Much like the the intricate craftsmanship of a fine Swiss watch or interwoven threads in a tapestry, the melodic lines of Balinese music are intertwined and interlocking. It's no surprise, given the Hindu philosophy that everyone is part of an interconnected community, responsible for the well-being of neighbors, friends, family, and even strangers.
In the gamelan orchestra, the gangsas often have these patterns:
For villages that didn't have their own gamelan instruments, the members would assemble in a communal space and participate in kecak, a vocal style that has many of the same interlocking textures. It remains a vibrant part of the musical culture in Bali, and traditionally has been a way for communities to bond, or to heal after a great tragedy.
We recently participated in a kecak exercise with three interlaced rhythms, the polos, the sanglot, and the sangsih.
Polos starts on beat one:
Sanglot displaces the start of the rhythmic phrase slightly:
While sangsih displaces the rhythm still further, filling in the missing space:
With the three combined, there's a constant stream of notes that bounce around the ensemble in an absolutely incredible way:
Taken to its full level, huge groups of people can participate, as in this video of one of the oldest kecak groups in Bali (performing at breakneck speed).