Some Indonesian music.
May 13, 2007 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Spend a bit of your Sunday getting a little more acquainted with Indonesian musical culture. Balinese gamelan. And a little more. See how they make some of those fabulous-sounding gongs. And here's the fabulous Kecak. And more Kecak. And just for good measure, howsabout a little Angklung karaoke? Meanwhile in Sumatra the gals are playing the dishes! [all links YouTube]
posted by flapjax at midnite (25 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome! I'm on my way out, but I am favoriting this post really hard and will do some serious YouTubing later.
posted by danb at 8:20 AM on May 13, 2007

Agreed. Absolutely awesome. I got introduced to Balinese/Javanese Gamelan during college, and loved it. It probably helped that I was into heavily into bands like Tortoise and GYBE! at the time. I had totally forgotten the interplay between the audience and the performers - the way the audience anticipates the highlights, and the ensemble milking that for everything its worth.

I've got to point everyone to Gamelan Nyai Saraswati at UNC Chapel Hill. There's a handful of performances for download, and the recorded quality is fantastic.
posted by god hates math at 8:30 AM on May 13, 2007


Recent Javanese gamelan thread.

I always love to see the Kecak but the origin puts me off slightly. Just slightly.

Loads more Barong and Legong on the tube.

If you're going to see the kecak, Tanah Lot/Ulu Watu is the place you want to do it. There are better performers in Ubud, but the setting can't be beat. (Unfortunately, only mediocre clips on youtube from that location)

And if you love Baraka, check your local independent theatres. It usually makes the rounds once a year.
posted by dreamsign at 8:34 AM on May 13, 2007

(nice to be just back from an outing for gado gado and sate to find this, btw!)
posted by dreamsign at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2007

Whoah. I've heard kecak before, and it blew my mind, but I hadn't SEEN it until now. Holy crap. Is it jut me, or is there something about kecak/haka/stepping/close order drilling and other forms of ritual chant+dance that touches something prehistoric in other people? Great post.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2007

I love Bali and Balinese music _so_ much. I didn't see a really good kecak (that's pronounced "kechak" -- c in Indonesian is always pronounced "ch") when I was in Ubud, unfortunately.

If you want a paradise to holiday in, Bali is the best. I can recommend you a lovely, inexpensive place to stay in Ubud (the pictures utterly do not do justice to the place...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:40 AM on May 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as for gamelan, it is very strange to see a troupe of musicians looking even more formal and ritualized than a symphony orchestra, while the crowd reacts like they are at a Lynyrd Skynyrd show.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:42 AM on May 13, 2007

Lovely. I was familiar with gamelan and the Kecak, but I'm happy to see more. Those last two are new to me, and also very cool.
posted by agentofselection at 8:49 AM on May 13, 2007

Did you see a kecak in Ubud, lupus_yonderboy, and it wasn't very good? Or did you not get to see one there at all?

I ask because it can be very difficult to find out which are the better ones without going to several, as anyone you ask will be biased in favour of some village, or trying to be fair say they're all equal. They're not. If you go and see one amazing, utterly mind-blowing kecak, stop. Don't see another. Take the experience and tuck it away and cherish it, because chances are the next one won't be as good, and bringing it back down to the mortal realm is a terrible letdown.

They all vary, mind you. Not just the kecak. And the opposite advice holds true: if you go see a Legong or a Kecak and you feel like it was amateurish and a letdown, go see another. The difference can be astounding.
posted by dreamsign at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2007

ahhh, bliss. Nice post. Love that "gamelan gong kebyar" link. Thanks flapjax for this enjoyment. Gamelan is some of my all time favorite music. Something about those deep gong reverberations, the rhythm and complexity. It's serene, powerful and sexy at the same time.

Excellent, succinct information about Balinese music and gamelan, also brief descriptions of the different types of Balinese dances at Murni's wonderful site about Bali.

It says about the Kechak dance, "This is a very exciting dance, frequently photographed, and the best-known dance in Bali. It is the Monkey Dance, created by the Balinese, with suggestions from Walter Spies and Katharane Mershon for Baron von Plessen's film Island of Demons in 1931. It was one of the first attempts to capture the romance of Bali and transmit it abroad."


My own MeFi post about painting in Bali with some gamelan, history of the kechak dance and Balinese dance links in the thread.
posted by nickyskye at 9:11 AM on May 13, 2007

Oh, I saw a kecak and it wasn't that good. It was still a lot of fun -- I've loved the kecak for twenty years and it was good to finally see.

