Gamelan Nyai Saraswati
Experience playing in UNC’s own Javanese Gamelan
Named for the Hindu goddess of music, arts, and science, Gamelan Nyai Saraswati is a traditional Javanese musical ensemble at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The gamelan arrived in Chapel Hill from Central Java in December of 2000, wrapped in Indonesian newspapers, clove cigarette packing boxes, plastic “raffia” twine, and with the bronze blackened from its three months at sea. A small group of devoted supporters met on a daily basis in January 2001 to polish and prepare the nearly 70 instruments which comprise Gamelan Nyai Saraswati. The ensemble began to meet informally at the Chapel Hill Museum soon thereafter and gave its first concert to a small audience of friends in June 2001. Now, the gamelan currently resides in Hill Hall on the UNC campus, and the ensemble performs regularly scheduled concerts at UNC as well as throughout the Triangle and the state. Members of the ensemble (several of whom had no previous musical experience before joining) include students and faculty from UNC and other universities in the Triangle, as well as members of the surrounding community.
The instruments of a Central Javanese gamelan are conceived as an ensemble and then forged, cast, and tuned in the workshop of one gong maker before being given a name. Prior to its voyage to America, this gamelan was named Gamelan Nyai Saraswati by Bapak Sutina, the renowned performer of shadow puppetry and father of the ensemble’s previous owner, Midiyanto S. Putra of Wonogiri, Central Java. As is typical for a Central Javanese gamelan, the ensemble consists primarily of bronze instruments –– including gongs ranging from 6 inches to 4 feet in diameter and metallophones with anywhere from five to fourteen keys –– but also includes stringed instruments, wooden xylophones, flutes, drums, and male and female voices. Since the ensemble was cast and forged over 20 years ago, the bronze from which the instruments are made has stopped shifting and the tuning has settled, giving it the highly valued and much-sought quality referred to as “manis” or “sweet” in the Javanese language.
The purchase of Gamelan Nyai Saraswati was made possible by a generous donation from David and Becky Pardue, with considerable support from the College of Arts and Sciences and the University Center for International Studies.
For more information, please visit our website.
John Caldwell (email@example.com)
Joshua Busman (2012-2014)
Dan Guberman (2011-2012)
Marzanna Poplawska (2007-2011)
Ethan Lechner (2004-2007)
Sarah Weiss (2001-2004)
UNC Gamelan Nyai Saraswati at UNC World Music Concert – Spring 2015