Most of you will have never heard of gamelan, but for the past thirty years, the University of York has been teaching it expertly and dutifully. The institution is to mark their three decades of teaching the Indonesian instrumental ensemble with a major international symposium, called The Gathering of the Gamelans. The musical event will crescendo in the premiere of a new and specially commissioned all-night shadow puppet play, entitled Wayang Lokananta – the Gamelan of the Gods, with traditional and modern music performed by trained musicians from across the country.
The symposium will begin on the 26th April, at the Roger Kirk Centre, and commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of Gamelan Sekar Petak’s arrival in York, and with it thirty years of gamelan teaching in the city. Over one hundred gamelan performers will convene over the four day event, which is arranged specially for performers, composers, academics and teachers, as well as the wider community of ethnomusicologists. Guest of honour will be Bapak Aloysius Suwardi, a highly respected gamelan academic from Java, who was a major proponent of the rise of the Indonesian musical movement in the eighties.
Gamelan refers to the set of instruments required to create the original sound, rather than the ensemble of performers. The name is derived from the Javanese word gamels, meaning ‘to strike or hammer’, and a gamelan can include metallophones, xylophones, kendang (drums), gongs, bamboo flutes and bowed and plucked strings. Vocalists can also be included.
Professor Matthew Isaac Cohen, a dhalang (puppeteer), has written Wayang Lokananta, alongside music from UK gamelan composers. The play will weave together the story of gamelan in modern Britain and the mythological origins of folktales in Java. The play will offer a unique chance to gain an insight into how wayang is performed in Indonesia. Food and drink will be available throughout the eight-hour performance, (During which Professor Cohen only receives one break), and best of all, the event is free!
Tickets for the Wayang Lokananta on the 28th April can be booked here.