Balinese Gamelan Music and Dance
Presented by Sekaa Gong Tirta Sinar
Saturday 20 November 2004 at 1500hrs
1. Kebyar Ding
the nearly 100 years since its creation, the bold and technically brilliant
kebyar style of gamelan music and dance has come to dominate the many
distinct gamelan genres found in Bali today, freely absorbing and adapting
aspects of more traditional forms to enrich its innovative performative
aesthetic. The instruments you see before you today constitute a kebyar-style
ensemble, of gamelan gong kebyar.
The now classic kebyar-style composition, Kebyar Ding, created in the
southern Balinese village of Belaluan in the 1920s, displays all of the
formal characteristics that have come to be associated with the style:
(i) an explosive opening unison attack played by the entire ensemble,
from which the style derives its name (kebyar means 'bursting open', like
the sudden blossoming of a flower, or 'flaring up', like a match when
(ii) chains of short, repeated melodic phrases, marked by frequent stops,
starts and unpredictable changes in direction;
(iii) sudden transitions from loud, impulsive movement to relative stillness
and calm, accompanied by equally abrupt changes in melodic character.
2. Gilak Deng Baris Gede
Cyclical gamelan melodies supported by a repeated gong cycle of 8 beats'
duration, where the gongs sound the pattern
GP.PG (G = large suspended
gong; P = medium gong), are known as gilak. The pervasive mood of the
gilak form is one of ceremony, and it provides a structural basis for
much that accompanies temple and cremation rites.
The gilak in today's recital is characterized by a 24-beat melody, spanning
thee 8-beat gong cycles, which begins on the third note (deng) of the
Balinese pelog scale - hence the name, Gilak Deng. The words 'Baris Gede',
which complete the title, indicate that the melody of this particular
gilak has been borrowed from the sacred dance, Baris Gede, in which rows
(baris) of men dressed as warriors dance in the temple courtyard bearing
long lances. This music, unlike most played at temple ceremonies, is not
performed as an offering to ancestral deities, but rather to appease demonic
underworld forces forever on the lookout for an opportunity to wreak havoc
in the human realm.
3. Tari Panyembrama
This secular welcome dance (tari means 'dance') derives from a much older
sacred dance called pendet, still danced in temples today by groups of
women during odalan (temple anniversary rites). The purpose of pendet
is to welcome ancestral deities recently descended from their heavenly
abode to inhabit temple shrines for the duration of an odalan. Tair Panyembrama,
as a secular counterpart to pendet, serves as a welcome not for deities,
but for guests at weddings and public receptions, and also welcomes tourists
to Bali at hotel performances.
Created in 1926 by renowned Kuta musician, I Wayan Lotring, Gambangan
is a secular instrumental work for gamelan pelegongan, a smaller, sweeter
ensemble than gamelan gong kebyar used primarily to accompany the traditional
legon dance, from which the ensemble gets its name.
The title, Gambangan, which means' in the manner of gambang, alludes firstly
to the fact that the principal melody of this piece incorporates a direct
quotation from a work in the repertoire of gamelan gambang (a ritual form
of gamelan played only during cremation and odalan rites) and, secondly,
to the complex interlocking figuration played on gangsa (10-keyed metallophones),
which mimics similar figuration executed on the instruments of the gamelan
Created in the 1930s, Gambang is a one-movement instrumental work frequently
used to bridge a lull in proceedings at official functions, for example
when waiting for important guests to arrive. The cyclical form of this
work lends itself perfectly to such a context, as it may be repeated continuously
for as long as required.
The title, Gambang, refers to the fact that the principal melody is set
in the characteristic syncopated rhythm of the sacred gamelan gambang
ensemble (see 4 above). Apart from its irresistible melody, another 'earcatching'
feature of Gambang is the complex melodic figuration executed on reong,
an array of twelve tuned gongs suspended horizontally on a long wooden
frame and played by up to four people.
6. Tabuh Bebarongan
Every Balinese village is served by three key temples, or pura, one at
the mountain-end, a second in the centre and a third at the sea-end of
the village - these are the Pura Puseh, Pura Desa and Pura Dalem. The
last of these, the Pura Dalem (Death Temple), is the site of village purification
rites, whose purpose is to keep omnipresent demons appeased and the village
consequently free of famine, pestilence and any other calamity of a sinister
supernatural origin that might befall it.
One of the more important and dramatic of these ceremonies is the annual
Calonarang rite, in which the dual forces of good (represented by the
lion-like Barong) and evil (embodied in the terrifying figure of the widow
witch, Rangda) are rebalanced in such a way as to leave Barong with a
slight advantage over his terrible rival, Rangda.
Tabuh Bebarongan, as an instrumental overture to the Calonarang rite,
serves to alert the public milling about the temple to the imminent commencement
of the rite.
7. Tair Cendrawasih
This kebyar-style dance composition was created in 1987 as a collaborative
effort between two of Bali's leading contemporary gamelan performers and
composers, I Nyoman Windha and I Wayan Berata. Cendrawasih means 'Bird
of Paradise' and the dance, which depicts the atmosphere surrounding the
courtship display of a mating pair of such birds, is realized onstage
by two female dancers, the larger and stronger of whom represents the
8. Hujan Mas
Created in 1957 by the late celebrated musician and composer, I Wayan
Gandra, Hujan Mas achieved immediate acclaim as a work of great ingenuity
and appeal at its debut performance, given in the same year before then-Presiden
Sukarno at his Bali residence in Tampaksiring, and has enjoyed continued
popularity throughout southern Bali to the present day.
Hujan Mas (Golden Rain) is a programmatic work in kebyar style which translates
the changing moods of a tropical thunderstorm into a teeming 'rain' of
dazzling melodic and rhythmic effects issuing from the 'golden' (bronze)
keys and gongs of the gamelan.
Sekaa Gong Tirta Sinar wishes to thank The Australia Museum (Sydney)
for the use of its gamelan gong kebyar for rehearsals and performances.
Contact Gary Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos © 2004 Patricia Baillie
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