Baleganjur is processional music in which the musicians carry their gongs, CENG-CENG (cymbals), REYONG (hand-gongs) and KENDANG (drums). I reckon the first couple of In-Real-Life gigs we'll do when the virus has abated will be out in the open, pretty spread out, and not lugging huge GANGSA, so Baleganjur seems like a good start*. This playthrough video shows a good introduction sequence, single ANGSEL (angsel lantang), double ANGSEL, two smooth ways of sneaking into GILAK groove, and a short composed section called PENGISEP. Check out KENDANG lesson one video for how these patterns are constructed. I'll add the slow PENGAWAK and end sequence in a future video...
*other pieces in the Kendang CEDUGAN style, using a PANGGUL (mallet) can be creatively converted to suit Baleganjur instrumentation. Wira Yudha and Crukcuk Punyah fit neatly into this category.
A lot of KENDANG parts are made up of short sequences which repeat until an ANGSEL is triggered, either by the dance moves of the PENARI or by choice from the KENDANG players. (See GILAK lesson). This is especially true of the faster tempo sections, whereas the slower PENGAWAK (lit. 'torso', middle section) and PENGADENG (lit. 'slow thing') tend to have longer, melodic interaction. By melodic I mean one sound at a time (no overlapping) and there is a certain singability to the composite part of the drums, slow enough to pronounce each drum syllable and understand which hits are yours. The first video below is from the PENGAWAK of CRUKCUK PUNYAH* played on the WADON (whose sounds are DAG, TAT, KAP).
*In fact this drumming sequence suits several tunes in the TABUH TELU genre, including two we play: GAJAH NONGKLANG, and BUAYA MANGAP.
Next is the WADON part for the PENGAWAK section of WIRA YUDHA. Sorry this isn't a lesson, rather a reminder of the main groove for those who have already learned it. I intend to create a lesson video soon because it's such good stuff to try - even it you don't have a drum to practise on!
Lesson 1 - POKOK tones and JUBLAG
My favourite tune for welcoming new players to sit down and begin playing immediately. Starting on JUBLAG (which has only 5 keys: I O E U A) the POKOK (literally 'trunk', meaning core melodic tones) is just OOOEOEOA repeated many times. Eventually we slow down to part 2 and change that last 'up a jump' (A)* to 'down a step' (I). Then we move the whole sequence one step to the right, and then up one step to the right again.
OOOEOEOI, EEEUEUEO, UUUAUAUE
Repeat a lot, then speed up for part 3 and keep repeating. That's it for JUBLAG.
*GANGSA actually goes 'down a skip' to (A) but JUBLAG don't have a low (A) so they play a high one!
Lesson 2 - NOROT and NOLTOL for POLOS
Next step is trying it on GANGSA as per the video below. The technique with gaps in it is called NOROT, which appears in many tunes. This involves POLOS playing the POKOK tone repeatedly, leaving spaces for the SANGSIH to play one note higher in their gaps. When it slows down the technique is called NOLTOL, with POLOS now playing both notes of the pattern.
Lesson 3 - ANGSELS.
Simple, regular ANGSELS are triggered by loud KENDANG (drum) grooves. No new material added to create these breaks, just leave some notes out of your regular pattern and adjust the volume.
Lesson 4 - NYOG CAG and 'LUANGAN'
More complicated ANGSELS, as in lesson 4, are not improvised but an option which each group decides to include ahead of time. Once you have your head around the NYONG CAG (leap-frog style) it can be played quite fast for an impressive interlocking effect. Similarly impressive is the (what I call) 'LUANGAN' decoration in the slow movement* as it sound far more twisty and ever-changing than it really is 'on paper'. Not that we put it on paper, but even as I was figuring this one out, searching for repetitive sequences, it fooled me for a bit because of the note we play after the JUBLAG tone.
I use the word NGUBENG for the stationary patterns in NYOG CAG and 'LUANGAN' but fail to mention MAJALAN (JALAN = road) for the moving sequences.
*Slow section in this instrumental style of composition should be referred to as PENADENG ('slow thing') rather than PENGAWAK as I state in the video. Oops.
Lesson 5 - SANGSIH
And a quick run through of all the SANGSIH parts. Much of it is simply NGEMPAT (up a 4th from the POLOS note) but both NOROT (the one with gaps) and NYOG CAG (leap-frogging) require explanation.
This piece sounds really impressive for how few notes we play. I think it's something to do with the interval between the first two notes - quite spooky sounding. Also it seems to cover a wide range of the instrument and changes direction a lot, but we have a few good reminders:
- Don't use the smallest two WILAH (literally 'leaf', meaning the metal bars)
- Don't use the biggest two BILAH (alternate spelling!)
- Start on 'DING' (5th biggest WILAH)
- Skip down & up, down & up, down a 3rd time, then walk up all 6 notes...
- Skip down, Step up
- Skip down twice, Step up twice
This version of Bapang Slisir lulls the audience into thinking it's nothing more than a short, repeated melody with a simple on-beat melody. Oh nice and relaxing, they'll think. Until we get loud and throw in a couple of ANGSEL breaks. And then we totally surprise them with the rhythmic unison of the NGELIK section! ("1--23-4-5-high-middle-low-middle...")
Beginner level 4-note melody with gaps, as well as full 8-note melody. Everybody plays the ANGSEL the same way, and we all do the NGELIK together. (Advanced students should check our Bapang Slisir Kotekan video)
This KOTEKAN decoration can be used over the Kids version, and also the regular arrangement.
The following NGELIK (means small, ie high keys) section is NOT the Kids version. It's the regular one my teacher prefers (there are many slight variations, as your Youtube research will uncover). Later we'll add a KOTEKAN option for the NGELIK, and a separate low melody called GDE (means big, ie low keys). Full disclosure, this is actually movement 1 of a 3 part composition. The good news is it's also part 3, so there's only the slow movement to learn.
Here's a new one for the experienced players to work on during the break. I know we had been strategising rehearsals to focus on getting just a couple of tunes really tight but this homework period seems like a good opportunity to get a few more simple pieces into our memory banks. It's a favourite beginners dance so there's a good chance we'll get to accompany live PENARI when we play it. Only two parts*, and they're basically the same thing at different speeds. Very different speeds!
In a classic Balinese Gamelan manouvre all the tricks are shown off in the first 30 seconds: slow; fast; soft; loud; late entries; end breaks... so don't freak out by the rapid changes, it all makes sense once we've learned the ANGSELS, later.
*of course there's always more when I say there's "only something something..."
The kotekan isn't too tricky, especially once you recognise the repeated cell (2nd one is inverted) and remember the 4th and 8th are different. It is, however, quite fast and that's the challenge. We want it to be completely automatic so the only thing to concentrate on is which angsel is coming next.
This next video was my first attempt at a Pendet lesson. I have a lot to learn about technology and why this video slowly slips out of synch with the sound, sorry. I think I know what the problem is but I'm a bit pressed for time to fix it.
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.
Please notice you can now select blog posts via Categories over there on the right.
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)