The Rhythm of Sunda (Wirahma Sunda) by Gamelan Asmaradana


My in-laws are visiting and, earlier this evening, I took them to the opening night of Pesta Raya: Malay Festival of Arts, a weekend-long celebration of arts features dance, music, and theater from the Malay Archipelago. 

We saw Gamelan Asmaradana, Singapore’s only professional gamelan orchestra, and Degung Singalagena, an ensemble led by composer and Sundanese kendang (a two-headed drum) maestro Tatang Sofyan, perform music from from West Java in a free concert at the Esplanade. Degung, or Sundanese, gamelan differs from Javanese or Balinese gamelan as it employs a subset of modified gamelan instruments. (The bulbous gongs and metallophones are slightly altered in orientation and pitch is my understanding.)

I loved the sounds of the suling degung, or four-holed bamboo flute. Gamelan Asmaradana was accompanied by a pesindhèn, or solo female vocalist, from Bandung, who had a hypnotizing and melodic voice. We were also treated to Jaipongan, a popular traditional Sundanese dance. However, the program’s highlight, for me, was “Rampak Kendang,” a composition in which six drummers played in harmony. I was really taken by the performance of Rosmaini Buang, the artistic director of Gamelan SingaMurti, Gamelan Asmaradana’s Balinese gamelan ensemble; she has incredible stage presence!