I saw something like a dozen different music and dance performances when I was there and I was still hungry for more.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:18 AM on May 13, 2007

This post is awesome.

I am of the opinion that kecak is some of the coolest music humanity has ever produced. In the alternate-history-America that exists in my head, a huge influx of Indonesian immigrants come to the US in the 1970s, and gamelan and kecak become integral components of punk rock. Reality, as always, fails to measure up.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:20 AM on May 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wayan Limbak, a Balinese dancer who helped create the island's famous monkey dance, has died in Gianyar on the island of Bali, The Jakarta Post reported last weekend. He was 106.

Working with the German painter Walter Spies in the 1930's, Mr. Limbak adapted a traditional exorcism ritual to invent the dance known in Indonesian as Kecak.

The dance, which features a chorus of bare-chested men making monkey sounds, is popular with tourists visiting Bali.

Mr. Limbak helped popularize Kecak and shape Bali's image as an exotic cultural paradise by taking his dance troupe to several international festivals.
Wayan Limbak -- Balinese Dancer, 106
posted by y2karl at 9:59 AM on May 13, 2007

Wonderful post, you have been my world music guide this week, flapjax at midnite, and I am enjoying the trip immensely. All wonderful, I got enormous kick out of the gamelan audience reactions. I love the Kecak, totally mesmerizing - I am with you on that primal nerve being struck, Rock Steady. And the lovely Sumatran dish dancers, that was awesome. Thanks for the post.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:44 PM on May 13, 2007

Yes, some of the most excellent music on the planet.

As a jazz musician, I tried performing with a local gamelan group for a half a year. It was mesmerizing to be part of that unique sound. Although it was tough to part of a non-improvising group of players!

Thanks for the links.
posted by kozad at 2:44 PM on May 13, 2007

Thanks to all for the links and comments. Here's a very good clip (high production values) of some charming Balinese dance, featuring, of course, some lovely Balinese gamelan music accompaniment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:59 PM on May 13, 2007

Mindblowing post. I swear to you, flapjax, if an UFO descended outside my house and little creatures came out and talked to me, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now after seeing the Kecak. Specially the first link. The second one is beautiful, but it looks a bit more produced, I like the rawness in the other one.

And the one about the gongs (that's the first one I saw) was just beautiful. What a great way to combine the images and the sounds. Great edition and great shots.

I'm mindblown. I think I have to go to the terrace and have a cigarette. And I don't even smoke.

Very nice post.
posted by micayetoca at 5:09 PM on May 13, 2007

I just came back and I wanted to make sure the "UFO" thing wasn't going to be read wrong. I was truly impressed by the Kecak video and I tried to think of the most unlikely situation, to say that even in the most unpredictable situation I'd only be as surprised as I was after seeing that. I hope I get to see the Kecak in person some day.
posted by micayetoca at 5:43 PM on May 13, 2007

My girlfriend and future wife had an entire Javanese gamelan in her house. For our wedding, my father-in-law led the two families in a song, which was really, really, really cool.

Her grandmother's boyfriend really enjoyed his gong.

She informs me that it's for sale, actually. I thought they were going to sell it to Berkeley but I guess that didn't work out.
posted by jragon at 5:45 PM on May 13, 2007

She also informs me she saw kecak performed in person, in Indonesia, which is "amazing".
posted by jragon at 5:49 PM on May 13, 2007

I tried to see the Kecak when I was in Bali, but all the leaping tourists with cameras kept blocking my view. :(
posted by homunculus at 7:53 PM on May 13, 2007

This is so great flapjax! Thanks.

I saw a kecak monkey dance when I was eight and we spent a few days in Bali coming back from overseas. I rememeber the dance like it was yesterday. They performed it at night, only lit with windblown torches. That is how the mind remembers it anyway.And I rememeber the worst sunburn in my life. And I was already a brown little nubbin at the time.

thanks for this.
posted by vronsky at 7:56 PM on May 13, 2007

Play the kecak audio with this video. Cool.
posted by vronsky at 9:46 PM on May 13, 2007

I've seen this performed five times now. As dreamsign said above, they are all a little different but it wouldn't stop me going to see another in a minute.
posted by tellurian at 11:14 PM on May 13, 2007

On a separate trip? For sure, gotta be done. But don't do what I did the first time, which was see a kecak, be totally blown away, and then a few nights later see another one.

Honestly, though, Bali as a whole is awe-inspiring. If you haven't been, GO (and treat the residents well; they're still having a hard time of things).
posted by dreamsign at 12:26 AM on May 14, 2007

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