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Gamelan Semara Santi’s Spring 2023 Performance

Flyer for Gamelan Semari Santi's upcoming performance

Swarthmore’s Balinese traditional Indonesian percussion orchestra, Gamelan Semara Santi, will be performing on Sunday, April 2nd at 3 pm in Lang Concert Hall. The concert is free and open to the public, and no reservation is required.

Professor Tom Whitman, the ensemble’s founder and co-director, is excited to put forward a diverse setlist for the audience, saying, “We like to highlight some of the different styles of music found in Bali.” The pieces feature different aspects of Balinese gamelan, from its traditions rooted in ancient temple ceremonies to its reinvention in the early 20th century. Whitman is particularly looking forward to the final piece of the performance which is titled Cendrawasih. The piece was written by I Nyoman Windha in 1987 with the help of I Wayan Berata. The group had the opportunity to perform the piece for Windha eight years ago, and Whiman recalls Windha’s reaction to hearing his piece: “he was very touched by the spirit of the students playing it.”

The group meets weekly for a two hour rehearsal led by Whitman; some of the musicians also meet weekly for additional practice one-on-one or in small groups.  Once a month, the group is  coached by the ensemble's co-director, I Nyoman Suadin. Whitman explains that “sparks fly” during these sessions with Pak Suadin. “He is such a dynamic musician and he really teaches us the spirit which is very powerful.” At rehearsals with Suadin, Whitman says he is just as much a student as any other member of the ensemble and that it’s important for students to see that he too is growing as a musician.

Whitman notes that this particular group of students brings excitement and joy to their work. Many of them have been in the ensemble for multiple years, one joining before the COVID-19 pandemic and others while the group was meeting virtually. The students all come from different levels of experience, but work together to create powerful music. 

The ensemble also includes community members, who have long been a part of Gamelan Semara Santi. Whitman acknowledges  how essential they are to the group: “the more people that you have in the group with experience, the better it is for everyone.” They, along with upperclassmen who have been with the ensemble for many semesters, play a key role in teaching those who are just starting out in gamelan. Dance is also an essential part of the ensemble's performances. Dancers from the Indonesian Cultural Club of Delaware, directed by Ni Luh Kadek Kusuma Dewi and Lidya Darmawan, will perform two dance compositions with the ensemble.

If you are interested in watching Gamelan Semara Santi’s performance, it will be in Lang Concert Hall on Sunday April 2nd at 3 pm.