This is a story of an ACICIS student who is fascinated by a traditional instrumental ensemble of Indonesia — gamelan. Alexandre Jeanson is currently in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, undertaking Flexible Language Immersion Program (FLIP), a semester-long program in which students can choose a mix of Indonesian language classes and other regular curriculum immersion subjects at many of Universitas Gadjah Mada’s other faculties. 

Back in time, he was fascinated by gamelan since he was a kid when watching a documentary on television. Aside from the exoticism, he was interested by the strange sounds the gamelan produced. When he was a teenager, he started to understand where the gamelan originated from and kept learning about it. He has played the gamelan since young and still continues.

Unlike an ukulele, a gamelan set is rarely owned by an individual. Alex recalls, there was a time when he heard that a lady in Yogyakarta was selling her gamelan due to financial need. He bought the instrument set. His plan to bring it back to his hometown in Geneva was stuck due to space constraints. Therefore, he let the gamelan stay in his relative’s house in Keparakan Lor, Yogyakarta. 

Whenever he visited Yogyakarta, Alex practised a lot with other players while also taking care of his gamelan. One of his biggest projects was changing the wooden racks (rancakan) with better sculptures and finishing. The gamelan is being used by the local community once a week every Monday evening. They named the group as Grup Karawitan Ngudi Laras. Recently, Alex with the group was performing in a local event commemorating the 77th of Indonesia independence day.

Alex will be in Indonesia until January 2023 when the FLIP finishes. Aside from his study activities, he is very welcome if there are any current ACICIS in-country students who would like to know more about gamelan. 

Watch this interview video with Alexandre Jeanson.