Rocking and Rolling with the Dead

I don’t have to tell anyone in the world that Balinese culture is unique. But there are some things that few foreignera experience even after living in Bali for many years. Today I had the honour of being asked by the family of my deceased gender wayang teachers from Banjar Dalem Pejaten to play gender […]

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What does ‘siap’ mean?

I’m often asked, “Do you speak Indonesian?”and I answer, “Yup, both Indonesian and Balinese.” More often than not, the reaction is: “Ooooh, they’re two different languages?” They are indeed. And the word ‘siap’ is an example of just how different the languages can be. In Indonesian siap literally means ‘ready’, but it can also be […]

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Baaacot Lo!

You may have heard (or seen in the printed word, particularly social media) the word ‘bacot’ around the place. A slang word or expression, bacot is derived from the same word but in the form of a noun meaning the derogatory word for ‘mouth’, mostly referring to animals. When bacot is used as a noun […]

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The Handsome God of Selonding

As an ethnomusicologist and self-confessed gamelan geek, it’s fascinating to learn about villages in Bali that deify their ancient gamelan instruments called selonding. (Now that’s the sort of entity I could see myself worshipping!) These instruments are so sanctified that one must not refer profanely to them simply as ‘selonding’ (their particular genre of orchestra) […]

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Democracy and Equality in Balinese Gamelan Part II

In a Balinese gamelan group, equality and democracy are paramount. To avoid the sticky issues with caste, musicians used to always sit on the ground at the same level due to the possibility that a musician of low or non-caste could be at an instrument which may require an elevated seat or platform (think a […]

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Democracy and Equality in Balinese Gamelan Part I

Bali still has a very traditional society and the late Made Wijaya went so far as to say a ‘medieval’one, albeit existing and functioning in the modern world. In this sense, the way Balinese society operates is still far from democratic or equal in the Western “free world” sense of the word. Men still make […]

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Communication Conundrum

It’s no secret that many people in Bali are poor communicators. This is only exemplified in a world where many cultures expect instant reactions and instant results. These differences lead to a clash of cultures between foreigners and locals in Bali because a lack of clear communication leads to misunderstandings, frustration and both sides taking […]

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The Balinese Addiction to Water Wrapped in Plastic Part III

In the last two issues I’ve been talking about the environmental disaster in Bali that has been caused by single-use plastic, particularly single-use cups and bottles. As I mentioned at the end of my last article, there are, and always have been, alternatives available. Did you know, for example, that the Balinese have their own […]

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