The Name of A STAR

The world of "KARAWITAN" (singing accompanied by Javanese gamelan music orchestra) must be proud that a newly found star, located somewhere in the North East of North American sky is named after a Javanese Karawitan Maestro K.R.T. Wasitodiningrat. It was proposed by US composers groups in 1986.

Since 1970 until his retirement at 1992, Mr. Wasitodiningrat or populary known as Pak Cokro (Pak = Father) has taught Javanese gamelan at the California Institute of The Arts. Besides, he taught also at San Diego and Berkerly State Universities. He stayed another 5 years until 1997 in the US, to teach privately to certain groups and individuals.

He is living happily now in his hometown, Yogyakarta. The 90 years old maestro, has 5 daughters and 4 sons, 20 grand-children and 26 great-grand-children, lives in a big cozy house, about 1,5 Km southward of Pakualaman Palace, a place where he devunts his service since his young age.

Hereditary Profession

The 5 year old boy, Cokrowasito (the name given by his parents) has begun to learn gamelan under the guidance of his father R.W. Padmowinangum who was the leader of Puro (Palace) Pakualaman Karawitan group.

Just like his father, Pak Cokro dedicated almost all of his life to Puro Pakualaman as abdi dalem (Palace employee). He did not learn only Karawitan but court dances as well. He is able to perform several kinds of dance such as Cakil, Lawung etc.

His formal education was Taman Siswa secondary school during the Dutch colonial period. In Puro Pakualaman he has given opportunities to study history, literature, language, etiquette etc. Since early 1930, he enjoys Karawitan very much. He set up his own group of Karawitan by the name: MARDIWIROMO, which started to perform also outside Yogyakarta.

He was involved in many discussion to improve Karawitan in Central Java, and in 1936 he was appointed by Puro Pakualaman to be a speaker in Karawitan Seminar in Puro Mangkunagaran, Solo. Then, he joined the R.R.I of Yogyakarta (the radio of the Republic of Indonesia) in the Javanese art section. During that time he was assigned as cultivator of Jogyanese Waranggana (Karawitan singers). He set up Karawitan groups: Langen Budaya and Lebdaswara to train singers and create several gending (Javanese music composition). He was also teaching at Tejokusuman (a famous court dance group in Yogya), ASTI, Academy of Art Dance and a course at the Ministry of Education.

The World Tour

Since 1953, grateful to his position as an art expert of Pakualaman, he had the chance to go abroad to teach Karawitan a.o. to the US; Europe (France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia) Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia) and Chile. In 1970, Pak Cokro, decided to become a Karawitan teacher at the California Institute of the arts. He lived in the US until 1997.

The Maestro

During his stay in the US, he worked 12 hours per day, from 09.00 am to 09.00 p.m. The fruit of his hard work has helped to produce at least 10 Doctors of music, several Masters and experts of Karawitan and Gamelan. K.R.T. Wasitodiningrat (Pak Cokro) himself has a degree of maestro of Karawitan, a title he is deserved.

The Home-Work

Upon returning from the US, he saw that Yogya unconsciously has lost some of its valuable arts. It is a challenge for him to revive it. So far he has been successful to dig-out and perform 5 classical court dances from Pakualaman, the creations of the late Pakualam II, IV and V,

He revives also the gamelan of gending-gending ageng (gamelan symphony) which is now very rarely performed, even by the Royal Palaces. Pak Wasitodiningrat knows by heart more than 200 classical gamelan songs, so far he has created more than 200 gamelan songs.

He revives also Wayang gedhog, which was not performed for more than 100 years. He has an obsession, Yogyakarta must have a foundation to preserve Javanese art and culture where he is ready to be assigned as advisor.

According to him, the Americans are quick in learning Karawitan. In the US, there is at present about 200 sets of gamelan where 60 of them are performing actively, one of them is the gamelan Son of Lion of New York City. It is a challenge for Javanese art lovers to preserve and always improve the mastery of their valuable hereditary culture. He is convinced that "RASA" (inside deep spiritual feeling) of the Javanese should play a bigger role for the perfect mastery of Karawitan.

(Suryo S. Negoro)


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