You are on page 1of 13

Music, History, Religion, Instrumental Form | 8-Jasmine

JAN
LOUIS
T.
REYES

INDONESIAN MUSIC

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

Introduction
The music of Indonesia demonstrates its cultural diversity, the local
musical creativity, as well as subsequent foreign musical influences that shaped
contemporary music scenes of Indonesia. Nearly thousands of Indonesian
islands have their own cultural and artistic history and character. This results in
hundreds of different forms of music, which often accompanies by dance and
theatre.
The music of Java, Sumatra, Bali, Flores and other islands have been
documented and recorded, and research by Indonesian and international
scholars is ongoing. The music in Indonesia predates historical records,
various Native Indonesian tribes often incorporate chants and songs
accompanied with music instruments in their rituals. Today the contemporary
music of Indonesia is popular in the region, including neighboring countries;
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

History
Across Indonesia, but particularly on the islands ofJava and Bali, gamelan is the
most popular form of traditional music. A gamelan ensemble consists of a variety
of metal percussion instruments, usually made of bronze or brass, including
xylophones, drums and gongs. It may also feature bamboo flutes, wooden
stringed instruments, and vocalists, but the focus is on the percussion.
The name "gamelan" comes from gamel, a Javanese word for a type of hammer
used by a blacksmith.

Stock Music
History
Music Equipment Store
1|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

Music Instrument Shop


Indonesia
Gamelan instruments are often made of metal, and many are played with
hammer-shaped mallets, as well.
Although metal instruments are expensive to make, compared with those of
wood or bamboo, they will not mold or deteriorate in Indonesia's hot, steamy
climate. Scholars suggest that this may be one of the reasons that gamelan
developed, with its signature metallic sound. Where and when was gamelan
invented? How has it changed over the centuries?

Origins of Gamelan:
Gamelan seems to have developed early in the history of what is now Indonesia.
Unfortunately, however, we have very few good sources of information from the
early period. Certainly, gamelan seems to have been a feature of court life
during the 8th to 11th centuries, among the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of
Java, Sumatra, and Bali.
For example, the great Buddhist monument of Borobudur, in central Java,
includes a bas relief depiction of a gamelan ensemble from the time of
the Srivijaya Empire, c. 6th-13th centuries CE. The musicians play stringed
instruments, metal drums and flutes.
Of course, we do not have any record of what the music these musicians were
playing sounded like, sadly.

Classical Era Gamelan:


During the 12th to 15th centuries, the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms began to
leave more complete records of their doings, including their music. Literature
from this era mentions the gamelan ensemble as an important element of court
life, and further relief carvings on various temples support the importance of
metal percussion music during this period. Indeed, members of the royal family
2|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

and their courtiers were all expected to learn how to play gamelan, and were
judged on their musical accomplishments as much as their wisdom, bravery, or
physical appearance.
The Majapahit Empire (1293-1597) even had a government office in charge of
supervising the performing arts, including gamelan. The arts office oversaw the
construction of musical instruments, as well as scheduling performances at the
court. During this period, inscriptions and bas reliefs from Bali show that the
same types of musical ensembles and instruments were prevalent there as in
Java; this is not surprising, since both islands were under the control of the
Majapahit emperors.
During the Majapahit era, the gong made its appearance in Indonesian gamelan.
Likely imported from China, this instrument joined other foreign additions such
as stitched-skin drums from India and bowed strings from Arabia in some types
of gamelan ensembles. The gong has been the longest-lasting and most
influential of these imports.

Music and the Introduction of


Islam:
During the 15th century, the people of Java and many other Indonesian islands
gradually converted to Islam, under the influence of Muslim traders from the
Arabian peninsula and south Asia. Fortunately for gamelan, the most influential
strain of Islam in Indonesia was Sufism, a mystical branch that values music as
one of the pathways to experiencing the divine. Had a more legalistic brand of
Islam been introduced, it might have resulted in the extinction of gamelan in
Java and Sumatra.
Bali, the other major center of gamelan, remained predominantly Hindu. This
religious schism weakened the cultural ties between Bali and Java, although
trade continued between the islands throughout the 15th to 17th centuries. As a
result, the islands developed different forms of gamelan.
3|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

Balinese gamelan began to emphasize virtuosity and quick tempos, a trend later
encouraged by Dutch colonists. In keeping with Sufi teachings, Java's gamelan
tended to be slower in tempo and more meditative or trance-like.

European Incursions:
In the mid-1400s, the first European explorers reached Indonesia, intent on
elbowing their way into the rich Indian Ocean spice and silk trade. The first to
arrive were the Portuguese, who started out with small-scale coastal raids and
piracy, but managed to capture the key straits at Malacca in 1512.
The Portuguese, along with the Arab, African, and Indian slaves they brought
with them, introduced a new variety of music into Indonesia. Known
as kroncong, this new style combined gamelan-like intricate and interlocking
musical patterns with western instrumentation, such as the ukulele, cello, guitar,
and violin.

