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Rockin' to gamelan music

By Kate Wright

I Wayan Balawan, better known by the single name Balawan, learned to play Balinese gamelan music as soon as he could walk, but at the age of eight, he taught himself to play guitar. He joined his first band at the age of 14. Growing up, he preferred rock to gamelan, and his favorite bands included Scorpions and Deep Purple.

Balawan will perform in the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) with two gamelan musicians from Batuan Ethnic Fusion and two U-M jazz musicians, undergraduate Andrew Kratzat on bass and Associate Professor of Music Michael Gould on drums. The show promises an evening of intriguing jazz fusion featuring Balawan’s touch-tapping style and double neck-guitar playing.

The March 16 event will take place from 8:00 – 9:30 p.m. in UMMA’s Frankel Wing Lobby located at 525 S. State Street. Sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Center for World Performance Studies, UMMA, and School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the performance is free and open to the public.

He studied jazz at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney for five years, gaining popularity for his exceptional talent at jazz guitar. After he obtained his Diploma of Music he returned to Bali and formed a band, Batuan Ethnic Fusion.  Batuan Ethnic Fusion has played all over the world, including Australia, Europe, and North America, not to mention regular performances in Jakarta and Bali.

Batuan Ethnic Fusion combines traditional Balinese gamelan with jazz. Their sound showcases Balawan’s skill as a guitarist: his extraordinary speed, ability to play double neck guitar, and the technique he developed, Eight Fingers Touch style, also called Touch-Tapping style.

Kate Wright is academic affairs program manager at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies International Institute.


Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan International Institute emerged in the fall of 1999 from the former Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, which was established in 1961.  One of the largest programs devoted to this region in the United States, the center seeks to promote a broader and deeper understanding of Southeast Asia, its people, and their cultures. For more information, visit

University of Michigan International Institute houses 18 centers and programs focused on world regions and global themes. The institute develops and supports international teaching, research, and public affairs programs to promote global understanding across the campus and to build connections with intellectuals and institutions worldwide. For more information, visit