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Vol. 10, No. 6
December/January 2007

  >>   Going Under the Flow
  >>   Motu Football
  >>   Worlds Apart

Sound Garden 

story by Catharine Lo
photos by Kyle Rothenborg


The first time Tony Lydgate saw musicians performing on a gamelan set was in the ’70s while he was studying at Goddard College in Vermont. What first appeared to be “a bunch of people banging on pots” was instantly mesmerizing. The sound was percussion-driven, punctuated by vocal chanting and produced by an array of curious instruments—gongs, metallophones, suling bamboo flutes. It was love at first listen.

Fast forward thirty-five years. Tony is popping homegrown cherry tomatoes into his mouth on a lanai that overlooks the lush canopy of his 8-acre farm on Kaua‘i. Here he has built a state-of-the-art recording studio, and inside it today is SambaSunda, one of the world’s most renowned gamelan ensembles, a group from Bandung, the capital of West Java. They’ve come to record an album in between tour stops in New York and Chicago.

For Tony, it’s his dream reaching fruition, both literally and figuratively. After twenty-five years of life as a woodworker, he looked at the things he loved most—music, art and good food—and formulated a plan to bring them all together. So was born Steelgrass Ranch, a recording studio, an organic cacao nursery and a communal retreat center.