on April 7, 2006
We were fascinated by the sound and look of the Gamelans that are played at the dance performances in Bali. Called "Gongs" by the locals, they are made by a number of craftsmen in the Ubud area. Ask your guide to take you to a factory.There are two basic styles of Gongs. One looks more like the kind of Gong you think of from a Charlie Chan (or Indiana Jones) movie: circular brass-carved plates, in different sizes, played with mallets.But the more fascinating Gong (or Gamelan) is more like a Xylophone (or a Mexican Marimba), with brass bars instead of wood. It creates a scale of sorts (both not a scale for Western music) and may include as many as 10 different notes. It's played with two curved wooden mallets and creates both a musical and percussion sound.When you get to the factory, you'll find a very industrious environment. With the men working, and kids and dogs running all over, one group shapes the wood for the stands, another paints the stands red and gold, and the final guy makes the actual chimes.The chimes are cast from brass, and then carved, filed, and shaped by hand to achieve the appropriate note. The craftsman holds the chime between his feet and either carves with a blade or files off the minute bits to change the tone.We actually purchased a gong at the factory we visited and had it shipped home by our hotel. It remains in our front hall to this day.
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