There are not many evenings that you can walk around Ubud without being invited to or at least hearing a performance, usually of dance and gamelan music. The traditional gamelan music carries across Ubud, enticing and inviting to everyone that hears it. One of the best places to hear a concert is just next to the football field in the centre of Ubud, in the large temple. As you walk along the roads next to the field it feels like you are actually attending the concert!
If completely enamoured by the music, on the adjacent side of the field there is a small library, called Pondok Pekak, where they run gamelan lessons. They are very flexible and can organize a gamelan lesson for any group size at any time you want it for Rp.75000 each. (Within one hour of speaking to them, my brother, sister and I were sitting down for our first ever gamelan lesson!)
They have you sit next to each other, each with your own gamelan – essentially a large xylophone with just five repeated notes, A-E. You have two sticks to play with and straight away they test your coordination, having you play a simple motif with both hands at once. It is learnt completely without sheet music so they gradually build up the complexity, giving those who are advancing well new rhythms and tunes to add over the top of the original motif. Not only does this mean that the music becomes more elaborate and varied, it also means that all levels are catered for, as you are left to attempt whichever difficulty you feel up to! As the group gets better you really start to hear the essence of gamelan.
Of course, then the two teachers sit down and show you how it’s done “properly” and you realize just how incredibly complex the art of gamelan really is.
The library itself has an array of books, in a number of genres, fiction and non-fiction. It costs just Rp.300,000 to join, and you can take out 3 books at a time. There is a large number of philosophy books, including some perfect reference books for the topics covered on the Shades of Yoga Teacher Training. It is run by Made, a local Balinese man who also runs Boreh Pijat – catering to your literary and spa needs!