Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Sounds of Bali Find an Audience in the United States

The floors of New York City’s music halls attain various states of cleanliness. Few ensembles are in a better position to observe them up close than the Balinese ensemble Gamelan Dharma Swara.

In an October performance at a West Village club, its musicians sat cross-legged behind an array of glittering bronze percussion instruments on the black basement floor, a linoleum surface one suspects began as some other color.
Pool-playing patrons sat next to more sober listeners on beer-stained sofas.
It might seem far from Bali in spirit, but the music’s spectacular brightness attracted a rogue dog, something you might encounter in any temple courtyard.
Home for Dharma Swara is not Indonesia itself, but rather its consulate in New York.
That converted town house has a basketball court’s worth of hardwood on which to rehearse. Membership in the group is open to anyone.
The set of instruments — gongs, xylophones, drums and flutes — accommodates about 20 players.
Some are Balinese, but most are not.
The ensemble serves both to promote Balinese music and dance and, in a practical sense, to support diplomatic events.
The performers are roving diplomats themselves.

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