Information before you go
Balinese music can be heard throughout the island, in small restaurants, resort hotel lobbies, every spa venue but most of all in the numerous temples, during ceremonies and in Balinese villages.
Old men and young kids seem to share their love for the music and practice as much as they can on the many parts of the Gamelan.
The Gamelan originated in Indonesia and can be found on several islands, each having its own style and type of Gamelan instruments. The word ‘gamel’ means ‘to strike or hammer’ in Javanese.
Balinese men behind their beloved instrument
The Gamelan is a set of instruments and often includes bamboo flutes, gongs, xylophones (instrument of small and large bamboo bars struck to make sound), metallophones (which has bronze metal bars), drums, bells, cymbals and a bamboo rattle called ‘angklung’.
The instruments of the Gamelan are kept at the ‘bale banjar’, which is the communal meeting hall within the walls of a Balinese compound.
Nobody owns the instruments, it belongs to the whole community and this is also the place where numerous kids and old men practice their musical skills.
Instruments stowed in the village bale
When you walk around typical Balinese villages you can hear the exotic sounds of the Gamelan coming from the various compounds where new music is written and practiced.
Even when I tour around on a motorbike I see men practicing Balinese music on Gamelan or performing a new piece of music for other villagers.
The Balinese love to mix old music with new influences and practice for months until it’s perfect. They will not mix any of the religious old songs though.
The Balinese believe the sounds of Gamelan instruments can ward of evil spirits.
Men usually play the Gamelan but in Ubud there is one exception...
When you see a Legong dance, Barong dance, Baris dance or many of the other dances you’ll see a group of men accompanying the dancers by playing Gamelan.
What’s funny is that they seem to play uncontrollable and quickly but every player has a special role in the whole orchestra of men.
Also when you see Wayang puppet performances the Gamelan players accompany the Wayang puppet players on the lines of the story.
One of the few Balinese dances where you’ll not find any Gamelan instruments is the Ramayana Monkey Chant, Kecak. Here you’ll only hear the ‘chak-a-chak-a-chak’ sounds of the bare-chested choir of men and the low deep voice of the storyteller.
If you want to learn more about the Gamelan and actually try to play it, then you can join the many courses offered in Ubud.
Every evening you can enjoy a dance performance held at different locations. It is a great way to see the ancient dances and traditional clothing that Bali is known for.Read more
The kecak dance is one of our favorite performances. The dancers accompanied by chants make the whole setting even more mystical and impressive.Read more
The life of the Balinese involves all around their religion. Daily offerings are made and placed at certain places to appease the gods while ceremonies are held frequently.Read more
Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
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