Gamelan is a traditional ensemble of percussion instruments from the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. The fascination that has stemmed from its percussive and tonality-rich sound over the past 130 years means it is regarded as one of the major influences on repetitive music and, in turn, a large part of twentieth-century music, from auditorium minimalism to electronic dance music. Despite this patent influence on the West, and the ongoing allure of gamelan’s purity of sound, it remains somewhat difficult to hear live due to the sheer number of instruments comprising the ensemble.
MadGamelan is partly made up of employees from the Embassy of Indonesia in Spain and, therefore, has an in-house, day-to-day feel for its performers, who will present the concert in their native tongue, providing the audience with a translated handout. Thus, they will briefly demonstrate the traditional, sacred role of gamelan gongs, with their performances affording a glimpse into the idea of circular time, where music is, out of necessity, anticlimactic.
The concert will unfold in one of the Museo Reina Sofía’s gallery spaces in the Retiro Park, the Palacio de Cristal, originally designed as a greenhouse to hold the General Exhibition on the Philippine Islands in 1887. That show was organised as part of the World Fairs held at the end of the 19th century, in which European powers exhibited their technological, economic and colonial might, including a type of ‘human zoo’ with natives from the colonies demonstrating their ways of life, art and music. It was precisely at one of these Fairs, in Paris in 1889, where Claude Debussy first heard gamelan music, setting in motion the influence of this music on the West.
MadGamelan is the stage name of Gamelán Internacional de Madrid, which hails from the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Spain. The group was founded in 2014 by director David González Tejero and composer Iván Caramés Bohigas, under the instruction of Pak Yanto, a specialist in traditional Indonesian music. Since then, MadGamelan has worked with the embassy to disseminate Indonesian music and culture through a number of concerts, frequently expanding the limits of traditional music and incorporating electronic and audiovisual mediums into their shows to create more familiar aesthetic territory for contemporary European audiences.