Money raised in New Zealand sent to Cirebon following gamelan tragedy

Ben Presenting Money To Widow In Cirebon Crop

Mas Ben presenting Ibu Samini with the money raised in New Zealand

In Gegesik Village, Cirebon Regency, in Java, a tragedy occurred at a gamelan practice on 14 May, 2018, when a wall collapsed on a group of young musicians, killing seven people including their dhalang, Bapak Suherman.

The first gamelan to arrive in New Zealand had been brought here by Allan Thomas in 1974. Allan died in 2010 but The First Smile gamelan is still regularly played by his colleagues and friends in Wellington.

It seemed impossible for us to do nothing from this distance, so a wayang kulit by dhalang Dr. Joko Susilo and Gamelan Padhang Moncar, directed by Pak Budi Putra, was the central part of a fund-raiser held at New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University of Wellington, and supported by Ambassador H.E. Mr. Tantowi Yahya and the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia. See more information, including photos and videos of the show here.

All those who participated, to send support to the families involved in this tragic incident, will be pleased to hear that the sum raised (NZ$3000) has been safely delivered to the widow of Dhalang Suherman and members of Sanggar Hidayat Jati (The True Guidance Studio in East Gegesik village).

The donation was delivered by Benjamin Seilhamer, a student and colleague of Richard North, and a member of Gamelan Sinar Surya (Cirebon gamelan), at Santa Barbara, California. Ben was in Cirebon studying and performing Tarling Klasik (Cirebon gamelan pieces played on guitar and suling (flute), with an elder Tarling master, Mama Djana Partanain).

The following messages have been received:

 An expression of gratitude:


In the name of the family of the late Dalang Bapak Suherman bin Dalang Basari and Sanggar Hidayat Jati (“True Guidance Studio”) in East Gegesik village, Cirebon Regency, we wish to express our profound thanks to Jennifer Shennan Thomas, to Chris Francis, Keith McEwing, and members of The First Smile Gamelan who have given their generous support to our studio. May this gift be the source of many benefits and blessings. Amen.


 Ibu Samini, wife of the late Dalang Suherman - Cirebon, 16 September, 2018

 Richard North wrote from Santa Barbara:

On Saturday, September 16, 2018, on Mas Ben’s last day in Cirebon, he and a small group of artist friends from the Kacirebonan Palace—Prince Iyan Arifudin, Mas Agung Sedayu, Mas Sadikin, and Mas Ben— made their way out to Gegesik Village. After coordinating with village arts leader Pak Nono Warsono, the group was guided to the home of the late Dalang Herman Basari by Dalang Suryono.


The group then met with Ibu Samini, the wife of the late Dalang Suherman. It was a very touching scene I hear. They had the somber experience of touring the ruins of the destroyed Sanggar Hidayat Jati building and the crushed gamelan instruments where the disaster had occurred on May 14, 2018. Your beautiful statement was read in Indonesian language to the people. Tears were flowing all around. 


 As per your wishes, the funds will be used to help create a new Sanggar Hidayat Jati there in Gegesik village to continue the work of the late Dalang Herman. Everyone there is so amazed and grateful for the generosity of the New Zealand people.


 On a side note, one of the daughters of the late Dalang— who is a little girl still in elementary school— amazed every one with her mastery of the Gamelan instruments. She seemed to symbolize the hope for the future of the arts in Gegesik, and the rebuilding and revival Sanggar Hidayat Jati founded by the late Dalang Herman Basari. 


 Mas Ben is planning to return to Santa Barbara California on Sunday September 23. He’s bringing with him a formal signed receipt of the funds donated by the generous people of New Zealand. I will send it to you as soon as I receive it.


 Once again, our heartfelt thanks. 


 Most sincerely, Richard North, director Sanggar Sinar Surya, Santa Barbara, California