GAUNG: 21st Century Global Music Education

by Bob Rose

At the end of April, a bold and ambitious journey took place in Bali to pave the way for 21st century global music. Participants were invited from all over the world, and a diverse range of inspirational gurus and facilitators gathered to share their wisdom. This educational event, ‘GAUNG: 21st Century Global Music Education’ is unique in its vision to combine spirituality, cultural economics, music theory, and a wide range of contemporary and ethnic influences.

The GAUNG workshop was set up by the Sacred Bridge Foundation, an Indonesian not-for-profit organization established in 1998 by Franki Raden, Tony Rudyansyah and Serrano Sianturi. The workshop has been several years in the making, with previous versions including the Rhythm Salad Music Clinic that has run for the last two years.

In the inspirational setting of Bedugul National Park in Bali, participants were randomly allocated to three separate lodgings ranging from decent to luxurious, an incredible feat considering that the total cost of the ten-day course including accommodation and food was a mere US$100 per person.


Given how ambitious the scope of this course was, it was inevitable that ten days was not going to be enough but all the gurus and participants gave it their all. It wasn’t unusual for events to run until two in the morning and then start again early the next day. The major strength of this course was in the diversity and quality of everyone involved. The participants included a theatre composer, an expert on music from Thailand, a guzheng (Chinese zither) teacher, a jazz saxophonist and lecturer from Kuala Lumpur and a range of other talented musicians.

Perhaps two of the most interesting gurus present were the contemporary composers Jean-Claude Éloy and Greg Schiemer. Jean-Claude is a French composer who studied under Milhaud, Messiaen, Boulez and Stockhausen. As most of the participants had never encountered 20th century modern music before, reactions ranged from ‘is this music?!’ all the way through to enthusiasm for using these new techniques and ideas within other styles of music. One of the participants, an artistic programmer for the Singapore Esplanade (the main arts centre in Singapore) had been previously unaware of this genre, but because of the course, she is now considering exposing Singaporean music goers to new unfamiliar music.

Greg, the other contemporary composer is an Australian who specializes in electronic music. His performances using mobile phones opened minds and inspired new ways of thinking. The pieces involved performers swinging the phones around their heads to create entrancing and hypnotic effects using Doppler shift.

But to balance what could become a somewhat cerebral and advanced foray into avant-garde aesthetics; gurus such as American jazz bassist Christy Smith kept things practical and entertained everyone with his earthy humour. As the course did not include enough time for participants to compose pieces to be played at the performances, there was a lot of emphasis on improvisation and Christy played an important role in guiding some of the younger, less experienced musicians. In contrast to Christy’s coaxing of high energy performances from shy participants, the prolific Japanese master percussionist and composer Stomu Yamash’ta encouraged musicians to reflect on the beautiful surroundings and express this spirit through their instruments. He also brought up the idea of establishing awareness of the music played among the audience rather than trying to impress them.

There were also a number of gurus and facilitators in place to introduce everybody to the central concepts of ethnomusicology by studying the new women’s Kecak group in Ubud – the only one of its kind in Bali. Unfortunately, with such a tight schedule some of the practical field work couldn’t take place when the Kecak group were a little late. It was still useful though to be given preliminary guidelines for working in the field, interviewing the performers and even being taught Kecak while at Bedugul by the Balinese guru who helped these women form their unique group.

As well as the musicians, a number of spiritual gurus such as a priest from Sulawesi, a Sufi master, and a Japanese monk had been invited. They would hold regular meetings with the other music gurus and facilitators to discuss life, the universe and everything although there seemed to be some controversy as to the purpose of these meetings. One of the organizers had intended for the results to be made public afterwards, whereas another emphatically denied the idea of sharing as it might be too private. I personally feel that the results of these conversations could have been shared with the participants in the evenings, so that anybody could follow up on issues raised directly with the spiritual gurus in their own time. If not, it seems a little self-indulgent to invite all these inspirational people if the participants aren’t able to benefit from them.

