Washington, DC is a world capital, with embassies and international festivals galore, leading to some really fascinating cultural experiences.
This weekend, join a throng of thousands of angklung players at the Indonesian Festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument, as they (well, we, since I signed up to take part) attempt to break a Guinness World Record – the first world record attempt of ‘the largest angklung ensemble’ conducted outside Indonesia.
The Indonesians, not to be outdone by the Turks (who at last October’s Turkish Festival in DC saw the world record for world’s longest shish kebab shattered with an 18 foot 7 5/8 inch kebab) are hoping to recruit at least 3000 people for the Angklung Ensemble. No experience required, just come to one of the rehearsals this week at the Indonesian Embassy in DC, or show up at 4 pm on Saturday at the festival for a last-minute cram session. The organizers ask that you wear a red or white shirt so that you can be easily identified as a participant.
The Angklung is a percussion instrument made from bamboo that is shaken and swayed to produce a chord sound. It takes about half a minute to master the shaking motion, and the music director of the project has developed a system of hand symbols that are marked on each instrument so that when you see him make the motion marked on your angklung, you get to shakin’. And all of as sudden you are playing “Take Me Home Country Roads,” or “We Are the World.” It’s just that easy!
As if being part of the record-breaking ensemble were not enough, participants also get to keep their made-in-West Java angklung, as well as a hat (for men) or batik scarf (for women). And I suppose because the theme of this year’s festival is “Celebrating Multiculturalism” there will be performances by Indonesian musicians Balawan, Sherina, Denada, Elfa’s Singers and Maliq and D’essentials, Brazilian samba-reggae percussion band Batala (which includes the author among its members), grammy nominee Raheem Davaughn, and Air Supply. Wait. Air Supply?!? The Indonesians are taking this a few steps beyond Crazytown with this lineup, and I think it’s going to be awesome.
See you there. And see you in the record books, if not the funny pages.