Gamelan Music at Monash in Melbourne 2008

The tension mounted as the clown pulled on the curtains and suddenly to a loud crescendo of Balinese gamelan music, jumped out doing a rhythmical dance. Interacting with the audience members in the front row, she stole a handbag from a reluctant observer on Saturday night and ran off with a child’s stuffed toy dog on Sunday afternoon, all in good fun of course. This comical act was part of the varied performance given by the Monash Community Gamelan, “Genta Semara”.

The exciting concert began with “Nori Mas” danced by two young girls depicting baby birds learning to fly. Carmencita Palermo portrayed a gracious Hindu-Javanese King with stylised, slow gestures typical of a refined king in the dance “Topeng Arsawijaya.” This was in strong contrast to her comical clown interpretation of “Topeng Keras Lucu.” The enthusiastic director of “Genta Semara”, Dr. Made Mantle Hood, lecturer in ethnomusicology at Monash University, gave a clear and easy to follow guide to gamelan music. A wonderful performance of a 1960’s Balinese composition by I Wayan Lotring, “Jagul” was keenly played by the gamelan orchestra which consists of students and community members from all ages and walks of life.

The intermission was followed by “Janger,” a chorus of young men and women who sang flirtatious songs to each other and presented choreographed dance movements (some of whom had never danced on stage before) reflecting the social atmosphere of the village when young Balinese get the chance to mingle together. Aided by the efforts of clowns, Helen Pausacker, Carmencita Palermo and Brett Hough, who presented comic relief in their efforts at matchmaking, the young people found their own partners and ended with a graceful and romantic celebration to the sounds of gamelan music. “Janger” also included a kecak or male chorus of special songs which were performed by the young Indonesian men with strength and vigour!

The concert ended in the way of traditional performances in Indonesia with a “Joged”. This is traditionally performed on rindik or bamboo xylophones and a number of smaller percussion instruments. Jeremy Dullard and Adam King brilliantly led the rindik in a tuneful and evocative manner as Koming Somawati, the dance choreographer, performed a lovely solo dance with stylised gestures, swaying hips and exotic eye movements. She invited the audience up to the stage to join in the dance.

Performing Balinese gamelan continues a 32-year tradition at Monash University which has in itself become a tradition. If you missed this spectacular concert of sound, movement, comedy and colour there will be another opportunity on September 21st 2008 at Monash University at Music in The Round.

Irene Ritchie (gamelan player, Genta Semara).
ritchiei@IHUG.COM.AU