The course had ambitious goals, but one of the largest benefits of being present was to network, meet new people and become open to new ideas. But it wasn’t just the invited gurus and participants who were inspiring. The founders of Sacred Bridge also have a wealth of interests and experience to learn from. Franki Raden, for example is a particularly inspiring musician, interested in spirituality, protecting ethnic music from globalisation and composing contemporary music. He is also an accomplished composer, a respected music critic, an ethnomusicologist and more.

Also worthy of a special mention is Serrano Sianturi who, with help from his small but dedicated team, made a superb job of organizing the logistics of the course. A highlight of the event was his rousing presentation about cultural economics, which explored the possibility of being a musician with integrity without fearing the manufacturing and commercializing side of the music industry. Serrano teaches this subject at post-doctoral level at universities in Europe and United States for a couple of months every year; we got a very simplified version of it! But I think these ideas should have been explored much more. In our current world, the future of music depends on economic factors and music has been widely turned into a commodity. GAUNG was set up in order to fight this trend and discover music’s true meaning.

The GAUNG experience was an opportunity to tie together many varied and interesting worlds and I really appreciated the opportunity to mix socially with such interesting and creative people.

Gending Rare: Balinese Nursery Rhymes Teach Norms and Values

Foreword from Listen To The World

Nursery rhyme’s are crucial to the development of a child’s identity. However, in today’s world, where diverse forms of entertainment proliferate within digital domains, are nursery rhymes still significant, or are they more significant than ever?

“Wilderness” is how our parent organisation, Sacred Bridge, describes the explorative stage of identity building in adolescence (similar to identity moratorium in Psychology). According to Sacred Bridge Psychologist, Denny Putra, it is a stage where children experience conflict between their ideal identity (cultural norms and values) and their collective identity (belongingness to society at large) (read “Reintroducing cultural heritage to Indonesian diaspora in New York City”). Interactions with friends exemplify such wilderness.

Thanks to digital media, children today no longer need to venture outside to play with their friends in this wilderness; they only need to swipe their gadget and then they are in the digital wilderness. While digital media benefits mature audiences, for children and adolescents, it is a radically new world that could psychologically confuse them. Many platforms out there have yet to find parental guidance models, which makes it difficult for parents to protect their children from unwanted information.

So again, are nursery rhymes still significant today? For us, they definitely are! It is crucial to preserve and continue nursery rhyme traditions to young children, to enable them to establish the foundation of their identity in preparation for “global” wilderness — both physical and virtual. Nursery rhymes profoundly impact the child’s mindset by learning through repetition of their cultural norms and values, as an unimposing form of entertainment (learning can be a game which the children play). Secondly, whereas storytelling (folklore) ideally needs a narrator for guidance, nursery rhymes provoke children to educate themselves. Last but not least, encouraging children to keep in touch with their roots while embracing external influences.


Gending Rare: Balinese Nursery Rhymes Teach Norms and Values

By I Wayan Sapta Wigunadika

An aspect of Balinese culture that still remains to this day is the nursery rhyme, which in Balinese is called gending rare (gen.ding rha-ré) or sekar rare. It consists of a number of playful songs for children, that employ a simple form of the Balinese language, with dynamic music, and overall evoking positive emotions. With contagious melodies, this nursery rhyme is unsurprisingly a fixture during children’s playtime in Bali.

But behind its simplicity, gending rare contains hidden meanings that teach children norms and values. It serves as a vehicle to communicate the messages of life in a way that makes it comprehensible for a young child would understand; something of which is integral to Balinese traditional child rearing.

There are three types of gending rare: gending rare, gending janger, and gending sang hyang. Each form of gending rare has its own characteristics based on its nature and functions, which is evident when the song is sung. This nursery rhyme has proven effective in teaching young children ethics, norms, and values. In this article I am going to analyse three of the most popular rhymes.

