In the village of Pengosekan, Ubud, Bali is a family compound that is home to Çudamani, one of Bali’s most active and respected performing ensembles. Members are community of leaders who positively contribute to the artistic, cultural, and political life of their community through music and dance.
The group traces its roots to the 1970’s when the children of Pengosekan — a village well known for its community of painters, weavers, and musicians — gathered after school to play music in the village balai (pavilion). Over the years these independent-minded children formed a new kind of organization that has become a pride of the village.
Tourism has had a powerful impact on the arts in Bali — particularly so in Ubud, the famous tourist town just north of Pengosekan. By the 1990s most of the musicians of Ubud were playing for tourists in lieu of the needs of the community and members were hired and fired depending on their technical ability. The youth of Pengosekan often found themselves working in this system — experiencing the financial benefits of tourism while also being keenly aware of the artistic and cultural dangers of this arrangement.
In September 1997, Director Dewa Putu Berata, Artistic Director Dewa Ketut Alit, and others from Pengosekan called together a number of talented and promising young people from different areas in Bali to form Sanggar Çudamani.
Philosophy and Practice
Çudamani maintains that the vitality of Balinese arts relies on the connection of performance to spiritual and social life and on the balance between strong roots and brave innovation. The group is in many ways, an activist community that responds to the philosophical, practical and problematic issues that face Balinese artists today. The group invites master artists to Pengosekan to teach rarely performed repertoire, and members of the group also create new work. Çudamani artists are renowned for their inspired contributions to the repertoire of Balinese arts.
The group performs a diverse repertoire with astonishing technical precision, high collective spirit and an impressive understanding of artistic nuance. Maintaining an active performance schedule requires a highly dedicated group of individuals — particularly since participation is voluntary. Since its creation, Çudamani is in great demand throughout Bali. The group’s technical accomplishments are unparalleled and their dedication to Balinese traditional values are their hallmark.
Dances performed by the group include the classic legong, rare pieces in the Kebyar genre, and new choreography. Çudamani’s outstanding musicianship and dance technique add weight to the revival of classic works. In addition, their efforts demonstrate a respect for and dedication to the senior masters who are too often dismissed as outdated by the young tourist-oriented artists of Bali. The dancers’ graceful bodies mirror every musical nuance of the gamelan as they bring to life vivid tales of gods and heroes of Balinese mythology and history. Beyond mere aesthetic entertainment, Balinese arts capture and amplify the shifting dimensions of human emotion, nature, the spirit world, and the cosmos.
Of significance is the set of instruments used by Çudamani — the semarandana. This type of ensemble is quite rare in Bali, and Çudamani is on the forefront of work in this style. The tuning system used contains “extra” notes which allow the group to perform pieces from distinct gamelan ensembles Angklung, Semar Pegulingan, and Gong Kebyar on the same set of instruments. This of course allows the group great freedom and diversity in its repertoire with the numerous modes and tuning systems each having a distinct atmosphere, color, or mood.
Women and Gamelan
Çudamani has provided gamelan and dance instruction to hundreds of young people over their eighteen years of work in Pengosekan. Over fifteen years ago they committed to teaching gamelan to the young girls in their village. With the sustained determination of the senior members of Cudamani, their young women’s group performed at a level never before imagined possible for women, and essentially raised the standards of women’s gamelan to an entirely different level.