Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bamboo Gamelon Players

Late one night, I was walking down a small street in Ubud. The rains that had been falling earlier had just cleared and the air was fresh and sweet. As I moved forward I heard the distinct plunk plunk sounds of a Bamboo Gamelan orchestra playing. I was puzzled as it was well past the time most public performances took place.

I came at last to the Balai Banjar or local community hall. From the top floor the music drifted out sweetly into the still night.
It is a very public place so I had no reason to pause as I went up the stairs. There I found these men happily practicing. The music not just for themselves but also, because there were no walls, shared equally with the community around.



I left my shoes at the top of the stairs and waded into the enchanting melody and rythmn that filled the room. The men noticed us but paid little attention to us as the music swelled and flowed.

The group is called a Sekaha. Clearly it was led by the man in the black t shirt who seemed to clearly understand how the music should flow. Others are allowed to improvise because the Balinese have a very free approach to music. Gamelan orchestras here are constantly changing their music. They believe that music should grow and change. It is only the most sacred songs that carry on untouched.



video
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The instruments they are playing on belong not to the individual musicians but to the community as a whole. I have crept into a rehearsal and not a performance. Yet still the music enchants. I imagine I am listening to the timeless sweetness of the ancient Balinese Heart. I suspect that future generations wandering into open community halls late at night will also be enthralled. Captivated by music very hauntingly familiar and always able to stir the soul's life breath.

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