Gamelan Madu Sari bringing music of Indonesia to Gabriola

Alexander Varty

Submitted Article

Monday, June 2 2014

If you’ve ever been curious about gamelan, the indigenous music of Indonesia, next weekend offers a rare opportunity to not only hear a gamelan orchestra at work, but to get up close and personal with its gongs, bonangs and genders. Vancouver’s Gamelan Madu Sari, which includes part-time Gabriolans Mark Parlett and Andreas Kahre, plays the community hall on Saturday (June 7), after which it will offer a hands-on workshop on Sunday (June 8). 

“You may have heard a CD or seen a documentary about gamelan, but there’s nothing like hearing it live,” says Parlett, the ensemble’s artistic director. “And as far as the music you’re going to hear, this particular ensemble has a long, informed history. Many of the core members are quite versed in the traditional music, having studied with many master teachers over the years. But what we do is completely unique.”

That’s because Madu Sari’s members write most of the ensemble’s music, although on its current tour the band will also draw on compositions from CBC host Jon Siddall and world-music guitarist John Oliver.

Parlett jokes that the resulting Java-via-Vancouver sound is like “a dream of music floating in the ocean,” but stresses that the high quality of the scores, not their exotic nature, is their most important feature. 

“What’s interesting is that the music is compelling,” he says.

As for the Sunday workshop, which starts at 11:00 a.m., Parlett promises that it will let participants get a real sense of what it is like to play in a gamelan ensemble. “There’s nothing like striking bronze with a wooden mallet, and I really would love to have some Gabriola musicians, whatever their creed or practice, to come and experience that sound in a workshop,” he says. “We just want to get everyone chugging along together, and we’ll get a lot done in three hours.”

Tickets for the concert and workshop ($15 for the show; $30 for both) are available at Artworks or through Parlett at For more information, visit