was decided upon.
Coast was led by the Anak Agung into the rehearsal compound, “a long, stone and brick veranda, fifteen yards long, whitewashed throughout and opening onto the first courtyard. On its inside wall hung a photograph of the gamelan club in 1938, just after it had won the 1938 all-Bali competition:
“The instruments were all arranged at one end, covering about a third of the floor space. . . At the very back of the gamelan we could see the great bronze gongs on a wooden stand, then some tall, heavy metallophones, played by men seated on stools, and in front of them the main metallophone section, eight of them, of which the largest, in the front row, was under the hammer of Madé Lebah. On the floor nearest us sat the men who played the pair of small cymbals, with the two drummers. The leading drummer was the Anak Agung himself…”
After one month’s rehearsal, Raka, Oka and Anom, the three legong maidens, began practicing with the gamelan. They worked in collaboration with Sampih, the legendary youth of McPhee’s time, and his teacher’s teacher Maria (Mario), creator of a revolution with the kebyar style, with its frenetic movements reacting to abrupt changing rhythms, achieving fast tempi never before realized, and replacing earlier court styles.
While focusing on traditional styles which would enthrall new audiences, such as the Kecak, or Cak (referred to, in tourist parlance, as the Ramayana “monkey chant”), examples of kebyar and Legong, Coast insisted on condensing lengthy traditional performances, but also in developing a new composition and dance idiom for their repertoire.
Coast strategized to secure foreign engagements, gain the vital permission from the government and thwart jealous rivals of the Peliatan group in order to allow for their trip. In advance of their arrival in the United States, McPhee wrote an article in the New York Times, and the original program notes to the LP recording. The tour proved to be a remarkable success and exposed thousands of Americans and Europeans to the unique art forms of Peliatan. This recording was made in a New York City studio, and listeners will be quick to hear why gamelan is an outdoor acoustical phenomenon, recorded best in the open air. In the studio, echoes tend to blur the amazing articulation and sonorities of the music. But besides capturing the music of Peliatan at such an opportune moment, the LP (and now the reissued CD) is of great interest to today’s musicians and dancers in Bali insofar as it offers a long-lost version of the music for Kebyar Duduk, a version of Tumulilingan which predates the commonly-known arrangement, as well as an unusual style of Angklungan accompanying an early Oleg dance. A longer Legong than one often sees today, the London performance offers an extended version of various segments featuring the condong dancer, Ni Gusti Raka.
Some background notes about Balinese gamelan
Gamelan is the general term for Bali’s dozen or so instrumental music ensembles. The word is derived from gamel, to handle, and Balinese make a clear distinction between gamelan krawang, bronze instruments, and other kinds of ensembles utilizing bamboo. The distinctive features of Bali’s major styles highlight shimmering resonances of gongs, knobbed gong-chimes, and metallophones (with bronze keys suspended over bamboo resonators), ranging four or five octaves, and differing from neighboring Java in their explosive sonorities and phrasings. Gamelan styles are associated with specific contexts of ceremonial, entertainment, or recreational activity. Gamelan generally utilizes a five-tone octave (four for gamelan angklung), whether it be in the sléndro tuning of gender wayang or the pélog tuning of most other genres. Gamelan angklung uses a four-tone version of sléndro. The suling (bamboo flute) provides additional pitches and tonal shadings, as do singers, who may join with the gamelan. The several five-tone pelog tunings are actually derived from an older seven-tone saih pitu system which is still used by such ensembles as gamelan Gambuh, Semar Pagulingan, gamelan gambang, and various recent genres.
Each of the many-keyed metallophones in a gamelan ensemble is one of a pair (with a few exceptions). Pangumbang (literally mason bee or hummer), is the lower-pitched of the pair. Pangisep (inhaler or sucker) is the higher-pitched. The acoustical beats resulting from the precise, synchronous striking of the matching keys of each instrument, is what gives Balinese gamelan its unique, shimmering quality. The acoustical spacing (penyorog) of pangumbang and pangisep varies from genre to genre, and according to the tastes of the pandé krawang (bronze-smith) and his patrons. Generally, gendér wayang is six beats per second, gong kebyar, eight, and Semar Pagulingan, seven. One other example of an essential musical element specific to Balinese gamelan instruments is the rhythmic silencing (metekep) of the bronze keys. In complex interlocking patterns, the silencing provides an additional rhythmic, as well as timbral element.