  1. Cakup-cakup Balang

Cakup-cakup balang

Luwung titi luwung pengancang

Tumbuh gigi becat majalan


Pat your hand

Good bridge, good hand guide

Grow teeth, walk soon

This is one of the most popular rhyme’s sung during playtime. The lyrics, however simple they may seem, have much deeper meanings. It is aimed at teaching children about manners and respect. The first line – ‘pat your hand’ – means patting one’s hand on one’s chest as the sign of respect in Balinese tradition. Since an early age, children are taught to pay respect to God, people, and the environment. The second line – ‘good bridge, good hand guide’ – means that the next generation must be guided to the right path, along with their security and safety – physically, mentally, and spiritually – in order to allow them to grow without any serious disturbances. The third line – ‘Grow teeth, walk soon’ – describes that once a child grows his teeth, he will soon be able to walk. This lyric implies that once a child has the ability to walk and all their teeth have grown, allowing him to chew their food, it marks the time when they are capable of setting their own path.

  1. Putri Cening Ayu

Putri cening ayu, ngijeng cening jumah,

Meme luas malu, ka peken mablanja,

Apang ada daaran nasi.

Meme tiang ngiring, nongos ngijeng jumah,

Sambilan mapunpun, ajak tiang dadua

Di mulihne dong gapgapin


O beautiful daughter, please stay home

I am going to the market, to buy some food

So that we can have a dish to eat with rice

O mother, I hear you, I’ll be waiting at home

While cooking, the two of us

Please bring me a gift when you come home.

This song is sung as a lullaby. Not only is it comforting, it also serves as a means to implement the ideas of good conduct and manners to a child. The hidden meaning of the lyric is that a child should seek knowledge and experience by interacting and working together with others; a reminder that humans are social creatures that cannot stand on their own.

3. Meong-Meong

Meong-meong alih ja bikule

Bikul gede-gede

Buin mokoh-mokoh

Kereng pesan ngerusuhin

Juk meng juk kul

Juk meng juk kul


O cat, go hunt for mice

Big mice

Fat mice

Who like creating chaos

Catch the cat catch the mice

Catch the cat catch the mice

This song is usually sung when children are playing Meong-meong, a popular traditional game for children (meong is an Indonesian onomatopoeia for the sound a cat makes). Each line in the lyric contributes towards building a child’s character since an early age. It teaches a child to be a good person and not to cause any trouble. It also teaches moral values; that one may not use inappropriate, unethical behaviours, such as slandering, to get their own way.

Nursery rhymes are more than just a song. Behind its simplicity lies hidden, culturally laden messages that can enable children grow into becoming a good person with a firm identity. Obviously, one should never question the need to preserve gending rare.



Visual Artworks in Response to Covid-19

By Adikara Rachman

Covid-19 is a global terror that has spread to every corner of the world. Many people have died, many others are under deep pressure whether it be financially related or due to the stress of undertaking measures to treat the pandemic, and not a single person is immune to the impact of this situation, which is dramatically unfolding at an alarming rate, and transforming civilisation in the process. In many places people are isolated and separated, hoping that the fear will go away whilst trying to remain calm. Now our lives are increasingly vulnerable despite the progress many people have made in treating the pandemic, as they are not able to exterminate it as quickly as one could have hoped. Sacred places are losing their necessary functions because of the scare of the deadly virus’ contagiousness, which they are unfortunately not immune from. Covid-19 has locked us all down yet time goes on, and mother nature rejuvenates blissfully unperturbed.

Four artworks by Adikara Rachman are a response to the pandemic disaster. They represent those prisoned by isolation, which makes them fragile like thin paper that is easy to tear, self and other separated in distance. The numbers present an acumulation of the victims, which are exponentially increasing each day. These artworks are not only about the scare facing Covid-19, there is also another concern, which is about building awareness for humanity to help each other. We are ultimately one race, and now is the time we must permanently dispose of hatred, racism, religious and cultural discrimination, and the desire to dominate others.

