Concert features Indonesian music, puppets

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LEWISTON — The Bates College Gamelan Orchestra, joined by Indonesian puppeteer Apep Sobani and composer Wahyu Roche, will perform in concert Saturday, March 13.

Listening music, with compositions written for the Bates ensemble by Roche, will be featured along with a performance of the Indonesian puppetry style called wayang golek, using three-dimensional figures controlled with wooden rods.

“Gamelan” refers to a traditional Indonesian percussion orchestra composed mainly of tuned gongs and metal-keyed instruments and drums. It sometimes features voice and string instruments. The Bates Gamelan Orchestra, conducted by Gina Fatone, performs traditional and contemporary music of West Java and Central Java, as well as new music by North American composers.

A member of the Sundanese people of West Java, Roche is a master drummer and has been at Bates since Jan. 15 as a member of the Learning Associates Program. He has performed as a freelance musician, written music for the influential workshop theater founded by the playwright Rendra and recently released his debut album as a vocalist. He and Sobani will form an artistic directing team for the puppetry performance.

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Wayang golek is a Sundanese specialty in West Java, where performances typically begin in the evening and last all night. Similar to other types of puppet theater in Java, a single puppeteer manipulates the puppets, provides all narration and dialogue, and directs the accompaniment provided by the gamelan orchestra.

“While most people in our part of the world associate puppetry with children and children’s programming, wayang golek is a highly sophisticated, nuanced art of the Sundanese,” said Fatone. Walang golek requires considerable skill and some Javanese believe the puppeteers (“dalang”) to possess supernatural powers. What makes the Sudanese style unique is the use of three-dimensional puppets.

Sobani, known onstage as Apep Hudaya, is renowned for his performances in Indonesia and abroad, and represents a younger generation of performers in West Java. With both familial training and formal education, he has performed throughout Europe and Asia.

Wayang golek performances require intense collaboration among ensemble members and are one of the most common contexts for live gamelan music in West Java.

The concert will begin at 8 p.m. in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Any leftover tickets will be available at the door. For reservations or more information, call 786-6135 or e-mail olinarts@bates.edu.

A wayang golek workshop, open to the public at no cost, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 8, in the Olin Arts Center, Room 105.

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