Gamelan Resources

Gamelan Resources


Some Fun Facts about the Gamelan

Where is it from? Gamelan originates from Indonesia. There are many types of gamelan, but the most famous being Javanese, Balinese and Sundanese styles of gamelan music. Many countries in South East Asia, like Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam,  also have similar types of these "gong-chime" instruments.

What is Gamelan? "Gamelan" comes from the Indonesian word, "Gamel" meaning "to strike". Hence, Gamelan refers to the whole ensemble of percussion instruments (made of bronze and wood) consisting of the metallphone family such as gangsa, jegog, saron, demung and slenthem, to gongs and drums, as well as stringed instruments such as the rebab and zither and wind instruments (known as 'suling'). A gamelan ensemble can consist of a small group of 4-5 people to over 30 musicians.

When is gamelan performed? Gamelan is performed in the royal palaces of Central Java (Yogyakarta and Surakarta) and also in the villages and community venues. It is used to accompany shadow puppet theatre (Wayang Kulit), dance, various ceremonies, weddings and festivals.

Who can play it? Anyone can learn to play the gamelan as there are a wide range of instruments to suit the different skills and talent of each person. You do not need to be able to read music, as pieces are taught using a number system Or played from memory. 

What is good about playing the gamelan? Playing gamelan will help to develop your sense of rhythm, listening skills, as well as teamwork. It is also wonderful music to relieve stress! Learning the gamelan also helps to reinforce very important values such as cooperation, respect, humility, restraint and refinement.

Why do musicians look so serious when playing gamelan? When we play gamelan, we do not bring attention to ourselves by making funny faces or moving our body unnecessarily. This is because the musicians have to be humble and refined when playing the gamelan. The audience is supposed to focus on the music, not the musicians.

Etiquette when playing gamelan
We take off shoes when playing the gamelan for cleanliness as well as a mark of respect. Gamelans highly respected instruments and are often given special names. We NEVER step over the instruments.

Gamelan around the World
You'll be amazed that Gamelan music is well-known and well-loved around the world, due to the extensive research and publication on the subject, as well as new compositions by people such as Colin McPhee, Jaap Kunst, Mantle Hood, Neil Sorrell, Jennifer Lindsay, Michael Tenzer and Sumarsam. Gamelan is taught in many universities and schools around the world in their music programmes. The music of gamelan has also been the source of inspiration for composers and musicians from Debussy and Britten to John Cage, Lou Harrison, popular music icon Bjork and even Taiwanese rock band FIR. Within Indonesia itself, pioneer composers such as Sri Hastanto and Rahayu Supanggah, and others like Ki Nartosabdo have created an extensive and fascinating body of works for the gamelan.

Want to learn more about gamelan?
Here are some interesting websites for you to look up

Gamelan at Wikipedia

Indonesian Gamelan


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