Large and circular, bronze and brass. Once hit, a dong of low frequency echoes; travelling into the ears of those within its vicinity. None other than the gong, an East and Southeast Asian musical percussion instrument that takes the form of a flat, circular metal disc accompanied by a mallet.
With rich background from various countries in Asia and Rome, the gong can be dated back to the sixth-century. Today, gongs take part in various cultures, including the Indonesian and Balinese. Playing the gong is relatively simple; one simply needs to follow the beat and hit it occasionally with a mallet. The gong, however, does not tend to stand alone. Instead, they take part in Gamelan Baleganjur, an ensemble featuring other instruments.
In the beginning of February, we visited Melaya village, which is located in Jembrana, Bali. During an introduction meeting, the village head, I Made Mara, spoke of a band of mothers who perform the gong every Monday evening. As we were made aware of the presence of gongs within the village, we recognized our lack of knowledge regarding the instrument contrasted against our curiosity. After investigating, we discovered several roles of gongs in the lives of residents in Melaya.
One of the major functions for gongs is its musical role in Hinduism. The circular disc partakes in the ensemble that plays during Galungan, Odalan, Nyepi, and other religious activities. Regardless of its centre in Hinduism, however, those from other religions are also welcome to play the gong for these activities.
Regardless of its large size and heavy material, gongs are not limited to certain people. Anyone from any age, gender, and religion can participate in performances and practice. “Crowded,” I Putu Yuda Aditya, an eleventh grader and Gamelan Baleganjur player, described the atmosphere, “They [the villagers] cheer on us.” Alongside inclusivity, gong performances also serve as a social bridge for people to meet and interact within such setting.
As time pass, so does human knowledge, activities, and habits. What has been passed becomes something that defines — an identity. Existing from generation to generation, this fragment of identity has been passed on; taught and learnt, done and observed. What we have come to know about gongs today is a token of the past, regardless of its prominence or lack-of.
Gongs are ever-present in Melaya. Its existence amidst those in the past, the villagers of today spoke of. With no age or gender restrictions, everyone is free to play. “My sister plays [the gong],” I Komang Wahyu Mahardika, a fourth-grade student, said, “My father taught her.” Parents teach their children, and the tradition is held and passed upon until eventually, it becomes a heritage — a culture. Thus, the young who were introduced into the world of gongs find their own passion and start to act through independent, personal initiative towards their hobby.
As long the older introduce and the young learn, out of genuine interest, the heritage will not cease to pass on. In our modern society where many are easily replaced, gongs and its religious, social, and cultural functions in Melaya will stay. Whether this occurrence takes place outside the village as well, we may not know. However, as a group of people may impact another, then perhaps, the world may learn that even gongs, an instrument that rarely stands alone and can be missed, has its own role; its value, just like numerable other things present in the world.
 The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, “Gong,” Encyclopædia Britannica, March 02, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/art/gong-musical-instrument.
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