Yalies and New Haven residents alike came together in Luce Hall to celebrate Southeast Asian culture Friday evening.
First held in Spring 2003, the Yale Southeast Asian Spring Cultural Festival is an event organized by the faculty and students of the Yale Southeast Asia Language Studies Programs under the Council on Southeast Asia Studies at Yale. The annual festival, held usually at the end of February or the beginning of March, featured performances of both contemporary and traditional regional dance, music, song, poetry, clothes and arts and crafts. Along with the performance, the festival also included a buffet dinner of Southeast Asian cuisine. This year’s event saw roughly 50 attendees.
“I enjoy organizing, sharing my Indonesian culture, performing with the students and the community members and also learning more about the diversity of the Southeast Asian communities around campus,” said Dinny Aletheiani, a lector in the Council on Southeast Asia Studies and one of the festival’s organizers. “In addition to that, I have the opportunity to work specifically with my students in Indonesian classes at Yale who are very eager to practice and perform at the festival outside the class meetings.”
The festival boasted a variety of performances drawing from different cultures, including Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Burmese. Performing groups came from both Yale and Connecticut, as the Yale Vietnamese Student Association performed a traditional fan dance while the Karen community of Hartford sang songs in Burmese.
Aletheiani said that the festival is meant to share Southeast Asia’s diverse range of cultures with Yale and create a welcoming space where those interested can connect with Southeast Asian communities, programs, organizations and resources. She added that one of the Indonesian performance costumes, for example, was handmade from scratch by Zulfirman Rahyantel, an Indonesian native currently working as a Fulbright foreign language teaching assistant.
“At the end of the Indonesian performance, we distributed angklungs to the audience and played a basic song together, blurring the line between performer and audience,” said Jon Bezney ’18, a student performer. “It is important to celebrate Indonesian culture as a community.”
Similarly, Aletheiani highlighted the interactive angklung performance with the audience. The angklung, a traditional Indonesian instrument made of bamboo tubes, was used in a performance by Yale students currently taking Indonesian along with language studies faculty members. During the interactive angklung session, the festival attendees tried playing their own angklungs along with the performers.
Tricia Sumarijanto, an instructor at the House of Angklung in Washington, D.C., said that the angklung is an instrument that focuses on teamwork.
It has always been simultaneously a great feeling and challenge to build this teamwork among the players, she said, as each instrument only holds one pitch and every player is needed to make the performance a success. She noted that the angklung is easy to play, but creating beautiful music requires commitment and discipline.
While many of the performers may not have originally been of Southeast Asian descent, those interviewed said they enjoyed the experience all the same. Quintin Herbert ’19, a performer in the festival, expressed his excitement at the opportunity to perform at the Southeast Asian Spring Cultural Festival this year.
“I was very excited the night of the performance as there was about 100 or more people in attendance from nearby cities and states,” said Herbert, who has taken four semesters of Indonesian at Yale. “The nervous feelings that my classmates and I felt before the performance went away once we started playing the angklung and getting in rhythm with the beat.”
The event was held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.