Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud Bali 2025 Dates TBD

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Night Four: Moods and Dance!

The first three music nights of the BaliSpirit Festival 2010 certainly delighted audiences, and Night Four was spectacular as well!

The shows were ably hosted by Amae Love, songwriter from Los Angeles, who combined sultry sound with her own poetic lyrics. At one point she was joined on stage by LYNX, who had performed to many rounds of standing ovation the previous night; LYNX provided superb acappela percussion support for Amae’s smooth vocals.

The opening set by Shakina Ma set the mood for the evening, with many songs invoking love for Mother Earth, the need for people to continue to share and give, and the importance for us all to remember where we come from. Her young bassist, Krishna from Bali, provided superb support, and shone again in another act later in the evening.

Ganesha seemed to have blessed the evening as well, with not a drop of rain, as compared to the deluge the previous night!

The texture changed with a superb Indonesian jazz band, Riza Arshad and Mian Tiara. Mian covered a wide range of vocal territory, crooning sultrily one moment and then bringing the house down later with passionate screams, all the while powered by her melodic keyboardist Riza Arshad and superb drummer.

From ballads to funky driving numbers, the band delivered them all. Some of the group’s compositions were pretty recent, and Mian would sometimes stop to read the lyrics from sheets pasted on the stage floor (they would remain there throughout the evening!).

I met the band after their performance and picked up a review copy of Mian Tiara’s latest CD, “The Comfort of My Own Company.” I look forward to hearing it on my long flight back home!

Arshad has formed another band as well called simakDialog, an ethnic fusion jazz group with guitarist Tohpati Ario (who performed at last year’s Bali Festival and is a regular at Java Jazz Festival).

Another local band then took the stage, 20-member Pak Windha Gamelan Fusion, with trademark call-and-response interaction between djembe and gamelan, and oscillating crescendos.

For one song two superb dancers shared the stage as well, and enthralled the audience with their closely intertwined poses alternating with suspended twirls like dervishes. With just lighted incense sticks and live percussion – no smoke machines, no electronic sounds – this was pure acoustic percussive performance and dance at its best.

The energy picked up dramatically with the next group, Susu Ibu. The group weaved music, dance, film and on-stage painting into a multi-media performance dedicated to ecological and cultural renewal. The lineup included filmmaker/producer Robert Weber (US/Bali), vocalist/dancer Molly Hartwell (US/Bali), and guitarist Richie Perrott (UK/Bali). The young Balinese bassist Krishna really shone too, effortlessly crossing genres from reggae to Afro-Latin and back.

The group brought on a galaxy of guest artists, including vocalist extraordinaire Ayu Lakshmi, members of the Tuju Taksu Mask Dance troupe, and the horn section from Swedish band Kultiration. The group blended tribal sound with electronica, and call themselves “mother’s milk for the soul!”

Right from the opening track with the chorus “Searching, searching, searching,” the audience joined in heartily. The soulful track “Can you hear us God, Get us out of this mess” was gripping and brought tears to some eyes,

Ayu Lakshmi

The climax of live performances that evening was Ganga Giri, who had performed last year at the festival as well. He played his trademark didjeridu-based dance music, joined by Dan Peterson on electronic drums and recordings, and Yeshe and Geoffrey Gordon on percussion. LYNX and Ayu Lakshmi joined him for a song as well.

The music was a multilayered experience of complex grooves and raw natural sound. The performance was supported by the Australia-Indonesia Institute, and the consul general of Australia thanked Ganga Giri for his efforts in promoting cultural cooperation. The consul general received loud applause, something which he admitted he did not usually get, and drew more loud laughter!

The height of the performance was three extended collaborative pieces with Mandala Giri and Nyoman Windha ensemble, bringing together didjeridu, electronica and Indonesian gamelan! One piece even featured the popular kecak vocals, and the artistes received a standing ovation!

Things became even more energetic with the next act: Algerian DJ Cheb I Sabbah, now based in Paris, and a true world traveller and musical prism. His fabulous solo set went on for two hours till 2 am, and the audience would gladly have danced all night!

He began with superb mixes of Indian ghazal, bhangra and Bollywood tracks, and was joined on stage by a bellydancer and three astonishing hoop dancers, who delivered jaw-dropping performances with fire-lit hoops!!

Though immersed in the electronica scene, Sabbah deserves full credit for keeping alive traditional sounds via new interpretations. He describes himself as an “outernational” DJ. The “magician of the dance floor” kept everyone’s feet and hips moving with sounds from Cesaria Evora, Apache Indian, Cheb Mami, and a host of other African and Middle Eastern artistes.

Dozens of fans in the audience even joined him on stage (including the friendly neighbourhood stray dog!), and some of the musicians jammed with Sabbah on congas and djembe.

I spoke to Sabbah after his set, and he invited me to join him next in Goa and Rishikesh. Now that will be a real cosmic jam! But that is getting ahead of the story a little bit; join us all for the grand finale of Night Five of music at the Bali Spirit Festival 2001 on Sunday!

Written by : Madanmohan Rao


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