[aus der Jakarta Post vom 8.11.2001]
Traditional music appeals to young people
Any time the Balinese celebrate big religious rituals, the sound of their baleganjur traditional gamelan orchestra fills the air. Dozens of people play baleganjur before Nyepi (the Hindu day of Silence), Ngaben (cremation rituals) or even at a more secular celebration like the nation's Independence Day. Local banjar (traditional villages) in some regencies, like Gianyar, Tabanan and Denpasar, even hold gamelan competitions to raise people's interest in this music. And the passion and creativity of the players have rejuvenated the age-old gamelan, changing it into an appealing performing art. During the performance, gamelan players are required to display both music and dance skills, exhibiting a perfect blend of expressive dance movements and harmonious music. The development of baleganjur gamelan can be traced back to Prakempa, centuries-old palm leaf inscriptions on traditional Balinese gamelan. According to these inscriptions, baleganjur gamelan was also called ketug bumi gamelan. Etymologically, baleganjur consists of two Balinese words, bala and ganjur. Bala means "troops" while ganjur means "walking" or "moving". It was believed that baleganjur gamelan was originally intended to be war music but in the course of its history, it was played as a musical accompaniment for a myriad of traditional and religious ceremonies. In terms of musical instruments, baleganjur is a percussion orchestra dominated by instruments like gongs, reong (small gongs), kendang (drums) and ceng-ceng (cymbals). A baleganjur gamelan group usually comprises 25 to 40 musicians and dancers. During a performance, twin drums (kendang) dominate the orchestra's sound and rhythm, serving as opening music and determining the pitch, tempo and rhythm of the entire orchestra. Ceng-ceng are also a significant musical instrument, which enriches the music with a powerful and rhythmic beat, thus creating a very distinctive sound. Just like other Balinese gamelan, baleganjur also emphasizes kotekan, interlocking figuration play. The interlayered sound produced by lanang-wadon kendang (male and female drums), along with dozens of ceng-ceng instruments, creates a harmonious tone. At the same time, reong instruments, played by four players to six players, create melodious sounds. The popularity of baleganjur as a traditional, performed art form started in the l980s. It was the Adi Merdangga marching band from the Denpasar-based Indonesia Arts Institute (STSI) that popularized this type of gamelan orchestra for the first time. The group, set up in l984, actually helped to modify and modernize this traditional form of performed art by, among other things, producing innovative musical compositions. As a result, attractive performances by the Adi Merdangga marching band attracted the younger generation. Since then, there have been increasing numbers of marching bands and baleganjur gamelan groups. Each banjar, plus schools and universities regularly hold baleganjur competitions. There are changes here and there. Some groups modify the musical composition and choreography for dance while others enrich the sound of each instrument. Noted composers, like I Wayan Windha, I Wayan Rai and Ketut Gede Asnawa, have frequently been invited to the United States, Canada and some European countries to teach baleganjur.
Kadek Suartaya, Lecturer at Indonesia Arts Institute in Denpasar
and expert on Balinese traditional performing arts Gianyar, Bali