Despite my interest in world music, “fusion” has always been a four letter word in my book: something to be approached cautiously and used sparingly. But for a foreign musician to spend a year in Bali and not engage in some kind of eats-meets-west project seems to be unheard of. We all go there, and I went there especially often, even competing in a fusion festival and performing shadow puppet plays using synthesizers. So I took it one step further and made an album of my own music using gamelan instruments.
The problem I see with virtually all gamelan fusion is that Balinese instruments don’t play well with others. They have harsh ringing tones that cut through all sounds and rich harmonics that leave little room for other instruments. In a gamelan ensemble, low frequencies are reserved exclusively for the large gongs, which lose there awesome power when layered with electric bass and thumping beats. My solution was to leave out the western instruments entirely. So in a way the fusion is lopsided, or at least a-symetrical: my songs and voice paired with Balinese instruments and techniques. What my friend Gus Bajra likes to call a “new situation.” Many thanks to my friends Balot Ne and Ida Bagus Bajra, who helped me arrange and record these songs.
Note: By chance, I launched this project on one the most important holy days of the Balinese calender. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to make an offereing to my recording equipment in hopes of a glitch-free recording process. Of course my computer died a couple of months later, which is why I am finally finishing the album six months later, 1000 miles away from Bali. Luckily the Balinese gods, clearly unimpressed with my amateurish offering, cannot sabotage my work here.