David Lewiston – Music from the Morning of the World: The Balinese Gamelan & Ketjack: The Ramayana Monkey Chant

morning of the

I’m back, you beautiful audiophiliac motherfuckers! And there’s no time to waste. So let’s dive head first into some strange sticky-icky sonic wonders.

Classical music is a strange term to be throwing around like a linguistic frisbee, all willy-nilly. Because, when you really think about it, what the fuck is it? I know there are ignorant monocle lovers out there that think this shit means music written around 1750–1830 in Europe. And, straight up? Webster would give them two raging thumbs up for that lazy and faintly racist definition. But fuck Webster. I’m all about the Oxford, motherfucker. Who doesn’t want to follow the dictionary where one of the greatest contributors was held in a loony bin for murder and cut off his own dick while he was contributing (true story, the guy’s name is William Chester Minor)? So, according to the realest of the real dictionaries, the definition of classic music is, “serious music following long-established principles rather than a folk, jazz, or popular tradition”. Well, guess what that means, motherfuckers? That means Gamelan and Ketjak are a part of them shits. What’s Gameland and Ketjak you ask? Hold on to your swelling sexual organs, because this one’s a doozy. 

All David Lewiston did for this album was hop over to Bali in ’66 and turn on a mic. Dude didn’t play a fucking note. What he did record was some of the oldest and coolest music ever made. On the first track, up until the 1:10 mark, what you’ll hear is pretty common. From then on, shit is pure fire. Ketjack (also spelled Kecak and Kechak) is a bunch of dudes, roughly 150 of them, sit around in a circle and percussively shouting “chak”. This sounds kinda lame. But the way they do it, in overlapping triplets and with the precision of a meth-addicted metronome, the result is trippy as balls and dope as fuck. The whole thing is supposed to depict a battle from Ramayana where a monkey fights the evil king. How cool is that shit?

Now, what’s Gamelan? Motherfucker, I’m about to blow your goddamn mind. 

Gamelan is made up of a bunch of percussive chimes. There’s no sheet music to this shit. It’s all remembered by muscle memory and repetition. These special chimes called metallophones are hit with a hammer, then silenced with the free hand. Backing these bitches is a badass two-handed drum called a kendhang that keeps that shit legit. If you check out this video from 3 minutes to around 3:40, you’ll feel the beat drop. Seriously, the beat does drop. And it’s fucking tight! This shit is classical club music. It’s acoustic Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and µ-Ziq. You want that drum and bass? This is the big fucking bang of drum and bass. It’s one of the earliest forms of music and you can drop that ass and shake it like a paint mixer while listening to it. It’s the classical music ignorant monocle lovers would rather ignore. Problem is, these fucks are winning. Gamelan is slowly dying. Think about that, one of the oldest forms of music is dying off while the thousandth recording of Bach Cello suites gets made by another sad sack of rotten money badly playing the cello. So, if you want to keep a culture’s music alive, shake that ass like you’re trying to give applause, and flip the bird to monocle fucks and Webster dictionary. Try Gamelan. It’s the shit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought

  1. I’ve never heard this one, but I like Bali: Golden Rain. Yes it’s a generic, vaguely exploitative, 60s cheaply-recorded-various-artists-series release, but hot damn if it isn’t fire. You’re right that tons of hip electronic/dance-adjacent stuff sounds gamelan-tinged these days, too – only to the degree that disco was classical-tinged with its strings, i.e. not much, but enough to notice it. Shackleton’s Furnace of Guts EP is top shelf shit, maybe give that a listen – in the meantime, this one’s on my wishlist.

    Liked by 1 person

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