May health and peace be resorted to those of us who have suffered, may everyone else be protected and remain peaceful and healthy during such a time, and may those who have recovered or lost loved ones regain full strength as soon as possible.

420AY5 | Mix media on paper | Artwork by Adikara Rachman
01 88 86 65| Mix media on paper | Artwork by Adikara Rachman
CAADIMDD.6520 | Mix media on paper | Artwork by Adikara Rachman
No: 379403010500794 | Mix media on paper | Artwork by Adikara Rachman



Villagers Took Action Protecting Their Language

Foreword from Listen To The World

The conservation of heritage is by no means an easy matter, and even though it is of paramount importance to pass down knowledge and wisdom to future generations, it can at times be arduous and time consuming, which in this day and age of immediacy means virtuous obligations are shunned for immediate satisfaction in a maze of limitless distractions. Nonetheless, it is still vital to persist in educating the younger generations, so that they may learn the intrinsic value of what they have inherited, and thereafter seek to engage in conserving these important practices. To do this successfully, however, it is important for educators to pass on their knowledge and wisdom in a stimulating and imaginative manner, so that the children are constantly inspired and enthused at the prospect of learning such practices, and will strive to continue pursuing them outside of educational settings; their imaginations invigorated in the process.

I Wayan Sapta Wigunadika discusses how the people of Punggul Village in Bali, Indonesia, have incorporated these approaches into their educational practices, where not only were the children reminded of the importance of conserving and continuing their heritage, but that they could do so joyously. Following this year’s Nyepi at such a critical and poignant time in our history, this again shows how Balinese traditions set an example to humanity, for how collective endeavours of the highest order can be attained with mutual benefit to the individual involved. Today, following yesterday’s Nyepi, Omed-Omedan (the kissing ritual) is symbolic to the push and pull of positive and negative energies. When observing the continual struggles, we undertake, we should reflect on the authenticity and exuberance by which Balinese practices treat such matters, and thereafter realise that anything could be made possible if novel ingenuity flourishes and appropriate conduct is observed.


By I Wayan Sapta Wigunadika

The people of Punggul Village (Bali, Indonesia) have shown their commitment in preserving their language, alphabets and literature, by organising an event called Balinese Language Month 2020. Government officials, village organisations, and members of the tribe council attended the opening ceremony on 13 February 2020, expressing their hopes for the continuous existence of their language.

Perbekel Punggul visiting and reviewing the participants writing letter in Balinese competition. | Photo: I Wayan Sapta Wigunadika

Around 187 people took part in this event, most of whom were kindergarten and elementary school students. The students participated in a number of activities such as colouring and writing letters in Balinese language and alphabets on computers and papers.

Enthusiastic participants competition writing letter in Balinese | Photo: I Wayan Sapta Wigunadika

The village elder, Kadek Sukarma, explained that this event was showcasing a training Programme that was used by the Balinese Language Centre in Punggul Village. “We wanted to see if children can apply what they’ve learned in the activities related to the preservation of Balinese alphabets, language, and literature.” He further mentioned that they have already planned for next year’s event. It would involve different kinds of  training throughout the year such as speech, writing on leaves, and other activities. “We are aware that if we don’t teach our children in their early years, the Balinese language will diminish. We believe that if we start today, our language and literatures will remain in our hearts.”


English Translation by Riri Rafiani


Featured Image: Awarding Trophies for participants who won in the competition of writing letter in Balinese on computer, writing letter in Balinese on paper and colouring Balinese letter. | Photographed by: I Wayan Sapta Wigunadika

CMA’s Indonesian Cultural Festival


A wonderful event, the ‘Indonesian Cultural festival’, organized by the Children’s Museum of the Arts, took place last week in the heart of New York City, celebrating and implementing the important role of the Arts as an educational tool for the betterment of future generations. The mission of the Children’s Museum of the Arts is to introduce children and their families to the transformative power of the arts by providing opportunities to collaboratively make art with working artists

In the eyes of our parent organization, Sacred Bridge, children and teenagers are the most important layers of society. They are the ones who will inherit the positive and negative aspects of our actions today. Children today grow up in the midst of dense populations, consumerism, crime and violence, rapid technological advancement, intense competition, and an ever-widening gap between the fortunate and the unfortunate. Judging by these factors, it must be very uneasy for the young to survive this part of the wilderness. 

