New album with Peni in the works!

We’ve been working on new recordings of Javanese experimental music adapted for electric keroncong, incorporating sounds of surf-rock, avant-noise, and metal to accompany Peni’s wild, beautiful singing!

Compositions by Peni Candra Rini, Danis Sugiyanto, I Wayan Sadra, and Zoel Mistortoify.

It’s being mixed and mastered by John Dieterich of Deerhoof, who’s cranking up the amps and the experimentalism for a sound unlike anything we’ve heard. We’re still working out when and how it will be released, but catch a preview at one of our upcoming shows!

Maduswara: Peni’s commission for Kronos Quartet

Peni Candra Rini, our guest artistic director for this season, has just premiered at Carnegie Hall a composition commissioned by Kronos Quartet as part of their 50 for the Future program. Congratulations, Peni! Sukses!

New York Classical Review observes:

Rini joined Kronos for Maduswara, singing and playing the rebab…. Rini’s tradition is Javanese music, and Maduswara was an involving evocation of this. Rini’s writing for the quartet kept the traditional rhythms while opening up the textures so that every vocal inflection, bent note, and move from a pentatonic to a Western major scale—and back—had an extra expressive edge.

Photo by Peter McElhinney for Style Weekly

Peni and Kronos recently joined in a panel discussion at the University of Richmond regarding her composition and their process of adapting it. Andy asked her to sing a passage from it, and the effect was wondrous: the members of Kronos, no strangers to awe-inspiring talent, all spoke of being deeply moved by the power of her voice in close proximity, and began to think aloud about how that sensation might change their performance technique, to represent not just the “flotando” (floating, flute-like) timbre but also the deep resonance.

Update: the truly great news following this premiere is that Kronos has commissioned 4 additional compositions from Peni!

Peni Candra Rini, guest artistic director

Peni Candra Rini, PhD (b. 1983) is a renowned Javanese singer, composer, and faculty member at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts. During the spring 2023 semester she will be teaching as a Visiting Fulbright Artist-Scholar at the University of Richmond. She will direct Rumput and Gamelan Raga Kusuma, and join us in multiple performances and recordings.

Raised in an artistic family in a small fishing village in East Java, Peni first began studying voice at the age of 5 under her father, a village shadow master. She later moved to the Central Javanese city of Solo to study at the Indonesian National Conservatory of the Arts, where she completed her doctorate and was hired as faculty in 2020. She is a master of several traditional forms and is regarded as one of Indonesia’s most daring young composers, one of only a handful of female composers in the majority-Muslim nation.

The Kronos String Quartet commissioned and is currently performing her latest chamber work, Maduswara, which they premiered this year at Carnegie Hall. She is a former recipient of grants from the Asian Cultural Council, a two-time grantee of the US State Department’s One Beat Program and in 2022 was named an Aga Khan Foundation laureate of the arts. She was a principal performer on our first major production and tour, Shadow Ballads, in 2016, along with past guest artistic director Danis Sugiyanto, Gamelan Raga Kusuma co-founder Gusti Sudarta, and folk duo Anna and Elizabeth.

In addition to her university teaching Peni is owner and executive director of Candrarini’s Gamelan, Sentana Art Music Production, and Jagad Sentana Art Foundation.

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

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 artists including I Wayan Sadra, Slamet Gundana, Dedek Wahyudi, Dedy Luthan, Enthus Susmana, Hajar Satoto, Yayat Suheryatna, Suprapto Suryodarmo, Bambang ‘Mbesur’ Suryono, Purwa Lelana, Wasi Bantolo, Sri Wardoyo, Anjarany, Ong Keng Sen, and Michi Tomioka.

Mas Danis served as a visiting Fulbright Scholar in 2018 with dual appointments teaching Javanese gamelan at William & Mary and the University of Richmond. He  joined Rumput during his semester-long residency, playing key gigs at Cornell University, in Baltimore and Washington DC, and in Richmond. He also helped us compose and arrange music for our major touring project, Akar.

Java residency and scholarships

We’re excited to announce several emerging long-range developments.

We often call ourselves Richmond’s first and only orkes kroncong. That’s true, but it seems we’re actually the only active kroncong group in North America. We’ve been gratified by the positive recognition we’ve received for playing this music that is very dear to Indonesians: for every view our YouTube channel gets here in the US, we get 45 in Indonesia.

In the coming weeks we will deepen that connection. In August we are all being flown to Bandung, Java, for a 12-day residency where we’ll perform several hours a day and collaborate with local musicians.

Then singer / cakista / bandleader Hannah, bassist Natalie, and puppeteer Edward will stay on for a year of immersive study — Hannah as a Fulbright scholar studying kroncong, and Natalie and Edward as Darmasiswa scholars studying gamelan and wayang (shadow theater), respectively. (See the writeup on the VCU Music Alumni Kudos blog.)

Before our scholars depart we’ll drop into Montrose Recording in July to document some of our current repertoire.  Then the rest of us stateside will retool and learn new and adapted repertoire in collaboration with master musician and visiting Fulbright Scholar Danis Sugiyanto from the Indonesian Institute of the Arts, in residence at the University of Richmond during the spring 2018 semester. (You may have seen Danis perform with us as part of the Shadow Ballads tour in 2016.)

All of this means you have only one last opportunity to catch us in our current form: June 16 at Henrico Theater with Gamelan Raga Kusuma.  Come out and see how far we’ve come in the last two years; we can scarcely imagine the next two!