Richard Kaal


Musician Richard Kaal has moved from his Australian homeland to Bali, where he has delved into his love: Balinese music, adding a twist or two to popularize the traditional sounds for the younger generations who are more keen on Western pop tunes.

Living in Sarin Buana village in Tabanan regency with his wife, Rebecca, and their children, Astrid, 15, and Imogen, 11, the 57-year-old shared his day with The Bali Times’ Arga Sagitarini

My day begins at 7am, when Imogen wakes me up. We like to do some gentle exercise together, like walking around a cocoa plantation near the house and talking about things, especially her dreams and her imagination. Rebecca and Astrid will be asleep while we’re out. Both of them are good dancers – Rebecca, belly dancing and Astrid, salsa, ballet and jazz.

We have breakfast together at 8am, usually just fruit – pineapple, bananas, mangoes and watermelon – and eggs and bread. Right now we’re finishing building our home in Tabanan. It’s a mixture of West and East. I designed it two years ago, by computer. It has a recording studio and features Balinese carvings as details. I’ve produced 42 CDs in the studio, with bands, all traditional Balinese music.

I love Balinese music and want to bring to people all over the world. It’s good and important music, not only for Bali but the entire world. Balinese music is very special to me. When I first heard it, in 1970, I didn’t understand it, but now I do, and enjoy it so much.

My dream was to incorporate my guitar music with Balinese music, and that’s what I did. We made some CDs with musicians in Gianyar. I see the result as a kind of bridge between the West and East, and by seeing the response of people to my music, I think it has been successful, as people from both parts of the world like it.

I like Eastern culture; maybe that’s why I decided to live in Bali. I love Bali for many reasons, among them that the West is too difficult; it’s losing its focus on art and culture and doesn’t respect musicians all that much. Here in Bali, I find that music is very important. Ceremonies cannot be held without music, for example. The Balinese appreciate and respect music, and I love that about them. Bali has reinforced my belief in music, that music is important for the whole world.

We do some music collaboration in a studio in Celuk in Gianyar. It’s called Yayasan Suara Danu, and we meet twice a week. I work with a group named Gender Fusion. Often when I arrive there, though, there’s no one around. The Balinese have a lot of holidays, and are always attending ceremonies. I have no problem with that, but I know a lot of Westerners here complain about it. I don’t think too much about it, because this is their culture, and they have the right to hold all their ceremonies and rituals. People love to come to Bali to witness this culture, and it’s one of the reasons I came here. If I asked the Balinese I work with to change what they do, for me, I would be asking them to break with their traditions.

I don’t often stop for lunch, as I’m too wrapped up in the music and forget about eating. If I have time, though, I’ll have some Balinese food that I love, like lawar or betutu. Already I feel that I have become half-Balinese. I understand and have learned a lot about their culture. I’m even learning their language, and can speak some words now, like sing ken-ken, which means “no problem.”

I get home around 7pm and have dinner and then go to the studio and start playing the guitar. I’ll do that for about four hours, and halfway through I’ll take a break and spend some time chatting with Rebecca and the girls. I go to bed around 1am.

I have a special hope for Balinese music: I hope the young people will become more interested in it. With my collaborations, I hope they will think the music is cool and they will want to listen to more of it.

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