Therefore, it is vital that we can acknowledge and be informed of the shared purpose and mission with the museum, which also aims to open doors to global friendship for mutual enrichment to confront the ongoing concerns of this century; especially for our children and their future. 

In the spirit of Reborn, the Sacred Bridge Foundation is reactivating one of its field programs under the domain of ‘Cultural Education for the Young’: Hugging the City and Hugging the Nature. These creative camps are designed to revive human sensitivity toward visual, verbal, musical, and psychosomatic perspectives and capabilities through art activities. This stimulation will enable the participants to learn the true principles of experiencing life from the wisdom found in human culture and the inherent nature underlying the cosmos. This can be actualized through the utilization of creative activities  such as dancing, painting, art installations, pottery, mime, storytelling and music. 

According to Ian Tousius, the Lead arts tutor at CMA, “Selecting artists to highlight during CMA’s Cultural Festivals are a collaborative effort amongst the department managers. We look for contemporary artists who have an active studio practice, and whose work is informed by the place that they come from. We don’t want to highlight an artist simply because they come from a culture that we are celebrating. Instead, we seek to highlight artists whose artistic practices touch upon themes that informed by their upbringing, living situation, or response to current events in the countries or geographic areas that we are spotlighting”.

All Cultural manifestations, including the Arts, are contextual. Any art serves its own purposes and ideals according to the historical contexts within which it was created. Historically speaking, Art is a powerful intermediary medium that addresses relevant current issues that are experienced directly by the artists and the societies they live in. 

Every project at CMA incorporates the museum’s pedagogy of Look, Make, Share, and Look resonates strongly with the importance of context, not only in providing visual references and examples of the artist’s work for children to understand what is being created, but also regarding the issues that the work is responding to, which is of equal importance. Technological advancement has reaped positive impacts for many whilst at the same time it has also reduced the human connection and active engagements of many artists with their surroundings, living situations and reality. Furthermore, Ian elaborates that Make is easiest to implement — without it, there would be no project! Share is arguably the easiest to disregard, but encouraging young artists to talk about their work and recognize their own accomplishments can create an everlasting confidence in themselves, and increase their appreciation for the transformative power of art, from very early on in life.

In conjunction, we will also present an in-depth Interview with Dolorosa Sinaga, one of Indonesia’s leading artists, sculptors and activists, who was one of the first art facilitators in Hugging the Nature, and who also recently inspired the workshop titled ‘Wonderful Woman’ at the Children’s Museum of the Arts festival.  

In collaboration with PERMIAS New York City, a non-profit Indonesian student association consisting of Indonesian students living in all five areas of New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island; Patricia Argie, the Vice President of Communications at PERMIAS NYC provides a brief summary of the Indonesian Cultural festival. For those who have missed the event, the following summary will provide ‘insights’ of the event, which includes photographs of such a wonderful event.

For this occasion, Listen To The World would also like to thank Bhima Aryateja and Andhini Febrina, the founder of AKAR, a not-for-profit organization that aims is to reintroduce Indonesian cultural heritage to Indonesian children who were born in the US by using Indonesian language as the main vehicle. Here is the link to the past interview with AKAR foundation including a psychological insight on cultural roots and identity by Denny Putra (



On Sunday, February 9th 2020, Children’s Museum of the Arts hosted an Indonesian Cultural Festival as a way to introduce Indonesian culture to children through arts and crafts. 

