Susheela Raman on her playlist...
The Ghost Gamelan project is a collaboration with some amazing Javanese musicians.
Some of the first Gamelan I really listened to was a recording from the court of Yogyakarta, an important centre for Javanese culture. This is Gamelan at it most traditional and in the big reverberating joglo which house the Instruments, it always sounds to me like a musical vision of paradise, rather like Jamaican Dub can be.
In 2015 I happened to meet some ‘contemporary gamelan’ musicians while travelling in Indonesia and we really connected. The first thing we recorded was a version of Tomorrow Never Knows! We then took our own songs and recorded a whole album, working with contemporary Gamelan composer Gondrong Gunarto.
It seemed a stretch, but then Gamelan is really already part of our musical landscape: its architecture and textures have influenced all kind of iconic musicians and composers from Debussy and Satie to Messaien, John Cage, Miles Davis, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and Bjork and Jon Hassel. I even hear Gamelan in the clanging guitars of the Velvet Underground.
CAN are always an inspiration to me, as they looked something like a rock band but were really about music as continuous transformation rather than recycled rock and roll. The same thing can be said about British group This Heat. We were thrilled that their drummer Charles Hayward joined us on this record.
David Bowie died while the record was being made so we were listening to him a lot. He was always testing the boundaries between art and pop, but never losing the awareness of the song form, which is what we have tried to do in this project.
Susheela Raman performs Ghost Gamelan live in our Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday 21 September. Raman will be joined for the performance by longtime collaborator guitarist Sam Mills, a team of gamelan virtuosos led by Indonesian composer Gondrong Gunarto, and string players from London’s experimentalist Phaedra Ensemble.