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Gamelan of Java, Vol. 1: Kraton Kasunanan CD

Gamelan of Java, Vol. 1: Kraton Kasunanan CD

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"...John Noise Manis - aka the Italian composer Giovanni Sciarrino (manis is Javanese for sweet) - is now the man behind a new series on Lyrichord. This opening trio of CDs gets things off to a strong start. The programming is a bit idiosyncratic, with two of the discs being near-identical twins, but the tracks include some of the best recordings of Javanese gamelan out there.

The 'twins' are volumes one and three, which compare and contrast traditional music from the two main centres of central Javanese culture - the cities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Both open and close with a gendhing bonang - a welcoming piece, traditionally played while guests are arriving at an occasion. The form uses only the loud-style bronze percussion, giving it a sparse, angular feel. The best thing about a gendhing bonang is that it starts slow and calm, and gradually gets faster and louder, so you think you're in for something ambient then find yourself at a rave. In between, on both discs, comes a more dense and refined form of piece called a ketawang, which adds soft instruments and singing to the mix. The first volume gets an extra star because the recording is slightly better, and the ketawang has an awesome choral vocal that calls to mind Sun Ra's cosmic jazz. Volume Two which features  contemporary composers, all of them from the arts college in Surakarta, is very different, departing from the instruments and forms of classical Javanese music to fine effect. For example, 'Sindhen Kewek' by Aloysius Suwardi takes an ensemble of massed plucked stringed instruments and singers and creates something thrillingly atmospheric, like a Javanese Portishead. 'Tengoro', by Darno Kartawi, on the other hand, backs its wailing singers with chugging bamboo percussion and a blown tube rather like a didgeridoo, tapping into the inherent grooviness of tuned percussion to create something that sounds like Krautrock. This is terrific music that deserves to find an audience beyond the gamelan ghetto."

John Whitfield  Songlines, July 2010

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This CD is the first in a brand new series of recordings of Javanese gamelan music curated and produced by John Noise Manis for Lyrichord. The obligatory setting for the most refined tradition of gamelan playing style and beauty of sound is the Kraton (royal palace) of Surakarta. This recording dramatically conveys the sonic excitement and splendor of the live Javanese gamelan performance in all its glory. The concept of this series aims to place Javanese gamelan in the context of universal music, wonderfully accessible and enjoyable to the average listener. This CD presents two instrumental works, and a third from the Kraton ancient dance repertoire. Booklet includes commentary by Bapak Sumarsam, eminent Indonesian musicologist.


1. Gendhing bonang Babar Layar pelog lima. Kyai Kaluk Manis - 21:15
2. Ketawang Bedhayan Duradasih slendro manyura. Kyai Lokananta - 20:51
3. Gendhing bonang Laya slendro nem. Kyai Manis Rengga - 23:21

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