Traditionally, instrumental music is rarely notated, and musicians learn their parts by rote. However, the music is highly structured and the only room for improvisation is in the leading drum or with the flute, both of which are still tightly bound by rhythmic or melodic form. In contemporary schools, music is taught using a system of cipher notation.
The unique collection of tuned gongs, gong-chimes and flat metallophones which we associate with the gamelan styles of Bali and Java, appears to have developed between the construction of the 9th century Buddhist temple Borobudur and the arrival of the first Dutch expedition in 1595. Balinese gamelan, in its most expanded form, is organized into these areas of instrumental stratification, ranging over five octaves:
a. basic statement of the melody within a one-octave range
b. articulation at regular time intervals of the basic melody, generally every four tones
c. full melodic expression, ranging from two to three octaves
d. doubling and paraphrasing in the octave above
e. ornamental figuration of the melody
f. punctuation of larger time intervals (the general function of the gongs)
g. drumming, with one or two musicians playing two-headed drums, using their hands or a single mallet, which conducts the group as well as providing a propulsive rhythmic undercurrent.
Peliatan’s Gunung Sari gamelan numbered twenty four musicians, but for this tour, the orchestra was streamlined to fifteen.
Kapi Radja (Ape King)
This composition remains part of the Peliatan repertoire in performances of the gamelan Gunung Sari ensemble. The first half features the sudden bursts of sound, shifts in tempo, rapid stops, and lack of regular meter characteristic of the opening section, byar, of kebyar-style compositions. The piece concludes with a repeating phrase in a regular gegaboran style. Colin McPhee heard Peliatan perform Kapi Raja in the 1930’s and analyzes it in his book, Music in Bali, although the work has changed greatly since then. He notes that Kapi Raja was originally composed in North Bali for a Kebyar choreography. As is so common in Balinese music, Wayan Beratha based his Jaya Semara (1964) on Kapi Raja.
Angklung today is a four-tone ensemble consisting of smaller bronze-key gangsa metallophones, kempur (small gong), rincik (cymbals), and suling (bamboo flute), associated with ceremonial events, especially cremation rituals. The genre was traditionally part of village ceremonies rather than performances of the royal courts. This Angklungan (“in the style of angklung”) substituted a bamboo xylophone (grantangan) for the ancient shaken kocok (bamboo tube rattles of an older angklung style), in which each instrument consisted of several tubes playing a single tone in multiple octaves. John Coast mistakenly refers to the instrument as klengtangan in his book. Grantangan is more generally associated with the dance, Jogéd Bumbung. Also altering the familiar angklung ensemble are a larger gong and kempur, and larger drums (kendang gegupekan), and the rincik are replaced by larger cengceng.
This Angklungan was used to accompany Oleg, a newly choreographed coquettish dance for two twelve-year-old girls, drawing from classical Legong choreography. Today, Oleg most often refers to the well-known Oleg Tumulilingan, but since early kebyar times it has referred to practically any kebyar dance to differentiate it from classical legong (Oleg means “not leg”). Today, there are some new creations (kréasi baru) referred to as Angklung Kebyar, except that bamboo instruments are rarely included. In 1952, this combination of angklung, grantangan and kebyar styles was itself Peliatan’s experiment. And within this piece some listeners will recognize a section imitating the dance Margapati.
