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DarsonoDirector of Emory Javanese Gamelan Ensemble

Darsono hails from a prominent family of traditional Javanese performing arts. Through his family, Darsono studied karawitan, a genre of music played with the gamelan ensemble, and the revered art of wayang kulit, shadow puppetry theater. He continued to study the traditional performing arts of Java at the Institut Seni Indonesia Surakarta, the national conservatory of the arts in Surakarta. Today, he is one of the most prominent musicians of karawitan, inside and outside of the city of Surakarta. At the royal court of Mangkunegaran, he served as the main drummer for classical court dance repertoire. In the surrounding villages, he has been regularly featured as an accompanying musician at shadow puppet theatre performances. At his alma mater, he taught and inspired many young generations of musicians who were mesmerized by his improvisational practices on several instruments of the gamelan.

Darsono’s first opportunity to perform abroad was when he joined the original troop for Robert Wilson’s I La Galigo in 2004, a musical theatre production based on a myth from Sulawesi, Indonesia. Ever since, he has traveled widely as a teacher and performer of music as well as a dhalang (puppet master) in Europe, the US, and Asia. In the US, Darsono has been appointed as an artist-in-residence at several institutions, including Wesleyan University, Smith College, Tufts University, Yale University and Bates College. More recently, he served as a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University.  During his residencies in the US, he has traveled and performed music with a number of university and community groups. Darsono is proud to watch the traditional arts of his culture - the trade of his family for generations - become a bridge that allows him to travel far, experience various cultures, and interact with people from all over the world. Darsono believes that within the domain of the performing arts, there is a “mysterious property” that allows people from various backgrounds to naturally come together, transcend differences, and reach a deeper mutual understanding.

At Emory, Darsono teaches courses relating to Indonesia’s performing arts and is the director of Emory Javanese Gamelan Ensemble. Together with Dr. Maho Ishiguro, he has co-authored a published chapter in Sounding Out the State of Indonesia from Cornell University Press in 2022.