Video of Bali from 1910

Interesting to compare this film of Balinese life in 1910 with this video of London at around the same time. (Warning: video contains scene with topless people.)

(via Filled With Chocolate Pudding)


  1. I find it a bit sad that there is a warning about bare boobs while the cockfighting scene didn’t warrant a mention.

    I would appreciate it if you would warn folks before using words like cockfighting – thx.

    Of the 2 settings, I believe I’d pick living in Bali – just going by the video – I have no idea what it was really like living there at the time.

  3. yep, scales and all. Too bad they didn’t have sound.
    Wonder what the oldest gamelan recording is anyway?

  4. Antinous @ 5,
    This may sound weird and I don’t really know how to say it, but since I started reading BB, comments like that and other people’s similar comments (along with more sedate comments), have taught me a lot and I consider myself better for it. Months ago when I first read one of your similar comments, I was totally shocked – I had no idea you’re gay. It just didn’t fit with the image TV had taught me about gay men. – its one of the best things I’ve learned from BB I think – except for maybe the Gaza thing, or to not have blind faith in authority.

  5. The video was mesmerizing btw…but a barebreasted woman coddling a firm gamecock would have clinched it for me (clinched it like a warm hand on a firm pair of buttocks).

  6. Bali culture, music and village life is pretty much the same today as it is shown in this film. The differences are that the women are no longer topless and most people have running water and electric. If you go deep into remote villages the older women still go topless and people without running water still bathe in groups in the rivers.

    The rooster cages are exactly the same, they still grow rice, keep ducks in the rice paddies and plow by hand. 1910 or 2009, not much has changed.

    The place where they are bathing is called Tampaksiring located in Ubud in the Gianyar district. There is a presidential palace built on the hillside. The water is holy spring water and people bring offerings and bathe in the water. It is a magnificent place.

  7. Wow, the Kecak music is fantastic. I have heard gamelan music before, but not this variety. Was this sort of music also an inspiration for Steve Reich and the minimalist movement? I’ve always just accepted it as a given that industrialization paved the way (yuk, yuk) to minimalism and that technolization led to techno and that African American rhythms played a heavy part in the whole transformation of music in the US, but perhaps other cultural influences, which had formerly been hidden from American composers, played a part to. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  8. @ Gene Wood
    The music in this video is NOT kecak – kecak is vocal only. While kecak was indeed used in Baraka, this particular style of Balinese gamelan is called kreasi beleganjur, which is a contest style of gamelan.

    @ Takuan
    Probably, the oldest recording dates from the 1930s. Colin McPhee was the first person to conduct major research in Balinese music.

    (repost under my own login)

  9. Heard a story recently at our co-op, one of the kid’s 8 year old brother attends a regular school, and the teacher got upset when he told her he had a “pussy”cat. I asked my wife, what will she do when she gets a kid named Dick and what will she do if he wants to be a pilot, Captain Dick please return to the cockpit.

  10. I know Steve Reich has specifically cited his work with African drummers. Not sure about gamelans, but I would totally not be surprised.

  11. @barnaby
    Influence of gamelan on western music goes back quite a ways. Debussy heard musicians from Java at a Paris expo in 1889. It had a big impact on him and he attempted to use elements of it in a number of works. Gamelan should definitely be included in any collection of “wonderful things”

  12. Pretty amazing film considering the difficulty in shooting high quality footage in the field (as opposed to a studio) 100 years ago. And now I want a pet pangolin.

  13. It would be great to see footage of rural England from the same period; it might be a shock to see how little difference there was then to Bali. Apart from the boobs and the pangolin.

  14. Steve Reich did indeed study Balinese music. Lots of active gamelans in the USA (and across the world), I play in one in New York:

    @Hans Davies
    is correct, this is kreasi beleganjur as prepared for festival processions, beleganjur music is traditionally played for cremation festivals, but that type would be a touch slower and less arranged.

  15. I spent five days in rural Bali in 1988. Add a bunch of bicycles and occasional mopeds, and very little appears to have changed in the intervening 78 years. I saw a cockfight, as well as topless women bathing unself-consciously in streams, though my recollection is that the women generally wore tops of some kind while just walking around. (Being 16 at the time, I was greatly interested in topless women. And still am.)

  16. well I’m balinese and I find this video mesmerizing
    thank you for the post,is like seeing my anchestor in video.
    And because the western culture influence we don’t see a lot of topless women in Bali anymore. And the cock fight, the cock now equipped with tiny sharp blade so it could kill the opponents with single slash.

  17. Interesting you provide a warning for bare breasts, but none for the fetishistic doo-doo related items you guys featured so heavily not so long ago. What gives?

  18. the christian taleban that seems to watch many readers at work recognizes boobs. They tend to get lost on the sophisticated stuff.

Comments are closed.