If you wander down Jl Kartika Plaza, or through the gardens of some of the hotels in the South Kuta Beach area, you might just spot a traditional communication system in the form of a wooden bell positioned at the top of a tower. This is known as a kul-kul and you’ll find them all over Bali. Inseparable from the cultural and religious life of the local communities, the kul-kul plays a significant role in the everyday lives of the Balinese Hindu people.
Every village temple and every ‘banjar’ (traditional village council) has its own kul-kul, which is usually hung within an open-sided pavilion standing upon four pillars and sheltered by a roof. From here, the sound can be heard over a wide area and will immediately attract attention.
The beat of the kul-kul in the temple indicates the start and end of formal ceremonies, while various other rhythms are used by the banjar to signal different events such as the notification of a marriage or a passing, a signal for help in the case of an emergency such as a house fire, or notification of community meetings. For most events, the kul-kul is sounded in two or three rounds, starting with a slow frequency that then becomes faster, before slowing down again. This ancient and highly effective method of communication has changed very little over the years. Despite the presence of the telephone, TV and radio, internet and mobile phones, the kul-kul is still the most effective method of making an announcement or summoning the members of a village.