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Stern Grove: Gamelan Sekar Jaya and Trilok Gurtu

Another perfect afternoon at the Stern Grove: fog shielded us from the hot sun and kept the temperatures ideal. The concert was much less crowded than I expected. At 1PM we were still able to get good seats (5th row!). Well, maybe that was because Gamelan Sekar Jaya was definitely on the weird side and Trilok Gurtu (good fan site) requires a taste for fusion.

In my case I enjoyed both acts thoroughly — something that cannot be said for Zulah (half way through Trilok Gurtu she fled to her favoriteplant store nearby).

Gamelan Sekar Jaya was a great Balinese performance full of mysterious musical insturments with strange sounds and rhythms and strange dances. These contortions of fingers, arms, eyes, and even toeshad an almost hypnotic effect on me. The stage was divided between gongs, bells, flutes, and drums on the right side, and some kind of bamboo percussion ensemble on the left. The topic of the performance was not entirely clear to me. It seems the story line went like this: King and queen love each other, queen has a child, the child gets rejected by members of her court, she drops the child and kills it. The outraged king kills the queen and goes mad. The madness is depicted as anelaborate battle among various kinds of monsters and members of his court who are trying to protect the king. At the end both the queen and the king are resurrected (but I’m not sure). The monsters were very cool looking and the dancing went really well with the rapid rhythms ofbamboo percussion and the hellish sounds of slightly-out-of-tune gongs and bells.

Trilok Gurtu did the most amazing percussion and drumming performance I have seen in a long while. This guy was playing a very unconventional drum set where the mostly electronic tomtoms were associated with basedrum sounds. Two snares and a large number of cymbals completed the set. But he also played excellent tabla drums (occasionally at the sametime!). Trilok was backed up by Sanchita Farruque on vocals,a keyboarder from Paris, and a great guitar player from LA originally from Korea (sorry, don’t remember their names).

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