Java Tour, July 2018!

We’re launching our new project, Akar, with a tour of Java featuring crankies, storytelling, songs, and international collaborators.

Beyond the simple pleasure of of performing beautiful music and shadow theater, Rumput’s mission has been intercultural communion through study and collaboration. Last year we traveled to Java on the extraordinary opportunity of an invited 12-day residency. The timing lined up fortuitously with Andy’s academic research in Bali and the departure of three of our members for a year of intensive study in Java — Hannah on a Fulbright scholarship to study keroncong, Natalie on a Darmasiswa scholarship to study gamelan, and Edward on a Darmasiswa to study wayang (shadow puppetry). We got to escort them overseas, play music together, immerse ourselves in the local culture, and collaborate with enormously talented Javanese musicians.

This summer we’re mounting a similar journey on the other end of our scholars’ study year. But this time we’re traveling on our own steam, with our own agenda, rather than on a sponsored, curated, and all-expenses-paid trip. This will enable us to dig deeper into the highly localized cultures of several Indonesian cities.

Detail from Beth Reid’s “Brer Rabbit” crankie. Photo by Robert Parrish.

Danis Sugiyanto, Guest Artistic Director

Danis Sugiyanto, Guest Artistic Director, Spring 2018

Mas Danis is a visiting Fulbright Scholar with dual appointments teaching Javanese gamelan at William & Mary and the University of Richmond. He will  join Rumput during his semester-long residency, playing key gigs at Cornell University, in Baltimore and Washington DC, and in Richmond. He is also helping us compose and arrange music for our next big touring project, Akar.

Born to a renowned family of musicians in Solo, Java, Mr. Sugiyanto has been an active performer of traditional gamelan, kroncong and experimental music since his early teens. He graduated in 1995 with a BA from the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Solo, earning his MA there in 2003 and immediately joined the permanent faculty. He has performed extensively in Asia, Australia, America and Europe. He was a featured musician in Robert Wilson’s I La Galigo and has performed extensively with Ong Keng Seng, Rahayu Supanggah, I Wayan Sadra, Waljinah, Sardono W. Kusumo and many others. He has been a featured performer in several of Garin Nugroho’s films

Rumput at InLight 2017

Rumput was featured in InLight 2017, a juried outdoor public festival of illuminated art with an international draw. Many thanks to our fabulous crankie artist Beth Reid for putting together the application, and to sound & vision designer Greyson Goodenow for making us look so spectacular the photographers couldn’t keep away. (Fully 28% of the 7 photos featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch gallery were of us!)

Thanks also to photographers Robert Parrish (freelance) and James H. Wallace (Richmond Times-Dispatch).

Bandung 2017 roundup

Editor’s note: This is the inaugural post in a new category we’re calling Java Journal — a blog series written by Rumput scholars Hannah Standiford (Fulbright student research grantee studying kroncong), Natalie Quick (Darmasiswa scholar studying gamelan), and Edward Breitner (Darmasiswa scholar studying wayang shadow theater).

Here are a few highlights from our 12-day residency in West Java, August 2017:

We arrived in Jakarta after a grueling 25-hour trip by way of Dubai.

We were greeted by staff from Paris van Java Resort Lifestyle Place (PVJ) and officials from the regional department of culture, Dinas Kebudayaan Bandung. We were assigned a huge coterie of handlers, guides, and managers, all working long days to ensure we were safe, comfortable, well fed, entertained, and punctual!

We were then loaded into a van for the last leg of the trip: an hours-long midnight drive to our home in Bandung, Zest Hotel Sukajadi, mere steps away from the performance space at PVJ.

Our first day was spent at Kawah Putih (“white crater”, named for its sulphur deposits), an active volcano surrounded by a nature reserve and wildlife restoration area and expansive tea plantations. Our tour guide, a park ranger involved in wildlife recovery operations, taught us about local history and species of flora and fauna, including samples of edible wild plants.

That night, despite crushing jetlag, several of us accepted an invitation from Palmer Keen, a US expatriate who runs the brilliant Aural Archipelago blog, to attend a party and jam session for a friend of his on the rooftop of an academic building at Institut Teknologi Bandung. He urged us to bring instruments for the jam, which we did, and to our surprise we were ushered on stage immediately on arrival to play a set — a great honor, and great fun despite our missing core members.

Still from video by Palmer Keen.

The next night was a highlight for us: we were invited to a potluck and jam session hosted by true masters of the kroncong craft — Orkes Keroncong Jempol Jenthik (JJOK). We played a few songs in their garage, which they enthusiastically cheered, applauding our modest innovations, singing along at appropriate times, laughing with us over our mistakes. Then they got up to show us how it’s done, truly expanding our appreciation of the range of kroncong innovation, and dropping jaws with their sheer talent. Each band pulled in guests from the other. Though they treated us as peers and honored guests, this was a master-class, and we all took deep mental notes (as well as video documentation). Later in the week we were thrilled and humbled to have them added to the bill for one night of our performance residency at PVJ.

Posted by Edward B on Monday, August 14, 2017

Still riding that bliss wave, we accepted another invitation from Palmer to check out an after-hours jaipong show at a local bar. Jaipong is a funky, sexy, and astonishingly virtuosic genre of percussion-driven Sundanese music, a modernized and amped-up derivation of the more traditional ketuk tilu. While Western pop music increasingly relies on click-tracks and sequenced beats, it’s refreshing to find music that is at once rhythmically free and irresistibly propulsive.  See Palmer’s blog entry on the scene he introduced us to.

Next we commenced 5 consecutive nights of performances as the inaugural headliners of a new rooftop garden and performing arts space at PVJ.

Our first night out we collaborated with Bandung dalang (pupeteer) Asep Berlian, kecapi (traditional Sundanese zither) and suling (flute) player Tata Saturyat, and Sundanese dance troupe Sanggar Tari Nira.

On subsequent nights we were thrilled to share a bill with genre-bending kroncong masters JJOK, then rising kroncong stars Group Keroncong Astra Jinnga, Sundanese bamboo orchestra Galengan Sora Awi, and jaipong troupe Wangsit Enterprise.

After wrapping our final night with a reprise from Tata Saturyat and Asep Berlian we had a free day, which we spent at Tangkubanprahu, our second active volcano trip.

We ended the day, and the tour, with a lovely, serene dinner at Heritage Kitchen & Gallery. Owner Padma Siebert had seen our performance and invited us as her guests.

We ended our residency with borderline weepy hugs all around between those staying and those going, then a final lunch at the airport with our generous hosts, and another brutal plane trip home.

Now…how to get back next year?


Dust Up magazine reviews our debut album

Dust Up reviewed our debut album Rumput in their feature Bandcamp of the Week.

…melodies and break-downs that make Indonesia feel like a short highway ride away, instead of on the opposite side of a globe….

While that’s something that specifically speaks to us in 2017, it’s also a timeless inspiration, which is ultimately what Rumput has beautifully created here.