This week Malleus reviewed part one of ZBS’ Jack Flanders adventure, Midnight at the Casa Luna. The Casa Luna is a real (and very good) cafe in Ubud, Bali, a locale it has been my pleasure to visit twice. In honor of ZBS, Bali, the Mekar Sari gamelan orchestra, and my wife, I’m posting a live recording of gamelan music I made on honeymoon in Ubud in 2001. Click below to experience it, then read on to hear the story behind the recording.[audio:https://radiodramarevival.commp3/meka-sari-gamelan-orchestra-bali.mp3]
In the summer of 2001 I was in Ubud, Bali on honeymoon with my wife Pamela. I’d been there once before and had seen a gamelan performance featuring extraordinarily talented children dancing (most shows feature adults). Since my wife is a pediatrician and loves both kids and dance, I was hoping we’d be able to catch a similar show.
Unfortunately, none were scheduled during the week we were there. A little desperate, I asked around to see if it might be possible to hire a dancer and a musician or two for a private performance. No, I was told, you’d have to hire the entire troupe. I worked as a temp at the time and didn’t have much, but on the other hand this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the American dollar was strong then. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask what it would cost.
Turned out the fee was surprisingly reasonable – so much so that I decided haggling, usually a commonplace in Southeast Asia, would be gauche. Pretty soon I’d hired an entire gamelan orchestra and dance troupe for a surprise private performance for my wife. Now given that this happened way back in 2001, and given that I don’t want to cause any trouble for Mekar Sari down the road, I’m not going to quote prices here. I will say, however, that if you go to Ubud it would really be worth your while to inquire.
The experience itself was pure magic. We were lead to a bench in front of an open courtyard, with the full gamelan orchestra seated to one side. They started playing and my wife, still with no idea of what was going on, was dumbstruck when a parade of costumed little girls appeared and threw flowers in our laps. The entire experience was absolutely beguiling. If you’ve never heard gamelan, there’s no way to adequately describe its beautiful, unearthly sound.
So I’m not going to try. The mp3 above is my recording of the first piece we heard on one of the best nights of our lives. Enjoy, and the next time you visit Ubud, look up Mekar Sari!
I?d like to thank Tom Lopez and Aaron Ximm (www.quietamerican.org) for inspiring me to make this recording by their examples.