Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud Bali May 7-11th, 2025

Yoga Dance Music Healing

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Opening Night on the One World Stage, Rousing Rhythms of Rupa and the April Fishes

Friday night initiated the main venue for the BaliSpirit Festival musical program, the One World Stage, and a beautiful setting it is…

Enter the classical Balinese gates of the ARMA Museum grounds located here in central Ubud and you are met by a bright world of international food vendors and a variety of local purveyors of goods, charity booths and services. The scene is well lit and distributed around a courtyard with a central elevated gangway, atmospheric elements which yield an air of soft gaiety and anticipation.

Continue on along the gangway through another gated portal and you enter the One World Stage, a gorgeous venue built to scale of human proportions––a larger grassy courtyard with a crowd capacity of 800-1000, a symmetrically-constructed stage at the far wall beautifully decorated with Balinese dried leaf weavings, in situ natural trees and vines, all enveloped under a large erector-set awning structure covering most of the area in front of the stage. The immediate impression is of a stage set in a Mayan temple ruin. But no, we are in Bali tonight, those are Balinese geometrical temple constructions, and the production values of this venue are abundantly world class, with two large flat-screens flanking the stage and supported on more large-scale erector set beams and a full array of hi-tech light/ sound/video equipment making the entire courtyard setting come alive. We have come for music and this is a generous and wonderfully-crafted container for just that, music… exceeding all expectations, well worth the price of admission and the travel to get here. This is how we roll in Ubud.

Enter the first act, the Gamelan Kryasta Guna, an ensemble group of young Balinese musicians who bring modern beats and coordinated play to the traditional sounds of the Balinese Gamelan. Their impeccably coordinated performance grounded the audience in the traditional sounds of homeland Balinese music, while bridging us to the modern sounds of experimental beats and the percussive innovation of world music.

This contemporary gamelan artistry set up the audience for another act of percussive sounds from Ajinal, a Chinese group consisting of Mongolian players who are at the core of a Mongolian folk music revival that has taken root in Beijing. Their powerful sound included Mongolian horse-head fiddle and Mongolian throat singing, all of which evoked a feeling of remote and otherworldly places and things.

Skip the Filastine act, regrettably, as I was called away…

But the really big dance sound of the night, the one we were all there for, came from San Francisco-based Rupa and the April Fishes. Hard to pigeonhole, the April Fishes sound is truly as diverse as the musicians, who hail from all over the planet. Female vocalist, guitarist, and ringleader Rupa Marya has Hindustani roots and sings in several languages. She is a physician, activist, as well as a musician, but she is all music on the stage. The band’s sound is wide-ranging, what one critic accurately called a “cabaret of gypsy jazz, Balkan beats, Indian ragas, Latin, Caribbean and African” influences. At times, we had no idea what language Rupa was singing. But the band’s sound was so moving and danceable that it mattered not, except for an intense up tic magical exotic feel the mystery added to each number. Rupa is hard driving and expressive as a performer, her swirling hair and hips guided the beats of an amazing talented quintet consisting of great drumset beats, dazzling keyboard and accordion, wild cello and bass, and jazzy trumpet. it took a while for the audience to actually cipher the sound, but the music carried the night and the crowd eventually found the April Fishes’ dance groove. Audience participation was lively on both the up and the down tempo songs: there were people doing dancing asanas and flying acro-yoga moves at the front of the stage; for part of the performance a toddler dressed in wings and a tutu stood on the low bass speakers and thrilled the stage-left audience with a go-go-girl dance routine, and in general the crowd found a happy mix in Rupa’s wild and celebrative sound.

Bravo! We loved it.

photo credit= Suki Zoé

continue the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #balispirit

Weitten by : Jeremiah Abrams


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