Having attended more than my fair share of official openings in Indonesia, I really tried to come late to avoid the droning speeches. Alas, it doesn’t always work. Having barely missed another modern, highly chromatic presentation of Balinese dance, I walked in as Ubud’s massage guru Kt Arsana was delivering a ranting rave or raving rant, not sure which, but in any case not much point looking for any meaning in it beyond an interesting psychological profile.

He wound it all up getting the crowd to chant Om and Namo Shivaya – guaranteed to give the anti-yoga Muslim faction in the greater Malay archetypelago plenty of ammo. Next up, and not much further away on the naivete scale was the Bali Governor’s rep who addressed the several hundred strong international crowd of groovy, neo-hippy, somewhat dreadlocked alternative types in formal Indonesian. Fail. Not sure why Dek Goen, co-director of the festival and husband of founder Meghan Pappenheim, didn’t do the speech – he is at least coherent and relevant, and a damn sight more real.

But the night was no lead balloon. Once all the deadly formalities were over the audience began shutting down their laptops, then the performances started. It really proved that “just do it” is the way to go. First up was Kathak dancer and teacher Pooja Bhatnagar, all the way from Jakarta, who proved to be still lithe and electric, a touch of ex-pat Mother India.


Then Rocky Dawuni, African reggae performer par excellence, got the crowd all loosened up and going. Ya mon – so much so that out the back of the crowd a few Acro-Yoga enthusiasts just couldn’t resist stretching; one thing led to another and before you knew it they were on top of each other. Dang, it made me feel old and stiff.



I watched a fire dancer menage-a-trois do some pretty nifty flame, then traded in a few of my Rp10,000 ticket stubs for some organic brown rice with veggies and soy tempe – and a plastic bottle of some kinda oxygenated hydrogen dioxide.


After watching some more limberness (those acroyoga freaks go on for hours!) I creaked back to the stage to catch the last act of the night: Larissa Stow and the Sakti Tribe. She somehow got the crowd to do rock bhajan in sanskrit (now there’s a trick), and soon every one was on their feet. Not necessarily my music now (you shoulda asked me in the 70’s), but she’s a powerhouse and what a voice!


And I am glad BSF are back again. It hasn’t been an easy run for the organizers. Economic downturns and cancellations can really bring your spirit down. But not these guys. AFAIK a couple of them really put their money where their mouth is: when sponsors easily spooked by the crisis took off on them, these guys forked out their own money. Now that, in the 21st Century, is commitment.

As I gathered up my mini-tribe and headed out the door to beat the stampede, I had to reluctantly admit, despite being abducted back thru time to my hippy days, that I felt good. It beats wrestling with reluctant uploads and life shortening deadlines.

Time warp or not, the spirit is there! Go Meghan and Kadek, (and your team)! Let’s give it up for them! http://balispiritfestival.com/


  1. Mike

    Looks interesting. Thanks for sharing. I will be in Bali in a couple of months.

  2. Susi Johnston

    Perfect post. Plaudits to you its author. We get it, we really get it, exactly. Having been Shanghai-ed elsewhere, it’s not likely I will witness BSF 2009 first hand but dang, I wish I could, just to feel good, as you did.

    Yes, hats off to Meghan and Kadek and all the merry band. Such earnest enthusiasm is an oasis in the desert.

    And Rio, you can do yogabatics if you want. That’s the nature of yoga. No matter how creaky you are, you will discover that you can re-acquaint yourself will all the “lost” ligaments and more . . . and you will enjoy doing it. But don’t forget . . . alon alon asal kelakon . . . no rush to reintegrate your medial collateral-damaged dorsal anterior snodgrass fibrous phys-edified deltoid feynman syndrome sublexified sphinectal fibers in a rush. They will reintroduce themselves to you in time, and you will feel so blessed to have their full and unrestricted use and can contort to your heart’s content (either alone or in groups). Believe me.

    x x x


    • Rio

      Thanks Susi. You give my creaky weary limbs hope. The idea of contorting in groups – is that like social media? Be well on your Shanghai-ed journeys!


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