10/07/2024 12:15 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 (Bernama) -- As soon as the door opens, one can hear the strains of gamelan music. Gamelan music in the heart of the city?

Yes, there is a studio in the Bukit Bintang area here offering classes to those wishing to learn to play the traditional instruments used in gamelan music, a genre of ensemble instrumental music with a history that dates back to the Malay Peninsula in 1811.

Visiting the Gangsapura Gamelan Studio, located on the eighth floor of a shopping centre in Bukit Bintang and which opened its doors in May, evokes nostalgia what with its array of traditional instruments such as keromong, gambang, saron, gong, gendang and kenong, and the red songket designs adorning the soundproofing panels on the studio walls.

Its founder Teuku Umar Ilany Teuku Iskandar, 35, also has another reason for opening the studio – to introduce the heritage music to tourists as Bukit Bintang is a popular destination for visitors to the capital city.

He added there is also no truth in the assumption that gamelan music is difficult to learn or youths are not interested in it.

“The response from youths has been very encouraging, to the point where we have to allocate five slots a week for classes to meet the demand. Those interested in learning can also have their classes scheduled according to their convenience," he told Bernama recently.

Gamelan is said to have originated from Indonesia’s Riau-Lingga sultanate around the 17th century before being brought to Pekan, Pahang, in conjunction with a royal wedding that involved the Riau-Lingga and Pahang sultanates.

Teuku Umar Ilany, who is also a lecturer at the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (ASWARA), runs his studio with his wife Nur Diyana Nadirah Shaharuddin, 31, and assisted by Ahmad Syamiem Mohd Sukarno, 28, who has 16 years of experience serving as a gamelan music instructor.

The classes are divided into three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. The studio also conducts trial sessions for children aged seven. 

When asked how long it takes to become proficient in gamelan music, Teuku Umar Ilany quickly replied, "It depends on the individual.”

He added: “Like other forms of music, it requires continuous practice to master the instruments. However, gamelan is different as it does not have theoretical books commonly used when learning other musical instruments such as the piano."

Gamelan, he explained, involves oral teaching methods, with students learning to play an instrument through listening, observing, imitating and repeating.

“The same process is followed for different playing techniques, depending on the instrument they are learning to play," he said, adding students attending classes at his studio also get to learn to play different instruments.

Teuku Umar Ilany said his interest in music began at the age of 12 when his parents made him participate in a programme at Istana Budaya here. He learned to play gamelan music formally at a secondary school which  offered a music stream.

He said he and his wife faced challenging times before their desire to open a studio to "share their passion and knowledge in this cultural art” became a reality two months ago.

"Before this studio was opened, we had been renting spaces since 2016 to conduct our classes. Not only that, we also had to rent the musical instruments. There were times when our costs would come to thousands of ringgit," he said.

Teuku Umar Ilany is also a member of a Gamelan group called Gangsapura which has performed at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre and Malaysia Tourism Centre. Their performances helped the group gain recognition, leading to them obtaining a grant last year under the Creative Kuala Lumpur Creative Grants Programme.

Teuku Umar Ilany said the grant was used to equip Studio Gamelan Gangsapura, adding they also received personal donations from like-minded individuals who are passionate about preserving the nation’s traditional music heritage.

"I hope our studio can become a centre for traditional music that meets the needs of heritage enthusiasts from various segments of society. Our goal is for gamelan music to be preserved and elevated to a higher level so that it does not fade away in the future," he said.






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