Download Made Agus Wardana is a local staffer at the Indonesian Embassy in Brussels, Belgium.
But he acts far beyond his desk – he’s dubbed Indonesia’s cultural ambassador to Europe for taking Balinese music and dance to international stages.
Ging Ginanjar meets Made while rehearsing with his traditional group in Brussels.
Made Agus Wardana has led this gamelan, or traditional gongs, group called Bali Saling Asah for 14 years.
For Made, this is more than just a hobby.
The group regularly travels to international festivals across Europe.
“Gamelan is a part of me, it lives inside me. It’s my life. I will be very happy everytime I play gamelan.”
His latest event was the Ogoh-ogoh festival that featured giant Balinese puppets in Pairi Daizi Park in the small Belgian town of Burgelette.
He was busy running around the festival – from playing traditional drums, jumping in front of the mic as one of the hosts, to taking pictures of the event.
Made arrived in Europe in 1996 on a cultural mission organised by the Indonesian embassy.
He was sent to teach traditional Balinese music in Brussels with a gamelan set given to him by the governor of Bali.
It was in January, he recalls – one of the coldest months in Belgium.
But he quickly warmed himself up with a busy schedule – teaching gamelan to Europeans as well as developing a gamelan group at the Indonesian embassy.
Today he travels twice a month to various cities in Western Europe to teach gamelan – from Amsterdam to Cologne.
Made says his activities have taught him deep life lessons.
“I was really surprised when I taught gamelan to disabled children. It was in 2003 and 2004, we held a workshop in St Josef school in Antwerpen. There were 15 children, playing the gamelan with absolute happiness. Physically, it was very difficult for them to play the music, but I was really happy seeing that, that these children were happy because of the gamelan. And when they performed the Balinese traditional kecak dance, with their physical condition, I could feel that they felt the happiness inside.”
Two years after arriving in Belgium, with the help of friends and family, Made set up Sekehe Saling Asah – a traditional Balinese music group.
It gained popularity through various cultural events, not only in Belgium but in neighbouring countries too.
He says playing music is different here as he’s far away from his homeland.
“In Bali, we already know the situation, the religion, the tradition and our surroundings. Those made us grow as artists as I am now. But once we’re abroad, in another country, that’s another story. Here they have to do arts in a perfect timing and with a set of professionalism standards.”
Made also collaborates with European musicians.
He composed a song titled “Dwi Smara” meaning “Two Loves” – where he plays traditional Balinese flute together with a Belgium musician on cello.
It’s a song about twofold love – of Bali as the birthplace and Belgium, the new home.
“I lived in Bali for 25 years, and here, it’s almost 16 years now. I loved both eventually. I love Balinese culture with its simplicity, and I also love to live in Europe which offers a very different life.”
Made is the youngest son of a Balinese family of ten.
He used to live in Pegok Sesetan Village – known as the centre of janger, or Balinese traditional theatre.
Made’s mother was a dancer, while her father played traditional drums.
Two decades ago, Made was considered Bali’s best traditional drummer.
Being in Europe for so long, Made has picked up other musical instruments – like the saxophone and drums.
Four years ago he crafted an ethnic-fusion band called Amritha.
The band played a song called “Taksu”, composed by Made, in a concert in Bozar, a prominent cultural venue in Brussels.
Brought up among Balinese culture, Made makes sure that his own family continues the tradition.
He had taught traditional gamelan and dances to his children from a young age.
“There was one special day, when Musical Instrument Museum in Belgium held a Family Day. Our family, five of us, play a simple gamelan. Me and my wife, along with our children, including the youngest one who was still 4 years old. I played the traditional drums while my wife danced.”
Made’s happy that he can pass on the beauty of Balinese culture to his children in Europe.
And says he will continue his work with his gamelan and ethnic-fussion group... thousands of miles away from home.