It was Malay gamelan that brought them together, and now Nur Diyana Nadirah and Teuku Umar Ilany are determined to spread the love for this traditional art form.
Nur Diyana, 26, was first introduced to Malay gamelan in secondary school, then joined a gamelan group (Sanggar Kirana) while pursuing an IT degree at Universiti Teknologi Petronas.
She is co-founder and managing director of Gangsapura.
For Teuku Umar, 30, the performing arts had always been part of his life since he was a child.
This Aswara graduate, with a degree in music composition and arranging, is currently lecturing at Aswara’s centre for traditional arts (Pusat Seni Pentas Tradisional) where he focuses on researching and documenting the Malay gamelan tradition. He is co-founder and artistic director of Gangsapura.
They met and fell in love through Malay gamelan, got married, and started Gangsapura together in 2017.
“Gangsapura’s aim is to create a centre for Malay traditional arts in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. We hope that the traditional arts, specifically Malay gamelan, will be recognised and acknowledged by our community, tourists and visitors.
"Gangsapura allows the urban community – even those without a musical background – to get in touch with their creative side through a local art form,” says Nur Diyana.
This contemporary Malay gamelan group’s workshops and public classes are specifically targeted to members of the public with no prior experience with gamelan or music. Last year, it collaborated with KLPac and introduced a gamelan workshop series.
“The reception from the public has been nothing but supportive. Although most of today’s youth are not sufficiently exposed to traditional arts, to our surprise, many are very interested to explore their roots and the arts,” she shares.
Malay gamelan is a “precious hidden gem” that is more than meets the eye, she adds.
“When the instrument was found underneath Istana Kolam (Terengganu) in 1966, little was known to the public and the art remains very exclusive and is a stranger to our own community. There is a need to preserve this art form and to be passed down to the younger generation, before we lose a priceless cultural heritage,” she says.
Earlier this month, Gangsapura had its debut concert at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Petaling Jaya. The Buka Langkah: Inner Resonance concert featured seven new songs composed by Teuku Umar.
“It was a memorable event for all of us as it was the first gamelan concert for Gangsapura. Buka Langkah is the first step for Gangsapura towards performing new works for Malay gamelan and we strive to fulfill our mission to inspire, motivate, influence, educate and communicate with people through classes, discussions, and performances,” says Teuku Umar.
He describes the feedback from the audience as “truly humbling” and said the group had a great time meeting people after the show to discuss the performance.
“For some in the audience, this was their first time at a Malay gamelan concert and they told us it blew their minds. From this concert, I think we have proved that there is so much unexplored possibilities with Malay gamelan and we have opened a door to endless opportunities for Malay gamelan to be elevated to a whole new level,” he says.
In May this year, Gangsapura launched its first album series, titled Echoes, which features a selection of traditional Malay gamelan songs recorded live. It is also available on major streaming platforms. A CD version is also available.
“These are songs you would commonly hear being performed at various kinds of ceremonies like graduations and weddings. The tenderness of the melody and its repetitive nature makes it soothing and easy to immerse yourself into, even for new listeners.
"This album initiative is born from the echoes that need to be heard and celebrated by a new generation as the catalyst for our cultural identity that forms a huge part of our heritage,” he says.
At present, Gangsapura is working towards setting up its own studio and performing space to promote traditional arts and culture.
On Sept 27, it will play at the Malam Nu Santara showcase at The Bee, Publika in KL alongside acts such as monoloQue, Aizat Amdan and NJWA.
More info: www.gangsapura.com. FB: Gangsapura.