Bali: Beats of Paradise (2018) Movie Script


I first heard gamelan
by accident
when I was working
in a used record store.

And somebody just put on
this record called
"Music from the Morning
of the World."
It was Balinese gamelan.

And my head just exploded.

I never heard anything like it.
It was doing all the things
I was trying to do
in my own music, but all
in this very mysterious way.

(flame crackling)



(melodic ringing)

When someone listens
to a Balinese gamelan
for the first time,
they have no idea
what they're hearing.

I was just completely sucked
into that world
and fascinated by the dance
and the music and the sound.
It was gamelan music.

The first time
I listened to gamelan,
I did not know much
about the uniqueness,
but once I come
to the United States,
I started to recognize and know
how precious and how unique
gamelan is.

(flames crackling)

It's just the soundtrack
of Balinese life.

(waves crashing)

Pak Wenten was one
of the first people
that I met when I was interested
in gamelan.
He may have been the first
serious Balinese artist
I ever met.

1971, I took my first trip
to Indonesia
with a group of students.
We went to Indonesia
to study gamelan together.
My teacher was a composer,
Pak Tjokro.
His daughter was Nanik,
a dancer,
and her husband
was Nyoman Wenten,
and his importance
is maybe not so much
as an individual artist
but as an ambassador
for Balinese arts.

I was 17 at that time.
I was a member of the
Presidential Mission Culture.
Our mission is to introduce
our culture
to different countries.
(plane soaring)
We went to North Korea.
That is considered
really dangerous at that time.
We performed for Kim Il-sung,
the grandfather
of this new president.
We performed in China
in the place called
Tiananmen Square.

We took a picture with Mao.
I met Mao.
We shook hands with Mao.
We performed
for Kaisar Hirohito,
King Norodom Sihanouk,
King of Thailand.
This incredible feeling.
You cannot really replace it
with other--other gifts
to meet these people.

I have an incredible experience
that affects so much of my life.
Bali is so small,
so I wanted
to actually introduce
the art of music
and dance of Bali
to the world beyond Bali.
So this is my dream.

My life in LA,
incredibly busy.
Monday, I'm here at CalArts.
I teach here almost full day.
In the evening, I go to UCLA.
So, 14 hours every day.
Saturday, we have practice,
maybe perform
with my group here, Burat Wangi.
I also perform
many different places.
Montreal, Mexico, to Europe.

It's quite busy
through the year,
mostly involved with music
and dance of Bali.
That's my life.
Being an artist
is not really easy.
A lot of ups and downs,
but I'm very lucky
because I've been able
to work here.
Also I like people interested
in studying gamelan.

He's such an incredible dancer
and musician,
but when you talk to him,
it just feel like he just wants
to be friends with you.
Like when he's teaching you,
it feels the same way;
when you're playing with him,
it feels the same way.
It feels like
you're like being held
in like a blanket or something,
like it's so warm.

I respect him as a teacher,
but there's kind of like
a connection,
a friendship that I feel.
To talk about Bu Nanik,
I think they have a really good
working relationship.
Pak Wenten is working
with the musicians
and Bu Nanik
is running the dancing.
We met through dance.
We teach together.
We always help each other,
Wenten and I.
It's hard to separate the life
without music and dance for us.
Dance and music is like food
to our soul.

Hi, my name is Balawan
and I am from Bali.
I'm going to play my song called
"What's Left in Bali."
The inspiration of this song is,
Bali changed a lot,
so not so many rice fields left.

I'm often asked this question:
Why do young people
from America,
why are they interested
in gamelan
and young people
in Indonesia are not?

It's part of colonial history
that maybe they don't want
to perpetuate.
They want to be part
of a modern world.

(music playing on video)

I like to introduce my culture
to people
from all over the world,
no matter where they are.
So that's my goal,
that's why I get the idea
to make a music video.
It can reach not only a hundred,
two hundred, a thousand,
but a million people.
Having to, of course,
online, Facebook, maybe YouTube,
maybe as my director,
Livi Zheng, can tell me to do.

