West Africa Comes to Bali
It’s official. Day 1, year 4, Bali Spirit Festival.
My friend Laurel, fresh off the plane from Los Angeles, and I scootered to the festival grounds late this morning…she to work in the Dharma Fair as a Theta Healer, and me to join the media center in blogging about this week’s events.
But first we made our way across the festival grounds stopping for hugs and hellos between friends I hadn’t seen in months, some years, as many had timed their return visits to Bali to coincide with the festival. Like a family reunion. There we were again. Nice.
So what to participate in and write about on the first day of the festival I wondered as I stood under the billboard listing the day’s events. I needed to move. I was too late for Twee Merrigan’s 8 am yoga class, and besides, I live in Ubud and can do yoga any day of the week. But African dance? Now there’s something that doesn’t visit Bali often. The fact that it began at 1PM in the thick of a tropical afternoon, did give me pause…nevertheless, I made my way over to the Pavilion for what was billed as an “intensive African Dance class”.
Olivier Tarpage, Artistic Director of Dafra Dance Project, introduced himself and had us line up in rows surrounded by lots of space. He briefed us on the history of West African music (that’s “West”, with musical and dance forms distinctly different from Nigeria, and other regions of Africa). Today, we would focus on a dance form called “Take”. Off to the side, under the sauna-like tent of the Pavilion, several members of the Dafra Kura Band leaned into their drums.
“Up! In! Up! In!” Tarpage sang, whipping his arms up into in the air and back down again suggesting we do same. “Jump! Left, foot forward, keep it straight, right leg back bent. Now switch! Throw your body forward! Undulate.”
Uh, yeah, right. I was sweating buckets by minute 5 into the class, and wondering how I was going to keep this up for an hour. I glanced warily behind me at the 30 or so participants hoping to see everyone still standing. Yes they were, each in his or her own pool of sweat. With the requisite grins on their faces.
What draws me to the Bali Spirit Festival year after year is the chance to learn from some of the best – be it in dance, yoga, music or meditation.
Olivier Tarpaga, a Dancer-Choreographer, Musician-Composer and Storyteller from Burkina Faso, West Africa, fits the bill.
The co-artistic director of Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project has toured with Burkina Faso musician George Ouédraogo and played percussion for the late Kora master Keba Cissoko, French jazzman Michel Fernandez, American Rock start POE, Canadian acclaimed recording artist Lynn Jodoin, Les Merveilles de Guinea and Sylvain Leroux of Fula Flute.
Do not miss Dafra Kura’s performance on Sunday March 27th at the ARMA Museum. The ensemble will be play a number of traditional West African and modern instruments including the Djembé, the Dundun, Tama/Talking drum, Balafon, Kora, acoustic guitar, Calabash, Kit drum, Djabara and classical instruments from special guests.
More photos from today, Day 1, Bali Spirit Festival 2011
Written by : Adam Skolnick