The most easily identifiable form of Balinese music is gamelan, in which orchestras of 25 or more men, sitting cross-legged on the ground, play a bewildering combination of bronze percussion instruments: bells, gongs, cymbals and chiming bars. The swirling, overlapping chords and syncopated rhythms are intensely mesmeric, and the perfect accompaniment to the island’s other-worldly temple dance forms, in which performers wear sumptuous costumes featuring headdresses, brocaded silk and elaborate jewellery.
By contrast, the Kecak or Monkey Dance, is performed by men wearing no more than a chequed black-and-white cloth over baggy cotton trousers – and a single hibiscus flower behind their ear. Seated in concentric circles, waving arms and chanting ‘chak chak chak’ in unison to dramatic effect, they also accompany dance dramas at temple festivals – a truly astonishing spectacle.
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