I am spending a few days in Ubud, on way to a family event in Australia. A door prize I won at an Indonesia promotional event at Harrod's means that I can stay at Uma Ubud, a beautiful and very friendly spa hotel on the outskirts of town.
Made Sidia, a puppeteer and dancer who teaches at ISI Denpasar and has performed in many international collaborative projects (including Theft of Sita) invited me out to Bona, Gianyar yesterday for the local pura's big Kuningan festival.
The temple celebrates a large-scale Kuningan karya every 5 years, involving a donation of Rp150,000 for each villager from the 6 banjar served by the temple. This allows 3 weeks of performances staged inside and directly outside the temple.
Yesterday was the climax of this festival - with afternoon performances (starting at 3.30pm) of gambuh, a children's baris group (with boys aged 6 to 12 wielding spears), topeng (dance and comedy, but not a story), kebyar played by ibu-ibu, and a variety of other dance and music. Inside the pura there was also wayang lemah and other performances - but unfortunately we weren't admitted.
Before all these performances started (in close proximity to each other - leading to a lot of noise!) an excerpt of the Old Javanese Ramayana was chanted (with intepretation into Balinese). This chanting went on in fact as all the dance and music was staged.
The main stage event was the gambuh performance by a professional troupe - who performed in front of an Indian-style image of a dancing Ganesha lit by a swirling gobo.
Made Sidia was in charge of 'seksi kesenian' of the event so very busy and as a result we did not have much of a chance to talk. But I was introduced to a number of his friends and collaborators in a pre-performance social get-together in a neighbouring house (with tea, pisang goreng, poci etc) -- I Wayan Suweca (one of the founders of Sekar Jaya) and I Made Subandi (a composer who toured with Theft of Sita and also plays gender wayang for Wayan Wija and teaches at SMKI and has a group called 'Kelompok Musik Tradisi Radikal').
A remarkable event over all - a true testament to the vitality of Bali's traditional arts today, as well as the sense of community in this village.