Peni Candra Rini is the daughter of a master puppeteer from East Java Indonesia, and one of few female contemporary composers, songwriters, poets, and vocalists who performs sinden, a soloist-female style of gamelan singing. Strongly committed to preserving and sharing the musical traditions of her country, Candra Rini has created many musical compositions for vocals, gamelan, and karawitan, and has collaborated with various artists worldwide, including Katsura Kan, Noriko Omura, Aki Bando, Kiyoko Yamamoto (JP), Found Sound Nation New York, Elena Moon Park (USA), Ali Tekbas (Turkey), Mehdi Nassouli (Morocco), Asma Ghanem (Palestine), Rodrigo Parejo (Spain), among many others.
Candra Rini has collaborated with various gamelan groups from all over the world, and has performed at major festivals including Mascot SIPA Solo International Performing Arts 2016, TEDx Ubud 2019, Big Ears Festival 2019, Mapping Melbourne 2018 Multicultural Art Festival, International Gamelan Festival 2018 Surakarta, Indonesian Tong-Festival Festival 2018 in The Hague, Holland Festival 2017, WOMADelaide festival 2014 in Adelaide, Spoleto Dei Duo Mondi Festival 2013, and Lincoln Center White Light Festival 2011. Her recorded albums include Ayom (2019), Timur (2018), Agni (2017), Mahabharata - Kurusetra War (2016), Daughter of the Ocean (2016), Bhumi (2015), Sekar (2012), and Bramara (2010).
In 2012, Candra Rini completed an artist residency at the California Art Institute with funding from the Asian Cultural Council. During that time, she appeared as a guest artist at eight American universities and participated in master classes with vocal master Meredith Monk. In addition to this extensive work as a performer, Candra Rini is also a lecturer in the Karawitan Department, a Doctoral Candidate for Musical Arts at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) in Surakarta.
About Maduswara, Peni Candra Rini writes:
“Javanese society’s consideration of what is in vogue has changed, and the decline of appreciation in the traditional arts has had a major impact on the existence of the female Javanese singer (sindhen); it has impacted both the singer and the audience. Today’s listeners of karawitan has become accustomed to the phenomena of nggantung rebab, which is found in the coasts of island Java far from the palaces (keraton). The phenomena of nggantung rebab is when people expect karawitan concerts to offer musical pieces (gending) with hard rhythms, songs that follow a fast tempo like those found in discotheques where visitors get drunk. The rebab is a subtle and old-fashioned instrument and is beginning to be eliminated, reflecting the move away from more delicate presentation gending. The impact is a generational gap where younger singers feel they do not need to study the classical vocabulary because it is rarely used.
“This discourse continues in contemporary karawitan, as found in campursari music, which plays the melodies of karawitan with MIDI instruments and electric keyboards. This is because those instruments are very practical, easy to carry, and also cheaper than a gamelan set. Campursari dominated the scene in the 90s and 2000s, pioneered by the late Manthous through CSGK (Campur Sari Gunung Kidul), and many commercial recordings were made and sold during that time. But many believe that campursari fails to represent the classical gamelan repertoire. Out of campursari came a generation of pesinden who were considered to have below average singing ability because the sound they produced were discordant in tone to and not in accordance with the rules of Javanese gamelan. Because of this, sindhen singing campursari are not taken seriously in art schools, a serious problem considering diversity is already lacking in those schools.
“The emergence of social media has given pesindhen access to self-promotion, which the singers now readily use. But what appears on social media often does not represent real life, and are not true achievements or true representations of the singer’s abilities. Sindhen now have the added pressure of celebrity culture, and are adored for beauty and ability to dance on stage, with flawless make-up and frenzied lights, and her duties as a singer and orator of the poetry of life takes second fiddle.
“Maduswara was arranged to encourage this generation of pesindhen to realize their duty as the conveyor of the universal values of life because, whether they are aware or not, these artists shape the spirit of the nation.”
Peni Candra Rini’s Maduswara was commissioned as part of the Kronos Performing Arts Association’s Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, which is made possible by a group of adventurous partners, including Carnegie Hall and many others.
Launched in the 2015/16 season, Kronos’ Fifty for the Future is commissioning 50 new works devoted to contemporary approaches to the string quartet and designed expressly for the training of students and emerging professionals. Kronos will premiere each piece and create companion digital materials, including scores, recordings, and performance notes, which can be accessed online for free.