The KENDANG (drums) act as leader of most Gamelan ensembles, helping to establish the speed and energy of a piece. Just like KOTEKAN interlocking on GANGSA, there are usually two different rhythmic parts made to fit together to achieve a speed and complexity which would be difficult for one player alone. By altering their repeated grooves the drummers give signals for changes in volume, tempo, and cues to ANGSEL breaks.
Check out the start of the GILAK video below, even if you don't have any kind of drum to practise on at home, because it's important for everyone in the ensemble to recognise the sound of these basic rhythms. The knee-tapping exercise is quite good at giving you a feel for the GILAK pattern, which is used in many of the tunes we play.
The next most common groove you'll get to know is BATU-BATU. Technically this is the name of a semi-improvised style of paired drumming but it's very common to play fixed versions to begin with. Also this particular version of BATU-BATU is said to be appropriate for the tunes WIRA YUDHA and CRUCKCUK PUNYAH. Of course drummers like to mix things up a bit and have fun, so as long as the rest of the ensemble is prepared for a little variation, the drummers have a certain amount of freedom. (More about BATU-BATU variations in later videos...)
Learning the names of the various drum strokes enables us to communicate the patterns vocally, as they do in Bali, and gives you another way to practise. In CEDUGAN drumming, which uses PANGGUL (sticks) to play the KENDANG the sounds are "DAG", "TAT", and "KAP" for the WADON. LANANG has the sounds "DUG", "TET", and "PAK". So, for example, we can recite the slow section of CRUKCUK thus:
Dag _ Dug _ Dag _ Dug _ Dag _ d'Dug _ KaPaKaPak d'DaDuDag _ d'Dug _ KaPaKaPak d'DaDu
Dag _ Dug _ Dag _ Dug _ Dag _ DuDaDug _ Dag _ Dug _ Tat _ Tet _ Dag _ Dug _ DaDuDag _ Dug _
To quote a great book *DON'T PANIC* about the example above. You're not supposed to learn it from the written words, but it sort of sounds like that once you have learned it.
Maybe an example from these videos would be better. Here's the PINDAH_PINDAH 'swapping bar' of BATU-BATU:
_ Ka Pa Ka Pa Ka Pa Da Du Da Dug _ Da Du Da Dug
If you've mastered all the WADON parts above you should try adding the LANANG patterns to your vocabulary. It's surprising how much better your WADON rhythm will feel once you've learned both halves.
I had a few short practise videos lying around that I'd made weeks ago but not sent. This post isn't for everyone but it's probably best I keep them all together on this blog. Anyone in the kids group might find them interesting because the part for the UGAL (the big, low, lead GANGSA out the front) is usually the complete POLOS part with a few optional decorations. There's a little bit of freedom for the UGAL player to mix up these variations (shouldn't sound identical to the POLOS) but their main job is to be a conductor, signalling strongly any ANGSEL changes required, and filling in the gaps when the other GANGSA pause.
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This stay-at-home thing is intense isn't it? Everyone practising alone, planning for the future when we get back together. (My attempted segue to this cute clip of a lone dancer...)
'Tari' means dance. 'Wira Yudha' translates to something like brave or young warriors, depending who you ask and how you pose the question. The (h) is an optional spelling, so when you're searching for more youtube clips or info it could be spelled Wirayuda, Wirayudha, Wira Yuda, or Wira Yudha. As you can see from one of the clips below it's could mean brave young dancers - some of those little guys are tiny! Notice how the more experienced performers are at the back so the younger learners can't simply copy, they need to develop confidence and memorise the sequences.
Also note, on the left of the screen there are musicians NOT playing their instruments, but just visible on our right can be seen the front row of the accompanists. Yep, there are two complete gamelan groups on the one stage, leaving the centre clear for PENARI (dancers). This is a common concert (and contest!) set-up in Bali, each group performs one piece then takes a break.
THIS youtube video (link) is pretty fuzzy but it's the very popular, widely owned (on VCD) 'standard' version that most Balinese households know. Interesting to use the term 'standard', since that's not really a desirable attitude to musical arrangement in Bali. Each region, village, and SEKAA (local club) used to have their own gamelan tunings and styles, and certainly their version of a classic tune would be full of unique elements (without losing the recognisable themes). It is observable how motorised transport, Conservatorium study, radio, TV, VCD, and now internet have influenced the DESA LAIN (different village) approach to variation (or lack of) in regional interpretations. Thankfully we're through the homoginsation period and groups are now once again taking pride in their own local sounds and styles.
Ok, here's the lesson. Definitely a good new addition for the **KIDS** repertoire, even if you want to skip the introduction sequence. Enjoy!
Nyepi is the Balinese day of silence. Everyone stays indoors, no one makes any noise, presumably Gamelan practise is cancelled for the day. So it's a bit funny for me to start this lesson video blog today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyepi
update: wow, it takes longer to edit and upload videos than I thought so it's now tomorrow, (Thurdsday) not Nyepi (Wednesday) anymore!
It's not super easy for me to find time to make these videos at the moment, but I've managed to get two quick tunes done this morning: REJANG DEWA (for the adult group), and BARIS (for the kids). Perfection is said to be the enemy of good, in this case my good intention to get things done, so please forgive the informal and unedited nature of my first videos. I'm very happy to receive comments (use the blog comments section?) and re-do things over time. The silver-lining of this whole process is that I'll get better at making online content, which I think could be a really good tool for the future of the group.
This ancient solo dance (tunggal means solo) tells the story of a warrior using intensity and surprise to ward off their enemies rather than holding a weapon. Because there's only one PENARI (dancer) they can decide when to perform the ANGSEL (break/cadence/call-response) so the PENABUH (musicians) must be ready for it at any moment.
Don't let the speed of these Balinese examples freak you out but it's great to see the dance costumes and movements so you can tell the tunes apart and know what kind of energy we're trying to create.
ALL WELCOME LEVEL
Here's a great example of how dance and music is performed as an offering to the gods, without the concert-hall formality we've come to expect from ballet and orchestra (etc). People sit around watching from all sides, chatting and eating. A baby joins in at 3:00, a dog wanders through at 6:20. No problem, as long as the intention of the offering is good. (This version sounds a little different to ours, but it's still the 'same' tune)