You'd be hard pressed to find greater musical diversity this week than at the University of Pittsburgh, which is celebrating both Gamelan Week and Hip-Hop Week.
Thanks to ethnomusicology professor Andrew Weintraub, an expert on Indonesian culture, Pitt has become a center for the study of gamelan: percussion instruments such as gongs, bells, xylophones and drums used on islands such as Java and Bali. Weintraub's student ensemble is celebrating its 10th anniversary at Pitt.
The two-day event, held on Fri., April 11, and Sat., April 12, at Pitt's Bellefield Auditorium (8 p.m., $5/$10 at the door, Pitt students free) includes special guests from Indonesia: martial-arts dancer Ening Rumbini, gamelan/pop singer Rita Tila and composer Nano Suratno, whose career spans four decades of both popular and traditional music in Indonesia.
The event will also introduce the Steel City to a new kind of Southeast Asian music called "dangdut." The name refers to the signature drum rhythm that pervades the music, somewhat similar to the beat of Indian tablas. "A lot of it has cheesy synthesizer sounds, like many arrangements from the '70s," explains Pitt composition professor Mathew Rosenblum, "but there are other songs based more on traditional folk music."
Weintraub has formed a group called Dangdut Cowboys, whose membership includes guitarist Ben Rainey (from local post-rockers Kalon) and Rosenblum on saxophone. "I like the fact that dangdut has all these different strains in it," says Rosenblum. "It's very rich in sources and definitely has many postmodern aspects." Those sources include "Bollywood" Hindi film music, Arabic melodies, native gamelan, Malaysian pop and American rock.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Cathedral of Learning, beats and rhymes will percolate like never before. Last semester, WPTS 92.1 FM instituted a block of hip-hop programming (7-9 p.m. weekdays) called the Pitt Remix, and this week's activities highlight how hip hop has begun to dominate that college-radio community. On Tuesday, an emcee competition called Rhyme Calisthenics was held in the Student Union Lounge, and local wordsmiths are performing on the air during Wednesday's Remix block.
The festivities culminate in "State of the Union," a concert in the Student Union Assembly Room at 8:30 p.m. Fri., Apr. 11 ($8/$10 students; $12/$15 non-students). It features national artist Tableek (of the group Maspyke), Pitt rappers such as Nick Pratt (a.k.a Yung Neo), MH the Verb (a.k.a. WPTS hip-hop guru Marcus Harris) and scene mainstays Formula 412 and Eviction Notice. DJs Karazmatik and B-Tips will be wrecking the tunes, so you can get your head-nod on before checking out the latest Pittsburgh's hip-hop scene has to offer.