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Fate of Kulkul  

by on Thursday, 26 June 2008One Comment | 1,444 views

Before we proceed to the fate of kulkul, in present days, it is better to shed some light on what the kulkul is. Kulkul is Balinese wooden slit gong. It is made of long, hollowed-out wooden block whose upper end are sometimes carved into anthropomorphic heads. A hard and long lasting wood, such as teak, is usually used as kulkul material. The size of the kulkul is determined by the size of the kulkul tower, bigger tower needs bigger kulkul.

Bale Kulkul

For Balinese, the sound of Kulkul is as powerful as the voice of God, when the kulkul is sounded, all Balinese who hear the sound of it will stop their activities and listen carefully to the rhythm of the kulkul sound, and determine its source. Once they found the source of the kulkul and meaning of the rhythm, if they have any connection with the the institution who sound its kulkul, they will abandon their works and prepare to do what the message that kulkul sound conveys. Kulkul is a communication devices used by an institution or organization to summon or convey special message to its members.

Bale Kulkul

In Bali, kulkul is usually owned by hamlets, temples, dance or gamelan troupe or other traditional organizations. In short there are dozens of kulkul in a village and differentiating the sound of kulkul of each institution or organization in a village is quite a problem for untrained ears, even some Balinese admit it is quite hard to determine which organization sound its kulkul and what message is carried by its rhytm.

The rhythm of the kulkul sound determines the message that is conveyed by the sound. A specific rhythm carries a specific message. For example, the continuous repetitions of the alternate male and female kulkul signifies that a girl had been “kidnapped” by her lover and her enrage father beat the kulkul to summon a help from the other members of the hamlet to search for his daughter. The most distinguishable rhythm is the rapid repetitious sound of the male kulkul that signifies an emergency situation, whether it is a robbery, conflagration, or a fight.

The difficulty in determining the message which is carried by the specific rhythm of kulkul sound make the use of kulkul in younger generation of Balinese in urban area become less popular. Some youth organizations in Denpasar replace their kulkul with iron bell so their member will easily differentiate the sound iron bell and the hollow sound of wooden slit gong that is used by other organization.

The replacement of kulkul by iron bell solves the difficulty in determining which organization sound its kulkul but in long run it will endanger the existence of kulkul since the one who use the iron bell is the youth organization, the one that will carry on the tradition when their seniors have departed to the old land (pass away). If the youngsters do not learn the art of determining the source and deciphering the rhythm of kulkul, in the future kulkul will only be placed in the museum without any function in Balinese everyday life..

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