Livi Zheng,
she's an Indonesian director.
She directs Hollywood movies.
So that's why I need her
to direct this music video.

I don't have that much
experience doing music videos.
Most of my work is narrative,
drama or action.
I really want to help him,
and I guess if he makes it
really different
and maybe he collaborates
with somebody in the U.S.
that's also very unique,
maybe that's, you know,
it's something that people
would want to see.
So Judith Hill approached me
a few months ago.
She was looking for someone
to compose Balinese gamelan.
-How are you?
-Good, good to see you.
This is Pak Wenten
and Bu Nanik.
-Hi, nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
-Judith Hill approached me
and my wife
to compose and to choreograph
for her soul.
So, it's an opportunity for me
to collaborate with her
because she's
an incredible singer
and you can hear her
in YouTube.
I just can't stop loving you
No, baby
I don't know if I had a long
career as a background singer,
but I had a substantial time
with amazing people,
and some of them were
Michael Jackson
and Stevie Wonder.
The way you make me feel

You really turn me on
And that was the end
of my background singing days.
Change is gonna
If only you cry
a little bit longer now
I was always a solo artist.
I went to school as a composer,
and one of the styles
that we learned and embraced
was gamelan music.
I was just completely sucked
into that world
and fascinated by the dance
and the music and the sound,
and everything about it
was just so intriguing to me.
If you cry, cry, cry

Originally it was--it was just
gonna be a traditional piece,
but then the second idea is,
"Let's do a music video."

Thinking about if I can
collaborate with you,
maybe publish a video.
Yeah, we should talk about
what kind of song we should do.
So we'll have
to experiment with it
'cause it's my first time
inserting gamelan
into funk music, so.
(music playing on video)
I'm a rough, rough gutbucket
I know you loving my style

I'm a slow burn for ya,
churn for ya
Honey learned my ways
in the wild
(imitating gamelan melody)
Bucking in the deep down,
kicking up dust
Now I'm rising on top
When I first met him,
I thought,
"Wow, what a sweet man."
He just had such a kindness
and softness to him.
It was just so beautiful.
I could tell he's just full
of so much joy in his heart
and so much love.
(imitating music)
Look at you,
Mr. Funk over here.
I love it.
Before I did this project,
I looked
for gamelan videos online
and there weren't
any gamelan music videos
that's of this style,
and even those didn't have
a million views.
So I think it's gonna be
a lot of work.

-To have a million views?
-Maybe more.
Pak Wenten wanted to have
a million views.
I can't control that,
that's--that's like, um...
If someone asked me,
"Could you choreograph this?"
I doubt something for myself.

Can I do it? Can I do it?
I have that doubt, but not him.
So his optimism
will give him problem.
Pak Wenten is basically
competing with Snoop Dogg.
Snoop Dogg has a lot
of funding behind it,
marketing money behind it,
and Pak Wenten don't have that.
I hope he can get
the million views
and I really would like
to see that as well,
and we'll try our best
to do that.
This was my dream come true.
You know, I hope so,
I'll be able
to accomplish something
before I retire
from teaching here in the U.S.
(frogs croaking)
Why I want to retire in Bali?
Because Bali is part of my life.
I was born, grew up in Bali.

Whatever I do, Balinese music
always be part of my life.

We should do your idea first.
Let's just go around
before I like start--
you know what I mean?
And then just playing with it
a little bit, what you think.
I think not everybody
play together at once,
so first maybe
the big instruments,
and then maybe the Calung
because Calung...
Pak Wenten had this idea
of why don't we incorporate
gamelan music into more
of a funk setting?
And that was something
that we have to work in
and get our heads around.
And we're gonna just vibe it out
and see what
we can come up with,
collaboration between
a funk song and gamelan music.

(unintelligible lyrics)
When I first played them
my music,
there was this like
kind of shock reaction
and then
an immediate excitement of,
"Oh, we can do this over here,
we can do this over here."

So today we worked
on two different songs.
One is a very funk-driven,
like, old-school Parliament,
George Clinton, hip hop thing,
which is like, "What on Earth?"
with gamelan.

