Serenaded By Sound And
Shadow – Balinese Rituals
During my visit to Indonesia in 2019, I stayed in Ubud (Bali) for a few weeks doing research on gamelan music.
During this time there was a ceremony almost every day. I attended many different ceremonies, took part in gamelan music classes, met musicians there and recorded a lot of audiovisual material.
I am very grateful to Putu Septa and his family for introducing me to this beautiful for me new world of rich balinese culture and also allowed me to have a look inside of the society, people, art and culture.
I am happy with the lessons learnt there, because they helped me to understand more about the Balinese people, their culture, traditions, music and rituals in an experiential way, being directly involved in the process.
The performing arts of Bali are diverse and complex. Every form of music, dance, drama, and shadow puppetry originated as, or even is, a function of ritual. Even the more contemporary art forms are closely linked to the past. Balinese dance and theatre is spectacular - from lavish costumes to rhythmic eye movements to incredible improvisation by the performers.
Core cultural values are passed on through the arts and are reflected in the stories told and the movements performed.
The main expression of Balinese religion is rituals and festivals where people spend hours making offerings of flowers, food and palm leaf figurines. Daily small offerings called "Canang Sari" containing symbolic food and flowers are placed in temples and shrines around the family compound.
There are countless religious festivals in Bali. Some of those ceremonies can last a week to 10 days. The village prepares for the coming days by cleaning and decorating the temple, preparing large elaborate offerings at home, and preparing the food that will be provided to the priest and musicians during the festival.
The first day leads to crowded streets as throngs of devotees march to the temples in their finest traditional attire, carrying pyramids of food and fruit as offerings on their heads. Days of prayer, music and dancing to entertain the gods.