Dutch Colonization and


Gamelan:
In 1602, a new European power made its way in to Indonesia. The
powerful Dutch East India Company ousted the Portuguese, and began to
centralize power over the spice trade. This regime would last until 1800, when
the Dutch crown took over directly.
Dutch colonial officials left only a few good descriptions of gamelan
performances. Rijklof van Goens, for example, noted that the king of Mataram,
Amangkurat I (r. 1646-1677), had an orchestra of between thirty and fifty
instruments, primarily gongs. The orchestra played on Mondays and Saturdays,
when the king entered the court for a type of tournament. Van Goens describes
a dance troupe, as well, of between five and nineteen maidens, who danced for
the king to the gamelan music.

4|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

Gamelan in Post-Independence
Indonesia:
Indonesia became fully independent of the Netherlands in 1949. The new
leaders had the unenviable task of creating a nation-state out of a collection of
different islands, cultures, religions, and ethnic groups.
The Sukarno regime established publicly-funded gamelan schools during the
1950s and 1960s, in order to encourage and sustain this music as one the
national art forms of Indonesia. Some Indonesians objected to this elevation of a
musical style associated primarily with Java and Bali as a "national" art form; in
a multiethnic, multicultural country, of course, there are no universal cultural
properties.
Today, gamelan is an important feature of shadow puppet shows, dances,
rituals, and other performances in Indonesia. Although stand-alone gamelan
concerts are unusual, the music may also be heard frequently on the radio. Most
Indonesians today have embraced this ancient musical form as their national
sound.
For more information, please see "Intro to Gamelan" by Megan Romer.
The history of music of Indonesia demonstrates its cultural diversity, the local
musical creativity, as well as subsequent foreign musical influences that shaped
contemporary music scenes of Indonesia. Nearly thousands of Indonesian
islands having its own cultural and artistic history and character.
This results in hundreds of different forms of music, which often accompanies
dance and theater. The musics of Java,Sumatra, Bali, Flores and other islands
have been documented and recorded, and research by Indonesian and
international scholars is ongoing. The music in Indonesia predates historical
records, various Native Indonesian tribes often incorporate chants and songs
5|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

accompanied with musics instruments in their rituals. Today the contemporary


music of Indonesia is popular in the region, including neighboring countries;
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

Religion
Indonesia is a secular democratic country that has a Muslim-majority population. The
Indonesian constitution guarantees all people in Indonesia the freedom of worship, each
according to his or her own religion or belief. It also stipulates that the state shall be based
upon the belief in "the one and only God" (a condition which also forms the first principle of
the Pancasila, the Indonesian state philosophy introduced by Soekarno in 1945). At first
sight these two conditions seem to be somewhat contradictory but Soekarno, Indonesia's
first president, resolved this issue by hypothesizing that every religion (including 'soft
polytheistic' Hinduism) essentially has one highest Supreme Being to which one subjects
oneself. Although Indonesia is not an Islamic state, Islamic principles do influence political
decision making. Moreover, certain hardcore Muslim groups have shown to be able to
influence political and judicial decision making through (the threat of) violence.
One peculiarity of the Indonesian government's stance on (freedom of) religion is that it
recognizes six official religions only (which are Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism,
Buddhism and Confucianism). Every Indonesian is required to embrace one of these
religions as it is mandatory personal data which is mentioned in official documents such as
passports and other identification cards. Atheism is not an option and - in fact - constitutes a
socially unacceptable ideology in the country. In recent years it has happened that
Indonesians who published atheist worldviews on social networks were threatened by their
local community and arrested by the police on charges of blasphemy; charges that can lead
to imprisonment.

COMPOSITION OF INDONESIA'S SIX OFFICIAL RELIGIONS


Percentage share
(of total population)

Absolute numbers
(in millions)

Muslim

87.2

207.2

Protestant

6.9

16.5

6|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]
Catholic

2.9

6.9

Hindu

1.7

4.0

Buddhist

0.7

1.7

Confucian

0.05

0.1

Unfortunately, religion has also been the cause of much violence throughout
Indonesian history. Regarding its recent history, one important turning point can be
discerned. After the fall of president Suharto's New Order regime (which was marked
by a strong central government and a weak civil society) radical Islamic voices and
violent (terrorist) acts - previously largely suppressed by the government - found their
way to the surface in the form of bomb attacks and other threats. Recently,
Indonesian media have reported frequently about attacks by radical Muslims on
minority communities, such as the Ahmadiyya community (a movement within Islam)
and Christians. Moreover, the perpetrators or instigators of such violent acts usually
receive short prison sentences only. These issues have received international
attention as several governments, organizations and media have expressed concern
over the ensuring of freedom of religion in Indonesia. However - as appalling as it
may be - such religious violence is the exception rather than the rule and it should be
stressed that, by far, the majority of the Indonesian Muslim community is highly
supportive of a religious pluralist and peaceful society. For a detailed account
regarding violent Islamism in Indonesia please visit our Radical Islam page. Lastly, it
should be mentioned that religious intolerance or discrimination in Indonesia also
takes non-violent forms such as the difficulty of building places of worship that are
non-Muslim in areas that are mainly occupied by Muslims (and vise versa). However,
any minority in any country will, most likely, have to deal with discriminatory actions,
and Indonesia is no exception to this 'rule'.

