The mesmerizing sounds of the gamelan

It wasn’t the dancer intricately moving her hands, quivering her fingers, swaying her head from left to right, making expressive facial expressions with bulging eyes that had captivated me.  It was the piercing sounds of the gamelan, a traditional musical ensemble from Bali or Java.


The Indonesian orchestra consists of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, Kendang (drums) gongs, bamboo flutes, bows and plucked strings. Some gamelans have up to 100 members.

As the beautiful young dancer with ruby red lips, wearing a gold dress performed, men in traditional clothing tapped on drums behind her, to the right other men sat crossed legged with a metal hammer like tool striking the metallophones and xylophones. Gongs hang from frames, suspended in air while being struck rang.


The gamelan stayed in unison, penetrating the air, the dancer moving to its rhythm. People were here to watch ‘The Legong Dance’ one of the most famous dances in Bali. While I was being moved by the mesmerizing sounds of the gamelan.

Over our two weeks stay in Bali, I heard the sounds of the gamelan numerous times, each time it was inspiring to see in small villages, villagers performing, practicing the gamelan together under the bale, an open air Pavillion. Seeing the sense of a group belonging to a community, each time I stopped and watched transfixed on the sound.


I have never been musically inclined, if you were graded in primary school on your ability to play the recorder I would have been given an ‘F’. This I felt I needed to try, needed to be part of . You have probably read or heard about people who have travelled to a country and found religion, yoga, massage, a language or art and never left the country as they have found a new passion.


This is the way I felt after I had heard the gamelan I knew if I were single, not married or had a son that I would never of left. You would have seen me still now under the bale in amongst the group with a metal mallet in hand making the deep, intense chiming sounds of one of the instruments in the gamelan.

Have you been to Bali or Java and heard the sounds of the gamelan? We would love to hear what you thought of the sound. 

3 thoughts on “The mesmerizing sounds of the gamelan

  1. Pingback: The ins and outs of We All Travel Together in 2013 | we all travel together

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