As part of the Shangri-La experience, the Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, Penang presents a living musical legacy through live performances. The resort features traditional Malay music known as gamelan, a genre previously known and enjoyed only among royal circles. Instruments utilised by a Gamelan orchestra include the gambang (a wooden xylophone), bonang (a set of 10 small kettledrums), kenong (set of 5 large kettledrums) and gendang (gong).
Live performances in the past were confined to renditions within royal households during ceremonial events. Over the years, the exclusive nature of gamelan has caused it to become a dying art form. Today, however, gamelan music is very much alive in the hands of talented musicians from multi-ethnic backgrounds. This selected group of 10 ten resort staff hail from the Food and Beverage, Housekeeping, Human Resource, Front Office and Finance Departments. Although all performers possess a background in musical theory and practical performance, they had to reacquaint their musical talents with the discipline required in playing traditional Malay instruments. After an intensive two-months training programme under the tutelage of Gamelan maestro,Mohamad Jufry bin Yusoff, the resort’s gamelan ensemble is now all set for live public performances.
Separated into two groups, the gamelan musicians take turns to perform on scheduled days. The subtle melodies, percussion and rhythmically driven compositions are an alluring introduction to the Malay musical heritage. Beyond the confines of the royal courts, the soothing sounds of gamelan once again permeates the resort. Its melodies exude the beauty and splendour born of a noble heritage, which can be enjoyed for generations to come. Complemented by the ethnic décor,artefacts and Asian motifs in at the resort’s lobby, it is an apt accompaniment to the melodious showcase of Malaysian culture.
"Being in a gamelan ensemble actually helps to instil discipline in the group because it is a team effort and everyone has to keep up with each other,so precision is important. Close co-operation and working as a team is advocated in Asian philosophy," said Elaine Yue, general manager of Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, Penang.
She added "We want to bring heritage and culture back to the people. The gamelan ensemble entertains guests every Wednesday and Friday at the Garden Wing Lobby from 6:30 p.m. onwards. The gamelan performances are open to the public so that the arts can truly be enjoyed, heard and seen."
A resort is not just known as a destination for dream holidays. Shangri-La's The Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, Penang demonstrates that resorts can also be a haven for the arts. The gamelan ensemble was conceptualised to enhance the overall staying experience of the resort guests.