Gamelan Semara Ratih was formed in 1989 as a collective of top musicians, composers, dancers, and choreographers from southern Bali, including many esteemed graduates of the national academy of the arts in Denpasar. Soon after its inception, the troupe became renowned in Bali for the power, excitement, dynamicism, innovation, and dramatic and musical breadth of its performances (the name of the troupe evokes the merging of the female and male principles of passion).
Photo Maurizio Rosenberg Colorni
In Indonesia Semara Ratih performs extensively throughout Bali and in Java and has performed at the request of the minister of state at the national palace at Tampaksiring. Many international fans have enjoyed Semara Ratih’s performances in Bali, and by the early 1990s, the troupe began to be invited to bring its dazzling performances to audiences abroad in Europe and Japan. The troupe has performed in Denmark, Japan, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and members have also performed in the USA, Canada, and various European and Asian countries. In 1994 Semara Ratih was the first non-Western group to perform at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, where they brought down the house, receiving nine curtain calls. With the 2010 Konya Mystic Music Festival, Semara Ratih becomes the first gamelan troupe of any kind to perform in Turkey, rounding out the group’s 2010 European tour.
In 1998 Gamelan Semara Ratih entered and won first place in the annual Bali Nusa Dua Festival and in 2002 the troupe entered and won first place in Bali’s annual Gong Kebyar competition. Many commercial audio and video recordings of Semara Ratih are available for sale throughout Indonesia, Japan, the USA, and Europe on JVC, Bali Records, Maharani, Alula, and other labels.
It is important both to conserve the unique traditional performing arts of Bali in their diverse forms and to keep the arts vital by actively creating new works that extend the traditional repertoire. Few ensembles in Bali can match the large and diverse repertoire performed by Semara Ratih, which extends from courtly semar pegulingan and ceremonial angklung works to flashy and vibrant gong kebyar creations. Very early in its history, the group commissioned the construction of a special gamelan set called gamelan semaradhana (only the second of its kind, now widely copied, partly inspired by Semara Ratih’s success) designed to allow the performance of several different genres of music on a single gamelan set: four-tone angklung, five-tone gong kebyar, and seven-tone modulating semar pegulingan. The troupe has also gained international attention for its “Seniman Tua” or “Living Treasures of Bali” series, which honors elder artists and aims to carry forth their endangered styles and repertoire.
Gamelan Semara Ratih is led by Anak Agung Gede Anom Putra,
“Anom Baris,” who became famous in Bali as a teenager for the intense
control, power, and beauty of his Baris male warrior
dance, for which he won first prize in an island-wide competition. As a
child, 'Gung Anom studied with Anak Agung Gede Mandera, director of the
famous Gamelan Gunung Sari, one of the first Balinese troupes to travel
abroad, and I Made Jimat, one of Bali’s most celebrated dancers. While
still a graduate student in the national arts academy, he led the group
of outstanding artists who formed Semara Ratih.
'Gung Anom’s fame as a young dancer made him the subject of books, postcards, and films. With Semara Ratih, other ensembles, and as a solo performer, 'Gung Anom has been invited to perform in various parts of Indonesia including at the presidential palace in Jakarta, in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, China, the USA (New York City, New Jersey, Washington D.C., California), Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, China, and Belgium. Like most great Balinese performers, 'Gung Anom brings into his performance a deep spirituality that allows to enter into him inspiration from the realm beyond the personal.Gung Anom is joined by Ni Gusti Ayu Sukmawati, dance director, and I Ketut Cater, music director.
Gusti Ayu is a highly accomplished exponent of the famous Peliatan style of Legong dancing, having been taught personally by the great Anak Agung Gede Mandera of Gamelan Gunung Sari fame, and is known for the deep acting skills that she brings to her dramatic dance roles and for her ability to memorize entire long dance pieces after a single viewing. She comes from a family of accomplished dancers: her aunt was one of the Legong dancers immortalized by Gunung Sari's 1952 tour to America and Europe. In 2002 Gusti Ayu was master teacher of Semara Ratih's Legong Kuntir dancers, who won first prize in competition at the annual Gong Kebyar Festival.
Photo M. R. Colorni
I Ketut Cater is one of the shining musical stars from the village of Pindha in southeast Bali. A graduate of Indonesia's national arts institute, he is one of the foremost composers of his generation and is commissioned regularly to compose large-scale works for gamelans performing in Bali's annual Gong Kebyar competition.
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