The Making Connections Project

Click here for more on our 2018 programme of events

 

Key leaders of the Wonosobo bundengan revival movement. Left: Pak Mahrumi, one of the last master-builders of bundengan. Centre: Pak Munir, the only known master-player of bundengan. Right: Ibu Mulyani, teacher and dancer of Ngesti Laras Foundation, who is intent on bringing this unique instrument to her students.

Project aims

Bringing together communities and institutions in Indonesia and Australia, this project promotes hands-on exchanges of music and conservation knowledge through fun and engaging instrument-building workshops, unusual concerts and performances, and forums for new research and discussions about the shared community responsibility in preserving cultural heritage and fostering creativity.

Background

As the result of a collaboration between Professor Margaret Kartomi, director of the Music Archive of Monash University (MAMU) and Dr Nicole Tse of the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (GCCMC) of The University of Melbourne, the bundengan in MAMU’s collection (a rare Javanese musical instrument, also known as the kowangan), became the focus of an ongoing partnership between music revival communities, including passionate music teacher Ibu Mulyani, musicians Pak Munir and Pak Buchori, ethnomusicologist Sa’id Muhammad, and conservator Rosie Cook.

This unusual musical instrument has its origins as a large woven bamboo cape, worn by duck-herders in Central Java as protection from the sun and rain. In modern-day Wonosobo, musicians and ethnomusicologists are experiencing renewed interest and passion in sustaining the craftsmanship and music skills necessary for building and playing bundengan.

Rosie Cook travelled to Wonosobo to meet with musicians, teachers, craftsmen, ethnomusicologists and local government officials, and joined with Bu Mul of the Ngesti Laras Foundation. With a focus on establishing living links between research collections and the expertise held by individuals within the community, the Making Connections project has been developed in collaboration with the Wonosobo bundengan community, the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Surakarta, MAMU, and the GCCMC. Making Connections strives to build a network of knowledge exchanges between countries, cultures and institutions, and has designed a number of events to support the bundengan revival as a conduit for these connections.

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 Past events include

  • The two-day “Workshop Bundengan” (pictured above and below) carried out in March 2017, in collaboration with the Selomerto Bupati, to promote the musical practice amongst schools in the region. Over 100 children attended the workshop, learning the basics of bundengan playing, and performed in a concert that received considerable media coverage.
  • A two-day workshop, introducing how to build and to play a bundengan, in association with ISI Surakarta’s October 2017 International Interdisciplinary Conference on Arts Creation.
  • A presentation entitled “From Kowangan to Bundengan: Community collaboration as conservation of a musical instrument”, given at the National Conference of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material in Sydney, in November 2017.
  • An Exhibition of MAMU’s unique collection of bundengans, entitled “The bundengan, a Duck-herd’s Zither from Java’s Dieng Plateau”, at the Music Auditorium, Monash University Clayton Campus

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Making Connections is grateful for the generous support of the Helen Soemardjo Art Fund, which is a major sponsor of these events, as well as Monash University, the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies of the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, University Gadjah Mada, the Indonesian Institute of the Arts Surakarta, and the Consulate General of Indonesia in Melbourne. We are currently looking for additional partners and contributors to support upcoming events. Full acknowledgement will be given to all supporters of our project in both Australia and Indonesia, where we aim to foster and strengthen mutual understanding through a shared passion for music, culture and conservation.