Welcome to the website of Langen Suka, a group dedicated to traditional Javanese gamelan music and dance in Sydney. We invite new members to join us as gamelan is something that anyone with or without musical training can learn to play. In Java gamelan is viewed as a representation of an ideal and harmonious society in which each individual plays an integral part according to his or her own character, talents and abilities. While our members come from diverse backgrounds and parts of Sydney, we get together at our weekly practices to play this unique and beautiful music as well as socialising, as the Javanese do, while we enjoy a snack or two during breaks.
This new website was launched in January 2016 and has been thoroughly updated and expanded with additional information and features.
Langen Suka has been invited to give a concert at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 13 April. The performance will be presented as part of the gallery’s Art after Hours program which opens its doors to the public on Wednesday evenings including a host of free events such as talks, films and music. Langen Suka’s concert will take place in association with the 20th Biennale of Sydney (18 March to 5 June) during which the AGNSW has been transformed into the “Embassy of Spirits” exhibiting work by Asian and Australian Indigenous artists exploring the intersections between the spiritual and the philosophical. The performance will follow a conversation from 6.30 to 7 pm between Dr Rachel Kohn, presenter of The Spirit of Things on ABC Radio National, and a guest speaker.
Date and time
13 April 2016, 7.30 to 8.30 pm
Entrance court, Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Sydney Symphony recently borrowed a gong ageng and two gong suwukan from Langen Suka’s gamelan sets for use in several performances of 20th-century works at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on 9, 11 and 12 March and at Carriageworks on 13 March.
Mark Robinson, Assistant Principal Timpanist/Tutti Percussionist of the Sydney Symphony, contacted Langen Suka in early March desperately searching for gongs required in two seminal French works of the late 20th century: Oliver Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… (1971–74, “From the canyons to the stars…”) and Gérard Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil (1997–98, “Four songs for crossing the threshold”). While Javanese gongs are not specified for these works, the Sydney Symphony percussionists’ set of Thai gongs did not extend low enough for the pitch requirements. Fortunately the Javanese gong ageng from the Indonesian Consulate General’s pelog set and the two gong suwukan from the Australian Museum’s slendro set fitted the bill and were borrowed for the performances. Mark Robinson kindly shared two images of the gongs amidst the extensive set-up for Grisey’s Quatre chants at Carriageworks below.
The date of Langen Suka’s mid-year klenengan will be Saturday 13 August 2016. As we’ve begun to explore repertoire for this performance – including Gendhing Candra, Ladrang Sri Hascarya and Ladrang Wesmester – and discussed a possible venue and occasion, it has been decided that we will play in the slendro scale only. At our rehearsal space at UNSW, we’ve pushed the pelog instruments to the back as we won’t be using them for a while, at least not until the second half of the year when we will be preparing the accompaniments to topeng dances.
So with our slendro sanga set already worked out, we’re excited to reveal our slendro nem repertoire: Gendhing Majemuk with suwuk gropak, followed by Ada-Ada Girisa and Srepegan Pinjalan with the insertion of several tembang macapat to palaran accompaniment. The idea for this wonderful suite of pieces comes from a superb Lokananta recording which can be heard in the clip below.
This is the first time Langen Suka will be performing palaran, a metrical style of accompanying tembang macapat but with variable phrase lengths, so there will definitely be plenty of practice of following the sung melody and drum cues in the coming months.
New balungan and vocal notation has been added to the Resources page in lieu of Langen Suka’s mid-year klenengan.
Gendhing Candra minggah Ladrang Sri Hascarya followed by Ladrang Wesmester are all new additions to Langen Suka’s repertoire and we’ll be playing the suite of pieces in the same way as the recording below:
If you’ve never heard Ladrang Wesmester (i.e. “Westminster”) before, make sure you catch it at around 23’57” and you’ll see why the piece is named as such.
Luntur (“Faded”) is a well-known langgam composed by famous singer-songwriter Gesang (1917–2010), who also wrote Bengawan Solo. The melody is in a minor key as can be heard in its original kroncong version (sung by the composer himself in his final years) or with campursari accompaniment. When performed with gamelan however, it transforms into the haunting barang miring scale superimposed over the slendro sanga mode. If anyone can locate a recording with gamelan, let us know. We’ll be including Luntur in our lagu dolanan bracket of our klenengan.
Langen Suka deserved a good long break after the fantastic end-of-year concert on 27 November. Thanks to everyone who helped with packing the instruments into the truck in record-breaking time after the concert and especially to those who were at UNSW the next day to return the instruments.
Regular practices resumed last Friday evening with a sizeable number of us turning up, most likely keen to get a “fix” after eight weeks without gamelan. At the practice I announced plans for a klenengan in the middle of the year and another dance performance towards the end. More to come about this once I confirm the repertoire.
Now’s a great time for anyone wanting to join the group or learn how to play gamelan as our regular practices will be fairly low-key until we get closer towards a performance. Check out our location and practice time here and drop us an email.