March 26, 2007

Visitors have fun with 'Angklung'

The Jakarta
June 12, 2005

T. Sima Gunawan, Contributor, Bandung

Clad in colorful traditional costumes, dozens of children and teenagers cheerfully sing while playing unique bamboo musical instruments called angklung. Beautiful sounds fill the air, mesmerizing the audience who clap their hands in rhythm to the music.

At the end of the show, they dance together in a happy atmosphere, sharing a moment that will no doubt become an unforgettable memory.

"That's amazing. I've never heard such unique music," said Andre, a tourist from Germany.

He was one of some 40 tourists, mostly foreigners, who watched the show at Saung Angklung Udjo Sundanese Art and Bamboo Craft Center in Bandung, one of the most important tourist places in West Java.

Another Western tourist, who got a chance to dance with a toddler, seemed to be so impressed that she spontaneously took some gifts out of her bag and gave them to the little girl and her friends, while a Japanese woman asked the young artists to pose with her for a series of photo sessions.

The performance at Saung Angklung Udjo begins with a wayang golek (wood puppet) demonstration. It only lasts a few minutes, which is very short compared to the real wayang golek show that usually takes more than seven hours to perform.

The audience also learns something about traditions here with the young artists performing a khitanan (circumcision) show. In the village, there is a tradition where young boys who have just been circumcised will be entertained by children with dancing and singing accompanied by angklung music.

A mask dance and an arumba (bamboo music played in a band formation) show are performed, too.

The highlight of the whole presentation is, of course, the angklung recital. Angklung are played by shaking the instrument, and they produce beautiful sounds in harmony. The songs vary, from traditional ones like Burung Kakaktua from Maluku, to Do Re Mi (a song of The Sound of Music), and Tulpen oit Amsterdam (Tulips from Amsterdam).

The audience is invited to participate by playing along with angklung. They can even bring home a set of angklung as the musical instruments are available at the souvenir shop. Other merchandise on offer includes wayang golek, CDs of angklung music, and various bamboo handicrafts.

Saung Angklung Udjo Sundanese Art and Bamboo Craft Center (saung means thatch-roofed pavilion with no walls, like an open gazebo) is situated on a 1.5 hectare plot of land on Jl. Padasuka in the Cicaheum area. It was established in 1967 by Udjo Ngalagena (1929-2001), and his wife Uum Sumiati to increase public appreciation of the traditional art. Udjo was a student of Daeng Soetigna, the angklung master who created the do-re-mi tones for angklung in 1938.

The concept of angklung is 5-M; Mudah (easy), Murah (cheap), Mendidik (educating), Menarik (interesting) and Masal (for the masses, or common people). In other words, the center is aimed at providing an alternative musical education by means of low-priced bamboo musical instruments that can be easily learned, and that involve a lot of people who can produce an interesting show.

Saung Angklung Udjo, which won the PATA Gold Award in Jeyu, South Korea last year, has so far taught more than 1,000 students. Today there are some 150 students here. Interestingly, the parents and relatives of many students used to learn at the art center, too.

"My parents used to perform here," said Ika, 14. "And now me, my two siblings and some of my nieces and nephews learn here."

A master of ceremony at Saung Angklung Udjo, Cathy, is a student at the Padjadjaran University whose mother was also Udjo's student.

Considering the importance of interaction with the audience, students learn not only traditional songs from various parts of the country, but also some popular foreign songs as well as classical music. They also learn how to greet guests in English, German, Dutch and French.

The daily performance is held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Entrance tickets for the regular show are Rp 25,000 for locals and Rp 35,000 for foreigners.

The business has been much affected by the ups and down of the country's tourist industry. Due to the tragedy of the Bali bombings in 2002, Saung Angklung Udjo experienced a really hard time. Today, it is doing well, as seen in the number of performances that are held everyday.

"Now, we perform three or four times a day," said Cathy. "In the morning, the shows are usually for kindergarten children and high school students."

Saung Angklung Udjo,
Jl. Padasuka 118, Bandung. Tel. (62) (22) 727 1714, 720 1587.
Daily performance: 3:30 p.m.- 5:30 p.m

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