Oral Histories

Interview of I. Nyoman Wenten

Balinese dancer and musician. Faculty member in world music performance and Indonesian music and dance.
Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California
Asian American History
Biographical Note:
Balinese dancer and musician. Faculty member in world music performance and Indonesian music and dance.
Cline, Alex
Wenten, I. Nyoman
Persons Present:
Wenten and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Wenten's home in Valencia, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research. Cline has spent a considerable amount of his career as a jazz drummer/musician in Los Angeles.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Wenten was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
8 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California series focuses on both immigrants and second- or third-generation Asian Americans who have continued East Asian or Southeast Asian musical, dance, and performance traditions in Southern California. Some preserved their art form by adhering to the traditional forms of their disciplines, while others incorporated elements from Western arts and culture.
Birth and family background—Father’s marriages and children—Adoption by aunt—Mother’s background and family—Paternal grandfather introduces him to the arts—Father and grandfather encourage interest in arts—Debut performance—Studying dance—Moving to attend school—Political upheaval in Indonesia--Attending KOKAR, the Conservatory of Performing Arts in Denpasar—Performing in different countries—Growing up in Bali—Clothes and homes—Community involvement in ceremonies—Food—Father becomes a village healer—Life changes during junior high—Performing in clubs—Learning dance in the village vs. at school—Old and new dance methods.
Traveling in a cultural exchange program—Ramayana performance in Bali—Learning Javanese dance—Ceremonial purpose of dances—No line between professional and amateur dancers—Financial viability of dance—Balinese naming conventions—Instruments—Specializations in performance—Attending the conservatory—Indonesia’s cultural diversity—Meeting Western people and encountering Western culture—Gamelan master Pak Tjokro—Meeting wife Nanik—Balinese perception of the Javanese—Balinese strict court tradition—Marriage and children—Teaching gamelan at California Institute of the Arts—Living in Jogja—Going to the U.S. with Pak Tjokro--Learning English.
Casting of the Ramayana--Experience with teachers at the dance conservatory—Becoming a teacher—Nanik teaches Javanese dance—Women and music in Bali/Central Java—Advanced instruments—Traveling to the United States for the first time—Teaching at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)--Experiencing earthquakes—Traveling back to Bali—Pak Tjokro and his refusals to go to the U.S.—Returning to teach in the U.S.—Bringing his family to the U.S.—Earning his master’s at CalArts—Buying a house—Being offered an opportunity to be the head of the arts center in Bali—Impressing the governor with work in establishing gamelan and Balinese music programs—Helping undocumented Indonesian immigrants—Hindu ritual in performances—Criticisms of teachers of Javanese/Balinese gamelan in the U.S.
Buying home in Valencia—Cultivating Balinese culture in the U.S.—Raising children in America—Different forms of Balinese music and dance—Differences in technical level of performances—Teaching Balinese arts at CalArts—Teaching at UCLA in the ethnomusicology department—Differences between CalArts and UCLA—Challenges teaching gamelan—Impact of the internet—Fusing Balinese music with Western instruments—Traditional influence on pop culture—Difficulty in unifying Indonesia due to diversity in ethnic groups and religions-- Progression of Indonesian gamelan music in the U.S.-- Evolution of gamelan in the U.S.—Gamelan as a symbol of togetherness—Relations between Israel and Indonesia—Future in teaching.
Performances and workshops Wenten has participated in—Performing at University of California, Berkeley in 1974—Costumes—Performing at the World Music Center—Differences in how Western dancers use music—Silent audience experience—Production of the Mahabharata in 2012—Growth of Balinese dance in modern theater—Need to mix up compositions to keep audiences interested—Working on annual productions—Desire to collaborate with American artists—Desire to tour.