My name is Ria Soemardjo. I love to sing traditional Javanese music but also to write my own music, and I live in Thornbury.
Although I was born in Melbourne and grew up in Clayton South, I was lucky enough to experience Javanese traditional culture here in Australia and that really made a difference later on in life when I started to become interested in music.
It wasn’t until probably in my twenties that I started to remember that music and think about it – the kind of music that my dad played around the house when he was vacuuming (laughs).
Melbourne Community Gamelan has existed for many years now.
Gamelan refers to the group of instruments that are played. It’s like an orchestra.
We all come together to learn about Javanese traditional music and we play a very beautiful set of Gamelan instruments.
Some of us have Indonesian background, some of us Australian background.
And it’s sung in Javanese which is quite an old language. I don’t speak it, I’ve just learnt to sing it. That’s really hard, that’s quite hard.
It’s a very beautiful language. I love the sound of it.
When I create music with other musicians, it’s actually a really nice thing to be able to sing in English, in my language, and to use those songs to kind of make sense of the world that I live in now.
At the same time I’m drawing on the melodies, the tunings, the textures that come from traditional music.
I’d really like to go back to Java and learn more of the repertoire.
But I’m also really curious to absorb different influences and then see how it kind of works its way through me into new songs.