Upon reaching Bali, get your hands on a copy of Bali Echo and the English-language daily, Jakarta Post, which will give you an overall picture of current exhibitions, music, dances and films within Bali. Information can be also obtained through your hotel and notices outside establishments.
The ancient art of shadow play or Wayang Kulit is a unique combination of ritual, lesson and entertainment. Lacy shadow images are projected on a taunt linen screen, backed by an oil lamp or a light bulb. The Dalang or shadow artist manipulates the figures, which are carved out of leather, to bring the shadows to life. He will narrate the story accompanied by a gamelan orchestra and occasional chanting or singing. The Dalang juggles many roles - actor, teacher, historian, and often, a priest.
These performances are part of temple celebrations or religious events to bless the occasion by inviting ancestral spirits to visit the temple. If it is of a religious nature, the wayang performance will take place during the day. Instead of the screen, only a piece of string is used to separate the Dalang from the audience. The stories played are commonly based on the Mahabarata and Ramayana. Some of these shadow puppets have mobile joints, which make the play even more entertaining.
Generous offerings are presented before, during, and after a performance, which usually take three to four hours. Plays normally begin some time between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
An orchestra for nearly every event and occasion, the gamelan has special purposes, being the music of Indonesia. These orchestras are generally percussion oriented, but many feature flutes, strings, or vocalists in a prominent light. Different islands or regions within these islands have their own unique gamelan instruments and traditions.
Gamelan is performed when ushering idols to the sea, thus creating a hypnotic rhythm and pattern with the procession of gongs, drums and cymbals. High pitched bronze gamelan enhances the king's slumber, meter-long bamboo flutes accompany a classical dance in the temple, the twang of the bark of a palm aims at courting a young maiden, and reeds provide a whimsical atmosphere for the frog dance. The gamelan indeed has its distinguished purposes.
Customarily, gamelan uses bronze, iron, bamboo or wood bars, bronze and iron gongs, gong chimes, cymbals, bells and two-headed drums. Ceremonial compositions are meditative and serene whereas dance and theater music percolates and flutters.
If you are itching to watch a movie while in Bali, fear not. You will be able to find bioskop in larger towns but the best ones are in Denpasar, Kuta, and Mataram. Lurid posters are highly visible to advertise the latest offering; they are usually mounted on trucks that cruise through town while rave reviews and snatches from the soundtrack blare from a loudspeaker.
Of course, there's always television. There are several public and private television stations broadcasting a variety of foreign movies, mostly with Indonesian subtitles, plus bizarre Indonesian quiz shows, soap operas from all over the world (with Indonesian subtitles), and sports, mainly basketball from the United States and football from Europe.
However, in such a tropical paradise, the day would be wasted if you intend to spend it watching television. There are so many traditional dances and festivals to enjoy and attend, not to mention the historical sites to visit. And if that's not your cup of tea, there is always shopping; yes, shopping! Souvenirs and gifts gesture all around you, so put on your walking shoes and roam to your heart's content!
Kong l Japan