Mebarung! Bates Gamelan and guests Galak Tika join forces March 24

The Bates Gamelan Orchestra in March 2012.

The Bates Gamelan Orchestra in March 2011. Photograph by Simone Schriger ’14.

In a program titled Mebarung! — a Balinese term for a sort of “battle of the bands” between gamelan ensembles — the Bates Gamelan Orchestra welcomes the Massachusetts group Gamelan Galak Tika for a joint performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.

Featuring two world premieres, and performances of dance as well as music, the concert is open to the public at no cost, but tickets are required. For more information, please contact 207-786-6135 or

Gamelan is a classical genre of music indigenous to Bali and Java, in Indonesia. The instruments consist mostly of tuned percussion, and tend to be created in sets comprising a variety of instruments — Bates owns two sets. Singing and wind instruments are also part of the gamelan tradition.

Gamelan is a living musical force, sustained by Indonesian and Western composers who respect traditional idioms while staying contemporary in both compositional and performance practices.

Gamelan Galak Tika.

Gamelan Galak Tika.

Peter Steele, visiting instructor of music at Bates, directs the Bates ensemble. Gamelan Galak Tika is directed by composer Evan Ziporyn, recently appointed inaugural director of the Center of Art, Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“In Bali, mebarung performances showcase the brilliance of two competing gamelan groups on a shared stage,” Steele explains. “These events are hotly anticipated and typically show off a myriad of artistic styles, both classical and contemporary.”

The Bates concert features two new works by a prominent Balinese composer, I Dewa Ketut Alit. Also on the program, along with classical Javanese and Balinese pieces, are Ziporyn’s groundbreaking fusion works, “Tire Fire” and “Amok” for Balinese gamelan and electro-acoustic instruments.

Finally, the gamelans will accompany dances performed by students in the course World Dance Forms: Balinese Dance, taught by guest artist Shoko Yamamuro.

The Bates College Gamelan Orchestra is an Indonesian-music study and performance group that, among other roles, provides ceremonial music for college events. The gamelan plays music of West and Central Java, as well as new music for gamelan.

Steele is a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University, where for four years he directed the Gamelan Wira Surya. His dissertation examines the global popularity of Balinese performing arts in the 21st century. Active as a performer and composer, Steele wrote “Mornings Well Augured” for the Bates gamelan to perform at the October 2012 installation ceremony for Bates President Clayton Spencer.

Gamelan Galak Tika has been at the forefront of innovative music for Balinese gamelan since 1993. The ensemble has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, several Bang on a Can Marathons, the Cleveland Museum of Art and colleges throughout the Northeast. In 2005 the group toured Bali.

Galak Tika is dedicated to commissioning and performing new works by Balinese and American composers, as well as performing traditional Balinese music and dance. “Galak tika” is classical Javanese for “intense togetherness.”

Ziporyn is an American clarinetist, composer, the founder and director of Gamelan Galak Tika, and a founding member of the acclaimed Bang on a Can All-Stars. He writes boundary-crossing music with a downtown experimental sensibility. His compositions have been performed by Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project and the Kronos Quartet, among other artists.

Alit is generally acknowledged as the leading composer of his generation in Bali. He has collaborated with dancers and musicians from around the world, including Ziporyn and Gamelan Galak Tika. He is regularly invited to teach and compose for gamelan outside Bali.

Seeking a wider path for his approach to new music in gamelan, Alit founded his own gamelan group in 2007, Gamelan Salukat, performing on a new set of instruments of Alit’s own tuning and design.

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