Arts Listings

Gamelan Sekar Jaya Marks 30 Years with Benefit Show

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 25, 2009 - 06:21:00 PM

Gamelan Sekar Jaya, the East Bay’s 50-member ensemble of musicians and dancers specializing in the Indonesian performing arts of Bali, will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a benefit celebration Saturday at the Berkeley City Club, featuring music and dance, and both a silent and an open auction of Asian artworks, followed by a raffle.  

Entertainment at the event will be performed by Gong Kebyar, Sekar Jaya’s 26-member ensemble, playing an excerpt of Legong, a traditional gamelan piece, and the dancing of eight year-old Iu Dewa Ayu Larrasanti. I Dewa Putu Berata, founder of Bali’s Cudamani gamelan ensemble, will be guest artist. I Dewa Putu Berata is guest music director for Sekar Jaya’s current season.  

“The group was born in Berkeley,” said artistic director Wayne Vitale, “with the original plan being for a six week workshop—and it’s still going. Since that time, there’s been a freer flow of people, artists and ideas between Bali and the rest of the world—and we see ourselves like a sister city, as a direct conduit for artistic exchange.” 

Larry Reed, founder of ShadowLight Productions, reminisced: “We all came out of the old Center for World Music, at one point housed in the Julia Morgan Center, with composers like Steve Reich coming through. Rachel Cooper, now at the Asia Society in New York, and Michael Tenzer, now teaching in Vancouver, bought the gamelan and started the workshop. We collaborated over the years on many things, the biggest being Kawit Legong, the origin of the little girl dance in a dream, at Zellerbach. Their key to success has always been having great guest artists to look up to. And they do a good job, always rejuvenating themselves. There are original members playing with the group, and their children ... a wonderful community gamelan. And it’s high level musicianship, not just a little amateur club.”  

Sekar Jaya is itself composed of several kinds of gamelan orchestras and dancers, which often play in various combinations. Besides Gong Kebyar, the orchestras include Gamelan Angklung, Gamelan Gender Wayang, Gamelan Jegog and Gamelan Joged. Each orchestra is made up of bronze metallophones and/or bamboo marimbas, combined with tuned gongs, drums and flutes.  

Sekar Jaya has presented more than 400 concerts in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, toured Bali five times, sponsored extended Bay Area residencies for over 40 Balinese artists and presided over the creation of more than 60 new music and dance works by both Balinese and American artists and collaborated with Bay Area groups and performers like the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Chitresh Das Dance Company (North Indian Kathak), Larry Reed’s ShadowLight Productions (shadow-shows and puppetry) and the Club Foot Orchestra (accompanying the 1935 silent film LEGONG: DANCE OF THE VIRGINS live, now available on DVD through Milestone). Sekar Jaya has also offered educational outreach in Berkeley through CalPerformance’s SchoolTime, in Oakland through the Oakland Youth Chorus/Music in the Schools program, as well as regionally through AYPAL (Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership), Young Audiences and the Foothill College Arts Alliance. Ongoing workshops and classes in music and dance are offered at Sekar Jaya’s El Cerrito center and other locations. 

Sekar Jaya will celebrate its anniversary with three performances, May 22-24, at Cowell Theatre in San Francisco’s Ft. Mason Center, as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival, featuring the world premiere of the entire suite for gamelan by I Dewa Putu Berata, SERASI. Early bird discount tickets are available through March 31. (800) 838-3006 or 


Gamelan Sekar Jaya 

30th anniversary benefit  

1-6 p.m. Saturday  

Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., Admission: $25.  

655-1227 or