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    Are there many types of gamelan in Bali? Which ones are the most common?

    Unbeknownst to many, there are in fact more than forty different types of gamelan in Bali. This is saying something for such a small island.

    The most common type is called gong kebyar (exploding gong) which is overwhelmingly dominant at festivals and competitions. Originating in Buleleng in the early 20th century, it emerged as a secular gamelan for flamboyant, fast-paced music and dance performances held usually in the market place outside in temple. In the space of only ten or twenty years, this ensemble and its capricious music swept the island by storm. Smaller than the stately ceremonial gamelan, gong gede, it was quickly adopted into religious ceremonies and soon replaced it in all regencies outside of Bangli. Now in Bali there are more than 10,000 sets of the versatile gong kebyar. Almost every banjar and every temple own at least one set and large numbers of wealthy Balinese have commissioned sets for themselves as well. Kebyar music is characterized by its loud sound and lightening pace, and its emotional music tends to both attract and deter curious tourists.

    The next most popular gamelan is angklung which has four keys in South Bali and anything up to seven keys in Buleleng. It provides cremation music all over the island and in Central and East Bali it is also used in temple anniversaries and private ceremonies. Angklung is high-pitched and highly rhythmic with note intervals resembling that of the Western major scale, and to the occidental ear sounds lively and jolly. To the Balinese, with its close association to cremations, it evokes melancholy and sadness.

    Another common ensemble is the pair of bamboo xylophones called rindik in South Bali and grantang in the north. Heard playing restaurants and hotel lobbies across the island, these instruments and their cheerful and airy music were created by farmers in their breaks between tending to their crops and livestock.

    The remaining thirty-five or so ensembles are considered rare. Read related articles:

    ©2009 Vaughan Hatch

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