Photo courtesy of PERMIAS NYC / Patricia Argie

The festival commenced as soon as the museum opened and right away, guests were greeted with a very familiar tune every Indonesian would probably know, “Ondel-ondel.” A variety of activities related to Indonesia were spread out throughout the museum. Across the main hall, there was a vast array of Indonesian-related displays, mainly those based off batik. 

Display in the hallway | Photo courtesy of PERMIAS NYC / Patricia Argie

I started my exploration with the exhibit at the furthest left of the hallway, an exhibition inspired by FX Harsono, one of Indonesia’s most famous artists known for his work through contemporary media. Harsono created mixed media works through the use of old photographs and new technology. The moment I stepped into the room, I was greeted by a staff who introduced me to the exhibition. There were photographs, cutouts and a few cameras for visitors to use and we were able to attempt to recreate Harsono’s works. Through computers that were provided, visitors were able to save a copy of their work and have them sent through email. 

Photo courtesy of PERMIAS NYC / Patricia Argie
FX Harsono’s stop motion workshop | Photo courtesy of PERMIAS NYC / Patricia Argie

Once that was over, I stopped by at the second exhibit at the museum, which was a clay workshop. The amount of people that can participate in this workshop was very limited due to the seating, so children were encouraged to sign up prior to participating in the activity. In this workshop, they were taught to make crafts that are related to Indonesia. Right next to the clay room, there is a music booth where children were taught to make music Indonesian themed music through the use of various instruments. This exhibit was sponsored by Gamelan Dharma Swara and children were able to recreate sounds inspired by them through the use of drums, chimes and natural sounds. Like the clay workshops, the space is limited so children must register for a time slot beforehand.

Music booth workshop | Photo courtesy of CMA

At the end of the hallway there is a fine arts room where children are free to express their creativity. Two workshops are available there, namely “Our Connected Community” inspired by Entang Wiharso, where children are taught to make metal sculptures as part of a collaborative relief piece, as well as Wonderful Women, inspired by Dolorosa Sinaga, where children are given an abundance of material to create a mini sculptural version of an important female figure in their life. 

As the room was divided into two sections, there were two sets of materials and descriptions in two sections of the room. To the right of the entrance was Wiharso’s workshop where children were provided with various materials, including pliers and pieces of metal materials. The children were given the opportunity to create whatever they felt would fit with the theme. At the end, they were asked to add their creations to a collaborative sculpture, combined with other artworks made by other visitors of the CMA. 

Toolset and materials for Entang Wiharso’s workshop | Photo courtesy of PERMIAS NYC / Patricia Argie

The second half of the room, which was Dolorosa Sinaga’s workshop, used a different set of materials and had a different theme. Sinaga’s workshop focuses on female figures that had a significant importance or contribution in the children’s life, in hopes that this can empower women in difficult times. As she is a sculptor from Sumatra, the children were asked to recreate her artwork by taking a few materials that were provided and be free with their imagination.

Children participating in Dolorosa’s workshop | Photo courtesy of PERMIAS NYC / Patricia Argie

Alongside the exhibits, there were various performances as well. At 12 p.m., Gamelan Dharma Swara performed a Balinese dance as well as a Gamelan performance. The founder of Gamelan Dharma Swara was there to inform visitors of Indonesian culture and what they can do to learn more if they are interested in the culture. At 1 p.m., there was a storytelling session presented by the Hudson Library, and the books that were chosen include Run, Elephant, Run, which was inspired by an Indonesian rainforest setting, as well as Go to Sleep, Gecko, based on a Balinese folktale. 

Balinese Dance Performance | Photo courtesy of CMA
Gamelan Performance – Photo courtesy of CMA

All in all, this festival was a great opportunity for Indonesians to exhibit our culture as well as for those who are not familiar with Indonesian culture to learn more about the nation through arts and crafts. 


Stay tune for our in depth interview with Dolorosa Sinaga.