Monday, November 30, 2009

RNCM Gamelan Weekend

I spent last weekend (28-29 November) in Manchester, attending a wonderful weekend of gamelan-related events at the Royal Northern College of Music. The event launched the RNCNM's beautiful new gamelan, purchased along with a brand-new set of shadow puppets and a very fancy-looking puppet screen.

I caught an early gamelan-inspired work by Lou Harrison, Suite for violin, piano and small orchestra played by the RNCM chamber orchestra; the second half of Birth, Death and Marriage: A Journey through life in Javanese Music and Poetry - a concert by the Southbank Gamelan Players featuring Ni Made Pujawati in two dances; the end piece of a degung concert by the University of Manchester/Hallé Gamelan Degung; a wonderful and inventive concert of new music for gamelan by Gamelan Sekar Petak from the University of York mc-ed by Neil Sorrell; and performances of youth groups of a shadow puppet Ramayana and a gamelan-accompanied dance drama.

What a treat!

I also performed a 2 hour 15 minute version of Kresna Denawa, with the full forces of the Southbank Gamelan Players accompanying.

My friend and former Naga Mas colleague Simon van der Walt (one of three Naga Mas-ers who came down from Glasgow for the event) wrote in his blog that:

'the wayang performance in English by Matthew Isaac Cohen [...] was more than anything else what I had come to Manchester to see. I've seen wayang in Indonesia, but the language barrier is really quite steep, and it's a big part of what's going on; from high-flown court Javanese to crude street slang, its a form which traverses a great range of linguistic and performative registers. Matthew and the South Bank Players have done a number of wayang recently, and this is the first chance I've been able to see them. It seems to me they are doing a fantastic job of translating waying into a shorter form in a different language, making it understandable and enjoyable to UK audiences while retaining a great deal of honesty to the original. Matthew has a great sense of humour, which was on this occasion slighly lost on a noisy audience in a reverberant space. I look forward to seeing him perform again' (

Didn't manage to get any pictures of the event though...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

WWW stuff

I am missing the stimulation of being in Malaysia and Indonesia, with the range of traditional performance on offer, but have been enjoying attending a London puppet festival over the last week. I am reviewing some of the shows for Animations Online, an online puppet magazine I edit, and also attending a number of seminars.

I have also been checking out various web materials. For example, I read a fine New York Times article published in 2002 on Jlitheng Suparman and Slament Gundhono's experimental wayang work, titled Political turmoil gives new life to Indonesian shadow play : Out of the shadows, a new art. I also saw some nice material from Jlitheng on youtube, including a clip of a sexy dangdut singer puppet and another one showing the same dangdut singer plus a Rhoma Irama type singer-guitar player from the puppet side of the screen (HEBOH DANGDUT GLOBAL WARMING WAYANG KAMPUNG).

A colleague from Australia pointed me to a really fine clip of Wayang Ceng Blok - a popular Balinese wayang company - with a long non-verbal sequence showing various animals at play. Check it out here.

Another friend from New York also told me about a robotic Balinese gamelan in New York,called Gamelatron, which has an interesting website featuring some performance vids and a brief television segment on them. Check out their website at