Balinese Music and Dance: Gamelan Mitra Kusuma

Experience the shimmering brilliance of a Balinese gamelan orchestra and see images of the dramatic dances from the island’s Hindu-Balinese traditions as the Washington, D.C., area’s own Gamelan Mitra Kusuma (Flowering Friendship) performs a program of classical and contemporary repertoire. Three guest artists join gamelan director I Nyoman Suadin, who studied at Bali’s Conservatory of the Performing Arts and currently teaches at the University of Maryland, Swarthmore College, and the Eastman School of Music. This performance took place in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on December 4, 2008.


I Nyoman Suadin, Artistic Director
Guest Artists
I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda
I Made Lasmawan
Luh Made Didik Dwi Wahyuni

Capung Gantung  00–3:35
Bapang Selisir   3:51–9:57
Baris  10:13–14:56
Ngedas Lemah  15:12–20:54
Margapati  21:16–28:15
Topeng Tua  28:33–38:45
Putri Ayu  39:084–2:15
Topeng Keras  42:3047:–50 Cendrawasih  48:025–3:40
Gilak Penutup  53:465–4:52

This performance took place in the Freer Gallery's Meyer Auditorium on December 4, 2008. It was made possible, in part, through support from the ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the United States, His Excellency Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat, and through the cooperation of the Asian Cultural History Program of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Gamelan Ensembles of Bali

Across the many islands of Indonesia are found a great variety of instrumental ensembles known as gamelan. Most of these ensembles combine bronze xylophones, large vertical gongs, smaller horizontal gongs, and drums, often complemented by fiddle, singer, bamboo flute, small cymbals, double-reed, or plucked zither. At least thirty-five distinct types of gamelan are found on the islands of Java, Bali, and Lombok. These range in size from a quartet of street musicians in urban Jakarta to orchestras of fifty or more in the ceremonial ensembles of Java and Bali.

On the island of Bali, music and dance are essential components of almost any activity, ranging from popular concerts, gamelan competitions, and school and government events to Balinese-Hindu temple ceremonies, weddings, cremations, and tooth-filing ceremonies. Balinese music and musical instruments reflect local belief systems, in particular the triple division of many aspects of life: Compositions have three sections; instruments consist of head, body, and feet; and each gong and xylophone has three other vertical divisions. These triplets mirror the Hindu trinity; the traditional segmentation of the human into head, body, and foot; the conception of the island as mountain (domain of gods), mid-world (domain of humans), and sea (domain of evil spirits); and the tradition of building three temples in each village, each having three sections. Some scholars argue that gamelan music further creates an aural mandala (map of the universe). Old treatises on esoteric Balinese Hinduism associate specific musical tones with individual deities, colors, days of the week, and even weapons, all of which contribute to the final musical mandala. The largest gong, for example, represents the divine mountain, the trompong (a row of horizontal gongs) symbolizes the lotus, and the kempur (a small hanging gong) embodies all that is pure.

Gamelan Angklung

This concert features one kind of Balinese gamelan called gamelan angklung, a typical village (rather than court) ensemble used for ceremonial events. Compared to other types of gamelan, the angklung gamelan has smaller instruments, fewer players, and a quieter sound. It is used in a family's inner compound and thus was well suited to the intimate confines of the Freer Gallery's Meyer Auditorium.

The shimmering sound that is the trademark of Balinese gamelans is created by matched pairs of xylophones, each tuned slightly differently from the other. The angklung gamelan features several pair of gangsa and gender, xylophones with bronze keys. These xylophones are complemented by two drums (kendang), a row of horizontal gongs (reong), a flute (suling), small cymbals (rincik), and large and small hanging gongs. This concert recording features both traditional music as well as new music, including compositions for dance.

—Program notes and photo captions adapted by Michael Wilpers, performing arts programmer, Freer and Sackler Galleries, from program notes by I Nyoman Suadin and Latifah Alsegaf; I Made Bandem and F. E. deBoer, Balinese Dance in Transition (Oxford 1995); and David Harnish, “Bali,” in T. Miller and S. Williams, eds., Southeast Asia, vol. 4 of Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, 10 vols. (1998).

Capung Gantung  00–3:35
Bapang Selisir   3:51–9:57
Baris  10:13–14:56
Ngedas Lemah  15:12–20:54
Margapati  21:16–28:15
Topeng Tua  28:33–38:45
Putri Ayu  39:084–2:15
Topeng Keras  42:3047:–50
Cendrawasih  48:025–3:40
Gilak Penutup  53:465–4:52

1. Capung Gantung (traditional)
Many Balinese compositions are inspired by nature, and this piece for gamelan angklung translates as “dragonfly.”

2. Bapang Selisir (traditional)
Choreography: I Nyoman Suadin
Dancers: Ni Made Yoni Puspadi, Latifah Suadin, Judith Teguh, and Ni Kadek Sutami
The traditional music of bapang selisir represents the courtly style of the gamelan semar pegulingan, an ensemble with romantic associations whose name translates as “gamelan of the god of love of the bedroom.” In the concert recorded here, this court music is adapted for the smaller gamelan angklung, traditionally a village ensemble. The dance is performed in the refined female style and draws on movements from the classical Balinese dance legong, a narrative dance in which young girls portray characters from epic and romantic tales. The legong movements and costumes were inspired by a dream in which a Balinese ruler imagined traditional trance dances performed in highly colorful costumes.