Lay 'em back a little bit.
(imitating rhythm)
So they're really laid
in the pocket,
and then you guys are just...
You know what I'm saying?
One, two, three, four.

That's good.
It's a very exciting journey
to see what we'll come up with
and how we can create
that world.

It's a collaboration
that has room for their tuning
so that you can hear
their tonation,
then it creates
this interesting dialogue.


When I compose for music video,
I still get my inspiration
from music I grew up with.

(speaking foreign language)

In the history of gamelan,
according to folktale
or legends,
gamelan was made
by Batara Indra.
(flames crackling)
(insects chirring)
Batara Indra made
a musical instrument
called the gong.

(flames crackling)

Before creating a gamelan,
an offering must be made.

The craftsmen
will sometimes fast for days
to purify the body
before embarking
on the gamelan crafting process.
(flames crackling)
That's why the gamelan
contains a spirit.
When the gong was sounded,
it is a sign for meeting
between the guards.

The gamelan making
is learned and passed down
from one generation to the next.
Each craftsman learns
to master a specific task
in the gamelan creation process.

Wood carver learns the intricacy
of the design process
meant for the wooden frame.

There are two common types
of material used
to cast the gamelan instruments,
bronze and iron,
the bronze gamelan being
more expensive and prestigious
because it delivers
a high quality of sound.
(melodic ringing)

Over the years,
I have collected
many different sets
of gamelan.


So for this music video,
my vision is to shoot it
in a desert,
and we chose Joshua Tree.

There's a lot of challenges
in the process of making
this music video happen.
First of all,
gamelan is an ensemble.
It's made up of instruments
that's big
and there's a lot of them,
and you cannot just bring one
and shoot it.
You have to bring the whole set.
In an orchestra, individuals
own their instruments
and they take them home.
In a gamelan, it's really like
it's one instrument.
It's built together
and it's tuned together.
So you just have to know
a little bit
about the architecture,
the structure of the music,
to be able to listen to it.
The sound of a gamelan
is like a tree.
The trunk of the tree is played
by certain instruments.

In a Balinese gamelan, there are
two of every instrument,
and they have
almost the same notes
except they're tuned
just a tiny bit higher.

And what happens is,
when they play the same part,
you hear this kind of beating.

And that gives
Balinese gamelan
what some people call
a shimmering quality.
The branch and the leaves
and the flowers
are played by the Gangsa family.

And then Kempli,
the time keeper.
(imitating beat)

And then a small instrument
we call Klenang.

And the Ceng ceng.
(imitating rhythm)
And the Reyong,
the part instrument.

And they play Rebab.
Next the drum.

The drummer, he's considered
the leader of the ensemble.
So all these different types
of instruments,
that is the gamelan.

Gamelan means the ensemble.

I kept my Balinese tradition
here in my house.
I built a shrine.
I pray every day, play gamelan.

I've been living here
for 45 years.
I tried to speak English,
but I still feel...
I'm Indonesian.
When I first came to the U.S.,
I have two kids,
daughter and a boy.
The oldest was
two and a half years.
The youngest was eight months.
I came here,
I left my kids back home
with their grandparents
in Indonesia.
The last time
we saw my daughter,
you hug her, you kiss her,
you don't let her go,
but then you had to.
It's really, really,
really, really hard.
I feel kind of bad,
but the long run,
I think it was
the right decision.
Because we believed also that,
before we bring
our children here,
they have to have
a good background
of their culture,
so they should know
Balinese dance.
I based my life and my art,
starting dance when I was young.

(bird squawks)
(insects chirring)

I feel the sound
and the atmosphere,
so unique in the temple.

When you hear
the gamelan playing...

...the audience reacts
to your movement.

That was the greatest feeling
I had, even still now.
Incredible feeling.
My grandfather gave me
art of dancing of Bali.
I wanted to keep his legacy
alive through me.

So that changed my life forever.

(waves crashing)
In Bali,
playing gamelan is part
of the fabric of life
for your entire life.

I didn't know it then,
but the music of gamelan has
always been a part of my life.
Since the moment I was born,
music is more than just art
and performances.

