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Kendang arja : the transmission, diffusion, and transformation(s) of an improvised Balinese drumming style Tilley, Leslie Alexandra


This study combines classification and paradigmatic analysis of drum (kendang) stroke patterns, used in the Balinese dance-drama genre arja, with an examination of the musicians that play them. The heart of the work is an analysis of the interlocking kendang arja improvisations of various master drummers from different villages across Bali, each of whom draws influence from a style of playing that developed in the village of Singapadu in the early-to-mid 20th century. Patterns are evaluated and categorized in an effort both to understand the divergent paths that the Singapadu style took as it was diffused to various areas, and to create a grammar: a set of inherent rules that govern arja playing. These analyses are tempered by existing Balinese discourse on arja and other genres as well as by the ideas and opinions of various Balinese musicians. The study begins by tracing the historical development of arja and its musical features, with a focus on the role of the kendang within the genre. It then considers Balinese techniques of learning and teaching and surveys the extant Balinese discourse on kendang arja. Next, it introduces the original Singapadu style of arja, and discusses how this style came to be transmitted broadly across Bali where other equally famous styles did not, as well as presenting some of the reasons for and manifestations of regional variation in kendang patterns. The study proceeds with a deep analysis of patterns taught to me by various master drummers, including a discussion of how these may be seen as musical embodiments of the Balinese oral theory on arja. These patterns then become the basis for an examination of hundreds of improvised patterns from various recording sessions. The penultimate chapter delves more deeply into the distinctive experiences and ideologies of each of the drummers under examination, exploring the possible reasons behind their differing transformations of the Singapadu style with concepts adapted from linguistics as an investigative framework. The work concludes with a discussion of the place of music analysis within the field of ethnomusicology and its metatheory, and addresses the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration in the field.

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