This last month I had the good fortune to be able to go to Bali once again. My focus was on teaching west african drum classes in Ubud and also playing with every band I could sit in with or gig (work) with. I had no idea that the musicians and drummers I would meet would be so receptive and talented. I had many interesting and surprising moments and experiences there as well.
I was able to sit in with many different types of jazz and jazz fusion groups including a pianist named Erik Sondhy, an amzing trumpet payer named Rio Sadik and a bass player named Ito Kurhdhi and his ethnic/modern fusion band Abad 21.
I taught 15 west african drum classes focusing on djembe technique, soloing on djembe and basic drum parts including ballet style (3 drum dununs). One of my first surprises was some of the local artists (painters, etc) walking into my class off the street and recognising the piece we were doing as Sinte (from the Landuma people of Guinee, West Africa). One man who was not officially a drummer was able to learn many difficult 3 drum ballet style dunun arrangements right off the bat! And I know as a fact he is not a musician per se, nor does he practice drums. Just very interested and naturally talented.
I was to find that over and over again the Balinese and Javanese people to be exceptionaly creative and apt to learn West African drumming easily! They were very receptive, open and seemed to just be bale to get it naturally as if it was from their own culture. Raymond rausch a Latin music specialist and percussionist who has lived in Bali for over 20 years and has a gallery in Ubud where we had african and afro cuban drum classes told me that after playing gamalan music and listening to it all their lives, other forms of music were easy for the Balinese and Javanese tolearn and grasp as the gamalan is so complicated and deep.
Ray took me to a traditional ceremony at a local temple where only locals were attending. He knew many of the people there such as his landlord, local bussiness men and others. He pointed out that at the cermeonies at the temple, everyone was equal, the rich and wealthy mixed with the poor or lower classes, that people dropped their guard and status and everyone mingled and preyed together.
At the particular ceremony we were at there were three different gamalan groups playing simultaneously. They were seperated by space as it was a large temple but you could hear on eof the other groups playing when eighther one of them stopped. One group was very old people preying,chanting andplaying flute and gamalan instruments. The other group was all children and the third group was a large mens gamalan troupe that was rehearsing I was told.
Several times durring the days on my way to or from somewhere I would walk into or drive into a ceremony in the street where gamalan was playing. Although I admitedly do not understand gamalan music, I fell in love with the feeling and sounds of it.
At the Ryoshi sushi bar and jazz night club in Seminyak, (a restaurant modeled after the famous jazz/sushi nightclub in bay area of Califonria called Yoshis), I had the good fortune to sit in with an amazing bass player and one of his ensembles called, Abad 21. Abad 21 features gamalan instruments mixed with western instruments. I played three congas and really had a blast, especially playing with 3 traditional drummers. It was so much fun and sounded so cool that the next week I booked a local studio, went in and did three songs combining the west african rhythm arrangement called Kakilambe with Gamalan music.
I had am amazing syncronistic experience at the recording session. While the engineers were setting up microphones in the recording studio, we were outside hanging out. I was explaining to Ito Kurdhi, the bass player about the Kakilambe rhythm and dance in West Africa, mentioning it was a mask dance and the dancer wears an outfit made of rafia and a mask.
Right as I was telling him the story, a traditional balinese procession appeared coming down the street. I raced out with my video camera to record it, and in the middle of the procession was a dancer in a rafia costume wearing a mask! I was amazed at the coincidence and timing of this event to say the least. We had a great recording session and I am inspired to return there and continue the creative investigation and rhythmic experiment we have started together there.