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Full Circle

Day 117: Yogyakarta

Michael Palin - Full CircleLater: With the help of Joan, a Hawaiian married to a gamelan instructor, we have a chance to hear a gamelan orchestra at work at an impromptu session organized in the garden of a house in a quiet neighbourhood of tall trees and narrow streets not far from the centre of Yogya.

Gamelan, deriving from the Javanese gamel, meaning a hammer, is percussive music played on gongs (gong is a Javanese word too), hand drums and bronze xylophones, though flutes and a two-stringed instrument called a rebab often supplement the percussion. The sound of gamelan music has been likened to that of flowing water.

Tonight we'll have chance to hear for ourselves as a fourteen-piece orchestra assembles and the gongs are laid out, some flat in a frame, others hanging. The musicians are all men, a number of them well beyond middle-age, with thick pebble glasses. One is an albino.

While they are warming up under the mango and jackfruit trees that offer some cover from the occasional drifting shower, I make a phone call to the surgeon who has performed Helen's operation and who has been so patient and reassuring with all my questions over the past few days. He confirms that all went well, that the meningioma was benign and has been completely and successfully removed. Then he breaks off and asks me what the noise is in the background.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 117
  • Country/sea: Indonesia
  • Place: Yogyakarta
  • Book page no: 171

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