This week we are featuring an article written by our affiliated graduate student from the Department of History, Katia Chaterji.
[Singing in Javanese]
– Speak English, Hanuman.
– Oh, I should speak English?
– Ya, you are in front of your children who only know English. So you should speak English.
— Midiyanto, performing in front of a group of first graders at View Ridge Elementary School, Seattle on February 3rd, 2017
Ki Midiyanto was born into a family of music and storytelling. Guided by over five generations of puppet masters and gamelan musicians, Midiyanto is well acquainted with the art of performance. Yet on a Friday afternoon last month, I sensed just the slightest hesitation as Midiyanto surveyed the intricate, lacy leather puppets in front of him. Throughout his career teaching and performing across the globe, Midiyanto had never performed in front of an audience of 60+ first graders — and first graders in North Seattle, at that.
Some may consider first graders to be your toughest, most observant, critics. Yet Midiyanto, with his animated narration and agile manipulation of the puppets, earned a room full of young fans within minutes.
Born in Wonogiri, a district in the south central part of Java, Indonesia, Midiyanto studied gamelan and shadow theater at the Sekolah Tinggi Seni Karawitan (Indonesian Academy of Musical Arts) in Surakarta, Java. He has since taught Indonesian music and performing arts around the world, and currently holds a position at the University of California at Berkeley. Midiyanto carries with him decades of expertise and knowledge that has been passed down over generations.
Sharing his knowledge with a group of first graders in North Seattle was just one of several cultural and academic events that took place between February 3rd and 4th of this year. Midiyanto also gave a lecture to students enrolled in Music 250, a World Music course taught by Dr. Christina Sunardi at UW, where he discussed both Javanese gamelan and shadow theater techniques. This lecture was open to the public, and many other students, staff, and community members were in attendance. After his lecture, Midiyanto shared lunch with 10 graduate students enrolled in UW’s History and Southeast Asia Studies programs, where he opened up about his experiences in academia.
Next, Midiyanto visited View Ridge Elementary School, where he performed an excerpt of the Ramayana epic in front of 90 avid first graders. Enthralled by the trials of larger-than-life figures like Rahwana, Hanuman, Sita, and Rama, these first graders were well versed in the Ramayana story by the time Midiyanto arrived on their campus. Earlier that week, Rebakah Daro Minarchek of UW’s Southeast Asia Center and Tikka Sears of Seattle’s Memory War Theater visited View Ridge to teach the students about the Ramayana story, help the students make paper puppets, and teach a few dance steps to differentiate the mythic characters in the story. Dinner was also held after the performance to celebrate with students and staff from View Ridge and the UW.
Along with these exciting outreach events, Midiyanto’s visit was also practical. It had been a few years since UW’s gamelan instruments were inspected and tuned, and Midiyanto spent his weekend in Seattle dedicated to the instruments’ repair. With the instruments, like the saron pictured below, now in good shape, the UW gamelan ensemble is ready to rehearse this Spring Quarter in Dr. Sunardi’s course! (link: http://www.washington.edu/students/timeschd/SPR2017/musensem.html#musen411)
Even though Midiyanto’s visit to UW was short, we were thrilled and honored to host him. This series of events was made possible through the generous support of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Alumni Development Fund (U.S. Department of State), the UW School of Music, and the UW Southeast Asia Center. This joint collaboration and support makes possible a diversity of events for the UW and greater Seattle communities. Many thanks to the CLS Program, the UW School of Music, and the UW Southeast Asia Center for making Midiyanto’s visit possible!
To view some of Midiyanto’s work, view his performance of the Déwa Ruci story from 2016 in New York (link: http://asiasociety.org/video/javanese-wayang-kulit-d%C3%A9wa-ruci-complete).