Gamelan Music Survives through Generations

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Gamelan music performance.
Gamelan music performance.
Gamelan music performance.
Balinese gamelan music performance.

EVIDENTLY gamelan music is inseparable from the life of Balinese people. From their birth, temple anniversary, entertainment to funeral ritual is accompanied with gamelan music. It can provide different emotion and nuance depending on the rhythm played.

Almost all customary villages in Bali have a gamelan music troupe. It is important to support the implementation of customary activities at local village and temples. Balinese people practicing Hinduism hold some life cycle rites and some of them optionally need the presence of gamelan music. Piodalan or temple anniversary having the procession of melasti or purificatory rite for sanctified effigies and paraphernalia to the source of holy water or springs will be accompanied by gamelan music. The music does not only focus the mind but also encourages the devotion of each pilgrim in implementing the procession.

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Then, how do Balinese people preserve this gamelan art so as to survive so far? Firstly, it is introduced since early age through schools. Students of elementary school are taught gamelan music through the subject of traditional art. In higher stage of education, similar subject is offered through extracurricular activities.

Secondly, virtually each customary village has a gamelan troupe used to accompany the rituals at local temples as well as individual traditional events of villagers. Besides, the customary village also has youth club known as sekaa taruna. This organization has regular activities related to cultural (art) performance. These activities are regularly held throughout the year.

Thirdly, professional artists usually establish an art studio. Here, people can learn to Balinese dance and play gamelan music. Other than for education, the studio also serves commercial performance for the needs of individual event, government, tourism and exhibition show.

Uniquely, some gamelan players also have core profession as farmer. For night performance, farmers can still work at rice field at noon. Meanwhile, if the performance is held in the morning, their rice field tasks will be worked on in the afternoon.

Fourthly, as peak of the learning and cultural preservation, Bali government holds annual Bali Arts Festival (BAF) where many art performances involving gamelan music are staged such as drama gong, drama-dance, arja operetta, gambuh classic dance, street show (ngelawang), shadow puppet, joged bumbung and many others. For the parade of gamelan music known as gong kebyar will have three categories, namely children, adult and women. This session is usually hoped for and crowded by spectators.

When happening to visit Bali, do not miss the opportunity to see the Bali Arts Festival denoting the rendezvous of the artists from across Bali and the ‘enjoyers’ or visitors held from mid-June to mid-July every year. However, beyond this event, you can still see the Barong and Kris dance performance accompanied by gamelan music held nearly every day in Denpasar and Gianyar.

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