For those fortunate enough to have visited the island of Bali, the intrinsic spirituality that informs the island’s way of life is an experience you don’t soon forget, with permeating clouds of burning incense and ritualistic gatherings at every pass. At the core of these ceremonial rites are the soothing, percussive sounds of gamelan music, a name derived from the mallets used to strike the wide-ranging display of metallophone instruments that are the centerpiece of these dazzling ensembles, and a musical tradition in existence as far back as the 1300s.
Last week, Santa Barbara audiences were treated to a rare public performance by one of the island’s most revered ensembles, Çudamani, which traditionally consigns its expert dexterity with classic and original music and dance to Balinese spiritual ceremonies and festivities. In an entrancing program that moved harmoniously from a minimalist instrumental introduction to a full, 25-member cast of dancers and singers pulsating through the sounds of the kendang (Balinese drums) and suling (bamboo flutes), the artists captured the essence of the Çudamani, the third eye of Shiva the Destroyer, reflecting sincerity and purity and the abolishment of ignorance.
The music and performances were centered on themes of earth and land, as demonstrated brilliantly by the final piece of the evening, when the male musicians surreptitiously peeled off their embroidered tunics and batik scarves, transforming themselves into bare-chested creatures of the island (complete with macaque monkey howls and the throaty calls of Balinese toads) and capturing the mystical essence of this beloved part of the world.