The Bali Sessions: Living Art, Sounding Spirit
The title tells all in the invigorating new 3-CD set, The Bali Sessions: Living Art, Sounding Spirit (Rykodisc 10449; 68:07, 73:04, 72:40). This is one of those expansive, nakedly ambitious projects ushered into being through the intrigue of an outsider, being percussionist, ex-Grateful Dead drummer and longtime world music aficianado/student Mickey Hart. Hart went to Bali in search of an escape, and in search of music, which became an easy task due to the tightly integrated forces of music and life in this island culture. He collaborated with scholar Dr. I Wayan Dibia in ferreting out some essential gamelan groups, who were then brought in from their various villages to be recorded at the auditorium of the State College of the Arts in Denpasar.
The end result is a fine primer in the fine art of Balinese gamelan music, including, on the third disc, examples of contemporary, experimental gamelan music. In the main, this uniquely democratic music functions in a rhythmically charged yet ultimately mystical vein, relying on a communal dialogue of tuned percussion instrumentalists. But we also hear examples of "Kecak," rugged "voice orchestra" music with a rhythmic interlacing comparable to the gamelan structures. The album makes a valuable contribution to the body of available material on Bali.