Drama Gong, a Balinese Traditional Theater at Verge of Extinction

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Drama gong performance
Illustration of Balinese drama gong performance

BEFORE the 1990s Balinese community still had some troupes of drama gong or traditional theaters. It poses the combination of modern drama and gong kebyar as the accompaniment. Then, it is better known as drama gong.

Basically, most setting of the storyline featured the life of royal family. It includes the characters like the king, queen, prince, princess, vice regent and clown-servants. Besides, there is also the involvement of the figure of common people entering the life of royal family because of its dedication or devotion.

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Even though the setting of storyline is in the palace, the clown-servants are ready to make spectators laugh. Most people will wait for this session. The servants may tell funny stories or even juggle with his friend. In short, they will do their best to make the spectators laugh and satisfied.

Funniness of the servants could conjure up the spectators not to leave the seat even just for a while. Apparently, they have a special emotional linkage with the players of the drama gong. They could laugh before the servant told nothing when coming onto stage; they could cry when the main (good) character was prosecuted or they got angry and threw something at the wicked character. Perhaps, they did not realize that it only happened in the story.


Some of the most famous drama gong troupes in Bali at that time were the Bintang Bali Timur, Sancaya Dwipa, Dewan Kesenian Denpasar, Bhara Budaya and Puspa Anom (Banyuning, Singaraja). All the troupes had made performance throughout Bali. To book these favorite drama gong troupes, people should wait patiently for long time due to many orders so some were put on waiting-list status.

Television station at that time, TVRI Denpasar, played important role to disseminate the popularity of drama gong. After watching on television, they would intrigue to organize the performance of the drama gong for the sake of fundraising at local village or village youth club. In the long run, private television station appeared in numbers. They offered various program like television series. Later, subscribing satellite television is also available. Hence, the community had wider choice to watch program. By degrees, the popularity of drama gong diminished.

Today, where can people watch drama gong performance to meet their longing? So far, it can be made sure that drama gong will be presented during the implementation of Bali Arts Festival. It is held annually from the mid of June to mid of July, right on school vacation period. During the performance, the seat would be fully occupied. Even, others will be willing to stand up in order to get watch their favorite drama gong.

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