I Wayan Kelo – Kuta maestro passes away
Pelegongan and gender wayang maestro, I Wayan Kelo from Br Pande Mas, Kuta, died on Thursday afternoon at age 70 after suffering a stroke and battling briefly with leukaemia. Kelo was perhaps the most renowned teacher from Kuta since gamelan prodigy and composer I Wayan Lotring, and was one of his direct disciples.
Dedicated to the preservation and exposure of the Kuta style, Kelo had taught in many parts of Bali: in Lukluk, Pesawangan and at Mekar Bhuana Conservatory (2002-2003) to name a few. Recipient of the prestigious Dharma Kusuma award from the government, he was also a composer of new lelambatan compositions which were frequently performed by Kuta groups at kebyar competitions. Not only a musician, he too was an esteemed dancer, frequently asked to teach calonarang and wayang wong troupes— his daughters have carried on this tradition and now teach both locally and outside of Kuta.
Losing Kelo means that part of the original Lotring Kuta style is probably extinct, but further research in the field is needed to qualify this. Musicians remember him for his virtuosic gender wayang and superbly dynamic kendang playing (you can hear this dramatic kendang style, played by Lotring on the 1928 recordings by Odeon/Beka). A strict guru, Kelo placed utmost emphasis on practice discipline and playing technique, as well as teaching the original pelegongan kotekan patterns. He greatly lamented the destruction of Lotring’s pelegongan in the 1970s as well as the continuing disinterest in the pelegongan style by young Kuta musicians.
Kelo knew both the large repertoire of Lotring’s compositions as well as endangered legong pieces in their entirety. He explained to us many times that each legong piece could be played on its own as an instrumental piece, with a different introduction and closing section (pengecet) from the versions that accompany dance.
Mekar Bhuana had planned to study again with Kelo in preparation for the Bali Arts Festival this year, as well as start to document the yet unrecorded Kuta style, and his death was an unexpected tragedy. His passing is indeed a great loss to both the Kuta people as well as Bali’s artistic community in general.
Expressions of condolence can be sent directly to email@example.com to be printed, translated and read directly to Kelo’s family. His cremation will be held midday tomorrow (Sunday March 7th) in Kuta.
Regards from Sanur,
Mekar Bhuana Conservatory