Trac­ing Tra­di­tions

Fol­low­ing their splen­did per­for­mance at At­madja Tjip­to­biantoro’s Kalian­dra Eco Re­sort, the Golden Theme Choir de­cided to form the Golden Theme Game­lan Group. Anas­ta­sia Wi­bowo writes

Indonesia Tatler - - Features - Pho­tog­ra­phy heri b. heryanto

ding!” The sound of melo­di­ous game­lan in­stru­ments echoes in the large hall of At­madja Tjip­to­biantoro’s spa­cious open-air residence in Ke­mang, South Jakarta. It is the place where the Golden Theme Game­lan Group usu­ally prac­tices. Halim Ardi, the leader of the group, greets In­done­sia Tatler and re­counts the back­ground story of how Golden Theme be­gan.

“Ini­tially, we—the Golden Theme Choir— were in­vited by At­madja to per­form for Kalian­dra Eco Re­sort’s an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion in 2014 in Pri­gen in East Java. At­madja is the man be­hind Kalian­dra’s long-term vision to pre­serve Ja­vanese cul­tural her­itage and the beau­ti­ful na­ture that sur­rounds the area,” Halim tells us.

At­madja and his team strive to im­prove the liv­ing stan­dards of the lo­cal com­mu­nity by car­ry­ing out var­i­ous de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties. They train lo­cal peo­ple by en­hanc­ing their knowl­edge and skills in ac­tiv­i­ties such as agri­cul­ture, hand­i­crafts, wayang orang play, and game­lan in the hopes of bet­ter­ing their fu­tures. They started from zero and man­aged to im­prove their skills. “Th­ese out­comes have amazed us and in­spired us to cre­ate the game­lan group,” Halim says. “

“At­madja in­vited us to his house and of­fered us the chance of play­ing his game­lan set in his house in Jakarta, and that is the mo­ment when the Golden Theme Game­lan Group was born.”

Most of the Golden Theme Game­lan Group mem­bers are part of the Golden Theme Choir, which spe­cialises in singing older songs. The game­lan group has 10 mem­bers in to­tal— eight women and two men, nine of which are at re­tire­ment age and each driven by their own in­di­vid­ual mo­ti­va­tion.

Halim con­tin­ues: “Al­though we knew next to noth­ing about how to play the in­stru­ments, we were none­the­less op­ti­mistic about the idea. I per­son­ally have loved mu­sic, in­clud­ing the game­lan, since I was a child. To me, game­lan sounds ex­otic, time­less, and dis­tinctly In­done­sian.”

Since Septem­ber 2014, they have per­formed four times pub­licly. To­day, the

group is trained by Suroto, a renowned game­lan teacher who also teaches in other schools in Jakarta.

Each mem­ber of the group chooses a game­lan in­stru­ment that is within his or her abil­ity to play. Dif­fi­cult in­stru­ments like the ken­dang and sitar are played by pro­fes­sion­als when the group per­forms for the pub­lic. Golden Theme mem­bers play the bo­nang, saron, kenong, kem­pul, and gong, while trainer Suroto plays ken­dang.

In ad­di­tion, here’s the break­down of who plays what: Halim Ardi— gong, Frans Se­ti­awan— de­mung, Eliza Hand­jaja— pek­ing, Gwat Martina Wi­jaya— slen­them, Josephine Ling­gar— kenong, Lily Gu­mi­lang— kethuk, An­nisa Putri and There­sia Tan— saron, Vonny Hartono— bo­nang, and Tjiep Wahyudi— bo­nang penerus.

Mean­while, the group’s favourite game­lan mu­sic is Ke­bo­giro, a tra­di­tional wed­ding piece also of­ten played to wel­come ar­riv­ing guests at a party or im­por­tant func­tion.

“Play­ing game­lan helps us main­tain our alert­ness and also ex­er­cises our minds,” Halim says. “It is both ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing, while we also so­cialise and form a closer bond with other mem­bers. The pos­i­tive at­tribute of hav­ing this game­lan group is to also help pre­serve and pro­mote the rich­ness of Ja­vanese tra­di­tional mu­sic. Mean­while, we hope that the younger gen­er­a­tion in In­done­sia will fol­low suit by in­no­vat­ing new ways to teach game­lan and cre­ate new ap­proaches to pre­serve our cul­ture.”

Golden Theme is set to per­form at our up­com­ing In­done­sia Tatler Ball 2018, which will be held on November 2 at the Raf­fles Jakarta ho­tel—look out for their in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance!

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