By Jason Noghani
The magical event that took place on April 26th 2019 (the second event of the Sacred Rhythm: Reborn Unison series, the first of which took place in August 2018) reaffirmed the commonly held tenet that the journey is more important than the destination itself. Indeed, the event that took place was a truly remarkable experience, largely due to the various souls that took part in its realisation, although compared to the month or so that preceded it, came and went in the flicker of an eye, irrespective of the magnificent radiance that emanated from it. Without the journey, 26th April 2019 would not have become the event it will forever be remembered by; the start of a new chapter/epoch for the Sacred Bridge Foundation, and the consolidation of the memory and vision of the late-founder of the foundation; the very great Serrano Sianturi (or Rano, as he was affectionately known by those close to him).
In his final days, Rano asserted the importance of celebrating life with joy, focusing on the things that altruistically matter in order to actualise that, and celebrating diversity and differences as the foundation to living harmoniously amongst one another. This motivator became the bedrock behind realising the whole event, which in itself sounds much easier than it is to put into practice, given that the youth and health of many of those who took part would make it easy for them to take for granted what Rano truly cherished. Therefore, alongside tending to the event’s musical and technical matters, there was also the mental and subsequent preparation that adhered directly to the conscience aspect of the triangulation of which science and art are also a part of. Outside of conventional concert curation paradigms, the preparations involved for this event were of a truly ritualistic nature, which given the unwavering role conscience played in its conception, meant that all who were involved; irrespective of social, cultural or religious beliefs, were able to mutually congregate for the benefit of something far greater than themselves, which in its essence ascertains the true meaning behind the word religion (which is derived from the Latin word religo – to bind together).
It was therefore appropriate that the concert commenced with an utterly spellbinding performance of Marzuki Hasan and Aceh Sufi musicians (Canang 7 Atjeh Ensambel). I had the great honour of meeting Hasan the week before the concert, and despite not being able to directly converse due to our inability to speak in each other’s mother tongues, his very being made a very profound impact on me. He has one of those smiles that only Holy people have, which lit up any environment he was in, and emanated a torrent of unconditional love. We had our photo taken together, and I could not stop beaming when he put his arm around me, which says a lot given that I usually cannot stand having my photo taken! This experience alone consolidated that his offering to the concert would be a truly astonishing one, and judging from the reactions from everyone who attended this was certainly the case. The heartfelt convictions of Hasan and the Aceh musicians transcended the limitations of mere musical performance into an ecstatic voyage of prayer, and the kaleidoscopic trances that their sounds bestowed upon their audiences propelled them into a oneness of the highest vibration. The performance radically transformed everyone who experienced it, and given the relentless magnificence and power it exposed, was almost impossible to follow – a performance to end all performances; wakalimahullahi hii al ulyaa!
Once the audience had comprehended what they had just experienced, the concert followed on with the main set, which was a transfusion of I Nyoman Astita with fellow Bali-based performers, Namarina Youth Dance and Gado Gado Ensambal. The set commenced with Kotekan, a 3-movement work composed by Astita (Komang), which explores musical patterns and idioms of his native Bali, whilst incorporating a sense of invention and development of material more typical of Western Classical music. The intricate nuances and subtle transformations that continuously unfold demonstrate a craftsmanship of the highest calibre, whereby Astita uses a limited number of resources to produce limitless possibilities; the resulting beauty and finesse giving the piece the quality of a Balinese-infused Baroque or Classical sonata. Kotekan has been a staple of the Gado Gado diet for quite some time, and each rendition supersedes the previous one, with this particular evening being no exception; the sublime serenity of the music flourishing over the audience in a gracefully majestic manner. Overall, it could not have gone off to a better start!
However, there was then a setback which subsequently altered the flow of the concert (don’t get alarmed!). There were some technical issues, which meant that the sounds from the laptop were not connected to the speakers, which initially sparked concern amongst us on stage. Despite feeling slightly pensive, I think we all collectively felt that this was integral to the journey, and whatever the case was, we were going to make it work!
