In Bali I actually witnessed an awesome gamelan performance under rather peculiar circumstances—and perhaps the music wouldn’t seem so interesting to a connoisseur of this particularly percussive genre, but it was impressive enough to a first-timer like me. It was at a luxury resort hotel near the far-off beaches of Candidasa, where I was told by my hosts (a pair of very nice American retirees-cum-volunteer-tourists) that a wealthy Russian had arrived that very same day and joined the hotel’s club for $25,000 which he just happened to be carrying in cash in his suitcase.
As for me, I was in the process of spiraling into the depths of a very dark depression, the longest and worst of my life, but it was only the beginning then, when my panic and confusion had at least a few weeks to go before it metastasized into a profound hatred of everything that I was. At this moment, before I abruptly fled that paradise for America, I was still capable of appreciating the world around me.
The spectacle included a giant dancing barong jumping up and down to the tintinnabulations of the brass bell orchestra and an aftershow photo session with whoever wanted to get their pictures taken with the pretty dancers, who focus a lot of the attention on the elegance of their hands. Presumably the Russian baron (not barong) was among them; my own hosts declared themselves somewhat bored by it all (one was a jaded anthropologist), but I was transfixed, and even at that great distance (from a balcony!) I felt myself in a different world.
I hope, one day, to return.