(Thanks to Phil for this photo from backstage in Munduk.  It breaks every rule of photographic composition and I love it.)


The jegog tour officially ended a week ago, and many members are already filtering back into the States, but I thought I'd catch you up briefly on our last couple of shows.


On July 11th we played a mebarung with Suar Agung at their home base in Negara.  A mebarung is a musical battle -- the culture of gamelan in Bali loves a good competition.  In most parts of Bali, two groups will face off and trade pieces one by one, sometimes heckling each other over their mistakes.  Jegog groups in Jembrana take it a bit farther -- when one group finishes a piece, they launch into a repeating musical cycle as a challenge to the other group . . . who respond by jumping back onto their instruments and playing their own cycle.  At this point both jegog groups try to drown each other out, stay together with their compatriots through the unholy noise, and be the one to outlast the other in a contest of stamina.  As a standard performance, the Negara show may not have been our best -- it didn't help that we were standing in puddles of mud left over from the afternoon downpour and that our instruments were arranged around trees in the garden that blocked our sightlines!  But our introduction to the exuberance of the mebarung was incredible fun.  It involved literally jumping up and down in the mud while shouting group cheers and hooting at Suar Agung, until our arms were about to fall off.  We may not have beaten Suar Agung, but many of them told us afterwards that we lasted long enough to give them blisters on their hands.  That's enough to satisfy me.


Our last show was the following night in the mountain town of Munduk -- a fantastic finish to the tour.  We shared the stage with a women's gamelan, a gamelan orang tua (i.e. played by old people), and Pak Putu's group Tri Pitaka.  It was also a wonderful reunion with our old teachers Pak Terip and Pak Putu Putrawan (Terip was the jegog group's first teacher, and Putu was my own very first teacher of Balinese gamelan).  We played one of our most energetic shows ever for a hugely responsive audience . . . Tri Pitaka blew our minds with a supremely dynamic North Balinese dance called Wiran Jaya . . . the whole thing got Pak Terip and Pak Putu a bit misty-eyed, and the boys of Tri Pitaka are clearly fascinated by jegog music.


Thanks to the jegog group for an excellent tour, and thanks to all the GSJ members and friends back home for supporting it!  Perhaps our bloggers who are about to return to the States can be persuaded to upload more images and some video in the land of faster internet connections -- in the meantime I shall sign off.      

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