In Bali, an ensemble playing the island's traditional music is known as a gamelan (gamelan is singular, gamelen is plural). There are different types of gamelen -- for centuries, the most famous and influential type of gamelan was the gamelan gambuh, which is believed to have been created in the early 16th century. It was in the 1910s that the gamelan gong kebyar was created for the specific purpose of accompanying traditional Balinese dancing (which has been influenced by Indian Hindu dancing). The Darma Santi Ensemble, founded at the Academy of Art and Dance in Denpasar, Bali, comes from the gamelan gong kebyar tradition. Recorded live at Tokyo's National Theater in 1982, this album contains an excellent performance by Darma Santi and underscores the fact that one needn't be watching Balinese dancing to appreciate Balinese music. The material, some of it instrumental and some of it with vocals, is as percussive as it is hypnotic. For Darma Santi and other Balinese ensembles, string instruments aren't a high priority -- Bali's gamelen use mostly bamboo and bronze instruments, and those instruments range from gongs and xylophones to the suling (a flute that has been compared to the Japanese shakuhachi). Those with a taste for Asian music will find this CD to be quite rewarding.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson