Gamelan Nyai Saraswati

Gamelan Nyai Saraswati is an ensemble of the Department of Music, College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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Group:  Gamelan Nyai Saraswati

Performance: 22 April 2005 "World Music Concert"  (other performances:  7 June 2001,  8 December 2001,  18 January 2002 "Gamelan Gala",  20 March 2003,  23 November 2003 ("New Music Concert") ,  7 April 2004 "Molak-Malik" ,  21 November 2004 "World Music Concert" ,  13 November 2005 ,  2 April 2006 "Reinventing Black Mountain" ,  19 November 2006 ,  25 April 2007 "World Music Concert" ,  26 April 2009 "An Evening of Javanese Music and Dance" ,  21 November 2010 "Music in the Galleries" )

World Music Concert
w/Charanga Carolina
22 April 2004, 4:00 PM
Hill Hall
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This was Gamelan Nyai Saraswati's second joint concert w/ Charanga Carolina, who performed during the first half of the concert. During the second half, Members of Charanaga participated in an interesting Cuban-Javan fusion collaboration for our performance of the samba-inspired Swara Suling.

Available audio files (how do I listen to these recordings?):

Gendhing Bonang TUKUNG pelog barang


Gendhing Bonang Tukung kethuk 4 kerep, minggah kethuk 8, Laras Pelog, Pathet Barang

This piece features the set of racked gongs called bonang, thus the term gendhing bonang or large-scale piece for bonang. Gendhing Bonang are played outside the inner palace walls of Central Java during the celebration of Mohammed's birthday, known as Sekaten. The ensembles used for this festival are much larger than Nyai Saraswati. The metallophone slabs can measure as much as four inches thick. A measure of the desired volume for these sekaten pieces, players may receive a reward from the sultan if they manage to crack one of the slabs with the force of their stroke while performing.

Ketawang PUSPAWARNA slendro manyura


Pathetan Slendro Manyura Jugag, Bawa Sekar Agung Mintajiwa, Ketawang Puspawarna, laras slendro pathet manyura, by Mangkunegara IV (mid-nineteenth century)

The text and melody are said to have been composed by Mangkunegara IV, the nineteenth century ruler of one of the courts in the city of Surakarta. The song is written to commemorate the Mangkunegara's many favorite wives and concubines. Each verse, of which we will do three, purports to address the attributes of a particular flower the turmeric flower, the star fruit flower, and the durian flower. The first verse can be translated as follows: Kembang Kencur, flower of the turmeric plant, you are always enchanting, it is said. Well-proportioned of body, gracious of behaviour, elegant in conversation, causing one to die. The bawa is sung by Allen Bell.

Falling Asleep (Allen Bell)


This piece, for voice, saron, and slenthem, was composed by long-time Nyai Saraswati member Allen Bell. It was performed by Allen Bell (voice), Syam Gadde (saron), and Ethan Lechner (slenthem).

Ladrang SIYEM slendro nem


Ladrang Siyem, Laras Slendro, Pathet Nem

The quick and somewhat unpredictable nature of the part played by the core of the metallophones is unlike most other pieces in the Javanese tradition. Indeed, as hinted at in the name, this piece commemorates a state visit in 1870-71 to Java by King Chulalongjorn of Thailand, then Siam (Siyem in Javanese). Perhaps this melody reflects Javanese interpretations of the sounds of the Thai court piphat ensemble that accompanied the Siamese King on his tour.

Dolanan SWARA SULING pelog nem (w Charanga Carolina)


Dolanan Swara Suling laras pelog pathet nem, by Ki Nartosabdho (1959?)

Nartosabdho was a famous and extremely talented dhalang (shadow puppeteer) who was also a prodigious composer. Many of his songs have become so well known people have forgotten that they were ever new, although most of Nartosabdho's songs were only composed in the 1950s and 60s. This song is about the sound of a flute and has the same tune as the Balinese Gong Kebyar piece Gambang Suling. It is unclear which song was composed first.

The sound of the flute, echoing is the source,
Toodle-toodle (tolat-tolit), delightful is the sound
The sound affects and arouses pathos,
while the drums and others are suddenly bursting with energy.

The cyclic reiteration of musical materials is traditional in both Java and much of the Caribbean. In gamelan a single iteration of the musical material is called a gongan, and its beginning/end is punctuated with a stroke of the big gong. In Cuban and salsa music the basic cycle is marked by the clave pattern which spans two bars in 4/4 time. Other cyclic patterns executed by the piano, bass, and horns usually last two or four bars. In this afternoon's performance the ensembles fuse these two practices to explore the musical tensions and climactic energy inherent in cyclically-based music.

Originally Swara Suling was intended to be performed by gamelan alone, but the music was to suggest a Latin gait, perhaps that of Brazilian Samba or the Argentine Tango. We feel that Nartosabdho would be pleased to hear this performance of his work incorporating trombone, piano, bass, congas, timbales, and clave. The piece opens as a guaguancó on percussion. Guaguanó is a traditional Afro-Cuban drumming and dance tradition which has also been adopted into salsa music. After the percussion opening, the bass and piano join in as the trombone introduces a diana-like melody. "Diana" refers to the melismatic vocal that begins the sung part of guaguancó music. Charanga is featured in the middle section, beginning with a trombone solo lasting one gongan and a piano solo lasting for one and a half. The piece concludes with three more gongan cycles performed by both ensembles.

Director: Daniel Guberman (email:
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