Friday, May 25, 2007

Cambridge Gamelan!

Shock and horrors! I went to watch a gamelan performance at the West Road concert hall last nite. I've seen several traditional gamelan performances back home, while at university. However, the performance last nite wasn't at all like anything I've seen before. It was both good and bad at the same time!

When the thing first started, I was pleasantly surprised that the performers were all angmoh. It shouldn't have surprised me seeing that this is our local gamelan group, but I thought that there might've been a little more foreigners in it. They did have an Indonesian dancer though, whom actually danced quite well. She came out for the first and last performances. The next thing that I noted was that most of the performers were elderly people. This group is supposed to be part of the music faculty. So, they just might be the members of staff at the faculty. There was at least one performer that looked like he was a student here.

As for the music, the traditional gamelan music sounded pretty bad. It might've just been me, but the music sounded more out-of-tune than normal. Plus, the rhythm didn't seem like it was going anywhere. I don't know why, but even the student gamelan group back in university sounded much better. Maybe it's because we had a large number of players, and so any mistakes were easily drowned out. So, it was quite painful to sit through some of their performances. I resorted to taking photos instead!

But for some of the more western or fusion pieces, it sounded better. In fact, one of the little pieces, which was most probably composed by one of the group members, sounded quite good. It was a fusion of western style music with the gamelan instruments. There was a bit where they had a trumpet, a saxaphone and a small sextet style group. I guess that the players might be more used to western style music than the odd gamelan. If they were the faculty staff, then definitely so.

In the end, I guess that the performance was decent overall. I cannot really expect them to perform like the ones back home seeing that it's totally foreign to them. Moreover, their attempts at fusion did come out quite nicely. The dancer was fairly good though, and fairly expressive. Maybe they hired her from the Indonesian embassy or cultural group. You can see a photo of her in action.

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