The Making of Balinese Gamelan: Carving Cultural Harmony

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Balinese gamelan
Balinese gamelan troupe is playing gamelan. (Photo: Nusaweek)

This art teaches us the importance of respecting cultural heritage and embracing the beauty that exists in diversity. Therefore, efforts to preserve and appreciate Balinese gamelan must continue to be pursued so that this cultural harmony continues to reverberate on the beautiful Island of Bali.

Bali, the island of the gods rich in culture, arts and traditions, has given rise to various art forms that captivate the hearts of travelers and art connoisseurs from all over the world. One of the most prominent cultural treasures is the Balinese gamelan, an ensemble of traditional musical instruments that has its own artistic value and beauty. The process of making Balinese gamelan is a craft that combines craftsmanship, patience and respect for cultural heritage.

History of Balinese Gamelan

Gamelan is an ensemble of traditional musical instruments consisting of various instruments such as gongs, drums, fiddle, flute, and a number of other percussion instruments. Balinese gamelan has its own characteristics that distinguish it from traditional gamelan in other regions of Indonesia.

The history of Balinese gamelan can be traced back to the 9th century AD, when Hindu influences began to enter the island. Today, the region considered as the center for making various Balinese gamelan instruments is Tihingan Village in Klungkung District.

Process of Making Balinese Gamelan

Making Balinese gamelan involves a number of complex steps and requires high precision. This process is generally carried out by pande of gongs, namely craftsmen who have special expertise in making gamelan musical instruments. Here are the general steps in making Balinese gamelan:

  1. Material Selection: The process begins with the selection of the right material. The most commonly used metal is bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin. Bronze is chosen because it has good resonance qualities to produce a beautiful and harmonious sound.
  2. Molding and Forming: The metal is heated and molded using sand or wax molds according to the desired design of the instrument. Each instrument has a different shape and size to produce a variety of tones.
  3. Sculpting and Engraving: After the metal was cast, the instruments were polished and engraved with intricate detail. Engraving on the surface of the instrument not only has aesthetic value, but also affects the sound quality produced.
  4. Tone Arrangement: Balinese gamelan instruments must be accurately intoned to produce perfect harmony when played together. The pande gongs have the knowledge and experience in adjusting the pitch by carving the bottom of the instrument.
  5. Installation and Balancing: After the instruments are carved and intoned, the next step is to install the instruments on the wooden or bamboo strings that make up the frame of the gamelan. Instrument placement and balancing are important steps in achieving the desired sound balance.

Cultural and Artistic Meaning

Making Balinese gamelan is not just a technical process, it also has deep cultural and artistic meaning. Each instrument is considered to have a spirit (taksu) which must be respected during the manufacturing process. The craftsmanship of pande of gongs involves not only technical skills, but also a deep understanding of the meaning and tradition behind each instrument.

The Importance of Preservation

In the midst of globalization and modernization, the preservation of the craft of making Balinese gamelan is very important. The complicated manufacturing process and the cultural values contained in each instrument become a valuable heritage that must be preserved so that it does not become extinct. Increasing appreciation of this traditional art can support the livelihoods of local craftsmen and preserve the uniqueness of Balinese culture.

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