Performers clapping on body parts

Duration: 5 min.

A subak is a small Hindu temple or shrine on the island of Bali set at forks in rivers and irrigation canals and dedicated to spiritual significance of water. Water is, of course, of much more than spiritual importance, as the Balinese depend on its optimal distribution in order to feed their population. This job is given not to engineers, but to the priests of these water temples. When I lived in Bali subaks were to me a symbol of the depth of importance the Balinese felt for close community cooperation, which is also reflected in their music. Most Balinese music features not soloists, but a group playing highly rehearsed, intricate interlocking patterns. A leader, usually a drummer, signals points at which there are breaks in the pattern or when to move on to the next section. Players must therefore listen very carefully and ensure that their parts precisely "lock in" to the overall fabric of the texture as they do in traditional Balinese society. Similar interlocking parts can even be found in musical play, such as in the cupped hands of children splashing against the water as they play and bathe in the rivers of this tropical island.