Tumulilingan Mengisap Sari (The Bumblebee Sips Honey)
Still part of the canon of the kebyar repertoire and performed by dancers and musicians throughout Bali, the dance is commonly known as Tumulilingan. The famed kebyar choreographic innovator and dancer-choreographer I Maria (also spelled Mario) is credited with creating this dance at the request of John Coast specifically for the 1952 Peliatan tour, with music newly composed by Wayan Sukra of Malkangin, Tabanan. Sukra had originally composed the music for a gamelan in Marga, Tabanan, but as it had not been performed, he taught it to the Peliatan group for three weeks. After Sukra returned home, the Peliatan group “polished and rearranged” the music more to their taste, also renaming it. In many ways this was the showpiece of the tour, featured in John Coast’s book, Dancing Out of Bali, and an audio visual recording survives on a kinescope. Gusti Ngurah Raka of Tabanan, teacher of the twenty-two year old Sampih (originally from Bongkasa, but residing in Sayan), had himself been the first student of Maria. At the time of the tour, Sampih was at the height of his artistry as a dancer, but was murdered soon after returning to Bali. In Tumulilingan, dancers Sampih and twelve year-old Ni Gusti Ayu Raka (Rasmin) depict, according to McPhee’s notes, “a tale of a little girl bee, her courtship by an ardent male, her caprices, her exasperating feminine indifference-all of which send the frustrated suitor flitting wildly about, blindly offering his spurned affections everywhere.” The author A. A. M. Gedé Djelantik asserts that I Maria told him that neither dancer specifically depicts a bumble bee, but that the dance was inspired by the sound of a bee buzzing while Maria was napping. A general opinion nowadays is that the male dancer is the bumble bee attracted to a honey-bearing flower, portrayed by the young female dancer. As younger dancers have been replaced in the past few decades, the sexual nuances of Tumulilingan have become much more suggestive. Today, the dance takes twelve minutes, with the beginning slower musical phrases performed twice as slowly, though other tempos are similar then and now. The basic pokok gending (melodic theme) and pepayasan (elaboration) are adapted from a melody of tabuh telu lelambatan, a classic style of Tabanan. The group leaves out the lively middle kebyar section of the dance.
In contemporary Bali, Baris is a solo dance without any narrative element, usually accompanied by a gamelan kebyar ensemble such as this. It derives from ritual group dances performed by men, many of which are still presented at large ceremonies. Perhaps the most energetic of Balinese dances, solo Baris is generally performed by adolescent boys, who engage in a dazzling array of full-circle spins and leaps heightened by the gamelan’s angsel (sudden cadences). The music reflects every nuance of mood and gesture, from fear and trepidation preceding battle to anger and unbridled power in conflict. The dancer must also convey calm, a sweet and seductive quality out of which emerge sudden bursts of energy. There is an intensely close relationship between dancer and musicians in overall phrasing and in particular accents from the kendang drum. The structure of modern Baris follows a sequence of gilak, bapang, gilak (reflecting strong, refined, and again strong moods). The musical phrasing maintains eight beats to each gong phrase, while the kendang playing alternates between stick and hand drumming.
One of many compositions for gamelan kebyar based on musical elements from the ancient gambang ensemble, the piece recorded here is still frequently performed and heard on radio programs. This piece is not to be confused with Wayan Lotring’s seminal work of the same name composed for his gamelan pelegongan in the 1920’s. The gambang ensemble, traditionally associated with death rituals and very rarely heard today, is distinctly characterized by it seven-tone scale played on four bamboo xylophones and a single bronze-keyed saron metallophone. Polyrhythms are created by irregular alternation of left and right hand accents in phrasing within a continuous flow of staccato tones. The uneven and syncopated rhythms of gambang were a significant resource in the development of modern kebyar and pelegongan (especially that of Wayan Lotring) since the 1920’s. Much of those innovative compositions abstracted gambang rhythms in a less literal way than here. This gambangan is suggestive of the gambang ensemble itself, using the reong bronze kettles to suggest the role of the bamboo gambang instruments, and the gamelan kebyar’s gangsa metallophones in the role of the gamelan gambang’s saron, playing the basic pokok melody.
This kebyar composition accompanied the Peliatan company’s Kebyar Duduk, danced by Sampih for the 1952 tour (see photo, p.14), and is distinctly different from the music associated with the dance nowadays, and as a matter of fact, for several decades. Interestingly enough, Wayan Gandera, son of Made Lebah (Colin McPhee’s assistant and principal musical informant), taught this long-unheard version of Kebyar to Cudamani, a dynamic young music and dance ensemble in Pengosekan, Peliatan, in 2002, just before he died. Gandera had been twenty years old in 1952 and archived this Kebyar in his mind over the ensuing fifty years. Speculation (Tenzer: 2005) that Gandera had might have learned this version in the 1960’s in Kedis Kaja, North Bali, is clearly mistaken.
