#BaliSpirit: Opening Night at Arma Watergarden: Bhakti Rouses the Crowd
In the luscious labyrinthine grounds of the ARMA Museum, in the Watergarden pavilion, the official opening of the Bali Spirit Festival was gonged in by
the Ashram Gandhi Puri with a blessing and a Balinese Dance.
Though a passing drizzle threatened to slow the evening’s start and cool the sweltering heat, the audience steadily grew to a capacity crowd during
the following hour’s set of mantra and song by the Australian husband-and-wife team of Sacred Earth, Prem & Jethro Williams. Prem,
who possesses the most angelic voice you can imagine, set the pace with a series of beautiful mantra chants, while Jethro played virtuoso accompaniment
on guitar and flute. It was a stunning performance, subtleties of voice, piano, guitar and flute projecting over a rising din from the assembling
crowd. Prem set a sacred tone to the music with her quiet talk, gentle keyboarding and lilting voice, while Jethro supported the effect with beautifully
crafted instrumentals and vocal harmonies. The effect was uplifting. After an hour, the crowd was well-attuned, joining in a triple Om Shanti to
end the performance.
A quick stage shift brought out Dave Stringer and his assembled crew to rock the room with Dave’s signature kirtan style, consisting of a driving beat
and accelerating vocals that rise to a crescendo with each chant. A chorus of seven female backup vocalists–including some familiar faces to BSF,
like Daphne Tse, Harmony Polo and Lindsey Wise–added substance to the forceful performance. Dave is of one of kirtan’s new breed of traveling minstrels–part
rock-star, part exuberant gospel revivalist–and this evening’s mantra-driven performance did not disappoint. With lyrics of each chant projected
on a large screen at the back of the stage, the audience rose in voice and dance to keep up with the driving force of Dave’s lead guitar and voice.
Tabla and drum, bell and tambourine rounded out the sound, and by the second song many were on their feet at stage-side swaying, clapping, dancing
and singing. Dave Stringer just has that effect, producing a perfect high point to end the first full day of BaliSpirit Fest.
Schedule Change: KEVIN JAMES KIRTAN, please note new time– 7:00-8:45 pm, Thursday evening, 21 March, at the Arma Watergarden
Written by : Jeremiah Abrams