Evergreen Secondary School introduced Gamelan Ensemble in 2004. It is called Evergreen Secondary School Sri Cemara Gamelan Ensemble. [‘ Sri Cemara’ pronounced as ‘ sri chem - moro’]
What is Gamelan?
Gamelan is derived from the word ‘Gamel’ which means to hit/ strike. Thus, Gamelan music is about percussion music; most instruments are played with the use of the mallets which look like wooden hammers.
Unlike many musical traditions, however, Gamelan strictly focuses on group music; you will never find a solo performance or part in any gamelan composition! This is because Gamelan Music is both simultaneous and polyphonic in nature. Simply put, it builds its music in layers. Every musician needs to depend on one another in order to have a successful performance, hence teamwork is greatly emphasized. Our Gamelan Ensemble prides itself on an almost telepathic relationship between its members!
Gamelan, in general, builds its music around the lives of people. It is a way of life for people in Indonesia, likened to that of the electric guitar and drums in the urban context. There are pieces that welcome people, pieces that portray tension, pieces that are meant for intermission—one could even go so far as to say there are pieces for almost every situation! This reminds students of the many colours of life. While some may be dull, others are as bright as they can be. We must embrace life as true Singaporeans: to know that behind every dull colour lies the hope of bright colours!
Gamelan Ensemble in the latest Singapore Youth Festival (Arts Presentation) 2017
Last year, the Gamelan Ensemble had the privilege of taking part in the Bi-Annual Singapore Youth Festival (Arts Presentation). From the extra hours spent preparing the pieces to the unveiling of the new costumes and the final release of the results, it was a very enriching experience for students and teachers alike.
This time, we chose to do an original composition called P.I.E (Play It Easy). Contrary to what the name suggests, this piece is nothing short of a complex but exhilarating performance. A flurry of strokes and interlocking rhythms that required intense precision and gravitas, P.I.E was crafted specially to showcase the students’ talents as well as their ability to communicate with one another through music.
Gamelan Ensemble and contributing to the community (2018)
As a CCA that is only present in five other secondary schools in Singapore, we understand that our responsibilities go beyond ourselves. As such, we have embarked on a new initiative this year where students from various educational institutions would come over and hear our students play, learn from our students how to play, and eventually play together with our students.
The visits have benefited our students greatly by giving them the experience of mentoring, teaching and leading others, leading them through a journey of self-discovery, empowerment and improvement. They also give back to the nation as the visits have benefited the educational institutions that they visited by helping them meet some of their curriculum objectives.
1) Kindergarten Students from My First Skool (Bishan) [21st/22nd May]: During the visit, our students got to play the role of teacher and older sibling, exposing them to a situation where they needed to manage people of a very different disposition, where even basic things like counting in timing were a challenge.
2) Students on Scholarship from the Regional Studies Programme at ACS Independent [12th April]: During the visit, our students did not just teach them how to play the instruments—they also had to also play the role of Gamelan Historian as these students had the additional objective to learn more about the region's culture.
3) ‘O’ Level Music Students from Anglican High School [28th June]: During this visit, our students had to turn the music-making up a notch as these students already had a strong music background—their purpose of coming over was to be better equipped for their upcoming ‘O’ Level music examinations, part of which included aural testing on a gamelan suite.
Moving forward, we are hoping to expand on this new found tradition of working with various educational institutions to help their students and ours, and we hope that if you do meet other educational organisations that do have an interest in Gamelan (of which there are only five ensembles in Singapore), you "give them our name card" so to speak! We are happy to take on new partnerships in an effort to make this more fulfilling for our students. Our main selling points are that Gamelan is easy to pick up, Gamelan is part of ‘O’ Level music, and Gamelan is an integral part of the region's cultural traditional ethno-music.
Mr Samuel Soong
- SYF 2017: Distinction
- SYF 2015: Distinction
- SYF 2013: Distinction
- SYF 2011: Silver
- SYF 2009: Silver
- SYF 2007: Gold