Culture + Style

Small Island, Big Sound: Where to Get Down to Live Music in Bali

Despite the welter of international travelers who swing by — more than six million in 2017 — Bali remains, at heart, a small island. EDM dominates the beach club scene, with international boldface DJs a much more common sight than international bands.

That doesn’t mean Bali doesn’t see well-known live acts. No less an icon than the legendary Grace Jones performed an epic set at Potato Head, while Macy Gray’s train-wreck soirée at Finn’s Beach Club will long endure in islanders’ memories.

Yet it’s the smaller, more intimate venues that are at the core of Bali’s music scene, and many of these can come and go within a New York minute. Herewith, five of the more enduring.

Gimme Shelter

Owned by session musician Made J, Canggu’s Gimme Shelter provides Bali’s homegrown rockers with a place to gig, greet and sweat. Down and dirty and hot and sticky, shots and cigarette smoke fill the room — but everyone who’s on their way to fame plays here, and Balinese rockers Superman Is Dead are major fans.

Despite Canggu’s ever-growing popularity, Gimme Shelter draws a majority local crowd, intermingled, of course, with the inevitable hipsters, who get down to everything from rockabilly to death metal.

music in bali
Dance ’til dawn at Bali’s live music spots. (Photo: Getty Images)

Deus Ex Machina Sunday Sessions

Skate-surf store with a difference, Deus is peak Canggu, delineating, with Old Man’s, the twin apexes of the area’s nightlife strip. As befits a brand built around custom motorcycles, surfing and, yes, the odd bit of skateboarding, the expansive café-restaurant-gallery space also does a fine line in tunes.

For live acts, the legendary Sunday Sessions are the way forward, with artists from Bali, Jakarta and occasionally further afield pumping out everything from blues to reggae to hard rock.

The Orchard

Less glitzy than you’d expect in downtown Seminyak, this raw brick space comes on fire with live music three nights a week.

Pretty much anything goes, from world music to folk, from drums to didgeridoo, right up to rock and drum ‘n’ bass, but the focus is firmly on bringing you the best of Indonesia. By day, The Orchard is a bar and restaurant, which means those who like to sit and sip as they listen are amply catered to.

Ryoshi House of Jazz

Bali’s jazz scene goes way beyond the Ubud Jazz Festival, and this Seminyak institution — at over 15 years old, truly an island long-player — is the place to go to discover it.

With live music every Monday and Friday, and special events on many a Saturday, Ryoshi delivers tight house bands along with interesting experimental acts, including Indonesian fusion. Sushi keeps hunger pangs at bay.

Uluwatu Temple

music in bali
Experience traditional sounds at Uluwatu. (Photo: Getty Images)

You’d be remiss to visit Bali without exploring the island’s rich music and dance traditions. A great place to start is with the kecak, an elaborate performance by a vast, beatboxing male choir. A purpose-built amphitheater on the cliffs by Uluwatu Temple hosts sunset shows each evening, combining the kecak with a fire dance: a spectacular setting for a spectacular event — and a great place to start your journey into Bali.

Wake Up Call

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