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Gamelan Sekar Jaya’s 30th Annniversary Season (2009)  

by on Monday, 31 August 2009No Comment | 1,571 views

Composed by I Dewa Putu Berata and Choreographed by Emiko Saraswati Susilo for Gamelan Sekar Jaya’s 30th Annniversary Season (2009). Featuring 8 Dancers (Nyoman Wenten, Emiko Saraswati Susilo, Kompiang Metri-Davies, I Made Moja, Sean Aquino, Alice Terry, Rose Nisker, and Margo Prado. Features Ceng Ceng Kopiak (cymbals). This was the second night of GSJ’s 30th Anniversary weekend series at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater.


The Group

Gamelan Sekar Jaya is a fifty member ensemble of musicians and dancers, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, that specializes in the performing arts of Bali, Indonesia. It is recognized internationally as “the finest Balinese gamelan ensemble outside of Indonesia.” (Indonesia’s Tempo Magazine)

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A key element of GSJ’s unique success has been direct artistic interaction. More than forty of Bali’s most renowned musicians, dancers and theater artists have joined GSJ for extended residencies over the past quarter century. Many are from ISI Denpasar (Bali’s National Academy of the Arts, formerly known as STSI and ASTI) or from prominent performing ensembles and arts organizations throughout Bali.

These residencies have been central to the direct and unmediated give-and-take between cultures that Gamelan Sekar Jaya has fostered. Extended contact with master artists has enabled the group to become a key player in Bali’s living artistic traditions, which are continually invigorated through new artistic creation and re-interpretation of older forms. The group has sponsored the creation of more than sixty new music and dance works by Balinese and, more recently, American artists—often in exciting collaborations that stretch the boundaries of culture, genre, and ethnicity; and blur the distinctions between traditional and modern.

Within Bali itself, the name “Sekar Jaya” is famous. There have been five highly successful concert tours to Bali (1985, 1992, 1995, 2000, and 2003). Each tour has resulted in a flood of TV documentaries, radio broadcasts, cassette recordings, and newspaper articles which have made the group famous. Part of what fascinates Balinese audiences and artists is GSJ’s devotion both to traditional arts and to the creation of ground-breaking new works. Andy Toth, ethnomusicologist and former Consular Agent in Bali, has written,

“It is no exaggeration to say that most of the 2.8 million Balinese have seen Sekar Jaya in live performance and television broadcasts, and the group continues to receive special coverage from the Indonesian electronic and printed media. . . . their cross-cultural works not only have been accepted eagerly by American and Indonesian audiences; their innovative compositions have directly stimulated creativity on the part of the Balinese themselves.

In a very real sense, Sekar Jaya’s programs and tours at home and abroad contribute as much or more to international understanding as do many official goodwill tours of American cultural groups.”

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Gamelan Sekar Jaya’s reputation extends far beyond the people of Bali. As an important conduit of traditional arts, new work, and ideas between distant cultures, GSJ resonates on a global scale. Continuity and long-term relationships are key factors: The group has played a central role in the preservation and development of Balinese arts for an entire generation. Now, gamelan groups and individuals interested in Indonesian arts throughout the United States and Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and elsewhere see GSJ as the standard-bearers for artistic exchange in this field, an example towards which they aspire.

At a time when diplomacy and exchange of views have been strained or even under attack, the GSJ mission has never been more important. Gamelan Sekar Jaya offers a model of cultural exchange that deepens relationships, breaks through boundaries of nationality, class, gender, and age; and offers a paradigm for how we can interact meaningfully with the world. Genuine goodwill and mutual understanding between cultures and people is a natural byproduct of the way GSJ works. This ideal is embodied in the very process by which music and dance are conveyed in Gamelan Sekar Jaya—from one person to another, directly, in the same rehearsal intensive, oral tradition of phrase-by-phrase learning that have been known within Bali for centuries.

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Gamelan Sekar Jaya comprises several kinds of gamelan orchestras and dancers. Each orchestra is com­posed of bronze metallophones and/or bamboo marimbas, usually combined with tuned gongs, drums and flutes. True to the Balinese tradition, the musicians learn the individual layers of melody and complex, interlocking figuration directly from master Balinese musicians, without the aid of notation. Sekar Jaya’s dancers learn the elaborate choreographies of Balinese dance in a similar manner, though intensive training with resident dance directors.

In various combinations, these musical ensembles and associated dancers have presented over four hundred concerts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, bringing an understanding and appreciation of Balinese performing arts to diverse audiences. Sekar Jaya regularly offers workshops in the Bay Area in Balinese music and dance, and has presented many lecture-demonstrations, school programs and other outreach activities.

