Last week, I explained to a group of guests at a dinner reception a bit about the history of bamboo music in Bali. Part of my explanation included a demonstration performed by one of our quartets of gamelan musicians. Two of these bamboo instruments are called rindik, 12-keyed xylophones tuned to a fairly even-tempered scale. The delicate humming sound produced by these instruments conjures up images of breezy rice fields and sunny days; appropriate, really, considering that both the instruments and musical repertoire were the creation of early 20th century rice farmers. With the onset of mass tourism, rindik also reminds us of hotel lobbies (and, for many of us, undervalued and underpaid traditional musicians).

Like most other Balinese gamelan instruments, rindik are tuned in pairs, one being tuned slightly higher than the other. This is what produces the characteristic humming sound. A rindik is played with either two or three beaters, one held in the left hand and one or two in the right. Normally, the left hand carries the melody and the right plays a pattern that creates interlocking configuration between the two right-hand parts. Although it may look effortless, playing rindik is a masterful skill that takes many years to learn.

Hundreds of compositions have been composed for rindik, and each region—even each village—in Bali reveals different styles and repertoire. Most of the compositions were inspired by nature and have been named after flowers and animals. I love some of the more humorous ones, like Caplok Bangkung (Snapping Pig) or Dongkang Menek Biu (Tree Frog Climbing a Banana). It never ceases to amaze me how many compositions some of these “lobby musicians” know, and they’re all committed to memory!

Next time you’re sitting in a hotel lobby enjoying the sounds of rindik music, consider giving these guys a tip—they deserve it!