When the gong kebyar composition first appeared in Northern Bali with the avant-garde villages such as Bungkulan, Jagaraga and villages at its vicinity in 1915, No one ever dreamed that this genre of Balinese gamelan become the most favorite kind gamelan to be played by women. As a matter of fact at that time no one would ever dreamed that Balinese women have any chance to play gamelan.
In the past, gamelan is a privilege for men and the involvement of women in the realm of art was restricted in dance and drama performance area. However, in the last three decades, it is important to note that there has been a significant democratization process within the Balinese art world. Women begun to be given wider chance to participate in every genre of Balinese traditional art and nowadays the once male-dominated art world has been transformed into free for all art domain.
Balinese women began to learn to play gamelan instruments around 25 years ago when the annual Bali Arts Festival started. Since it was established, the festival organized a gong kebyar contest for women. From the festival, the fever of female gamelan group has spread from one village to others. Since 10 years ago, female gamelan groups spread all over the island of Bali. For Balinese women, playing gamelan instruments is seen as part of their social and religious obligations.
It is a voluntary work (ngayah) as a sign of their devotion to the community and God. In the spirit of ngayah, Balinese women present their time, effort and talent as an offering to God.rather than performing for other purposes.
It is really good to see how Balinese women these days are now eager to plunge into the traditional music and give new nuance to traditional art world