An Evening with Wenten

Our very last day in Bali, and we're invited to Sading village to the home of our friend Pak Wenten - master gamelan teacher and dancer, who we know from his visits to us in the States. We have studied with him on several occasions and performed with him many times.

The morning is taken up with packing and last-minute purchases - the gong that we bought in Tihingan has been wrapped in sacking and ropes ready for its journey to the States. We run up to the market to pick up some temple flags - just 15,000 Rupiah each, about $6! Then up to Linda's house where we are all to meet up, and Eli will drive us to Sading in his rented mini-van.

It's quite an adventure getting to Sading. Linda is navigating with a map, and everyone is looking out for village names and trying to interpret Wenten's directions ("Take the unmarked road 200m past the village"). Linda jumps out every 5 minutes to ask if we are still on the right road. Most of the time we are on the wrong road and have to turn around. Eventually we find ourselves on a long narrow road through rice fields that looked as if it was just being built - it wasn't on the map - and suddenly we are in Sading and Wenten's mother is waving to greet us.

It's great to see Wenten again - he's just back from performances in New York and Santa Fe with Morton Subotnick. His place is very grand by Balinese standards - a family compound with many small buildings. In the back in its own pavilion are three full gamelans - an angklung, a semar pegulingan, and a gong gendong. The gamelan musicians from Wenten's village come to his house to play. He's worked in the States for 20 years, at UCLA and CalArts, and recently also at Pomona State University, and has performed internationally and made several CDs, and his dollars go a long way here in Bali. But he's also been very generous in sharing with the villagers here in Sading and throughout Bali.

After chatting and catching up with each other's adventures, he teaches us a beautiful new piece on the semar pegulingan. I don't know if it was being in Bali so long, but playing seemed perfectly natural and the piece came to us effortlessly.

This is our son Dan on the gong gendong. It's a very ancient iron gamelan that is very rare, and generally not allowed for non-Balinese to play.

Wenten's family served us an incredible feast, and then Eli, Linda and Wenten sat down to discuss the film project they were working on.

The drive back to Ubud was another adventure - this time in pitch darkness. Fortunately we were led part of the way by Wenten's brother-in-law who was going to Sanur, but even so, lack of signposts caused us to miss the Ubud turn and we end up almost in Kuta before we realize our mistake. But we finally make it back to Ubud and say our good-byes to Linda and Eli. Linda has been so much help to us, and has taken us places we'd never have found on our own. Tomorrow we'll be bidding farewell to Bali.

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Photos: Astrid, Martin and Julia Randall
All content copyright (c) 2002, Astrid, Martin and Julia Randall