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Gamelan Semara Winangun

Balinese Gamelan in Ottawa, Canada

January 3, 2014

A Look Back

Filed under: Guest Posts — webmaster @ 11:57 am

Happy New Year to all! As we look back on our 10th anniversary year, as well as the 60th anniversary of Indonesia-Canada diplomatic relations, this guest post seems very appropriate. Thanks for sharing Jamie!

By Jamie Gullikson

My first trip to Indonesia was a life-changing experience. Trying to escape the Ottawa winter, my wife and I traveled to Bali on a friend’s recommendation. “Everyone in Indonesia loves music”, he said. Certainly, music seemed to be everywhere: in grand and colourful parades and ceremonies, in restaurants, outdoor rehearsals, and performances. What struck me immediately upon seeing a gamelan actually play, was that this was a true group experience, with every instrument being of equal importance. There were no solos or even solo instruments; they weren’t necessary to the music. The music itself seemed perfect and complete, and was virtuosically played by men who stared absently into space, almost as if they were thinking of something else. As a Western musician, I was mystified. That same trip I read Canadian composer Colin McPhee’s marvelous book “A House in Bali”. His wonderful, thoughtful descriptions of the music, musicians, and country in the 1930s totally captivated me, and I returned to Canada with a small pile of cassettes which I listened to constantly, trying to understand or at least become accustomed to this rich music.

It was unbelievable luck that, a little over a year later, a Balinese pelegongan group was being formed just an hour from where I live. The Indonesian Embassy in Ottawa had agreed to house the instruments and graciously allowed us to begin practicing there, and we’ve been there almost every Tuesday evening since. In that time, we’ve managed to build a repertoire based on workshops with visiting teachers, individual studies in Indonesia, and from original arrangements and compositions. None of this would have been possible without the support of the Indonesian Embassy and the local Indonesian community. From their interest and patience, we’ve been able to improve as a group, and have been afforded many opportunities to perform. Being asked to participate in several of the Asian Heritage Month gala events has been a real thrill for us, as has been working with talented dancer/choreographer/musician Eko Nurcahyo to prepare for these shows. We were also very honoured to have been asked to perform for the 2005 Tsunami Relief Benefit Concert. Three people from our group were in Indonesia at the time of the tsunami, and arrived home just days before the concert. Needless to say it was a very emotional event.

In the past ten years we’ve performed a “live soundtrack” to a classic Balinese silent movie, played with jazz musicians, African drummers and dancers, as well as a classical choir. We’ve played in museums, churches, tents, bars, on a bridge, on parking lots and lawns. It has been the best ten years of my life, musically and otherwise. I’m very lucky to be a part of a group made up of the nicest people, whose dedication to Indonesian music is inspiring. And we, as a group, are very happy to be in a position where we can “give back” to the Indonesian Embassy and community by being able to perform at various cultural, diplomatic, or just-plain-fun events. It is this kind of “friendship beyond borders” that has made the group what it is today.

There will always be new challenges in playing gamelan, and there will always be room for improvements. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why we enjoy playing this music so much. The adventure is simply in getting there. I look forward to the challenges and improvements that the next ten years will surely bring, and I look forward to our ever-growing friendship with the Indonesian community.

November 16, 2013

Ottawa Tea Festival

Filed under: Gigs — webmaster @ 9:40 am

The Ottawa Tea Festival is coming very soon. The festival has been “sharing culture through the language of tea” since 2011. This year’s language is quite exotic — the program includes a Japanese tea ceremony, Indian drumming and dancing, and Balinese Gamelan as played by us. Hope to see you there!

What: Ottawa Tea Festival
When: Saturday, November 23, 2013 (Festival runs 11am-6pm, Semara Winangun takes the stage at 3pm)
Where: Ottawa Convention Centre, 55 Colonel By Drive
Cost: 15$

June 12, 2013

Indonesian Festival 2013

Filed under: Gigs — webmaster @ 8:16 am

Looking for something to do on Saturday, June 15? Come check out the Indonesian Festival, hosted by the Indonesian Embassy. There will be lots of performances, food, crafts etc… Gamelan Semara Winangun will take the stage around 1:30pm.

When: Saturday June 15, 10-4pm
Where: Indonesian Embassay – 55 Parkdale Avenue
Cost: Free

Indonesian Festival 2013 Flyer

April 8, 2013

10th Anniversary Show — In the Home Stretch

Filed under: Gigs — webmaster @ 10:38 am

As mentioned in a previous post, Semara Winangun is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a group. As part of this celebration, we’re excited and delighted to present a program of music and dance this Saturday. We spent yesterday afternoon rehearsing with the dancers; it is clear to all of us that this will be a very special show. Hope you can come out to celebrate with us!

Update: We have friends now! To start the show, Linsey Wellman will be performing a piece for solo woodwind, and the Glebe Chamber Choir will be presenting a piece by R Murray Schaeffer, entitled “Gamelan”. Amazing!

Here are the details:

What: Semara Winangun’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
Where: First Unitarian Congregation, 30 Cleary Avenue, Ottawa
When: Saturday April 13, 2013 @ 7:30PM

Tickets are 10$ in advance, and 15$ at the door (10$ at the door for students / seniors). Free admission for children under 10.

Tickets are available from gamelan members, from the Leading Note, or by emailing us at

Poster courtesy of Rob Bitschofsky.

10th Anniversary concert poster

10th Anniversary concert poster

March 3, 2013

10th Anniversary Show!

Filed under: Gigs — webmaster @ 7:11 pm

When we first burst onto the Ottawa music scene, they said we’d never last. They said our instruments were too heavy, and our knowledge of Balinese music too rudimentary. Over ten years later, our instruments are still pretty heavy but we have learned a lot about Balinese music. We have had the pleasure of studying with Balinese Master musicians I Made Lasmawan and I Dewa Made Suparta, and many of us have visited Bali to take in the sights and sounds first-hand.

In addition to great teachers, we are very grateful to have the continuing support of the Indonesian Embassy here in Ottawa. They’ve given us a practice space, a place to store our instruments, and have provided us with countless opportunities to perform the music that we love.

It has been a wild ride so far! We’ve shared the stage with accomplished Balinese dancers (Eko Nurcahyo), far-out jazz bands (Rakestar), African drummers and dancers (Akpokli), rock stars (Matt Ouimet), accomplished world acts (Orchid Ensemble), choirs (Cantata Singers), and many many more amazing musicians. We even had the opportunity to score the soundtrack for a silent film! Thanks to everyone who has made the last ten years possible; this of course includes all the wonderful audiences that we’ve been privileged to play for.

Our tenth anniversary show is going to be wonderful. We are preparing a selection of our greatest hits, premiering some new tunes, and performing with some incredible Balinese dancers. Come on out — you won’t be disappointed!

Here are the details:

What: Semara Winangun’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
Where: First Unitarian Congregation, 30 Cleary Avenue, Ottawa
When: Saturday April 13, 2013 @ 7:30PM

Tickets are 10$ in advance, and 15$ at the door (10$ at the door for students / seniors). Free admission for children under 10.

Tickets are available from gamelan members, from the Leading Note (starting March 7th), or by emailing us at

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