Whilst travelling around Bali, you may have learn that Bali is made up of not only villages and hamlets, but also a smaller division called banjar which can be loosely translated as a village ward or community centre. This will be made up of a number of families, the minimum number of which is stipulated by to Balinese traditional law (adat).
The physical representation of a banjar is a large pavilion which may or may not have enclosed walls. Normally the wall facing the street is open and has a gate on it. To the side of the gate on a post or hanging from the pavilion roof will be a number of signboards. These boards tells the public that there are a number of organizations and groups that fall under the banjar structure. One organization that most banjar have is a gamelan group, known as ‘sekaa gong’ in Balinese. The word ‘sekaa’ may be spelt in a number of different ways: seka, sekaa, sekehe or sekaha – they all mean the same thing. ‘Gong’ refers to the entire gamelan orchestra, all its instruments and the members of the group, not just a round thing called a gong.
There will be a structured organization within a sekaa gong. This may consist of: a leader (kelihan), vice-leader (wakil kelihan), a secretary (sekretaris) and a treasurer (bendahara). For really big events like a calonarang dance drama performance, the sekaa gong will also structure a committee to carry out tasks like food and drink at practices, hiring teachers, organising costumes, the venue, lighting and stage decorations.
A banjar sekaa gong will play at temple festivals and banjar anniversaries. They may also be asked to play at ceremonies of members of the banjar or even the village. Some sekaa gong will play at festivals, and also do paid gigs at hotels and ceremonies outside their village, if there are commissioned.
Members of a sekaa gong were traditionally all men, but now in many banjar you will find women’s groups (sekaa gong wanita) and children’s groups (sekaa gong anak-anak).
In the old days, the nights would be alive with sekaa gong practices nearly every night. However, these days sekaa gong only practice when there is an event to prepare for. If the sekaa gong is chosen to represent their regency in the highly competitive gong kebyar festival at the annual Bali Arts Festival, however, the group will practice intensively for several months. A festival winning banjar group will be the pride of the banjar for many years.