Innovation also finds expression in unique collaborative projects. During the last four years, Sekar Jaya has appeared with two symphony orchestras (Oakland East Bay Symphony and the California Symphony), a Bay Area quintet of percussionists and dancers (Keith Terry’s Crosspulse), a South Indian dance troupe (The Abhinaya Dance Company), a North Indian dance company (The Chitresh Das Dance Company), a music ensemble specializing in live accompa­niment to silent films (Richard Marriott’s Club Foot Orchestra), and a theater company spe­cializing in innovative shadow-lighting techniques (Larry Reed’s ShadowLight Productions).

Artistic Accomplishments

Over the past twenty-five years, Sekar Jaya’s artistic accomplishments have ranged from the most personal and local to the international. A few highlights:

  • In 2000, during its fourth appearance as featured guest artists in the Bali Arts Festival, it was selected to receive Bali’s Dharma Kusuma Award for Artistic Achievement—the first foreign group to ever receive such recognition.
  • Tours to Bali to appear in the Bali Arts Festival (1985, 1992, 1995, 2000 and 2003) as featured performers in the International Gamelan Exhibition.
  • Artist Residencies of more than thirty renowned Balinese musicians, dancers, and theater artists, for periods ranging from one month to two years. (Most residencies coincide with the normal nine month season, from Sept–June).
  • The critically acclaimed dramatic work, Kawit Legong, Prince Karna’s Dream, presented by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, in 2001 and 2003. This work included a cast of 60 performers, ten artists from Bali, and shadow lighting effects by San Francisco’s ShadowLight Productions.
  • Performance in the World Festival of Sacred Music, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, hosted by the Dalai Lama (October, 1999).
  • The 20th Anniversary Festival in which seven of Bali’s most prestigious performing artists joined the group for a series of performances, workshops, lecture demonstrations, and symposia. (1999)
  • Creation of a new score (in collaboration with the Club Foot Orchestra) to the 1935 silent film, Legong: Dance of the Virgins, performed live in San Francisco and New York to wide critical acclaim. A DVD of the film with this new score was released, to widespread critical acclaim, by Milestone Film and Video (2004).
  • Completion of the first production phase of a documentary video on the work and life of Balinese dancer Ni Ketut Arini (2002). The post-production phase will begin in 2005.
  • Benefit performance at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (November, 2002) to aid the victims of the Oct. 12, 2002 bombing in Bali.
  • The 25th Anniversary Festival, highlights of which include a performance at Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco, and a Summer Intensive Series in Balinese Performing Arts, supported by the NEA. The eight-day Intensive will be the first of its kind on such a scale anywhere in the United States. The instructors will include seven of Bali’s most acclaimed musicians and dancers.

Outreach and Education

Gamelan Sekar Jaya makes continual efforts to reach out to new audiences and make Balinese arts accessible to all. Towards that end, we have many successful partnerships with organizations that focus on community-based education in the arts.

  • Through Young Audiences of the Bay Area, the largest and most well-known arts presenter in Bay Area schools, Sekar Jaya has offered many demonstrations and workshops in Balinese music and dance in a larger geographic area than ever before, and in schools that had never before experienced Balinese arts.
  • As a participant in Foothill College Arts Alliance, Sekar Jaya’s is extending its outreach to more high school and college students, offering college credit for its many classes and workshops.
  • AYPAL (Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership), and the Oakland Youth Chorus / Music in the Schools programs have enabled Sekar Jaya to offer classes in Balinese music, dance, and theater to hundreds of underprivileged youth in Oakland. This exciting program has received support from the East Bay Community Foundation, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA).
  • Through the Community School of Music and Arts (Mountain View), we have been able to give comprehensive workshops in Balinese arts throughout an entire school district on the other side of the Bay Area.
  • Cal Performance’s SchoolTime and Cal Performances in the Classroom (Berkeley), have assisted us in developing our curriculum materials to a high level, and enabled us to share the excitement and artistry of our largest production to date—the dance drama Kawit Legong: Prince Karna’s Dream—with thousands of Berkeley school children, both in their classrooms and in a real performance setting at Zellerbach Hall.
  • Gamelan Sekar Jaya continues to offer regular on-site workshops on a seasonal basis at our El Cerrito center; to offer classes in Balinese dance at various community dance studios (such as Mahea Uchiyama’s Center for International Dance in Berkeley, and the Rhythm and Motion Dance Studio in San Francisco).
  • Through close partnership extending over many years with the Asian Art Museum, the University of California, and the California State University system (especially in San Francisco and Sacramento), Gamelan Sekar Jaya presents a variety of performances, workshops, demonstrations, and other outreach events.


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