Bali is an island filled with unique traditions, arts, cultures, and beautiful performances. Dances, play, songs and traditional music performances found in Bali have so many variations. One of the singing performances is kekawin. It is a traditional Bali singing performance and the lyrics are taken from holy Hindu books. We can say that kekawin is like a choir in the church but the difference is that the song lyrics are the holy spells (sentences) written in the Hindu bibles like Sarasamuccaya, Bhagawadghita, and epic stories like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Usually, it is performed during religious ceremonies, kekawin contests, and broadcasted on TV stations.
The group of people who sing kekawin is called Peshantian. Nowadays, there are not many Peshantian here in Bali. It is because kekawin is mainly sung by senior people. The youth seems to be uninterested in singing kekawin. Peshantian is a place to learn and comprehend aksara (Bali letters) in the Hindu bibles and then sing it. Kekawin is written in Latin and Bali letters. It is a little bit difficult to sing it because there is specific pitch, rhymes and intonation in singing kekawin Maybe; it is a reason why Bali young generation doesn’t want to learn it. There are two important persons in Peshantian group when the group sings kekawin. The first person is called Pewirama or the singer. She or he sings kekawin with appropriate rhymes, pitch, and intonation. The second person is called Peneges. He or she is the person who gives meaning or explains the sentence that pewirama sings. So, every time pewirama finishes his or her sentence (idyll), peneges then describes the meaning to the audience in the way of a story teller tells his story. After that, pewirama continues his or her part of sentence and then pewirama describes the meaning again. They do it until kekawin is finished. Before they start and after they finish the kekawin, they always say the Hindu greetings, Om Swastyastu and Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om.
There is a Peshantian group in Buleleng called Sekaa Shanti Dharma Sraya. The founder of this Peshantian group is Jero Mangku Ketut Kariawan. He gathered about 24 people in the year of 2000 to be members of Peshantian Sekaa Shanti Dharma Sraya. The members of Sekaa Shanti Dharma Sraya are the villagers of Kedis Village in BusungBiu sub district. They are middle aged men and women and they have great ability in singing and comprehending kekawin. Jero Mangku Ketut Kariawan’s purpose in gathering the villagers of Kedis village into a Peshantian group was to preserve kekawin. The group often performes on local TV stations in Bali. They also have won many awards in Peshantian contests conducted by the government culture and tourism board.
Moreover, there are many valuable moral values in kekawin that can teach us the meaning and the purpose of our lives. The stories taken in kekawin are stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata like the stories of Arjuna Wiwaa, Karnantaka, and etc. The stories consist of morals, etiquette, kindness, heroism, bravery, honesty, and reality.
Therefore, Jero Mangku Ketut Kariawan hopes that the young generation will have more interest in joining peshantian. The young generation in this era seems to be careless about this traditional music art inherited from the ancestors. They should preserve this art because if they don’t, who else? At least by joining peshantian the young generation can show their gratitude to their ancestors and moreover, they can learn many precious things in peshantian. Although singing kekawin is not an easy thing, but through persistance, Jero Mangku Ketut Kariawan believes they can do it.