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Kompiang Davies: Bringing Bali to the Bay

on October 10, 2020

In her native Bali, Kompiang Davies says she was forbidden from singing, dancing or playing any musical instrument. “My family wanted me to be a doctor. ‘Dancing? What is dancing? How will it give you money?’ they would ask.”

So, in 1992, Davies fled Indonesia and found work as an au pair in Orinda. She eventually got married and moved to Richmond Heights, where she has practiced and celebrated Balinese music with as many people as possible through a nonprofit group called Gadung Kasturi.

The pandemic, however, forced the group to stop meeting in April – and even cancel its annual fundraiser in May.

“I miss … I miss us, you know?” Davies said, adding that she hopes the group can start practicing again soon. “Together every Sunday and then eat lunch … and stuff like that.”

From a 2015 performance. Courtesy of Gadung Kasturi

As musicians and dancers look forward to getting together again soon, a few members took the time to praise Davies.

Musician Ayu Ramadhani, who now runs the organization’s Facebook page, described Davies as “a fantastic dancer and artist.” 

Veteran musician Carla Fabrizio, who started working with Davies well before the formation of the group, said she misses “going to Kompiang’s every week, rehearsing hard, eating and laughing a lot, all of that. We have a lot of fun when we all get together.”

Richmond Heights Art and Music Festival, July, 2019.
Richmond Heights Art and Music Festival, July, 2019. Photo by Hartuty Suharsono Sakwan

Fabrizio, who has played Balinese music for three decades, says she hasn’t practiced for months.

“Since COVID-19, not only have we had zero rehearsals, but I haven’t played one note of music on any instrument,” she said. “This is personally very weird to me because being a ‘musician’ is how I’ve always defined myself.”

When life does returns to normal, Fabrizio hopes to introduce Balinese music to more people, especially those living in Richmond.

“Balinese dance is just so much more powerful and meaningful when there’s live music so you can see the interaction,” she said. “I’d be thrilled if we had more performance opportunities in Richmond to introduce more people to Balinese dance and music.”

(Lead photo: Kompiang Davies peforms with Gastung Kasturi. Photo by Jason Lew)

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