Megan O'Donoghue American Artist who is Good at Singing Javanese Sinden Songs on the Karawitan and Wayang Stages in Indonesia

January 05,2023

American artist with a melodious voice, Megan O'Donoghue, is very fluent in Indonesian and adept at singing.

As the third most populous country in the world, the United States is a meeting place for diverse cultures.

Megan o'Donoghue by YouTube

Indonesian culture and art is one example, as a topic that has received much appreciation and has even been studied in various American schools, universities and institutions.

It is no longer uncommon to meet local Americans who are proficient at playing gamelan, good at dancing traditional Indonesian dances, or can sing keroncong or even sing music. American artist, Megan Colleen O'Donoghue in Santa Cruz, California is one of them.

Reported by, Megan tells her story that she is proficient at karawitan.

Documentation Megan Collins in karawitan

“When I was in college, I majored in seriosa music in Seattle. Then there is Javanese gamelan. I became very interested in the gamelan there," said Megan Colleen O'Donoghue in very fluent Indonesian.

After graduating from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle in 2008, Megan decided to join the Darmasiswa program under the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture.

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This program offers scholarships for one year to foreigners who wish to study Indonesian culture.  At that time Megan was studying at the Surakarta Art Institute in Solo and majored in music for one year.

“If karawitan means gamelan art, that's how it is.  So there are sound arts such as sindenan, there are gamelan such as gongs, saron, demung, gender, bonang, drums, fiddle and so on.

So at ISI Surakarta, if you major in musical instruments, everyone has to study first," explained the woman who was born in 1984.

While in Solo, Megan lived with the late sinden maestro, Nyi Supadmi, who was also her teacher.  Through interaction with the students who were also boarding at the late Nyi Supadmi's house, this multitalented woman was able to improve her ability to speak Indonesian.

"The first time I came there, what could I do, sorry and thank you.  Just like that.  The others couldn't talk,” Megan said, laughing at the memory.

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"Because that was the boarding house's children, you know.  So they are much younger than me.  Maybe ten years.  So they are still like children.

They are very curious, 'why are there foreigners?' They really like my things, like to tease me like that.  So they really helped, they couldn't speak English at all, so I had to do that.

And if you have to learn a language, it's really fast," he added.

After participating in the Darmasiswa program, Megan then married a keroncong player from Indonesia and returned to live in America for two years, before finally moving again to Indonesia in 2012.

“Me, my son and my ex-husband returned to Java for four years,” says Megan.

At that time Megan returned to studying other Indonesian arts, such as wayang kulit, and performed many performances with famous puppeteers, such as Ki Sujiwo Tejo, Ki Manteb Sudharsono and Ki Enthus Susmono, where she played a singer.

 When asked if Megan could speak Javanese, she answered Oh yes, a little bit before.  Little by little mawon," he said with a small laugh.

 As a singer, Megan admits that she is not fluent in Javanese.  However, her background as a singer made her used to animating songs in foreign languages, including songs in Javanese.  This can be heard and felt through the vocal technique and the crook when singing.

 "Because my background is indeed a singer, so I have always learned to sing in many languages.  So if the seriosa song is in English, Italian, German, French, Russian, all kinds of things.

 So if that's the case, you have to have an open ear, you have to be sensitive.  Not that I mean, I'm already good at singing in Javanese.  It's just that my hobby is language," explained the singer who has collaborated with legendary singer Titiek Puspa and the group Sheila on 7.

 The blood of art is already ingrained in his body.  Megan's father, who is a musician, inspired her to pursue a career as a singer and composer.

 In 2015, he released his first album titled "Peshawar," with the Indonesian music group Gemati.  The album, which consists of nine songs, takes on the nuances of folk music, keroncong and karawitan, with a mix of lyrics in English, Indonesian and Javanese.

Megan O'Donoghue performing on the musical stage

 His songs, which include "Ojo Ngoyo," "Gulaku," "Mumet," and "Kembang California," and "Berkah Indomaret," tell stories about his experiences while living in Central Java and also when touring around Indonesia with a shadow puppet group.

 In 2016 Megan decided to return to America with her daughter.  He admits that he really misses Indonesian food.

 “Vegetables are really delicious, like stir-frying, tempeh, light ones are really delicious, gado-gado, pecel, really delicious.  Until now, my child also doesn't really like American food, so every day he still cooks rice for him," he added, reported from the voa indonesia page.

 Now, Megan is busy teaching vocal classes at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, California, where she teaches seriosa songs, as well as Indonesian, Arabic and Irish songs.  Apart from teaching on campus, Megan also opens private vocal and piano classes at her home.

 "Alhamdulillah, yes keep busy.  Here students are added and added, "he said.

 Megan's students really appreciate and are amazed by music from Indonesia, which according to her is very rich in taste.

 "Actually, many Indonesian songs in America like it, especially gamelan.  In several universities across America, they actually have Javanese gamelan, or Balinese gamelan or Sundanese gamelan.  So many Americans already know about Indonesian music,” explained this fan of dangdut songs from Rhoma Irama and Elvy Sukaesih.

 The plan is that through the 2nd album that is being worked on at the moment, Megan will return to display various nuances of music.

 "The taste is even more mixed, there is a taste of Indonesia but there are other flavors too," concluded Megan.


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