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Indian, Indonesian music adapts well to the desert

The Fine Stream Gamelan brings its Indonesian flavor to World Music Day at UA on Nov. 6.

The Fine Stream Gamelan brings its Indonesian flavor to World Music Day at UA on Nov. 6.

Somehow when you’re thinking cactus country, the idea of music from India and/or Indonesia doesn’t jump immediately to mind. But thanks to local bamboo wrangler Matt Finstrom, both Eastern cultures bloom in the desert.

Finstrom is a master at sitar and tables and his wife, Holly, has accompanied Ravi Shankar in concert. He formed his Indian group, Sruti, well over two decades back. Personnel have come and gone as members of the East Indian community migrate in and out of Tucson. But a consistently high level of music-making has been maintained through the years.

The same might be said of the group that sprang from Finstrom’s passion for Indonesian music, the Fine Stream Gamelan. The gamelan orchestra is a percussion-dominated ensemble characterized by the shimmering sounds of is multisized, mainly metallic instruments, resembling kettles, xylophones, and huge, dark-sounding gongs. In the early days, Finstrom built all the instruments. Over the years the group’s performances brought in enough money to import Indonesian originals, including the rebab – a nasal sounding folk fiddle common to the music. In addition, Finstrom has built a bamboo set of instruments replicating those of rural Indonesian traditions.

By nature, the large numbers of people required to play music from each of these disparate cultures means public performances are few and far between. But a cluster of free performances lies just ahead. At 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6, both Sruti and the Fine Stream Gamelan will join the Summer Thunder Chinese Music Ensemble and the Flam Chen Dancers at Crowder Hall in the Music Building as part of World Music Day at UA. If you miss them then, or are just so enthralled you need more, you can get another fix of the Fine Stream Gamelan and Flam Chen as they participate in the All Souls Procession on Nov. 9 at 6 p.m., starting at the Epic Café, at University Boulevard and North Fourth Avenue. Finstrom has composed original music for that occasion. For more information, go to www.bambooranch.net, members.cox.net/srutimusic and www.gamelanaz.com. To see Sruti and Fine Stream Gamelan online, go to www.tucsoncitizen.com.

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