It has been suggested that the bantang gending (melodic structure) is derived from Wiranata, a kebyar bebancihan (a hermaphrodite dance) composed by Nyoman Kaler of Pemogan, Badung, in the 1940’s and that the musical ending here is similar to the dance Teruna Jaya, composed by Gdé Manik of Jagaraga, North Bali, in the 1940’s.
In 1925, I Ketut Maria created Kebyar Trompong, the earliest version of Kebyar Duduk, in a banci (hermaphrodite) style, incorporating male and female qualities. “sitting dances,” in which a dancer mimics the playing of a trompong (row of kettle-shaped gongs) while a solo singer intones kakawin (classical Old Javanese poetry), had been performed for at least a decade in several villages of Northern Bali. Maria’s innovation was a somewhat radical choreographic idea of centering so much of his kebyar movement on the ground but in very low squats, with Kebyar Duduk’s sinuous choreography. Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete wrote:
“the players, in order that they might see each other, took a new formation, facing each other across a space about eight feet square which is the stage of the kebyar dancer… In kebyar the dancer is dependent on the gamelan, he exhibits not himself but the music, projecting every mood and nuance of rhythm…the sitting posture seems somehow significant in its dependence on the gamelan…seated in the small square bounded on all sides by the instruments, he seems to meditate on the music, to gather it into himself…he is moved by it, drawn by it, driven by it, he has no action independent of it.”
So this new spatial arrangement-architecture of sound-gave the musicians and dancers a kinetic glue as well as optimum eye contact, enabling them to move into sudden changes and unexpected musical terrain-the very essence of kebyar.
Gender Wayang (Angkat Angkatan)
Music which ordinarily accompanies the ‘wayang’ shadow puppet theater, this is a quartet of ten-keyed metallophones. The instruments are actually in pairs, with polos and sangsih parts playing interlocking elaboration, and with two higher-octave genders doubling the parts of their lower-octave counterparts. Each musician plays two mallets, with left and right hands often playing contrapuntal rhythmic patterns. Angkat-Angkatan is a genre of pieces which accompany arrivals and departures of dramatic characters of the shadow play, as well as some battle scenes.
Lagu Condong · Pengipuk · Garuda
Bali’s most stylistically formalized female dance form, Legong was traditionally performed by three preadolescent girls (a tradition maintained on this tour), although this distinction has been disregarded in recent decades in the contexts of institutionalized education and the tourist trade. Traditionally, Legong was of special interest to local princes, who might choose their legong dancers from among the village youngsters, taking them into the court to be trained under their supervision. This reflects its links to Gambuh, the formal dance drama influenced by 15th century Javanese courts. Legong developed when the indigenous gestural language exemplified by the ritual Sang Hyang Dedari trance dance, took on an entirely new dramatic character under the influence of Gambuh. The word Legong derives from leg (gentle, swaying movement) and gong, referring to the accompanying instrumental ensemble. Costume elements such as the gelungan headdress were also taken from Gambuh. One chronicle attributes the creation of Legong to a dream that came to I Déwa Agung Madé Karna, a king of Sukawati reigning around 1775 to 1825. During meditation, he saw celestial maidens dancing in heaven, clad in beautiful costumes and golden headdresses. He then had nine masks carved and used Sang Hyang dancers, one pair at a time, to recreate the choreography he saw in his dream. Some time later a new form of Legong called Nandir was created, performed by two boys without masks, and around the turn of the nineteenth century a Nandir for two girls was created. The kebyar style of the 1920’s infused a more energetic element into the dance, as well as a more direct relationship between dancers and gamelan. It was during this period that the condong character was brought in. Functioning within the dance drama as a female attendant, bird of ill omen, or any of a number of other characters, the condong also provides the lengthy first segment of Legong. It is particularly in this opening, pre-story segment that the unique characteristics of Legong are displayed: a dynamic crosscurrent of intense, percussive energy and delicate tranquil lines together create a rhapsodic quality of movement that exists in its own realm, outside any specific narrative context. This pure dance, or igel ngugal, precedes the narrative, as the condong establishes the mood and language of movement in a solo segment. Then the other two dancers, referred to as the legong, perform a sequence in unison and often in symmetrical patterns, closely coordinated with the cymbals and drums, while the gamelan plays somewhat more slowly. For the following pengecet segment, the gamelan doubles its tempo while the dancers mirror each other’s darting movements.
