The Exotic Sounds Of Bali

Before the legendary supergroup Guruh Gipsy released their one and only album in 1976, several foreign musicians had encountered the exotic Balinese culture and mixed it with their modern works. This allegedly triggered by three things: the arrival of the painter Walter Spies to Bali in 1927 (who will also have a role in transforming the ritual Kecak to become a cultural attraction for tourists), papers and research conducted by American ethno-musicologists Mantle Hood on traditional music of Java and Bali in the the '50s (Mantle eventually recorded an album The Exotic Sounds of Bali in 1963), and a BBC documentary-which is narrated by a leading environmentalist-naturalist Sir David Attenborough entitled The Miracle of Bali (1969). The film is divided into three sessions; general info about Bali and its culture, ritual-spiritual tradition, and the latter is about the music and dance.

The Exotic Sounds Of Bali | Balinese music | Guruh Gipsy | Yes | King Crimson | Bjork | Wendy Carlos | Mike Oldfield

Monkey Chant
Jade Warrior is one of the first British bands that uses elements of Balinese music. This happened in 1974 when they released an album of jazz-rock-classical crossover titled Floating World. Well actually the concept of this album is more inspired by Japanese tradition as the phrase "floating world" is fully translated from the Japanese term "ukiyo", a term that is often used to describe the modern urban lifestyle that leads to hedonism -a lifestyle that make people "less connected" with nature and environment, and the need for conscious and sincere attitude for a better life. Monkey Chant is the only Balinese-infused song on the album and we can easily recognize the field-recording of Kecak in it.

Sound Chaser
Leading progressive rock band Yes incorporated Kecak chanting in the song Sound Chaser (from the album Relayer in 1974). The song is a mixture of jazz and rock with technical virtuosity a la Mahavishnu Orchestra while its lyrics tells about the relationship of transcendental subconsciousness and rhythm. Jon Anderson (Yes' frontman-vocalist) is a meditation practitioner who also actively collecting crystals, dreamcatchers, and various talismans. Jon also claimed to have an imaginary friend he describes as "spiritual advisor", that gives him the ability to look into "another dimension".

Poem For Bali
In his jazz-world music flavoured album, Wendy Carlos included a quote from Vincent Van Gogh "I am always doing what I can not do yet, in order to learn how to do it". Released in 1986, Beauty In The Beast is something unusual for Wendy Carlos as his works are mostly developed around electronic music with moog synthesizer as the primary instrument. The 17 minutes Poem For Bali is the longest track on the album and was recorded entirely using electronic tools that have been set in the scale pelog and slendro (Bali traditional music instruments). Seven other songs on the album are homages to the non-mainstream music scale including that of Afrobeat, jazz, tropical exotica, and raga rock.

The Wind Chimes
The Wind Chimes lasts 21 minutes and is one of the songs on the album Islands (1987), the work of the experimental rock musician Mike Oldfield. In addition to the Kecak sampling, Mike used a photo of Kecak formation as the album artwork.

King Crimson
Often referred to as the founder of progressive rock genre, King Crimson is in-fact plays flux of musical style ranging from progressive, symphonic, and psychedelic rock in late 60s, hard rock the 70s, rhythm-based music and gamelan in the 80s, and industrial rock in the 90s and 2000s. The band is led by experimental guitarist Robert Fripp whose compositions often feature unusual time signatures, which have been influenced by classical and folk traditions. His innovations have included Frippertronics, soundscapes, and a completely different guitar standard tuning. Fripp once said "In African culture or Balinese culture, our approach would be strange. Polyrhythms are only peculiar to a culture based on the which is utterly 4/4".

The first single from the album Biophilia (2011) is dominated by hybrid instrument called gameleste (gamelan and celeste). Bjork came to Indonesia in 2008 for Volta tour and had visited Bali for a vacation. Similar to Wendy Carlos' Beauty In The Beast, Biophilia is also the result of experimentation with various rhythm and musical scale of non-mainstream music. "Balinese pentatonic" is one option in Biophilia app that might appear when we improvise around the structure and musical scale.


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