Cultural Connections: 2019 Bali Excursion and Study Tour

From 11 to 26 May, YST held the 2019 Bali Excursion and Study Tour, an intensive trip where students learned about and engaged in traditional Indonesian music and dance. This trip was the 11th iteration of the programme, and saw five YST students – Cindy Honanta (Year 2, Voice), Felita Eleonora (Year 1, Harp), Lee Chaeyeong (Year 2, Percussion), Muse Ye (Year 4, Piano), Ng Siang Yee (Year 3, Music & Society) – taking part alongside two NUS students and four students from the Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music (PGVIM), Thailand. Accompanying and coordinating the trip were Assoc Prof Ty Constant and Teaching Assistant Ms Miao Kaiwen, from the Professional Integration area. 

Over the two weeks, the students intensively studied traditional Indonesian music and dance, including Balinese and Sundanese musical ensemble forms such as Gong kebyar, Gender wayang, Gamelan degung, Kecapi suling, beleganjur and kecak chant, instruments such as jegog (music played on bamboo instruments), genggong (jaw harp), suling (flute), as well as Balinese and Sundanese dance. The programme culminated in a final performance showcasing all that the students learned, presented at the Bunutan Village Festival in Ubud. Aside from the music-making, students were also immersed in local culture, visiting a temple to watch a performance, as well as a day excursion to Tunjuk village to learn about and enjoy a performance of wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre).”

Taking on a new musical culture was a meaningful challenge. Cindy shared, “As a Western classical musician, I was initially quite bewildered when we were not given any music scores to learn from. But working with our instructors, we learned music phrases little by little through repetition, building up to more over time. I still remember the instructor’s favourite word: Again! This technique actually helped us absorb the information better. In the end, we managed to perform two hours of music, learned within two weeks without notation.”

Siang Yee said, “Music scores can sometimes create a barrier between musicians in a group; this trip made me more aware of the collaborative aspect of ensemble playing. In addition to learning about Indonesian music and dance, we learned to better listen and work with other musicians in the group, and forged new friendships with the local musicians and each other, with music being the common language that we share. This study tour has truly been enriching, both musically and spiritually.”  

Assoc Prof Ty Constant shared, “This is now the eleventh year of this incredible programme at YST. I am amazed and delighted at how it has grown and continues to evolve, thanks to our wonderful instructors in Bali and from Bandung without whom this would not be possible. Their enthusiasm and patience when working with our students always touches us, and I continue to learn new things about music, Balinese culture, and myself each year when we attend.”