The second section of the dance brings in the story line as the tempo slows to accommodate a different melody. The third section enacts a departure (pangkat) usually involving a fight (pesiat). The last section of the dance is a non-narrative epilogue (pekaad).
The most prevalent theme (and the one presented here) is Lasem, drawn from Java’s Malat literature. The king of Lasem finds a beautiful woman, Langkesari (or Rangke Sari), lost in the forest. He brings her home and locks her in a stone house. Langkesari’s brother, the king of Daha, discovers where she is being held, but the king of Lasem will not give her up. Lasem takes leave of his distraught wife and daughter and goes out to battle. As he leaves his palace, a great crow (guwak) attacks him, and although he beats it away, it is nonetheless a bad omen. The king reflects that although he will die, he will surely ascend to heaven, since he is to die on the field of battle. As he climbs onto his chariot, he draws blood again by scraping is foot, yet another bad omen. He goes to battle and is killed. This recorded version (following the condong) depicts only the “love scene” (pengipuk), really an attempted seduction of Langkesari by the king of Lasem, followed by the departure segment (pangkat) which includes his fight (pesiat) with the bird of ill omen. In the group’s program notes, McPhee refers to the bird as a Garuda, but the general Balinese view is that this is a crow, and Garuda refers to the style of musical phrasing for this section, known as bapang Garuda, and not the Garuda bird.
The traditional accompaniment of the gamelan pelegongan has all but given way to the dominant gamelan Gong Kebyar, and the thirty- or forty five-minute legong is often shortened to fifteen minutes, adapting to the requirements of tourist entertainment.
Legong (London, 1952):
This recording was made in 1953 during a performance on the London leg of the Peliatan tour. While a longer version of Legong, this performance, interestingly, did not include a pengipuk love scene between the two “legongs,” but instead featured an extended condong segment, danced by Gusti Raka Rasmin. Following a long solo, the condong is joined by the two legong dancers (Anak Agung Ayu Oka and Anak Agung Anom Sitihari) for a continuation of the “abstract” choreography. Then begins the pangkat Lasem scene with energetic bapang music phrasing, wherein the king of Lasem departs, followed by the attack of the crow, also danced by the condong.
Many thanks to Dr. Wayan Dibia, Dr. Madé Bandem, Dr. Nyoman Catra and Desak Madé Suarti Laksmi, Komang Astita, Ketut Asnawa, Ketut Suryatini, Madé Arnawa, Déwa Berata, Wayan Beratha, Made Netra, Anak Agung Gedé Mandera, Madé Lebah, Wayan Gandera, and Laura Rosenberg.
-Edward Herbst © 2006
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The John Coast Foundation for the Performing Arts in Bali (www.johncoast.org) was formed to further Coast’s dream of disseminating and preserving traditional Balinese culture. The Foundation is helping to support older performers and pass their grand tradition to future artists.
After the 1952 tour, John Coast (1916-1989) returned to London and became a leading impresario, managing the careers of such artists as José Carerras, Jon Vickers, Marlene Dietrich, Mario Lanza, and Luciano Pavarotti – who was discovered by coast as a young unknown singer at a Modena vocal competition. He presented Bob Dylan’s first appearance in London and first brought Ravi Shankar to the West. Among his books are Railroad of Death (1946), Recruit to Revolution (1952), as well his memoir of the 1952 world tour of the Peliatan artists, published as Dancing Out of Bali, reprinted in 2004 for its 50th anniversary. He also contributed articles to The Economist, Ballet and Dance News, and made several films with Sir David Attenborough on Balinese culture for the BBC.
Special thanks to Peter Gelb for his help and support in republishing the recordings, the family of the Anak Agung Mandera, the surviving musicians and dancers from the 1952 ensemble, including the legong dancers Ni Gusti Raka, Anom, Oka; Bagus Mandera; for the generous help of the late Brent _; and for their advice and information: James Murdoch, Dr. A. A. M. Djelantik; Ni Wayan Murni, Enong Ishmael and the Sukarno farmily for access to their archives (Levana?), Adji Damais of the Yayasan Bunkarno – Sukarno Foundation; and the late Bob Brown (World Music Center)