In our area there are numerous Balinese immigrants, especially on the east coast of our island. Many of them are Hindu, but there’s a significant Christian population too and many of them belong to our church denomination.
One of the most exciting things for us to see is that although they are Christians, they have not abandoned their Balinese culture and language. The church building is in a Balinese style, and they use the gamelan for some of their music. Gamelan is an Indonesian musical ensemble from the islands of Java and Bali. They have asked us to help them adapt more existing songs so that they can be used with the gamelan and to help them write new songs that they can use in church along with their traditional Balinese music. We are thrilled to help since this is what we are passionate about!
I visited this church about a year ago and was completely unprepared for what I found. At that point, we didn’t know we’d be working with them so I was just there attending a special church service. I shot some video, but all I had was my point-and-shoot camera so the quality isn’t very good. Now that we’re working with them on developing new music, I’ll be there a lot more and will have much more (and hopefully better) media to share in the future.
In the meantime, here’s their rendition of Kidung Jemaat No. 1 “Haleluya, Pujilah” (number 1 in the hymbook) using gamelan:
This is one of four or five songs that they currently have that use the gamelan. They are eager for more, because the same songs over and over again get old very quickly!
For you music nerds out there, this particular gamelan is based on a Balinese variation of the slendro pentatonic scale. In solfege it would be notated la ti do mi fa (in Indonesia, la si do mi fa) or using cipher notation (kepatihan),
12356 67134 (12356 is how many people casually notate it here, but technically because it is minor you start on la, or 6). Gamelan is typically tuned to the 7-tone pelog scale or the 5-tone slendro scale, and this Balinese gamelan is of the 5-tone variety but the tuning is slightly different than a Javanese gamelan.
More to come about all this later! I should be heading out to visit them again next week.