Ketug Ketug

Ketug Ketug is:

Mathilde Barthélémy
Prune Bécheau
Gabriel Desfeux
Thibault Florent
Mark Lockett
Sven Michel
Lucas Pizzini
Julien Pontvianne

A sacred gamelan from East Bali. The eight instruments consist of four or eight heavy iron keys suspended over solid, ornately carved wooden resonators. The group play rare traditional music from the Bali Aga villages of that region, for the gods, the earthly realms, and the underworld. Ideal for outdoor situations – with or without amplification. Ketug Ketug is a Balinese onomatopoeia for a beating heart.

This gamelan salunding was brought back from Bali in the 1990s, a ‘secular’ copy of one of the sacred ensembles from Tenganan Pegringsing, and has been used for theatre productions, installation works for art galleries, community groups, on its own and with live electronics. This little-known type of gamelan is one of the oldest surviving musics from Bali.

There are various legends surrounding the gamelan salunding, but not much in the way of historical fact. Colin McPhee, in his authoritative treatise “Music in Bali” [Yale University Press 1966] recounts a story of a group of villagers by the sea hearing a music unlike any other coming from the waves. When they returned the following day to the spot where the music had been heard to make offerings, a gamelan unlike any other ever seen appeared from the water. The people waded out and carried it back to the village, but for a long time the gamelan remained silent as no one dared touch the instruments. Then one day a messenger from heaven appeared in the form of a white raven and, by its song, taught them how to play.
The Bali Aga, descendants of the original inhabitants of Bali (before the various trans-island migrations), are still present in some villages. They revere nature and the worship of their ancestors, blending in with the Hindu influences of the other Balinese. Their large area of particularly fertile land, allow them a measure of independence, free of labour in the rice fields. How they came to possess these lands is recounted by Made Kertonegoro [Harkat Foundation 1986] in another legend…

Long before the conquest of Bali by the Javanese Majapahit Empire in the 14th century, the favourite horse of the mighty king of Bedaulù escaped. Severely affected by the loss of the animal, the king sent men from every village under his control in all directions on a mission to find it. Tenganan’s men set off east and, after days of searching, found the body of the dead stallion. As a token of gratitude, the king offered them to choose their reward. The village chief simply asked for a tract of land surrounding the village which was permeated by the smell of the dead horse. Appreciating the modesty of this request, the king ordered his officer with the keenest sense of smell to follow the village chief to establish the limits of the new lands of Tenganan. They walked for days on end, but wherever they went, the smell seemed to haunt them.

Finally, the exhausted officer couldn’t go any further. He said the land he traveled was large enough, and the people of Tenganan should be quite satisfied with it. When the officer was gone, the village chief pulled out a piece of rotten meat cut from the carcass from under his clothes.