Peni Candra Rini: The musician spreading her love of Javanese Sindhen around the world
Story by Michael Lu
It’s bound by traditional vocals and twisted with modern sounds.
Peni Candra Rini’s contemporary interpretations of the traditional Indonesian vocal style, Sindhen, don’t stray away from roots but rather experiments with it.
A Javanese singer and composer, Rini is one of the few artists trying to modernise Sindhen and she often finds herself collaborating with musicians from a diverse range of disciplines.
“My background is in traditional Sindhen, and I started doing contemporary Sindhen in 2003 when I experimented with my vocals,” she explained.
My father was worried when I started singing in a different way where there were experimental vocals, so I tried to make sure I didn’t lose the grounds of tradition.
“While composing contemporary Sindhen, I experimented with different musicians not only with traditional Gamelans but Western musicians like Symphony orchestra and piano.”
As a student, Rini moved from east to central Java to study Gamelan – a traditional form of Indonesian ensemble music consisting of mostly percussive instruments.
It was there when she discovered her passion for traditional composition, principals which she still applies to contemporary Sindhen as a means of preserving its longevity.
“You can’t just do contemporary vocals without roots, there must be a strong connection to tradition, so I want to show how important it is to continue a tradition and also how important contemporary vocals come from tradition,” she said.
I felt like I needed to make my own music, I need to create my own Sindhen and I need people in the future to sing my compositions.
Performing as a vocalist at the recent ‘Sound of Shadows: Sugar Coated’ event in Melbourne, Rini collaborated with musician-composer Bianca Gannon to bring the endangered sounds of the Bundengan to Australia.
“Bundengan is an instrument made out of bamboo that was used as an umbrella a long time ago and duck herders would use them as instruments to make ducks happy,” she explained.
“They thought that if the duck was happy and they ate a lot of food the duck meat would be more tasty.
“The sound of Bundengan is actually adapted from the Gamelan.”
With her music, Rini wants to inspire the next generation of creative Javanese women, an idea that stems from her experience as one of the few women in her school to learn traditional Indonesian music.
“As a woman on campus, it was only me who studied traditional singing alongside 43 other men,” she said.
Most Javanese women after marriage don’t work or create, so I really want Javanese women to be more creative.