Sound of music in Bali

The island of Bali, off the Java coast of Indonesia, has a rich heritage of musical instruments.

Bamboo, being endemic to the region, is the natural material for making musical instruments like flute and the special angklung, which has a number of bamboo reeds designed to produce different musical notes. The instrument might look cumbersome, but angklung music could be divine. Even a simple wind chime, made out of bamboo, produces a pleasing sound.

No music can be complete without drums and gongs which usually accompany any music performance. The island, being predominately Hindu, has a number of temples where music, singing and dancing are common. For formal occasions, trained artistes who use a small hammer to strike the notes on the instrument play the ancient musical instruments known as sloning and gongkbiyar.

There is a preponderance of heavy metallic sounds emanating from these instruments. A lone flute note could break such a spell. Percussion instruments such as our version of tabla, kanjira, and mrudangam are part of the musical repertoire. A musical instrument ensemble of drums, gongs, flute and traditional instruments accompany any ballet performance such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, which are popular with the locals as well as tourists. Elaborate costumes and headgear are part of such performances.

With the advent of discos, some of the western musical instruments like guitar, accordion, trumpet and drum have made inroads into the musical scene in Bali. By and large, traditional instruments have held their own despite such changes.

Gamelane music is an ancient traditional music of Bali where an orchestra with six to 11 members play instruments predominantly percussion. The instruments are made of iron, bronze, bamboo and wood. These produce different tones, beats and patterns.

Traditional bamboo and flute music are integral part of any traditional Balinese musical performance. Efforts are on to revive the ancient almost extinct music, which had its origin in the 10th to 14th century AD. Workshops, training sessions and seminars are being organised in Bali to revive and promote ancient forms of music and dance so famous in the past.

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