Loud and dynamic are probably the best words to describe the Gamelan Beleganjur sound. It comprises of one great gong, a secondary gong, four pairs of mini cymbals, two differently tuned traditional drums, and a small hand-held gong called kempul. The number of people in the orchestra varies depending on the how many people are needed to conduct…

Text and Photos by Kartika D. Suardana

Loud and dynamic are probably the best words to describe the Gamelan Beleganjur sound. It comprises of one great gong, a secondary gong, four pairs of mini cymbals, two differently tuned traditional drums, and a small hand-held gong called kempul. The number of people in the orchestra varies depending on the how many people are needed to conduct the performance.

Beleganjur plays an important role in Balinese Hindu ceremonies. The Balinese traditional orchestra often plays their music while walking, accompanying ceremonial progressions, like the cremation ceremony. Before a corpse is cremated, it is hand carried in an intricately carved tower, called bade, as the traditional Beleganjur orchestra plays and comes with the corpse on its journey to the cemetery. 

All of the instruments for Beleganjur can either be played smoothly to create a calm rhythm or in a much more dramatic fashion, at a faster tempo. The evening before Nyepi, an ogoh-ogoh ritual takes place in order to cast out bad spirits and demons. Escorted by the Beleganjur, an ogoh-ogoh, a bamboo and paper statue displaying the scary appearance of evil demons, is paraded around the neighbourhood. At every intersection, the troop of Beleganjur members plays their instruments at a fast tempo while the group carrying the ogoh-ogoh rotate the statue counter-clockwise three times, intending to bewilder and discourage the evil spirits from disturbing and harming people. 

Nowadays, competitions are held for Beleganjur musicians. It has encouraged orchestra members to become more imaginative when creating unique sounds, often pairing it with dances and other unique performances as they are play their instruments. 

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Kartika D. Suadarna

Wapa di Ume
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