Founded in 1985, Tirta started playing Balinese Kebyar music one year later. Accumulating knowledge and traditional repertory, tutored by teachers like Nyoman Sudarna, Ketut Sudanegara, Wayan Sadra, Ketut Rudita, Wayan Kaler and Ketut Asnawa, and renaming themselves as Gong Tirta in 1992, the ensemble began playing their own compositions in 2000. Today they use tradition and experiment to play exciting and diverse music, tapping from all kinds of sources, wether it's in concert or at receptions.
Gong Tirta plays not only traditonals, but also their 'own stuff'. Renadi Santoso, artistic director since 1989, started making new arrangements and adaptations of traditional pieces, thereby gaining experience with and insight into Balinese principles of composition, arrangement and instrumentation.
The year 2000 saw the first performance of a really new composition, specially written by Renadi for the players of Gong Tirta. The piece was named 'Bandoeng Sliep' and is a musical illustration of the poem 'De nacht Brak. Bandoeng Sliep. Een Fluit ...' by Nes Ter Gast. In this piece the kecapi-siter is incorporated, a twenty-stringed zither from Sunda, the region were the city of Bandung is situated. Also the suling (bambooflute) is played in typical Sunda-style.
From this simple beginning, using influences from other regions of Indonesia, the compositions became more daring, individual and the ties with 'tradition' were flexed and loosened. Renadi, by then allready a prolific composer in many styles, developed a clear, exact 'gamelanstyle', around a set of very diverse poems in several languages.
2001 saw the use of classical guitar and 'medieaval' vocals ('Vuur & Vuur', a poem by 15th century Charles d'Orléans from France). Since then, violin has been added ('Tales', based on the poem 'The Tale of Two Continents' by Sitor Situmorang), rainmaker and pygmy-inspired drumming ('Aqua', lyrics and music by Ruth Bouman), zills ('Tramlijn Begeerte' on a poem by Jos Versteegen), gamelan has been used as 'soundsculpture/painting ('Krawang Bekasi', a poem by Chairil Anwar) and abstract use of extra-musical concepts was tried and tested(like in 'On Words' by Luiz Yudo, based on Braille-script and the English Dictionary).
Gong Tirta, while not being a 'professional' ensemble, is continuously stretching the boundaries of gamelan. Even in their 'traditional' repertory, the choices they make are consciously and conscientiously being influenced by the need to adapt and renew, all the way giving the audience insight into Balinese Music and their own, through workshops and demonstrations.
A compilation of traditional pieces was issued in 2005 with the CD 'Concerts'. One of these pieces is included in the soundfiles that go with this page (Anak Biru). This homeproduction is not available in the shop but it is available through our CD's page.
Gong Tirta is planning recording in 2008 for a second CD.