Rock ‘n’ Roll Bali


Triple XXX Bali Rock Band

Triple XXX Bali Rock Band

As usual, I was confused about our destination.  I thought we were going to a farmer’s market where we would see our friend Darmawan.  Instead I attended my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert in Bali which turned out to be a very entertaining, but culturally dissonant evening with the ashram teenagers.

We actually did see Darmawan.  His organic farm was selling papaya, honey, eggs and rice at a booth at the Klungkung Expo.  Downtown Klungkung was closed down for the three-day event which celebrated the 106th anniversary of the Klungkung Puputan (ritual march to the death) against the Dutch colonial army.

Klungkung Puputan

Klungkung Puputan

The puputan was triggered by a Balinese revolt against a Dutch attempt to impose an opium monopoly.  Klungkung was the last kingdom holding out against the Dutch invaders. Hopelessly outnumbered and weaponed only with bamboo spears, the King of Klungkung led 200 members of his family and court in a puputan into the face of the Dutch guns. All of the group were either killed or committed ritual suicide.

Apparently, not all of the Balinese kings chose the honorable ritual of puputan, but instead made nice with the Dutch for which they were rewarded with wealth and position.  There’s still some hostility because of it, and the people of Klungkung continue to be proud of their heritage of refusing to knuckle under to the invaders.

Klungkung King who Led the Puputan

Klungkung King who Led the Puputan

Why celebrate a defeat and a very bloody one at that?  I can’t claim to fully understand it, but the puputan is celebrated because it represents the intense pride and honor the Balinese people feel about their culture even in the face of continuing external challenges from modern values and an economic system.

It’s been interesting to see a similar struggle that Balinese young people have of working a job in a hotel in the city, but being required to take off during the week to ride home to your village for ceremonies. It’s tiring and not so great for your career, but so far it seems (and there’s an intense debate about this here) culture and Balinese family values are winning.

Which brings me to the rock concert, the very definition of a western invasion. The featured band was Triple X, a group of local young men from Klungkung that had made it big in the Balinese rock scene.  Who knew there was a Balinese rock scene?

Dinner at the Klungkung Night Market

Dinner at the Klungkung Night Market

Being an old fart, I was all for going home after dinner.  But the ashram teenagers forced me to attend the concert.  Triple X brilliantly danced between the two worlds of western values and traditional Balinese culture that our ashram members…all of Bali…traverses in their daily lives.

Triple X combined loud electric guitar riffs, raucous acoustics, and rock star stage theater with lyrics and video that celebrated puputan in a way that really spoke to this Balinese crowd which two weeks before was dressed in sarongs and celebrating Ogoh-Ogoh (See the Blog Shh…It’s Nyepi)  I particularly liked the way Triple X satirized the line every tourist hears, “Hello Mister, Welcome to Bali” with humor and hipness.

But the strangest thing of all was what happened after Triple X would end a loud, raucous rock song…Nearly complete silence.  Very little applause, no screams of pleasure.  It was cultural dissonance at its very best.

Canti and Rock On!


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