In Bali, the gamelan is used
for all rites of passage
in one's life.

From the moment we are born... the moment we cross over
to the afterlife.

We have many uses for
the gamelan's music and dance.

It is used
for special occasions...

...spiritual events...

...and entertainment.

It is not only a big part
of our culture
but also
our Balinese communities.
These momentous occasions
are not meant
to be celebrated alone.

Big events with gamelan
are planned with the help
of the entire village.
These big moments
and celebrations
are what helps bring us

Of course, outside Bali,
the gamelan is most well known
for entertainment.

We have many traditional plays
that use both music and dance
to tell stories.

Stories about love...


...and ancient royalty.

A vast majority
of costumes and puppets
are very intricately designed
with the gold coloring
to symbolize nobility
and deities.

The puppet in our play,
I used to portray
otherworldly characters
that are within
our Hindu belief
and ancient stories.
For example, the Barong Lion
is the good king
who fights against evil spirits.
For example, the Rangda.
(bells dinging)

For many events
in the community,
spirituality is infused
with our gamelan
and Hindu tradition.
When someone dies in Bali,
there is a moment of sadness,
of course.
But, we send our loved ones
into the afterlife
with a celebration.


When someone
passes away in Bali,
their body is buried temporarily
up to many years.
The family saves money
in order to
send their loved one
to the afterlife.

The cremation is
a celebration in Bali.
The Ngaben ceremony is often
a communal cremation.
It is one of
the most important ceremonies
of Balinese culture.

When my time comes and I die,
of course
I want gamelan to play.
I want to be remembered
for my teaching,
my performances, and spreading
my Balinese culture.
(fire crackling)


I just remember I couldn't
take my eyes off of the dancer,
'cause I had never seen
anything like that.
I'd never seen how the eyes
moved, and just the mystery
just sucked me in.

The dance is really old.
The movement is like
a mystery in a way.

In Bali, people say
that the movements
are taken from nature.
In rice paddy,
the leaves are coming out,
and the wind blew.
The leaves are moving sideways.

Sideways shake.

Balinese women used to
carry everything on their heads,
and you see someone,
it's hard to turn your head,
so you use your eyes.
You have the eyes
to get the accent
of the end of a cycle.

So, the movement has that
kind of lizard in the water.

Because of her music,
the movement will not be
completely traditional.
Well, I can do movement,
but I don't ever shake
with that, the music,
so I have to adjust
a little bit,
her music.
Hopefully I get it by tomorrow.
Or soon.

We should start the song
like that, okay.
So, I'm gonna record you,
you could just play,
like, some acapella.
-Okay, here we go.

We recorded a bunch of different
gamelan instruments,
everything from the flute
to the different percussions,
to the different gamelan sets.
It gave me lots of
different options to work with.
I think the biggest challenge
with infusing gamelan
into this song is
the intonation and the tuning.
We only get five notes
in the gamelan scale,
which makes it difficult
to work into Western music,
and sometimes things
sound out of tune.

Okay, cool, it's kind of hard,
'cause that's, like,
in a totally different key.
Given the nature of this song
and that it's kind of like
a quirky, unique-sounding song,
I think that
some of that dissonance
adds a certain
type of aggression,
so it'll be interesting
to fit both worlds together.
I pitched it so that it--
it's in the key.
-But, do you have that note?
I thought--I thought
one of the notes was in there.
Yeah, and go doo-doo-boo.
-Oh, okay.
just like the octave thing.
I collaborate with other people.
It doesn't necessarily change
my way of playing gamelan.
It's just to enrich my ability.
I learn something new,
musically as well as sound,
how to make a new sound
with the gamelan.
It was really fun to play
some of the stuff with Wenten.
It's hard actually.
It's just learning the rhythms,
and really opens up
a whole world of gamelan,
and the possibilities
are just endless.

That was awesome,
I think we got it!

I think initially,
the goals of gamelan programs
outside of Indonesia
was to convey traditional art.
But, over time,
the gamelan started
interacting with
its new environment,
and people started
getting creative with it.

