Gamelan on Java

In May 2000 we visited Solo on the island of Java in Indonesia. We particularly enjoyed Solo because it is a classic, traditional Javanese city, especially in regard to the music scene. Our favorite venue was the Sriwedari Theatre, a huge hall with live performances of gamelan and colorful comedy and drama every night between 8 and 10 p.m. Because the entry fee was only about 20¢, mostly natives were in attendance.

Also, on Friday mornings at the local Kraton (palace), there was a gamelan “jam session” and guests were allowed to sit in the very small, cramped room with the musicians. These consummate players did not wear the finery that they wore when they performed at night; rather, the atmosphere was quite casual. Often, international musicians studying gamelan in Java attend these sessions to soak up the flavor and the style.

The dining in Solo was very good, too. There were many restaurants on the main streets and side streets where little, if any, English was spoken, but most places offered a menu with basic translations. The food was always tasty and extremely inexpensive, as was the local beer.

Shopping, too, was a pleasure, especially at the wonderful Dinar Hadi and Batik Keris boutiques.

Arlington, MA