I adore culture, even more mine. Balinese culture is very rich with art elements. I love to see art performances with energetic dances and music, either in the traditional ceremony, city festival or other events. However, adore and love the artistic culture, doesn’t necessarily evoke the arts in my soul.
I ever learnt how to dance a long time ago (26 years?), Manuk Rawa (the swamp bird) a simple dance, which is usually danced by elementary school students (grade 1 and 2) and I was in second year of junior high school. How about playing its companion, the gamelan (Balinese music)? Never. Even, in my wildest dream.
I always thought I was born to be not an artist, I can’t sing, when I did, my dog will raise his ears and posed tensely as if he heard distrustful sound. Painting was part of my additional school subject. Notice the past tense. Was.
What spirit had possessed me when I agree to join the women sekaa gamelan (Balinese traditional music orchestra) of our traditional community organization (banjar) remains a mystery. OK. I burst out when the traditional community leader asked me to participate.
The music lesson is held at the bencingah (community hall). On our first day, all new participants were asked to choose what instrument we wanted to play. A big question hit my head. What-instrument-I-want-to-play? All instrument looked astonished with elaborated sculpture, painted in red and gold. Looked confusing, too.
“Sit there.” Somebody appointed a long instrument with sparkling golden knobs. It’s in the front of row and looked important. I didn’t think I was ready for it. Actually, I didn’t ready for any single instrument there.
“I think I want to be here,” I said, appointed a much smaller instrument far behind.
“Do you can play that?”
“It will be just the same. Here or there, you will learn how to play. It’s ok. Just sit there. Somebody will show you how.”
The instrument is terompong, has 10 bronze knobs, the frequency range spans two octaves. Ndang, nding, ndung, ndeng, ndong, ndang, nding, ndung, ndeng, ndong. Something like that. It is played by one person (it will be me) by hitting those knobs with two paddles (panggul terompong).
That day, I began my lesson by imitating my teacher’s movement on the knobs. I followed him. There’s no introductory theory. Only stimulation to your artistic element that buried for centuries somewhere inside you. I was a bit wary, what if I didn’t have any tiny artistic element. I just kept imitating my teacher’s action. False sound. False sound. False…
It has been a month, now. And I still come twice a week to bencingah and play my terompong. I can play simple tabuh (music) already. Able to recognise my own false sound and improve it by hitting the right knobs. Still try to make harmony with the others ladies player. I am talking about making harmony with 30 other unprofessional gamelan players. Those mothers, wives, grandmothers, house makers, teacher, doctor, manager, clothes store owner. Almost everyone, except professional musician or gamelan players. We are working on it and will do our performance in the Galungan (Balinese Hindu festive day) night. 40 days to go.
I am not pushing myself to be an artist or try hard to be an artistic soul of Balinese. I am just simply taking a chance on me. A chance to do arts. To play terompong.
(Respond to Daily Prompt: Take a Chance on Me)