Literary masterpiece inspires dance drama

World music fans will have an opportunity to revel in the sights and sounds of the Ontario premiere performance of a Javanese dance drama from the Ramayana, taking place at York University today at 4:30pm in the Winters Senior Common Room, 021 Winters College.

Right: Gamelan instruments (kendangs)

For the past 2,000 years the Ramayana has been among the most important literary and oral texts of South and Southeast Asia. This epic poem provides insights into many aspects of Indian culture and continues to influence the politics, religion and art of modern India and its neighbouring region. The Ramayana is a cycle of stories that recounts the words and deeds of Rama, king of Ayodha. It is considered a literary masterwork of South Asia and is a cornerstone of the Hindu tradition. Through the centuries, it has inspired artists worldwide.

The free concert will feature the York University Gamelan Orchestra under the direction of Nur Intan Murtadza, and renowned Indonesian dance artists Wiryawan Padmonojati and Ita Dwi Lestari. The concert will bridge thousands of miles and many centuries, melding Indonesian classical music with a tale drawn from the epic poem.

Left: Javanese dancers

York’s Gamelan Orchestra is one of the 14 student ensembles in the world music program featuring the instruments and traditions of many different global cultures. The traditional orchestra of Indonesia, gamelan is a collection of percussion instruments: tuned bronze metallophones struck with mallets, punctuated by gongs, and accompanied by gong-chimes, drums, xylophone, flute, spiked-fiddle and zither. York’s gamelan is tuned in laras slendro, one of two traditional Javanese scales.

Wiryawan Padmonojati, a dancer trained by prominent Javanese dance master Pak Bagong, has performed in North America, Europe and Asia. Ita Dwi Lestari studied classical Javanese dance at IKIP, the conservatory for the arts in Yogyakarta.

Right: Wiryawan Padmonojati

York’s gamelan, named Nyai Mirah Kencana (“Lady Brilliant Vermilion”), was made in the cities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Brilliantly coloured in red, blue and gold, the gamelan is as beautiful to the eyes as it is to the ears. It has been generously loaned to the Department of Music for teaching and performance purposes by the Consulate General of Indonesia, Toronto.