on this disc has its origins in Sundanese (West Javanese) traditions,
coming from the most influential indigenous music of Indonesia;
one which has found some support in the West. Indeed the traditional
Gamelan orchestral sound is here blended
with those of American and European traditions.
in Bali and Java, Gamelan ensembles seem to have originated,
not as musical instruments but as weapons of war as Javanese
gong smiths learnt from bronze artefacts left by Asian conquerors
well before the Christian era. A Gamelan
is essentially an orchestra comprising various struck instruments
including bronze gongs, chimes and other percussion instruments.
Often ensembles include the suling, a long end-blown flute with up
to six finger holes, a rebab,
a local variety of spiked fiddle, a guntang which is a tube zither with one or two strings which are struck
with a short wooden beater, and singers, either singly or in
chorus. Collectively these are known as a gamelan,
and there are many regional variants throughout Indonesia.
One variant, with its own special instrumentation and five-tone
tuning (Ab-G-Eb-Db-C) is called Degung. This is the type used
by the Evergreen Club on this recording. Full details of the
instrumentation are given within the informative notes accompanying
the CD, which also lists the Canadian performers and gives the
history of the Evergreen Club.
principal influences on this disc are those of one of the most
well known composers from West Java, Nano Suratno (known
as Nano S.). Born in 1944, Nano S. studied under a variety of
teachers in his native land, including Mang Koko (Koswara) who
died in 1985. With a large recorded output in Indonesia, he is thought by some to have become more of a popular songwriter
than a serious composer, nevertheless he has found some success
in the United States, where his “musik murni”
(pure music) compositions have found a market. The Sundanese
market prefers songs with romantic or dramatic lyrics, whereas
Nano S. has experimented with the creation of music for previously
unassociated instruments. He is a visiting teacher in a number
and Canadian educational establishments.
gentle introduction to Anjeun
(“…it’s only you my love…”) is typical of the almost hypnotic
rhythms of Gamelan, and the plaintive notes of the
suling partnered by the expressive sound
of the kacapi – a
twenty string Sundanese zither – are almost vocal. A gentle
rocking rhythm then takes over and supports the suling
with a variety of soft percussive sounds. Arrangements of traditional
Sundanese pieces intersperse the 20th century compositions,
and Arang Arang provides an excellent example of music for a variety of
metallophones and gongs, with the suling
providing an insistent melodic accompaniment. Sorban Palid provides music with a story “... a woman washes her Haj husband’s turban in a stream ... he has returned
from the Haj. It floats away downstream ... she is reminded
that he left her for another woman ...” and the listener
is left to clothe the sounds with their own interpretation of
events. The final two tracks demonstrate the work of both Mang
Koko in the arrangement of Tina Jandela (From the window), and of
Burhan Sukarma, a master of the suling,
in Samagaha (Solar
Eclipse). Burhan Sukarma has taught at the University of Washington as well as other North American colleges, and is the joint director
of Pusaka Sunda, a Degung Gamelan ensemble in California.
CD from the Naxos World series would be a very good introduction
to Gamelan, and an enjoyable addition to more established collections.