We decided to skip the next piece, which was supposed to be Cosmic Gamelan, and went straight onto Tenun (which was performed without the planned electronic introduction, which did not affect the music, but was a shame that the experience could not have been shared). Another regular feature on Gado Gado setlists, Tenun is a personal favourite, and I liken the binary form and treatment of the tenun weaving patterns of the melodies to resemble something akin to a 21st Century Scarlatti Sonata (obviously with an Indonesian twist!). Tenunsounded as great as ever, the performance was spot on, and Ibu Putu Lastini’s corresponding dance routine transcended the musical beauty in the most complementary fashion! The next piece to follow was Gondang si Pala Pala, which again was as good as ever, given our familiarity with the music and the amount of fun we have performing it!
We then decided to take a brief intermission, to address the technical issues that had beset upon us in the first half of our set, which luckily turned out to work in our favour! We were then able to perform Cosmic Gamelan, which would have been a shame to have omitted, as this was one of the pieces that was performed in collaboration with Namarina Youth Dance.Cosmic Gamelan transforms the guitar into an otherworldly gamelan instrument, and creates a soundscape not dissimilar, one could assume, to floating in outer space. Despite being consistently active and unpredictable, the music also has a meditative quality to it, and a sense of endlessness! Komang and Made Agus Wardana also took part in the performance by subtly interjecting gamelan sonorities onto the supernatural soundscape, and Namarina’s dance routine was a beautiful recreation of kaleidoscopic patterns intermingling and dispersing; dancing a dance of the cosmos!
Following from Cosmic Gamelan, came one of the highlights of the set, with Genggong – a traditional Balinese piece dating back from the 1930’s, inherited by Wardana (Agus) from his great-grandfather. To date, Genggong has only remained intact through oral knowledge, and we transcribed it particularly for this concert for the benefit of all involved who needed the notation to work with. What resulted was a vibrant and ecstatic performance, the very first of its kind, with Agus’ brilliant showmanship and stage presence captivating the audience with a charisma very few frontmen have these days! Agus, you definitely win the award for being rockstar of the night! The performance received a well-deserved standing ovation, and to date, I do not think we have ever received an applause like that! I can only ever hope that we can recreate this magical gem with Agus again, and make it a regular feature of our future performances.
This then brings us onto Cosmic Vibrations, a piece which we worked on probably more than everything else we performed combined due to the complexities of putting it together. However, it certainly paid off, and the exhilarating momentum insinuated by Genggong remained intact as we joyously journeyed through the piece’s three movements. The piece was written as an homage to I Wayan Sadra, whose musical practices and philosophies inspired the material and rationale behind the work. Drastically different to its counterpart Cosmic Gamelan (both of which will appear on our upcoming EP Cosmic Trilogy), Cosmic Vibrations similarly suggests experiences of outer space, although the contagious melody lines and inventive rhythms provide other secrets and insights into the neverending cosmos! The number of performers taking part and the conciseness of the performance made it the technical apex of the set! Like Genggong preceding it, the performance was met with a rapturous applause, which perfectly set the tone for Celebration; the final destination of the journey.
A Celebration of life, joy and the divine, the performance was heartfelt from all involved, who journeyed in the weeks of preparation, and ended, I feel, by not answering all that had preceded it, but looking forward into the (brighter) future. Celebration has been a journey that continues, it did not end on April 26th 2019 but it merely transcended into other dimensions since then. New possibilities keep getting discovered within it, new experiences unfold, and a jovial enigma surrounds the essence of it.
It would be reasonable to assume that this is how we all felt after the concert. The impact of what had been experienced may have taken a while to have ingested and processed (which I have certainly felt). The event was performed on profound foundations, which meant that there was a lot to have lived up to, but the love and perseverance necessary to have actualised that was certainly felt throughout, and we all knew that something special had just taken place.
To have shared this journey with everyone who took part is the highest honour. Let us continue…
Author: Jason Noghani
Jason Noghani is Listen to the World’s UK-based contributor. He is a composer, musician, cognitive psychologist, writer, illustrator, thinker, psychonaut and devout agnostic.