Concert Review: Gamelan D'Drum at Severance Hall

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The Indonesian sounds that flooded Severance Hall on Friday night started offstage, with the five members of the percussion group DʼDrum banging on ceng-cengs (hand cymbals), reyongs (pot gongs) and a doumbek (hand-held drum) as they struck up an exotic rhythm in the wings that built that built in volume and intensity as they marched out to join the orchestra. That opened 40 minutes of a rare meeting of East and West, and got the Cleveland Orchestraʼs popular “[email protected]” series off to a rousing start.

DʼDrum was in town for a performance of Gamelan DʼDrum, a piece written for the group by Stewart Copeland, the drummer and composer who has had a prolific post-Police career creating scores for films, ballet, opera and orchestra. Stewart was also in town for the performance, and in a brief talk beforehand, expressed his reaction at working with the Cleveland Orchestra this way: “Thank you, Lord!”

DʼDrum specializes in Balinese and Javanese percussion, which is why the stage was covered with dozens of Eastern drums, gongs, cymbals, metal bars, xylophones and marimbas, with a touch of Europe in the mix in the form of a cimbalom (a Hungarian hammer dulcimer) and the primitive sounds of a lesung, a hollowed-out log normally used to pound rice that the musicians “play” with heavy poles. Although some of the instruments were custom-made for the group to match the pitch of European classical instruments, most are so foreign to Western scales and tuning that Gamelan DʼDrum is less a fusion piece than a showcase for Indonesian percussion with orchestral accompaniment.