Southeast Asian music cultures are often described as "gong" oriented because a large number of the indigenous ensemble instruments from the area are tuned metallic gongs. Though there are the Phillipine kulintang, the Thai pi phat, and the Burmese hsaing waing, probably the most widely known among all the Southeast Asian gong ensembles is the gamelan. Along with tuned gongs that are cast of out bronze, iron, or brass, both the Javanese and Balinese gamelan ensembles consist of mettalaphones (xylophones with metal keys), wooden-keyed xylophones, and the ensemble leader's instrument, the drum. This core instrumentation, which is tuned to unique pentatonic and heptatonic scalar systems, is often augmented with the sounds of vocals and stringed instruments.
There exist two fundamentally distinct traditions of Gamelan ensembles: one Javanese and one Balinese. The Javanese style of gamelan is, generally speaking, slower and less aggressive than the up-tempo Balinese style. On the World Music Library release Gamelan Music of Bali, six sub-styles of Balinese gamelan are presented. They include the loud and driving gamelan gong kebyar, the gentler indoor gamelan semar pegulingan, the stately gamelan gong gede, the shadow puppet theatre accompanying gamelan gender wayang, the sacred gamelan selonding (reputedly the gamelan of Balinese aboriginals), and the ceremonial gamlean beleganjur.
All of the seven tracks on Gamelan Music of Bali are superbly recorded and, even more importantly, phenomenally played by such respected Balinese performers as STT Eka Cita and the Gunung Jati group. Sometimes acknowledged as the best ensemble players in the world, gamelan musicians, including the ones featured in these recordings, display an impressive ability to play complex interlocking patterns with other members of their ensemble. Known in the West as hocketting, this intricate meshing of various upbeats and downbeats give the gamelan a richly resonant and uplifting quality. In addition, with cues provided by the gamelan leader's drumming patterns, the ensembles presented on this CD repeatedly display their ability to fluidly control their collective speed and dynamic output. Gamelan Music of Bali's seven cuts capture the essence of Balinese gamelan music at its best. In short, it is a must have for anyone interested in the shimmering sounds of one of the world's finest and most highly regarded musical ensemble traditions.