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Arus Gangsa by Rhythm in Bronze

I first discovered the gamelan instruments at KLpac when I used to head in frequently for rehearsals (back when I was still doing theatre).

Over the years, I have heard people raving about the performances by Rhythm in Bronze. Each time I attend a Cameronian Arts Awards ceremony, it would seem like they’d be nominated (and win). Yet, after all these years, I’ve never watched a single performance by them (apologies to them for stealing the photo below from their Facebook page).

Arus Gangsa

What a fool I’ve been because if all their shows are as good as Arus Gangsa, which I just watched earlier this afternoon – I’ve been missing out!

Now, I’m not musically inclined at all (the only musical instrument I play is the radio) but I was equally entertained, captivated and inspired this afternoon.

Arus Gangsa uses water as its theme, and in two halves told so many stories. By the time the first half ended, I didn’t want to leave the auditorium. It was that good.

My favourite piece was Corak Air because I didn’t imagine the intensity that could emerge from those instruments. In the first song Mirage, the ensemble beautifully shared the wonderful sounds of the Gamelan but it didn’t prepare me for what was about to come next. I was literally at the edge of my seat for most of that song.

In contrast, Return quickly showcased how playful music could be as well – if Corak Air had me holding my breathe the whole time, then this one would have me heaving from bopping around. And the lighting and projection that came along with it worked really well too to add theatrics to a show.

It was tough – throughout the first half, I wanted to close my eyes to just enjoy the music (and Stephanie Van Driesen’s amazing vocals!) but at the same time, so much was happening on stage particularly the different way each performer played on the different instruments and when they interacted with each other. None of this was more pronounced than in Hakikat Air which was nothing short of breathtaking – even the choreography!

I really didn’t expect so much from a concert featuring traditional musical instruments. I’m so glad that after all the rave reviews I saw on Facebook from friends that I decided to ask my sister along to catch the show.

Little did I know.

The second half was highly theatrical and less “concert”-like. For me, it started off slow but midway throught he Love Story, I was once again captured not just in the music but in the performance. There’s something so artistic about what the instruments require from the performers (or maybe it was just bloody good performers who made it feel that way!). Masks, puppets and more, the second half was quite spectacular, but no more so than Mantera Nelayan which was amazingly haunting and the perfect way to end the show.

Before that, the Genbabla felt like a fun break but that simple setting brought out some fantastic sounds.

I’m sorry but I can’t stop raving about it. You can bet that I’ll make sure to catch the next show they put on. I’m even tempted to just drive back there now for their last show tonight (tickets are still available at the door if you’re interested).

6.42pm Malaysian time (+8 GMT)

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