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Hudson Valley Balinese Gamelan Orchestra Presents an Evening of Balinese Music and Dance

Featuring Gamelans Giri Mekar and Chandra Kanchana

Eleanor Davis
 Image Credit: R.Davis

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— Hudson Valley Balinese Gamelan Orchestras will host their annual spring  concert on Saturday, April 27, at Bertelsmann Campus Center Multi-purpose Room (MPR) at Bard College. The program, featuring Balinese music and dance, begins at 8 p.m. Seating is general admission with a suggested donation of $10; free for Bard students, staff and faculty and children under the age of 16. Reservations are not necessary but it is advised that you arrive in plenty of time to secure your seat. The concert is sponsored by the Music Program, Asian Studies Program, and Religion Program at Bard College; the Woodstock Chimes Fund, and Ulster Publishing. For more information call 845-758-7250.

Guest artists include renowned Balinese dancers and scholars, Dr. I Made Bandem and Dr. N.L.N. Suasthi Widjaya Bandem, who will perform the dances Kebyar Trompong and Margapati, respectively. Kebyar Trompong, which was composed in the 1920s by I Mario, remains a popular tour de force in the Balinese Gong Kebyar repertoire. During his early career, Dr. Bandem studied this dance directly with the composer and choreographer. Kebyar Trompong requires the performer to be both a dancer and musician. The performer plays a trompong—an instrument that is similar to the smaller gong-chime gamelan standard reyong, only much bigger. The trompong instrument to be played by Dr. Bandem, will be making its Bard debut. It is on loan to the ensemble, for this particular performance, from the instrument collection of Garry Kvistad, Gamelan Giri Mekar founder and CEO of Woodstock Percussion.

The evening will also feature a short lecture demonstration on Balinese Performing Arts by Dr. Bandem. Additionally, the concert will open with a traditional procession and close with a Kecak or Monkey Chant performance and demonstration.

A gamelan is often described as one instrument played by many people. It may include an ensemble of up to 40 musicians and dancers, or as few as four or five players. Essentially, the word gamelan means to hammer or strike. Compositions for Gamelan are built around rhythmic structures with layered melodic themes, and trademark interlocking sections.

Hudson Valley Balinese Gamelan Orchestras are two distinct ensembles at Bard College: Gamelan Chandra Kanchana, or Golden Moon, is comprised of Bard students, faculty and Giri Mekar assistant instructors; and Gamelan Giri Mekar, or Mountain Flower membership is open to the general public, Bard community and staff members, and advanced Bard College gamelan students.

Learning to play in a gamelan ensemble involves memorizing intricate musical compositions, taught by rout under the guidance of master instructors, composers—or if in Bali—elders from the village. Each gamelan, including the instruments and compositions, are regarded as possessing living spirits with their own name and home. Two basic groups of instruments comprise a gamelan gong kebyar ensemble: metallophones consisting of bronze or metal keys, resting on a wooden base, or suspended above resonators, struck with various wooden mallets; and gongs which either hang or rest in rows on a frame suspended by stretched cords. The biggest gongs are struck with padded mallets; the middle range with hammer-like mallets made of wood. Non-percussive instruments in the gamelan include sulings or flutes, and the stringed and bowed rebabs. Gamelan compositions may also include vocal accompaniments.

Complex and multi-layered textures of sound created by gamelan ensembles have attracted music enthusiasts for decades, inspiring such well-known composers as Claude Debussy, Benjamin Britten, Lou Harrison, Philip Glass and many notable others.

Dr. I Made Bandem, one of the pre-eminent figures in the world of Balinese Performing Arts and education, descended from a family of performers from the village of Singapadu, Gianyar, Bali. He began studying music, dance, and performance under the tutelage of his father and grandfather when he was very young. After graduating from Bali’s Conservatory of Performing Arts (STSI), Dr. Bandem was awarded scholarships to earn his M.A. from the University of California-Los Angeles; and his PhD in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. Dr. Bandem has enjoyed a long and illustrious career serving as Director of the Indonesian College of the Performing Arts in Denpasar; President of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Jogyakarta; authoring numerous books and articles; and teaching, performing, and lecturing in Indonesia and throughout the world. Recipient of a multitude of awards, Dr. Bandem, along with his wife, dance partner, and collaborator, currently serve as visiting scholars at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and maintain an active performance and lecture circuit throughout the East Coast.

Dr. N.L.N. Suasthi Widjaya Bandem received her PhD from Gadjah Mada University in Jogyakarta, Indonesia. An internationally known scholar, choreographer, and dancer, she was the recipient of the Adhi Karya Award from the government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Siwa Nataraja award from the Institut Seni Indonesia, Denpasar. She is currently a scholar-in-residence at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA; as well as the author of books and articles, and an active choreographer. She is also one of the leading advocates and supporters for the Indonesian Women’s Emansipasi (Emancipation) Organization.

I Nyoman Suadin is a teacher, composer, and dancer from Tabanan, Bali. He first experienced gamelan music at an early age by participating in a children’s gamelan group in his village of Kerambitan and later received formal training at KOKAR, the Conservatory of the Performing Arts, in Denpasar, Bali. Suadin has actively promoted Balinese arts and culture by traveling, teaching, and performing throughout the United States since 1988. Mr. Suadin currently teaches gamelan at Eastman School of Music, Cornell University, Swarthmore College, the University of Maryland and has served as the gamelan instructor at Bard College in 1998, and returned to lead again in 2010 through the present.

Latifah Alsegaf, from Gamelan Mitra Kusuma,Washington, DC; has assisted at Bard College gamelan concerts and Gamelan Giri Mekar with regularity since 1991. She was originally drawn to Balinese dance because it was “dynamic and it is based in spiritual devotion.” She began studying and playing gamelan to understand the movements and structure of the dance and also began to “ appreciate the gamelan’s communal aspect.” Ms. Alsegaf has performed and assisted with numerous gamelan performances both in Bali and throughout the East Coast alongside her husband, I Nyoman Suadin.

For information: 845 758-7250

For Gamelan membership, bookings, and workshops: 845 688-7090, 845 679-8624;;

Donations to support the work of Hudson Valley Gamelans at Bard College

are always welcome. Contact 845 758-7250 or 845 688-7090

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April 7, 2013

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This event was last updated on 04-10-2013