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Nowadays it is not unusual to see Balinese gamelan instruments played by computeroperated robots at a trendy Brooklyn art gallery. After a short drive northeast to the MIT campus, one may encounter the inverse; a nearly complete Balinese gamelan gong kebyar fashioned from plastic, played by humans, and emitting a cornucopia of electronically manipulated music concrète. Hop onto YouTube and one can find dozens of amateur Balinese musicians singing multi-tracked rock, reggae and hip-hop arrangements of classical Balinese poetry. From the intense sentimentality of acoustic spa music by accomplished Balinese composers, to the “Zumba meets Yoga” aesthetics of aerobic Balinese dance classes, the 21st century finds the eccentricity of Balinese fusion projects as neither alien nor aberration. Balinese fusion musics comment on issues as diverse as cultural preservation, cosmopolitanism, pan-Asian identity and liberal multiculturalism. This work strives to broaden contemporary discourse on Balinese music by looking at the ways in which North American, Japanese and Balinese artists, creatively interact with notions of “Balineseness” as a reified discursive object. I argue that these essentialized notions of Balinese cultural identity cannot be separated from the “real” Bali and are thus capable of producing meaningful discourse on cultural difference that are relevant to the particular social cultural and conditions that produce the work.



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