Get ready to be swept off your feet by the captivating rhythms and melodies of Rhythm In Bronze, the award-winning contemporary gamelan ensemble that is back with a new mission to promote environmental awareness through the performing arts.
The pioneering gamelan group’s focus is to shine the light on the importance of seagrass.
As part of the process, the ensemble participated in an innovative “Immersive Lab” to gain inspiration and a deeper understanding of the significance of seagrass to the environment and community, as well as the challenges to its survival.
Rhythm In Bronze will stage a long-awaited performance Gema Gamelan at Bobo KL in Bangsar on May 3-6. These club shows will then be followed by a seagrass conservation-themed concert at KLPac’s Pentas 2 on Aug 25-27.
This will be its first public performances since 2018.
The aim is to engage the audience at a sensory level through the resonating rhythms of the gamelan percussion, to provoke emotional reactions and spark conversation on environmental conservation, particularly on the importance of seagrass.
The group, founded in 1997, is now led by artistic and music director Jillian Ooi, and executive producer Sharmini Ratnasingam, with a team of 10 gamelan musicians and two guest drummers.
Ooi, a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaya (UM) and a seagrass ecologist and marine biologist, is a recipient of the Pew fellowship in marine conservation. This upcoming performance is part of her Pew marine fellowship project to promote awareness on the seagrass ecosystem and environment.
“Despite being a lecturer and marine science researcher, my passion towards gamelan is strong and whenever I’m free, I would go for rehearsals together with my colleagues to sharpen my skills,” she said in a recent Bernama interview, adding that Rhythm In Bronze comprises multi-ethnic members from various professional backgrounds, including scientists, lecturers, lawyers, and engineers.
“Whenever I dive underwater, I could hear various sounds coming from fishes, shrimps, and other marine life, which gave me a calming effect and a sense of freedom.
“To me, the Malay gamelan instrument is synonymous with rhythmic patterns that emulate the sound of ocean waves. It not only evokes fond memories spent in the field, but also has the potential to raise awareness about the critical need to conserve marine life,” she added.
Ooi’s inspiration is largely drawn from her field trips to collect research samples and she would jot down notes, and later translate them into music on the gamelan.
“In fact, quite a lot of our gamelan performances have revolved around the natural environment, especially those related to marine science and the ocean.
“Arus Gangsa, our last production in 2014, presented a collection of nine new compositions revolving around the theme of water. The pieces included new compositions that told stories of love, devotion and retribution, all linked to the beauty and power of water and its various forms,” she said.
Ooi notes that despite seagrass being a vital part of the marine ecosystem (for instance, it is a nursing ground for juvenile fish and crustaceans), there is a lack of appreciation for seagrass.
The Gema Gamelan showcase series will serve as a timely restart on the live stage for Rhythm In Bronze, which is the first Malaysian ensemble to create contemporary concert performances exclusively using the gamelan.
It is also a recipient of the 2022 music performance grant from MyCreative Ventures, an agency under the ministry of communications and digital Malaysia.
More info here.