BaliSpirit Festival, Day Two: A Celebration of Beat and Rain!
and Day Two of the music performances turned out to be one of the most unusual shows ever!
New Zealand performing artiste AJ began at the perfect hour just before sunset, creating ambient “soundbaths” with his laptop, pre-recorded sounds, and
live jamming with a didgeridoo and a drum which he designed himself, looking like a ghatam or claypot.
Many of his tracks are available as free downloads on his Web site (www.evolvingrhythms.com).
“This is a great time to be alive and share my work, thanks to technology,” said AJ.
Multilingual singer-songwriter Yeshe took the stage next, with a superb set of soulful Afro-Latin songs. Originally from Germany, Yeshe was exposed to
the music of Turks and Africans and travelled extensively in Africa. He later on adopted musical influences from Asia, including Hindustani classical
music. Yeshe’s first album, World CitiZen, has received critical acclaim.
Now based in Australia, Yeshe performed on indigenous African instruments like the mbira (thumb piano from southern Africa) and kamele ngoni (hunter’s
harp from Western Africa). His set at the Bali Festival started off slow and serene, with a vocalist and violinist, and then gradually expanded to
a full stage with guest players on bass, drums and percussion.
Yeshe performed last year as well at BaliSpirit Festival, and has also played at other festivals such as Parihaka in New Zealand, Glastonbury in England,
and Sziget in Hungary.
The audience at the Bali fest were on their feet swaying to the smooth Afro-Latin beats, with love songs and dance pieces. One track was dedicated to the
Afro-Cuban god Elegua, whom Yeshe likened to Ganesha, the removal of obstacles, in Hinduism. (Indeed, there was a statue of Ganesha on the temple stage
Balinese ensemble Cudamani then raised the energy level with a 25-piece gamelan performance, full of rippling call-and-response interaction and successive
waves of crescendo.
Unfortunately, it then began to rain heavily, but perhaps thanks to the benevolence of Ganesha, the rain fell on maybe the only band that could have carried
on playing in the rain: the two-piece group LYNX and Janover!
In what the band admitted was their most unusual gig ever, over a hundred fans in the audience climbed onto the stage to escape the rain, and sat or danced
around the musicians during their electro-acoustic set! The duo blended hip-hop and down-tempo electronica grooves with amplified dulcimer, mini-kits
and a banjo! “I designed the kit myself,” Janover told me after their show.
The duo describe their music as the “elusive perfect balance between the acoustic and the electronic, using today’s most advanced technologies mixed with
ancient live instrumentation to create a unified sound reflective of the polarised nature of our times.”
While the rest of the delicate gamelan instruments had to be covered on stage, the smaller kit of the American duo let them play on through the rain. The
audience joined heartily in the chorus of “Shout it out, let it rain,” and even a local stray dog sauntered onto the stage and lay down next to the
musicians! Yes, this could have only happened in Bali!!
The rain stopped just after the duo finished their set, and the audience got off the stage as Cudamani once again performed, this time with four lovely
LYNX and Janover, along with audience on stage during rains!
A brief set of three tracks then featured Canada’s hip-hop vocalist and DJ, Samian. He sang in the Metis language of his indigenous people, and performed
a love song and another piece in English and French as well.
The audience was pumped up again by now, and ready for the superb theatrical performance of the next band from Hollywood, Love in the Circus. The gorgeous
vocalist and bassist Leanna Rachel was joined by a range of other musicians including “The High Priestess” (on a lighted harp!). Curtis Cunningham
was superb on drums as well, and the bass, wind section and guitar complemented Rachel’s dusky vocals.
The smooth and silky set was then augmented by two masked actors, two hoop dancers, and a firetwirl dancer! In terms of sheer spectacle, this was an unparalleled
performance that night. The rain had stopped as well and the moon also shone behind the stage.
And there was another great act to follow: the Swedish group Kultiration, who brilliantly blended reggae, jazz and Scandinavian folk music. The eight-piece
lineup was superb and tight, and I was fortunate to catch the group for an interview during their soundcheck that morning.
I picked up review copies of two of their albums; the group has released eight live and dub albums. They are based in Gothenberg, and sing in English and
Swedish. “We want to interpret Swedish contemporary and indigenous sound – we cannot pretend we are 1970s’ Jamaica,” lead singer Marcus Berg explained
Berg has also studied yoga and Indian classical vocals; he recently spent three months in Bangalore (wish I had known, I could have met him in my city
and invited him to play several gigs!!). He has a vedanta teacher in Bali as well.
“I believe that our music can provide soothing energy to the audience, they can manage the present. They can experience bliss without escape,” said Berg.
They were the perfect band to close Day Two, with a tight set including a song dedicated to the cause of Tibet and another called Agni Swaha. The rhythm
section with Daniel Wejdin on bass and Johan Jansson was impeccable, and the horn players were energetic dancers as well. Even the local black dog
wandered onto the stage again, at one time even looking as if it was scratching itself to the beat of reggae!
There was also an amazing haunting song by female vocalist Sophia Annouk, which caught my attention during the morning soundcheck and also drew loud cheers
from the audience that night. The last track ended with a terrific crescendo of bass and lead guitar, leaving the audience crying out for more!
But there will be more on Day Three, with the musical theme “Mystic Journeys.” See you all on Saturday night!
Written by : Madanmohan Rao