So, you have people
like the guitarist Balawan.
Even if he tried hard
to be classical,
his composition
has that Western touch.

So, that's why gamelan now
mixes or combines sound
using Western instruments,
like saxophone.

Or maybe guitar.

I learned Western dance,
modern dance, tap a little bit.
My choreographer uses
Western influence in it.


Thank you very much.
We love new sounds.
The new generation needs to hear
this different kind of sound.
I was incredibly intrigued
by both of them,
and the collaboration
of the two of them
was just so sweet.
It just made me want
to learn more about them,
and their culture,
and who they are,
and where they're from.

When I see Pak Wenten
and Bu Nanik working together,
it's always really delightful,
'cause I feel like
a lot of times
they try to act
like they're not excited
to dance around each other,
but there's no hiding
how much they enjoy it.



The challenges
of making this music video
was that we have to
make the music,
we have to
choreograph the dance,
we have to shoot this.

For something like this,
two weeks is
a very tight schedule.
On top of that, the next day,
Pak Wenten and Bu Nanik
flying to Bali.

So, it has to happen perfectly
during this one day.

Gamelan comes in a set,
so we have to bring this gamelan
to Joshua Tree.
We only have one of these,
so if something were to happen
during the transportation,
that's it.

Hopefully it made it
safe here today.

Not so bad.

We're using Balinese
traditional dance costume,
which take
a long time to change,
because once
you change the costume
you have to change the makeup.
My idea is
to know this gamelan can be
collaborative with anybody.
So, we have to come out
with a very precise idea.
That is the most
challenging thing.

Scene two, take one.
Indonesian dance
is pretty complex.
For me, it's very difficult,
and I grew up in Indonesia.
Just to do the eye movement,
until now I cannot do it.
Judith hasn't done
this type of dancing before,
and she didn't have
that much time to rehearse.
Hopefully she will just nail it
like the first time we shoot it.
Scene three, take one.

All right, one more time,
that's a quick intro.
Okay, okay.

(unintelligible lyrics)
The collaboration
is a little bit hard.
Six, seven, ooh, yeah, eight.
In the beginning
I was a little nervous,
'cause I was like,
I walked in, I was like,
"Okay, what do we do?"
And then,
it started to come together.

I'm a rough,
rough gut bucket
I know you're lovin'
my style
I'm a slow burn for ya,
churn for ya
Honey, learned my ways
in the wild
Cut, okay.
Make a very good video.
I can't wait to see it.
I was worried in the beginning,
'cause this is the first time
having a collaboration
like this,
and I wanted to make sure
the energy was right,
and it made sense with the song,
but as we went through it
the whole day,
the collaboration came together.

You don't wanna mess
with all of this
You know you're
playing with fire
We chose this location
because it has a connection
with the history
of gamelan in America.
This music video was shot
outside Lou Harrison's house,
the most famous
gamelan composer.

Now when I get through
You're sure enough
gonna remember my name
Can you imagine collaborating
with the beautiful singers?
Incredible voice.
Queen of the hill

Sound of the gamelan playing,
the dance.
I play and my players
are playing instruments.
So, it was incredible.
It was just a blast,
the ending scene was just
really rewarding
to see the big reveal
of everybody there.

Because it's so unique,
I think we made an impression,
I hope so.

I'm the brand new
queen of the hill
I think we got it,
thank you, guys.
It was awesome.
(cheering and applauding)
I chose to come to the US
because of more opportunity,
and I wanted to bring
the Balinese culture
out from Bali.

Of course, my entire family
is still in Bali.
I'm thinking
when I retire I'll go back,
retire in Bali.
We've been here
for around 40 years.
A long time.
In a way we always want to be,
like, American,
but for myself,
the different culture
between two nations
is really a big one.

(plane engine whirring)

Indonesia consists of
17,000 islands,
so each island
has their own culture.
Our tradition is really strong,
really grounded in a way.

I fell in love with Bali,
because of
how beautiful Bali is.
All the culture.
All the tradition.
All the temples.
It was my wish
to become Balinese.
The people are so open,
and they accept you
like their own family.
It's really touching my heart
to be in Bali,
the land that I love.

