Bali: Gamelan Gong Kebyar -- Gunung Jati Ensemble

Gunung Jati Ensemble

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Bali: Gamelan Gong Kebyar -- Gunung Jati Ensemble Review

by Alex Henderson

In the 1980s and '90s, no series took a more exhaustive look at world music than the JVC World Sounds series. Numerous CDs came out of the series, which focused on traditional sounds from all over Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. When it came to music from the small Indonesian island of Bali, JVC turned its attention to different types of gamelen -- traditional Balinese ensembles in which bamboo and bronze instruments are dominant and string instruments take a back seat to them (if they're used at all). Based in the small Balinese village of Tegas Ganginan, the Gunung Jati Ensemble is an example of a gamelan (gamelan is singular, gamelen is plural) that plays in the semarpeguligan style, which dates back to the 16th century. Gamelen can feature vocalists or go the instrumental route, and Gunung Jati favors the latter on this hypnotic, highly percussive recording. Those who are knowledgeable of Asian music will be intrigued by the bronze-oriented nature of this 1986 recording -- while string instruments play an important role in other Asian cultures (the morin huur in Chinese music, the koto in Japanese music, to give two examples), they are unimportant to a Balinese gamelan such as Gunung Jati. Highly recommended.