Ogoh-Ogoh Parade

March 27, 2017   XF16, XF18-55, Ubud

Today was one of the weirdest, funniest events l've experienced: the Nyepi day eve parade in Bali.

On this day each neighborhood council, which is called a banjar, parades its newly-made ogoh-ogoh monster around town in a ritual said to drive away evil spirits. At the end of the parade the ogoh-ogoh is destroyed by fire.

The parade of ogoh-ogohs is accompanied by a hypnotic soundtrack of Gamelan orchestras. They play unique instruments such as metal drums hit by hammers.

I've seen plenty of parades so this sounds straightforward, think floats and musicians marching down the street with an audience held at a distance by barricades and officials.

Ha. This is not that kind of parade. It's barely-controlled chaos where anyone can be in the parade and the monsters are coming from different directions, with the Gamelin adding a wonderfully pulsy trance background. Everyone, tourists and locals, some in native attire, everyone is laughing and having a great time.

The taller monsters find maneuvering a challenge in Ubud's narrow streets. The colourful demon sits high on a large bamboo lattice carried by a team of young Balinese. Clearly the builders compete for biggest and most outrageous with little thought to clearing the power lines. So some ogoh-ogoh are accompanied by fellows with very long poles that they use to manipulate the web of overhead power lines. Yeah, power lines. Some monsters get caught in the lines so it can take a while to maneuver. (I'm told power outages are common). Once they get through a tangle of wires the crowd bursts into cheers to congratulate them.

The monsters are also tasked to rotate three times at each intersection, and this isn't a simple rotation, the large and heavy monsters swerve like an amusement car ride as they turn. At one point I got caught in a packed crowd and thought I was going to get crushed in the mass of people fleeing the swing of the monster. Ok, that was weird.

After the parade the monsters gather in a field where speeches are made. It grows dark. Finally, joined by torch-bearing girls, the ogoh-ogohs resume their parade, but this time they are destined for their demise.

And with that we all get to rest for a day since tomorrow is Nyepi, the day of silence.

With that in mind, here are a few photos from what was a very photogenic day.

Ogoh-ogoh on Jalan Sri Wedari      
This is my street, Jalan Sri Wedari, and not far from my house. This ogoh-ogoh didn't get very far before it encountered a wayward parked car. It took a tree chopping and some heavy lifting but they eventually got through. They also set off the car's alarm which only added to the cacophony.
Bamboo lattice holds monster      
A lot of fellows are needed to support an oogah oogah      
Gamelan provides the soundtrack      
Almost to the main drag      
The ogoh-ogoh is rotated counter-clockwise three times at every T-junction and crossroad. Rotating represents the contact of the bodies with the spirits and is said to bewilder and dispell evil spirits.
Great music      
Gamelan is the traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali. It's mostly percussive instruments, the most common being metallophones played by mallets and a set of hand-played drums called kendhang which register the beat.
Lots of colourful characters      
The main intersection in Ubud      
I like the streamers      
Reminds me of Homer Simpson      
Lifting the power lines      
Many ogoh-ogohs are too tall to pass under the power lines, so instead of making them shorter (that would be my solution) they lift the power lines up with tall poles. It's harder than it looks, and it can take a long time to maneuver. Plus, the ogoh-ogoh is going to come back down this street on its way out so the process is repeated. No one is in a rush, though, so it clearly doesn't matter.
Gamelan orchestra      
A small ogoh-ogoh      
Smaller ogoh-ogoh are built by groups of children or local artists.
Didn't see many officials      
Nightfall is coming      
I like the light      
Where's the parade?      
I found the parade route confusing and l don't think i'm the only one. A 30-year local described the route but it didn't go the way she described. She also said they change the rules periodically. For example this year they forbid styrofoam in the ogoh-ogohs because of the fumes given off when burned. (Duh!)
Gamelan orchestra      
Hypnotic musicians      
Gamelan musicians      
Monkey boy      
Great faces      
More great faces and colours      
The gathering in a field      
Their costumes are so colourful      
Torch bearers      
Young torch bearers      
Ogoh-ogoh lit up      
Last for the night!      
If you got this far congratulations, hope you enjoyed it. I wish i could accompany the photos with the music as I found it absolutely wonderful.