I'm happy, but,
I can't stop thinking
about the music video.

Okay, let's play
the last 10 seconds again.
I'm really happy
how the music video turned out,
because I think
it's very unique,
and there's nothing like it
that I've ever seen before.
-Yeah, I think that's good.
-Yeah, yeah.
So, hopefully
the public will like it
as much as we liked it,
and hopefully gamelan
will be more known
in the US and internationally,
'cause I think it's an asset
of Indonesian culture.
I feel great, I feel happy.
I'm so confident
we will get a big audience.
I don't know, but,
hoping that he can,
but he's not good
with all the technology.
Right, he doesn't know
how to use it.
We don't know
how to use it at all.
Well, my marketing plan is,
I'm going to send this
to my friend, Facebook,
WhatsApp, my students.
We will get a big,
big audience for that.
(message tone beeping)
There's a small possibility
we don't get a million views,
but I'm confident.
We will get a million viewers.
(engines whirring)

I'm a rough,
rough gut bucket
I know you're lovin'
my style
Well, I tried my best.
I thought I did a good job.
I collaborated with Judith Hill,
but the music video failed.
Nobody watched it,
nobody's listening.
This is what makes me unhappy.

After 40 years in the US,
you know, I try my best
to spread out the gamelan.
I feel it's not really working.

You can't really predict it.
You always make music
because you're inspired,
and the right people
who are inspired
will also go and see it,
and that's the most
rewarding part about it,
whether it's 50 people
or a million, 2 million people,
the message is gonna get out,
and the energy's gonna get out,
and the right people
will see it and hear it.

(text tones beeping)

(popping tones)

This is really good.

(speaking foreign language)

More than a million.

-It's right there.
-One million viewers.

People are inspired by gamelan,
by just hearing the sound,
and it starts to appear
in lots of different places.
There was an episode
of Star Trek
where there were
instruments from Bali,
which represented music
from an alien planet.
-Do you still play?
Fellini's movie Satyricon
has a gamelan in it.

(tires squealing)
There's a Japanese film
called Akira,
and the people who did that
actually studied Balinese music.
(tires squealing)
(engines revving)

Avatar used some sounds
as part of the soundtrack.
It shows that every creative art
can connect with gamelan
in some way.
Gamelan has a place
in kind of every culture.
Considering here in America--
how many states in the US,
50 states?
Most of them have gamelan.
As well as in Indonesia,
all different types
of spiritual ceremonies
need the gamelan to play.

So, I feel good
about it.
The gamelan will not ever die.

(fire crackling)

When I leave this world,
gamelan music
will keep flourishing,
keep moving on.
The life goes on,
and this part of life,
musical life, I contribute,
so I feel joy
when I leave this world,
because I--
I feel I've been part
of this great movement
called gamelan.

I'm a rough,
rough gut bucket
I know you're lovin'
my style
I'm a slow burn for ya,
churn for ya
Honey, learned my ways
in the wild
Bucking in the deep down
kicking up dust
Now I'm rising on top
I'll make your heartbeat
pound so hard
Till it drop, drops

You don't wanna mess
with all of this
You know you're
playing with fire
I'll make you so hot, baby,
you're gonna make me
Your one desire
Little Miss J coming at ya,
no shame in my game
And when I get through,
you're sure enough
Gonna remember my name
So holla
if you see me coming
I'm the brand new
queen of the hill

Holla if you see me coming
I'm the brand new
queen of the hill



I'm the gold chief
stone lioness
Louder than any other
Ruler of the pack,
one queen highness
Reigning fire and water
Water, water me down
and I'll crack sizzle burn
Into a whole new thang
Betta, betta watch it 'cause
I'm coming, coming for ya
Ain't no stopping,
stopping at the sound
Of my thunder shock

Queen of the hill

Holla if you see me coming
I'm the brand new
queen of the hill

Holla if you see me coming
I'm the brand new
queen of the hill

I'm the brand new
queen of the hill

(singing in foreign language)