The history of gamelan gong music of Indonesia certainly is an old one, however the metal sounds and dynamic style of the socalled gamelan gong 'kebyar which is so typical for Bali, is relatively new - younger than one hundred years. This library annex museum collects, copies and preserves thousands of lontar (manuscripts made of palm leaf), "prasati" (transcriptions on metal plates) and books which deal with various aspects of human life, such as religion, architecture, philosophy, genealogy, homeopathy, "usada" (medical manuscripts), black magic, and so on, in the Balinese, Kawi (old Javanese) and the Dutch, English and German language.
The hectic sound and dynamic rhythm of this type of gamelan music emerged for the first time in the year 1915, where it was 'invented' by the gamelan gong group of the village of Jagaraga, near Singaraja, in Northern Bali.
Kebyar means 'quick, sudden, loud', expressions that are all characteristic for the typical, dynamic style of this type of gamelan gong music. Since its invention in North Bali in 1915, gamelan gong kebyar became more and more popular and nowadays it is the most heard gamelan gong style in Bali.
Contests - The competitive element plays an important role among the gamelan gong groups of Bali. Regularly contests are organized where groups of several villages compete against each other. During these contests special attention is paid to synchronization of musical rhythms and body movements of the performers. One of these contests occurs during the " Pesta Kesenian Bali " of the district of Buleleng, a three day festival which is always held in the second half of the month July, in the city of Singaraja. If you happen to be around be sure not to miss out on this unique event.
Dwi Mekar - The gamelan gong kebyar and topeng group 'Dwi Mekar' of Singaraja belongs to one of the most popular and successful groups of Bali. With regular regional, national and international performances (among others at the Royal Palace of Denmark in 2004) Dwi Mekar has grown immensely popular both inside as well as outside Bali.
Gong Factories - As North Bali is the cradle of Gamelan Gong Kebyar it will not be surprising that the most talented craftsmen on the field of instrument making also can be found in the same area. Especially the area of Jagaraga / Sawan is reknown for its gamelan gong instrument factories. Most of these factories are open for visitors who are interested to see the craftsmen at work, and learn some of the process of the making of the instruments. Also the factories serve as a sales outlet for gamelan gong groups as well as for individual buyers.