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gamelan and other music in bali

Filed under: — adrian @ 3:47 am

Last week I got to see the Legong of Mahabrata @ the Ubud Palace, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. The group performing was Sekaa Gong Jaya Swara Ubud. It was balinese dance accompanied by gamelan. Gamelan is an Indonesian (Balinese and Javanese) music with tuned percussion instruments, instruments like (but not exactly) xylophones (metallophones), tuned gongs, cymbals, barrel drums (kendhang). Sometimes, like in the gamelan I saw, they also have fipple flutes and a two-stringed spike fiddle called a rebab. (It should be noted: gamelan is a set of instruments, not the players/ history. The Berlin Philharmonic is the people, not the particular instruments they play.)

The venue, the Ubud Palace, is a courtyard of a 16th century palace. Not to be flippant, but it’s sort of like making the Great American Music Hall a lot more historic and even more beautiful.

The group came in, some dancers and the gamelan players shaking these tuned bamboo rattles called anklung in addition to the barrel drums mentioned above. The players went to their seats and there was a pause before the music began.

Gamelan itself means hammer. That’s because most of the main instruments are struck with hammers of various sorts. The music often starts fairly simple and slow. One line on the metallophones and one on the cradled gongs. More lines come in. People with hammers are hitting the instruments with one hand and selectively damping them with the other. All this while amazing and tremendously precise dance was going on in in the middle of the U made by the instruments.

I was completely enthralled from beginning to end. I have to say, I’ve been to some great shows this year, some that I might even call “better” but quite possibly none that kept my attention as singularly as this one.

Gamelan “Gender” Wayang – Krepetan (mp3)

(I searched for a while I’m really not sure where you can get this CD other than in Bali. Amazon has other Balinese gamelan CDs, though.)

Gamelan Gong Kebjar – Hudjan mas (mp3) (buy)

My other music experience while on Bali was marching ensembles in a Balinese death parade and ceremony (amazing for many reasons, but I’ll just stick to the one here.)

They played similar instruments to the gamelan: tuned gongs, hanging gones, cymbals and barrel drums, but they also used whistles and their voices, even breaking into the ketjak rhythm for a moment. Here I was able to get right up up next to them and be almost surrounded by the sound. The tuned gongs were doing a slower rhythm while the cymbals were being hit together at a very fast pace, only to suddenly stop and all by thrust into the air. It was great.

One Response to “gamelan and other music in bali”

  1. supartha Says:

    great shots and well explained too. if anyone wish to know further about Ubud – Bali,, is a good place to start. it features where to go, where to eat and calendar of events in Ubud -Bali.

    worth a visit.

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