Gamelan Beleganjur

12/09/2017Music of the Ngaben Funerary Ritual in Bali

Thinking back to our very first visit of Bali back in 2010, one of our most cherished memories is that of the gamelan, the traditional ensembles, made up predominantly of percussive instruments and found mainly in Java and Bali. The word itself comes from the Javanese word gamel, which refers to a type of mallet used to strike instruments. Gamelan ensembles today often accompany dance and wayang shadow-puppet performances as well as rituals and ceremonies. The Beleganjur style of gamelan is one of the most popular styles of gamelan to be found on the island.

So you can imagine our delight, when we chanced upon the latest release by French independent label Akuphone, featuring field recordings "collected [in 2011] by Vincenzo Della Ratta, PhD in Ethnomusicology from the Sapienza University (Rome)", who specializes in "gong music from the Austronesian cultures of Southeast Asia". The source material on "Gamelan Beleganjur and the Music of the Ngaben Funerary Ritual in Bali" is presented in two forms:

"The first one offers a display of Beleganjur music out of the ritual context, which can be differentiated by a more melodic form and a more dramatic and hypnotic aspect of the compositions. The second one presents the Beleganjur style in the ceremonial context of the Ngaben funerary rite in the village of Peliatan. The utmost vitality of these orchestras springs out throughout the different stages of these funerals, and the sound environment surrounding the musicians immerse the listener in the very heart of the procession following the corpse."

And so we jumped head first into this rare and intense record, a rhythmic celebration of death, accompanied by gongs, cymbals, drums and 'incantations'. Absolutely magical! Stream the entire release on Bandcamp.

While you're at it, make sure to check out King Gong's latest project on Akuphone, which we covered a few weeks ago.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom