|A BRIEF HISTORY OF MUSIC IN BALI|
|Early Sources and Influences|
The origins of Balinese music can be traced to the musical cultures of the Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Java, as the Bronze Age culture spread throughout Southeast Asia early in the first millennium. Until the 10th century, Hindu Javanese courts in central Java cultivated the performing arts, and the mythology of Hindu culture shaped both early Javanese and Balinese music. Both Javanese and Indian cultural influences are found in all aspects of Balinese music and culture. Common Javanese court instruments were winds, strings and gongs. Large bronze ensembles did not exist until after the 10th century when courts moved to East Java.
|Javanese Court Influence|
Java's greatest cultural impact on Bali dates from 1343 when a Balinese colony was founded by the Majapahit (1293-1520 AD) empire in Java. Gamelan used in 14th century referred to a single instrument with wooden or metal keys unrelated to the current ensemble, and Javanese 16th century writings describe bronze idiophones used for gamelan gambuh. As Islam spread in 13th-15th century Java, Hindu influence declined as the Hindu Majapahit empire in East Java collapsed slightly before 1500, encouraging an emigration of musicians and artists to Bali and the independent development of Balinese music.
|The Birth of the Gamelan Ensemble|
Although the Balinese continued to absorb and assimilate Hindu Javanese culture, the country was isolated from foreign influence in the 16th to 20th centuries, allowing Balinese musicians to cultivate a large variety of ensembles, styles and forms. Gamelan Gambuh, one of the earliest Balinese ensembles patronized by the aristocracy, flourished; bronze gamelan ensembles were prevalent in the courts and temples . Sacred and secular music played an important role in daily life, necessary for state ceremonies, rituals, theater, dance and recreation. The first Dutch expedition in 1595-97 reported a lively musical and cultural life; various types of drums, cymbals, gong chimes and dances were illustrated. Several types of bronze gamelan ensembles, patronized by the aristocracy, temples and villages, were used by the beginning of the 19th century. Independent kingdoms supported their own musical styles, which account for the great variety of musical styles evident in Bali today.
|The Colonial Period|
Since the Dutch colonization of Bali in 1906, court patronage began to decline steadily. With villages taking the place of the courts, musical activity increased and new styles emerged. The gamelan gong kebyar was first performed in North Bali in 1915 and quickly spread to South Bali. Music changed radically with the introduction of the new style, and composers, dancers and musicians began to be recognized as artists for the first time. Before the introduction of kebyar, the most common gamelan style was gamelan pelegongan, a style derived from the older gamelan semar pegulingan (gamelan of the god of love). The gamelan semar pegulingan contrasts greatly with its lighter, delicate sound when compared to the heavier, larger instruments of keybar. Kebyar, with its flexibility and ability to incorporate the older styles with modern developments, is the dominant form in Bali today. For an interesting account of musical activity in Bali in the 1930s, see the writings of Colin McPhee, a Canadian-born composer from New York.
|Indonesian Independence and
Revolution, political turmoil, natural disaster and the emergence of the new Republic of Indonesia dominated musical development in Bali from 1940 to 1965. It was difficult for the Balinese to devote their energy to the arts, as they had in the colonial period; musical development was steady, but comparatively slow. Gamelan gong kebyar was popularized throughout Bali (President Sukarno loved kebyar) as the most popular gamelan style, producing many extraordinarily skillful musicians and composers. In the early 1960s, a high school and college (KOKAR and STSI) were established in Denpasar to further the study of performing arts in Bali. Today, the music industry in Bali depends largely upon tourism rather than court, state, educational or other patronage. As a result, areas like Ubud have flourished as an artistic center, and even some remote villages have had a renaissance of musical activity. For some ensembles, tourism is a blessing. Regardless of the progress and popularity of Balinese music, many older and less popular styles have been neglected. Some like the music of the gamelan gambuh of North Bali have been threatened with extinction. Interaction with musicians around the world has influenced the development of new styles, while many musicians are researching older types of gamelan to inspire their compositions. As Bali continues to expand internationally, Balinese music will continue to transform and prosper.
Any books by Colin McPhee, especially Music in Bali: A Study in Form and Instrumental Organization in Balinese Orchestral Music
|Edward Herbst and Judith Becker. Voices in Bali : Energies and Perceptions in Vocal Music and Dance Theater, 1998|
|Michael Tenzer. Balinese Music, 1991|
|Stephanie Morgan and Laurie Jo Sears, eds. Aesthetic Tradition and Cultural Transition in Java and Bali, 1984|
|Beryl De Zoete and Walter Spies. Dance and Drama in Bali, 1938/1973 (a classic)|
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