Bali Arts Festival

Yesterday, I went to the 33rd annual Bali Arts Festival – Pesta Kesenian Bali XXXIII – in Denpasar.  It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but proved to be an interesting experience nonetheless.

It started with a bemo (local bus) ride from Sanur to Denpasar.  I must still seem (be) pretty green, as it took a little while to ward off the hawkers and dishonest bemo drivers before I found a ride to Denpasar with an honest fare.  I paid 10,000 Indonesian rupiah for my ride (about $1).  Just after I got aboard, the driver picked up a couple from Denmark.  He took them about a quarter of the distance I rode with me, and charged the two 300,000 rupiah (about $30).  I talked to the driver about this once they got off:

Anda bohong!  Ini sedikit mahal.  (You lied!  This is a bit expensive.) I said, with a good humor to my voice.

Mereka masih bodoh.  He responded, They still don’t know.

Lucu itu, I responded.  That’s funny.

The Bali Arts Festival is annual celebration of the arts crafts found all over Bali.  The festival, like many around the world, is full lots of activities (carnival rides and games for children), vendors, and wonderful food, and show cases much of the best music, art, and crafts from across the island.  I used the opportunity to view batik, silver smithing, wood carving, and to watch music and dance.

First, I watched a joged bumbung.

The dance is as overly sexual as any Balinese dance.  It features a solo female dancer, who calls out men from the audience as dance partners.  The ensuing dance is full open flirtation and sexual innuendo, and often the woman mocks and teases her male counterpart.

Accompanied by a joged orchestra (a gamelan made mostly from bamboo instead of bronze) from Klungkung, several dancers competed by performing the same dance with different men pulled from the audience.  The competed for cheers from the audience – the dancer with loudest applause is the winner.  The audience roared with laughter, as the dancers were keen with their innuendo and wit.

After the jogeb bumbung, I went to the painting pavilion to see the works selected for the festival.  There were a couple of photographs included in this exhibition, though nothing that seemed worth mentioning.

At the end of my afternoon, I watched a gamelan Gong Kebyar from Tabanan before a Prembon mask dance.

What impressed me most here was that most of the musicians were kids, teenagers mostly, and yet played with great gusto and precision.


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