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"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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

See also: Istituto Italiano di Cultura Jakarta Launches An Exciting Week Of Italian Language

Tags: Society, Arts, Culture, Heritage, Atmadja Tjiptobiantoro, Kaliandra Eco Resort, Golden Theme Choir, Gamelan, Golden Theme Gamelan Group