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Blueberry Guitars, Wayan Tuges, Hummingbird, Wolf

January 15, 2013

Wayan Tuges and his nephew, Koko, met me at my hotel at 9:30am. They were early and sat down. “I didn’t know about traffic. I accompany you for breakfast.” Very kind, friendly gentlemen, smoking Marlboros. We all got the ‘American’ breakfast – eggs, toast, fruit, juice. There is construction everywhere, “All the presidents coming.” Emma said last night that there is a summit in six months and no way will the construction be done in time. I bought them breakfast, as they came to grab me, 45min drive from Gianyar on a Sunday with no traffic. Koko is the driver, it’s his Nissan, with leather seats and tv screens behind both driver and front passenger seats like those in airplanes. They put on a traditional Balinese puppet show short program for me and afterward Koko switched from station to station. Koko plays the blues and plays in Ubud every night this week. They invited me to come to his show tomorrow at Warung Lezat. “I will come see you! Now I have something to do!, ” I said. “I accompany you,” Wayan said.

On the drive to Wayan’s workshop in Gianyar I witnessed many a contrast: a McDonald’s next to a small truck with chickens and chicken cages in back, a McDonald’s next to a scooter with a box attached on the back full of saws and knives, temples tucked in between Circle K corner stores, Michael Jackson playing on one station, Balinese pop on another, and this after the puppet show in the Nissan with air con and leather seats.

Wayan and his partner are “Blueberry Guitars“. His partner’s daughter’s name is Blueberry, and there used to be 50 employees but things are not always certain and now there are 20 employees as Wayan can guarantee them salary. Iwan Fals, Jakarta’s most famous musician, “Famous like U2 in England,” Koko mentioned, “played for 20,000 people in Denpasar”, loves and buys Wayan’s guitars and asked Wayan to put his name, Tuges, on his last guitar,to better credit Wayan for his work. “Three months,” Wayan replied, when I asked how long it took to make one guitar; he has been making guitars for eight years. I have never seen guitars like this. Exquisite, intricate, pictorial, unique in design and sound.

We arrive at what I think is Wayan’s house. We go upstairs to a room with about 40 guitars, a handful of which are small bodies, one is double-necked and one electric guitar that I would have loved to buy: it was all one piece of wood – neck and back, beautiful, solid and incredible detail. All Wayan’s guitars are remarkably detailed, at first I thought too much, but there are so many intricacies: animals, figures, seemingly telling stories – Michelangelo’s ‘hands’ up a neck with Jesus on the head, wolf- and gorilla-themed, one with a carving of Robert L Johnson with his dates of birth and death and Crossroad lyrics circling the hole, and mine – Hibiscus and Hummingbird.

Yes – I dove in. $2000 (19,660,000 rupiah)- what’s a girl to do? Probably have to sell the Guild now, but what a super deal, I believe. Online/market price is $2900US. Wayan asked if I wanted a pick-up, ($100-160 value here, in Victoria – $400 for pickup + labour + 2 weeks wait?) and said he would include it in the price. “It’s interesting to me that you have Hummingbird and Wolf,” and I told them how currently there are two people in my life, one represented by Hummingbird and one by Wolf. “But it could also mean nothing,” I admitted – Koko smiled.

We walked across the street through a doorway marked ‘Toilet” to the workshop where there were at least another 100 unfinished and in-process guitars. There is a pink clock that has stopped at 2:40pm, Koko is wearing a green shirt that says “New York” and the other worker is wearing a shirt of a different green that says “Bali.” I watched as Wayan, Koko and the other guy put in the Fishman pickup, including measuring and cutting out holes for the pickup, fashioning it in, testing it and fixing it (the low E initially didn’t pick up). I handed Koko a Lola Parks CD and hung out with them for a couple hours. They also replaced the heads with ones that lock, put on new strings and lowered the action (I looked on as he calmly and steadily sanded the ivory piece down). The guitar was polished and given a Blueberry case. We sat down for Wayan and Koko to smoke a Marlboro and the rain poured down torrentially. Koko wrapped the guitar case in a plastic bag and we headed out into the downpour, past many wood shops and a thousand wood tables, sculptures, yet-unfinished pieces, to the gallery to do the financial transaction. Got soaked just running to and from the vehicle, and the road’s water level raised up high and fast.

They drove me carefully in the crazy rain to Ubud. Turns out Koko worked for an Italian cruiseline from 2006-2010 as a waiter. Now his band plays music most every night in Ubud.

“Are you hungry? My turn now.” Wayan, Koko and I ate lunch around 4:30pm. I got the sense Wayan cares for Koko as his own son. When I asked if it was Wayan’s sister or brother that related him to Koko, he answered, “My brother,” their heads lowered and they both got quiet. Wayan said he had to go to Temple and Koko had to play tonight. Wayan paid and said, “See you tomorrow.”

Special day. Special people.

acoustic, doubleneck, electric

acoustic, doubleneck, electric

rosewood front and back

rosewood front and back

I went down to the Crossroads...

I went down to the Crossroads…


From → Bali

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