3. Baris (traditional)
Dancer: I Ketut Ariadi Kusuma
Baris is a character study, in dance and music, of a Balinese warrior. It originated as a temple dance, one of the most sacred in the repertoire, in which the dancer acted to protect the deities and the temple spaces. It derived from a ceremonial warrior dance, known as baris gede, in which the dancers execute a battle drill in line formation. The version presented in this concert is now often included in secular performances. In portraying a young warrior as he prepares for battle, the dance expresses both power and concentration.

4. Ngedas Lemah (traditional)
This instrumental piece in the classical style is inspired by the feeling of the early dawn of the day before the sunrise.

5. Margapati
Choreography: I Nyoman Kaler
Dancer: Luh Made Didik Dwi Wahyuni
Created in the early 1940s by choreographer I Nyoman Kaler, this dance depicts the movements and character of the King of the Forest. In this dance, and others from the same era, female dancers present character studies of young men, a type of androgynous form that continues today.

6. Topeng Tua (traditional)
Dancer: I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda
This masked dance (topeng) portrays an old man, bent and withered with age, who recalls his youth as a dancer when he possessed more energy and vigor. By dancing again, he finds a renewed sense of joy and accomplishment.

7. Putri Ayu (traditional)
Adapted for gamelan angklung by I Nyoman Suadin.
This piece means “Beautiful Little Girl” and reflects the love of a mother for her daughter.

8. Topeng Keras (traditional)
Dancer: I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda
Topeng keras, one of the most popular masks, depicts the character of a prime minister, denoting strength and courage.

9. Cendrawasih
Music: I Nyoman Windha
Choreography: Ni Swasti Wijaya Bandem
Dancers: Datrini Djangkuak and Noviantari Djangkuak
The name of this modern creation translates as the “Bird of Paradise.” Known for its beautiful plumage, the bird also is called the dancing bird and is known to the Balinese as manuk dewata (bird of the gods).

10. Gilak Penutup
Music: I Nyoman Suadin
Many Balinese compositions are based on the eight-beat gilak pattern. Characterized by the cycling gong pattern that alternates between the large gong and the small, higher-pitched kempur, the music using the gilak form typically accompanies ceremonial processions in Bali or forms the basis for longer compositions. This piece was played to close the evening's performance.


I Nyoman Suadin is from Kerambitan, Tabanan, Bali. A musician, composer, dancer, puppeteer, and teacher, he discovered music and dance as a young child by watching his father participate in the village gamelan and by playing in a children's gamelan. He received formal training at the Conservatory for the Performing Arts (KOKAR) in Denpasar. He later traveled to Germany to present music and dance. He has traveled throughout the United States, performing with gamelan ensembles in this country since 1988. He is the founder and artistic director of Gamelan Mitra Kusuma in Maryland and teaches at the Eastman School of Music, Swarthmore College, and the University of Maryland.

I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda is from Kerambitan, Tabanan, Bali. He has been teaching and performing traditional and modern dance and gamelan since the 1970s. As a choreographer and dancer, he has traveled extensively both in Indonesia and around the world. Since moving to the United States in 1989, he has served as the artistic and choreographic director for the Indonesian Consulate General of Chicago. He has published articles in Loyola Magazine and the Chicago Tribune and continues to perform regularly throughout the United States.

I Made Lasmawan is from Bangah, Baturiti, Tabanan, Bali, and was born into a family of artists. His father was leader and drummer of gamelan and dance in his village, and his mother was a traditional singer who performed for religious ceremonies. His musical career began at age six when he played percussion for Janger performances. He continued to play gamelan with the Sekeha Gong in his village through elementary and middle school until moving to Denpasar to study at the Conservatory of the Performing Arts (KOKAR). He became a faculty member at the National College of the Arts (ASKI/STSI) in Surakarta, Java, in 1978. He later joined the faculty at San Diego State University. He currently teaches at Colorado College, Naropa University, Colorado University, and the University of Wyoming and is artist-in-residence with Gamelan Tunas Mekar in Colorado. He previously taught gamelan at the University of Montana, Sarah Lawrence College, Hill Crest Elementary School in Idaho, and Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Montana. He continues to study music as a graduate student at Colorado University. He has performed in Belgium, Canada, England, France, Japan, Mexico, and Singapore and is active as a composer of new works for gamelan.

Luh Made Didik Dwi Wahyuni is from Bangah, Baturiti, Tabanan, Bali. She started dancing at age five as a member of the dance troupe in her village. After completing middle school in Tabanan, she studied at the School of Traditional Arts in Gianyar, Bali (SMKI), graduating in 2007. She has performed at events throughout Indonesia, including the Bali Arts Festival, Java Tour's Concert, and on Bali television, among other venues. She has taught at Baturiti's middle school, Bangah's elementary school, Luwus's Dance Studio, and Bangah's Manik Galih Dance and Music Studio. She arrived in the United States in 2008 to teach dance at the University of Wyoming.

Gamelan Mitra Kusuma, based in Mount Rainier, Maryland, is devoted to the study and performance of the performing arts traditions of Bali, Indonesia. The name of the group means “Flowering Friendship,” which describes the creative relationships of the musicians and dancers. For more information, visit

Dancers and Musicians: May May Chiang, Datrini Djangkuak, Noviantari Djangkuak, Tim Dusenbury, Roger Fox, Layne Garrett, Eka Himawan, Jacob Howley, Mike Kiel, I Ketut Ariadi Kusuma, John MacDonald, Junko Nakamura, Maria Paoletti, Ni Made Yoni Puspadi, Karl Seamon, Jon Singer, Latifah Suadin, Judith Teguh, and Ni Kadek Sutami.

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