Traditional music instrument gets event of its own

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Margaret Kartomi playing the gamolan with seminar presenter Mr Hasyimkan

Margaret Kartomi playing the gamolan with seminar presenter Mr Hasyimkan

With research into the musical history of the Indonesian province of Lampung lacking in substance, one Monash University researcher has strived to reconstruct the origins of Lampung’s traditional music instruments, including the gamolan.

Professor Margaret Kartomi from Monash University’s School of Music – Conservatorium was honoured to receive an invitation from the Governor of Lampung, Drs Sjachroeddin ZP, to present the keynote address at the International Seminar on the Traditional Lampung Musical Instrument.

The region of Lampung is found within Indonesia’s largest island, Sumatra.

The event, which was organised so young Lampung people could learn more about their indigenous art and culture, was attended by more than a hundred elders in traditional costume, with a focus on the nature, uses and history of the instrument.

The gamolan is an eight-keyed bamboo instrument, beaten by two musicians, each with a pair of wooden hammers. Professor Kartomi believes this instrument is of great ethnomusicological interest on three counts.

“I was attracted by the gamolan because of its incredibly sweet sound when played by experts, its interesting name – gamolan, which was a single instrument in 14th century Java but later became the name of a whole orchestra – the gamelan, and the fact that a similar instrument is carved on the 8th century Borobudur temple in Java, which indicates its great age”

Invited to the conference to speak on the origins of the gamolan by the Council for Lampung Culture headed by the Governor of Lampung Indonesia, Professor Kartomi has been researching the instrument since her second visit to Lampung in 1983.

“I’ve written a book on the performing arts, Musical Journeys in Sumatra, but it deals with only six of Sumatra’s ten provinces. With this invitation I was able to return to the remaining provinces, including Lampung, to update my knowledge of their music-cultures and write Volume II of my book,” Professor Kartomi said.

The Governor of Lampung has invited Professor Kartomi to return in December to receive a formal title traditionally reserved for royalty and clan members as part of his efforts to promote the culture of the Lampung people, which has been neglected by previous governments.

“This is an unbelievable honour. I am to wear full ceremonial dress in a formal ceremony and be received as an honorary member of a Lampung clan,” Professor Kartomi said.

Along with the province’s famous cloths and traditional fan dances, the gamolan is now recognised as an icon of Lampung’s identity.

Sumber: monash.edu.au, Senin, 31 Oktober 2011

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