Observatorage in Japan! Feb 2016

CONTINUUM TPAM

All of us in BronzAge come from different background and some of us were musically trained differently. We have Jazz pianists, a Clarinetist, a Sheng player and myself a singer trained under Western Popular music style. But what we have in common is our thirst for trying out new styles of music.

Apart from traditional Gamelan music or Karawitan, we are fascinated by brilliantly well-written fusion pieces. When The Observatory reached out and asked us if we could help re-stage Continuum, we were much obliged.

The Observatory is an art-rock experimental band from Singapore. They were formed in the early 2000s and have released 8 albums so far.

For their 7th album, the band released Continuum in 2015. It took the band 4 years to complete the album after taking classes introductory to Balinese Gamelan classes under Dewa Alit. Observatory devised their own six-note scale Gamelan set and experimented fusing the Balinese Gamelan traditional instruments such as the Reyong, Jegong, Pemade and Ceng Ceng on Western musical instruments.

Brian, Zachary, Yat and I were privileged to be part of the Continuum ensemble that consists of 10 people on 23 and 24 July 2015.

 

Image by Vincent Wong

Image by Vincent Wong

The Observatory had an invitation to re-stage Continuum for The Performing Arts Meeting 2016 that was held in Yokohama. Needless to say, we were thrilled!

Located on the south part of Tokyo, Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city with a population of over 3 million. It was chilly in Yokohama compared to Tokyo as it was closer to the sea.

The Performing Arts Meeting, or TPAM is a festival where art practioners, festival directors and all kinds of professionals gather to network, discuss issues and exchange informations. There were also international meetings and programs that were being conducted. Total of 639 professionals participated in this festival.

There were 10 of us in the ensemble plus a photographer, an audio engineer and a visual artist. You can imagine the amount of instruments and equipments that we needed to ship over! We were thankful that everything went smoothly and there were no issue of any missing items. Thank you, ANA!

There were many other acts happening but due to our busy schedule, we did not manage to catch any of the other performances as we had just enough time to prepare for our performance at the Kanagawa Kenmin Hall.

The performance was a success! With the supporters of The Observatory in Japan and fellow art enthusiasts, the venue was full house. It was an exhilarating 45 minutes set.  The preparation for Continuum was long and intense so when it ended, it was a little bitter-sweet. We were having the post-production blues.

We managed to clear the venue in less than 2 hours thanks to the fast and efficient crew for TPAM! Everything went smoothly.

Thank you to The Observatory, Tang Fu Kuen, Aki Onda and the TPAM crew!

 

LATIHAN BERSAMA LAMBANGSARI

On our last day, we visited Gamelan Lambangsari’s Latihan at Nishishimbashi, Minato-ku. We had quite a difficult time finding the place. We were running late as we got lost. Most of the office buildings were closed so it was dark. We only had the lights from the street to guide us. To make matters worse, it was getting windy and cold.

It was located at a basement of a tall building. It was a rather cosy and humble space for a rehearsal with the mandala tapestry hanging on the rack, a clothes hanger rack, books about music and gamelan and pictures of performances and certificates on the wall. We instantly felt comfortable. The Lambangsari musicians were so welcoming.

 

No true latihan is a latihan without snacks!

No true latihan is a latihan without snacks!

We played several pieces in both Slendro and Pelog such as Ladrang Asmaradana and Ketawang Wigaringtyas. They meet for latihan 3 times a week despite it being a part-time and leisure thing for some of them. I noticed that it helped push them to polish their playing on many instruments. There was a college student who only started playing the Kendhang for only a few months and he was already playing for a Wayang show. I wish it will be easier for us back in Singapore to hold more latihan a week but it is crucial as there will always be a clash in everyone’s schedules.  

I was impressed at how fluent they were conversing in Bahasa Indonesia. Most of them only spoke in Japanese and Bahasa so it was a little difficult at first communicating with them as only a few of them spoke in English. But music itself is a universal language.  I guess that’s the beauty of Gamelan; It’s the same in every country. However, each piece itself has many different forms so during latihan, there were many times that either one of us will ask, “Gaya Mangkunegaran?”.  

Of course we ended the evening with Bubaran Udan Mas. 

Group shots

Group shots

It was a fruitful latihan and they were all so helpful and patient. Thank you so much, Mbak Kayo, Mbak Keiko, Mbak Nami and the rest of Gamelan Lambangsari! We had such a great time and we look forward to visiting you again! 

 

Zachary, Brian, our friend Irsyad and myself extended our stay as we wanted a short vacation before heading back to Singapore. 

On the last day, we had trouble figuring out a direct route to Narita Airport. We were staying in Minamioi in Shinagawa which is closer to Haneda Airport so the journey to Narita Airport will be longer. Almost 3 hours by train.

We bumped into Mbak Keiko at the Omorikaigan train station and she was so nice with helping us with the directions and made sure we took the correct express train.

2 hours and 45 minutes later, we reached Narita Airport. After paying about SGD30 for the train ride and secretly crying about it, we spent our remaining yen buying Japanese tidbits and snacks before checking in.

And with that, it was the end of our Japan trip.

Thank you The Observatory for the opportunity!