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Monday, December 6, 2010

My first hand experience with Balinese music

Gamelan playing. Photo: Sinan Yuzakli
Agung Rai Museum of Art, or ARMA is located in the Balinese town of Ubud, Indonesia. Being more than a museum, ARMA offers its visitors a wide choice of cultural workshops. During my visit to ARMA I had the opportunity to witness a Balinese music performance.

Serious faces of Gamelan members. Photo: Sinan Yuzakli
The ensemble consisted of traditional clothed children, playing Balinese instruments. Usually a Gamelan [gam-uh-lan- Balinese definition of this musical ensemble - features percussion instruments, woodwinds and stringed instruments and even vocals.

Drummers of Gamelan. Photo: Sinan Yuzakli
Gamelan in ARMA predominantly consisted of percussion instruments like gangsa, gongs and a few drums. No wonder the word Gamelan comes from "to strike or hammer" in Javanese.

A Gangsa instrument. Photo: Sinan Yuzakli
After the first part, the chief of ensemble asked if anybody from the audience would like to participate and play an instrument. I volunteered right away of course. I played gangsa - a xylophone-like instrument. Gangsa is played with a hammer by hitting the metal bars, each producing a different note.

Me playing gangsa. 
Although the piece we played was a basic and short one, it needed a lot of concentration not to lose the tempo. While the children played the tune in harmony, me and my fellow volunteers made more clutter than music. Like all instruments, gangsa also needs practice I think.

A few days later, I went to shopping to Denpasar, the capital of Bali province. While I was looking around in Matahari department store, a CD/DVD set, named "Tranquility in Bali" caught my attention. The CD features Balinese music mixed with natural sounds. The DVD has the same music tracks on the background and explores the nature of Bali. Now and then I play the CD or DVD and yes it's tranquilizing indeed. Highly recommended after a long and busy day.

My adventure with Indonesian U Mild cigarettes? That's another story...

Here's a fantastic example of Gamelan music & dance by Çudamani company. Enjoy!

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