Gamelan is traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments. The most common instruments are metallophones played by mallets as well as a set of hand played drums called kendhang which register the beat. It also includes xylophones, bamboo flutes, bowed instrument called rebab, and even female vocalists called sindhen.
The popularity of gamelan has declined since modern pop music, though gamelan is still commonly played in formal occasions and in many traditional ceremonies. For most Indonesians, gamelan is an integral part and a symbol of Indonesian culture.
They are distinguished by their collection of instruments and use of voice, tunings, repertoire, style, and cultural context. In general, no two gamelan ensembles are the same, and those that arose in prestigious courts are often considered to have their own style. Certain styles may also be shared by nearby ensembles, leading to a regional style. The varieties are grouped geographically, with the principal division between the styles favored by the Balinese, Javanese, and Sundanese peoples.
Typically, players in the gamelan will be familiar with dance moves, poetry, while dancers are able to play (along) in the ensemble. In wayang, the dalang (puppeteer) must have a thorough knowledge of gamelan, as he gives the cues for the music.
Certain gamelans are associated with specific rituals, such as the Gamelan Sekaten, which is used in celebration of Mawlid an-Nabi (Muhammad‘s birthday), other pieces are also believed to possess magic powers, and can be used to ward off evil spirits!
Children’s Gamelan Orchestra at Peliatan, Bali
The gamelan has been appreciated by several western composers (Colin McPhee, Béla Bartók, Francis Poulenc, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Benjamin Britten, Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, György Ligeti and John Cage), most famously Claude Debussy who heard a Javanese gamelan in the premiere of Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray‘s Rapsodie Cambodgienne at the Paris Exposition World’s Fair of 1889.
The gamelan that Debussy heard in it was in the slendro scale and its equal-tempered whole tone scale appears in his music. A Javanese gamelan-like heterophonic texture is emulated on occasion, particularly in Pagodes, from Estampes (solo piano, 1903), in which the great gong‘s cyclic punctuation is symbolized by a prominent perfect fifth.
XIX Century Gamelan
There is a famous Javanese saying that sums up Gamelan’s role importance in Indonesian habitual daily life: ‘It is not official until the gong is hung’. (!)
Let’s go to our artist:
Chrismansyah Rahadi (16 September 1949 – 30 March 2007) was born in Jakarta, as the second of three brothers from Laurens Rahadi and Hana. He graduated from high school in 1967, and had the opportunity of studying Architectural Engineering in APP Trisakti, but he dropped out on its third year. Chrisye initiated his career in music by joining the Sabda Nada Band in 1968, the short-lived group morphed into Gipsy (later famous Guruh Gipsy) in 1969 along with some change of personnel.
Gipsy became a well respected band from Jakarta and had the most luxurious equipment of the day. In 1971/1972 they flew to New York and played in the Ramayana Restaurant for about a year. Back to Indonesia, Chrisye managed to popularize the song Lilin-Lilin Kecil (Small Candles) winning the Youth Contest Prambors Songwriting Contest in 1977. His first albums Badai Pasti Berlalu and Sabda Alam managed to be very popular and successful in the domestic market.
This would only be the beginning of a highly consolidated career through the 80’s and 90’s, he’s merely one of the biggest record sellers from all-time in Indonesia!
Let’s go to our album:
In May 1978 Chrisye began work on his first (solo) album Sabda Alam (Nature’s Order), incorporating several songs by other artists and some written by himself, including the title song, which he recorded it after locking himself in the studio. The album, greatly influenced by Badai Pasti Berlalu (OST Lp) and drawing on the double tracking technique (the vocals are recorded twice to achieve fuller sound), was released in August that year. Heavily promoted in a campaign during which Chrisye was interviewed on the national television station TVRI and on radio.
The album eventually sold more than 400,000 copies! (phew)
This renowned artist (still) remains unknown to most of the Western public, today we exclusively presents one of his greatest releases, full of melodic and harmonic beauty, Chrisye’s soulful interpretation are quite something. Supported by a sharp band with the always welcome participation of Yockie on keyboards, once more splitting the arrangements with Chrisye, the Lp got prog ballads, folk, disco, a fantastic version of Smaradhana (Guruh Gipsy’s song), female chorus, and one of the greatest Indonesian songs in my opinion, Anak Jalanan, this album are no joke!
The ‘IM’ highlights are: Cita Secinta and Anak Jalanan.
A2 Sabda Alam
A4 Duka Sang Bahaduri
A5 Cita Secinta
B1 Kala Sang Surya Tenggelam
B2 Nada Asmara
B3 Citra Hitam
B5 Anak Jalanan
Yockie: Acoustic Piano, Keyboards
Chrisye: Bass, Guitar
Keenan: Drums, Percussion
Ronnie: Piano, String Melody, Synths
Nina, Ana, Ani: Backing Vocals
Arranged: Yockie and Chrisye
Musica / msc7060 (cassette)