SAMBASUNDA | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

SAMBASUNDA 

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When it comes to Indonesian music, most of us think of the gamelan orchestra--of which there are many variations--but with some 300 ethnic groups the country has much more to offer. A few years ago Smithsonian Folkways put out a stunning 20-CD overview and still barely touched on forms that had emerged in recent decades. For the past 15 years Ismet Ruchimat--a veteran of the influential Jugala Orchestra led by Gugum Gumbira, who developed the popular dance style Jaipongan in the 60s--has been making music with the 17-piece SambaSunda, based in Bandung, the sprawling capital of West Java. Ismet plays the zitherlike kacapi and writes gorgeous melodies and arrangements that imbue native traditions with a sophisticated pop sensibility. Most of the material is instrumental--flutes, metallic and wooden tuned percussion, and string instruments deliver harmonically complex layers of soothing, hypnotically rippling sound---but Rita Tila emphasizes the group's pop leanings in her arresting vocals. This is SambaSunda's Chicago debut, and considering how rare it is to hear any sort of Indonesian music here, it's just icing on the cake that it's free. a 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-742-1168. F A --Peter Margasak

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