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Bringing Gamelan Back to Life
Indonesian Gamelan. TEMPO/Bram Selo Agung
Wednesday, 22 November, 2017 | 15:36 WIB
Bringing Gamelan Back to Life

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Vaughan Lewis Hatch had never thought he would be living among old traditional Balinese musical instruments. Around 20 years ago, the 43-year-old from Wellington, New Zealand, visited Bali to satisfy his curiosity- he had already devoured literature on the Island of the Gods and listened to its music. He imagined Bali as an exotic destination with a rich culture, including dances and music. But after a few days in Bali, he became somewhat disillusioned. "Most of the music played in Bali was ‘in’ and modern," he said.

Even when there were gamelan (traditional musical instrument) and gongs in performances, the instruments were new. "I suspected Bali’s gamelan and gongs had become scarce," said Hatch. He ‘decided to visit Bali’s remote areas. Hatch, who studied Japanese at the Victoria University and archeology at the Otago University, New Zealand, began to perform his own research on Bali’s gongs and gamelan. From his elderly Balinese sources, he found that many types of these instruments had disappeared or are no longer in use because the quality of their sound had deteriorated.

Hatch was not planning on a longer stay in Bali, but in the end, he decided to continue his exploration into villages. "I fell in love with the sound of old gongs and the concept of old Balinese performances."

It was during this process that he met Sanur resident Putu Evie Suyadnyani. Evie, a dancer, was similarly fascinated by traditional musical instruments. "My hope is that old Balinese musical instruments can again become popular," said the 40-year-old. The two collaborated in tracing the history of ancient Balinese gongs and gamelans. After working together for two years, the couple married in 2004. 

In the same year, Hatch and Evie established the Mekar Bhuana Conservatory, headquartered at their residence in Jalan Gandapura, Denpasar. Mekar Bhuana is not simply a studio where she practices traditional Balinese dances, says Evie, but it is also a center for documentation as well as the reconstruction and reproduction of classical Balinese instruments. Like the studio’s name, which means fragrant throughout the universe, Hatch and Evie hope that Bali’s traditional instruments and culture can be enjoyed around the world. 

Read more inspiring Outreach stories in Tempo English Weekly Magazine



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