World Cultures Festival 2015: Southeast Asian Edition

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This weekend I stumbled upon World Cultures Festival 2015: Southeast Asian Edition, a series of FREE performances and workshops over two weekends at the library@esplanade. (The events weren’t well publicized, IMO.)

On Friday, The Preschooler and I watched traditional Thai Lakhon dance, a graceful and sensual form. Here, female dancers depicted folk tales and Jataka stories, and my child appreciated the fairy-tale nature of this dance-drama performance art.

Today, I witnessed a Javanese gamelan performance by NUS’ Singa Nglaras gamalen orchestra. The ensemble, formed in January 2004 and managed by Dr Jan Mrázek of the NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies, presented a selection of traditional instrumental works and dances of the Javanese gamelan, including Golek Lambang Sari, a dance from the Mangkunegaran Palace in Solo whose performance style combines features from both the Solonese and Jogjanese courts, and Menak Koncar, a solo dance in the Alus or “refined male” style that depicts a character from the Javanese Serat Damar Wulan.

But the highlight of the my day was a two-hour interactive Javanese gamelan workshop conducted by the members of Singa Nglaras. I performed on the Saron Demung, seven bronze bars placed on a resonating frame, a beginners’ instrument! Together, we played “Ricik Ricik” (“Sound of Flowing Water”). Here is a clip from this afternoon:

Not only was the workshop loads of fun, but very informative as well, as its performers (students, alumni, faculty, and musicians from outside the NUS and Yale-NUS community) were so knowledgable about the instruments and the art form. Singa Nglaras holds open rehearsals on campus every Wednesday at 7:30pm, and if I had more time in my life to devote to music and performance, I would so be there! Maybe in a few years.