Balinese Kecak Ramayana


In December 2016, I had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program in Bali, Indonesia. Over the course of three weeks, we lived in a compound owned by I Made Lasmawan in Tabanan, a village in the mountains of central Bali, learning Balinese gamelan and accompanying dances. We also spent significant time experiencing first-hand religious and artistic experiences by frequently visiting temples for various ceremonies, working with local artists, and more.


One of the music styles we studied during from our time in Bali is a style called kecak. Though the style has a long history, its modern-day presentation is less than 100 years old, and is actually not strictly an indigenous Balinese tradition.

Ultimately, this project consists of two final products. The first listed of these is a research paper that explores the context in which modern-day kecak was created as well as that of the styles and culture that inspired its creation. This paper was written as my final research paper for my Master’s degree at Northern Illinois University.

The second is a video of my performance of Glenn Kotche’s Monkey Chant, a drum set solo based on the presentation of modern-day kecak in Bali. This solo typically calls for Kotche’s innovative sound substitutions for authentic Balinese instruments and sounds, but given my access to a full set of Balinese gamelan, I decided to use traditional instruments including a large gong and two small gongs from the trompong from NIU’s set of gong kebyar as well as two sulings (Balinese end-blown flutes) that I purchased while I was there. I also began the piece with three ohm’s and played the traditionally following vocal melody on one of the sulings, as this is how kecak would normally start. Additionally, I recut Chetan Desai’s feature-length film Ramayana the Epic down to approximately 10 minutes to accompany the piece*, and included in in the bottom left corner of the final performance video recording of my performance of Monkey Chant.

Both final products can be seen below:


Kecak Ramayana: The Origins of Bali’s Cultural Crosette

Performed by Michael McSweeney