Awkward, a little embarrassed but also proud is how Nyoman Wenten described the feeling of watching himself and his wife, Nanik, on the silver screen in a packed theatre audience of 1,000 people.
Wenten, who has taught Balinese gamelan music, the traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali, at Pomona College since the mid-’90s, and his wife Nanik who also teaches Balinese dance at the College, are the subjects of the music documentary “Bali: Beats of Paradise,” which premiered Nov. 7 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
The film follows the Wentens in Bali and Los Angeles, highlighting their 40-year-old pursuit to bring gamelan music and dance to American audiences. Directed and produced by Livi Zheng, the film also delves into the collaboration between Nyoman Wenten and Grammy Award-winning singer Judith Hill.
Nyoman first met Zheng at a Balinese holiday gathering at the Consulate General of Indonesia in Los Angeles about two years ago. “The Consul General Umar Maradi shared with her that I had been promoting Balinese culture and music for 40 years when she said she’d already heard of me while doing research on the subject,” says Nyoman.
After playing with his CalArts’ Balinese gamelan ensemble, Burat Wangi, for a separate event for the consul general, Nyoman says Zheng approached him about making a film about him. “The rest is history,” says Nyoman who adds that since then, he and his wife have traveled back and forth to Bali to perform and film scenes, all leading up to the premiere Nov. 7 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
At the premiere, Pomona College Music Professor Joti Rockwell and many students and community members who make up Giri Kusuma, Pomona College’s gamelan ensemble, showed up to support the Wentens.
Nyoman says the whole experience has been nothing short of an incredible journey and he thanks the Pomona College community for supporting his efforts.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to come every Monday to Pomona because the students are so into the music and are very focused. Year after year, I enjoy myself and we have an incredible performance at the end of the semester,” he says. “I’m so very happy to be able to work with Professor Rockwell and everyone at the colleges.”