Music and the Introduction of


Islam:
During the 15th century, the people of Java and many other Indonesian islands
gradually converted to Islam, under the influence of Muslim traders from the
7|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

Arabian Peninsula and south Asia. Fortunately for gamelan, the most influential
strain of Islam in Indonesia was Sufism, a mystical branch that values music as
one of the pathways to experiencing the divine. Had a more legalistic brand of
Islam been introduced, it might have resulted in the extinction of gamelan in
Java and Sumatra.
Bali, the other major center of gamelan, remained predominantly Hindu. This
religious schism weakened the cultural ties between Bali and Java, although
trade continued between the islands throughout the 15th to 17th centuries. As a
result, the islands developed different forms of gamelan.
Balinese gamelan began to emphasize virtuosity and quick tempos, a trend later
encouraged by Dutch colonists. In keeping with Sufi teachings, Java's gamelan
tended to be slower in tempo and more meditative or trance-like.

Gamalan
Gamelan is traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia, made up
predominantly of percussive instruments. The most common instruments
are metallophones played by mallets as well as a set of hand played drums
called kendhang which
register
the beat.
Other
instruments
include xylophones, bamboo flutes,bowed instrument called rebab, and even vocalists
called sindhen.
Although the popularity of gamelan has declined since the introduction of pop music,
gamelan is still commonly played in formal occasions and in many traditional
Indonesian ceremonies. For most Indonesians, gamelan is an integral part
of Indonesian culture.

Terminology
The word gamelan comes from the low Javanese word gamel, which may refer
to a type of mallet used to strike instruments or the act of striking with a mallet. The
term karawitan refers to the playing of gamelan instruments, and comes from the
word rawit, meaning 'intricate' or 'finely worked'. The word derives from the Javanese
8|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

word of Sanskrit origin, rawit, which refers to the sense of smoothness and elegance
idealized in Javanese music. Another word from this root, pangrawit, means a person
with such sense, and is used as an honorific when discussing esteemed gamelan
musicians. The high Javanese word for gamelan is gangsa, formed either from the
words tembaga and rejasa referring to the materials used in bronze gamelan
construction (copper and tin), or tiga and sedasa referring to their proportions (three
and ten).

History
Musicians performing musical ensemble, bas-relief of Borobudur
The gamelan predates the Hindu-Buddhist culture that dominated Indonesia in
its earliest records and instead represents a native art form. The instruments
developed into their current form during the Majapahit Empire. In contrast to the
heavy Indian influence in other art forms, the only obvious Indian influence in gamelan
music is in the Javanese style of singing, and in the themes of the Wayang kulit
(shadow puppet plays).
In Javanese mythology, the gamelan was created by Sang Hyang Guru in Saka
era 167 (c. AD 230), the god who ruled as king of all Java from a palace on the
Maendra mountain in Medang Kamulan (now Mount Lawu). He needed a signal to
summon the gods and thus invented the gong. For more complex messages, he
invented two other gongs, thus forming the original gamelan set.
The earliest image of a musical ensemble is found on the 8th century
Borobudur temple, Central Java. Musical instruments such as the bamboo flute, bells,
drums in various sizes, lute, and bowed and plucked string instruments were
identified in this image. However it lacks metallophones and xylophones.
Nevertheless, the image of this musical ensemble is suggested to be the ancient form
of the gamelan.

9|Page

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

In the palaces of Java are the oldest known ensembles, the Munggang and
Kodokngorek gamelans, apparently from the 12th century. These formed the basis of
a "loud style". A different, "soft style" developed out of the kemanak tradition and is
related to the traditions of singing Javanese poetry, in a manner which is often
believed to be similar to performance of modern bedhaya dance. In the 17th century,
these loud and soft styles mixed, and to a large extent the variety of modern gamelan
styles of Bali, Java, and Sunda resulted from different ways of mixing these elements.
Thus, despite the seeming diversity of styles, many of the same theoretical concepts,
instruments, and techniques are shared between the styles.

Instruments
Bonang.
Saron, demung, and peking.
Slenthem.
Gendr.
Gong ageng, gong suwuk, and kempul.
Kenong.
The drums (kendhang).
Kethuk and Kempyang.

Angklung
The angklung is a musical instrument made of two to four bamboo tubes
attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved to have a resonant pitch
when struck and are tuned to octaves. The base of the frame is held in one
hand, whilst the other hand strikes the instrument. This causes a repeating note
10 | P a g e

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

to sound. Each of three or more performers in an angklung ensemble play just


one note or more, but altogether complete melodies are produced.
The angklung is popular throughout Southeast Asia, but it originated in
what is now West Java and Banten provinces in Indonesia, and has been played
by the Sundanese for many centuries. Angklung and its music has become the
cultural identity of Sundanese communities in West Java and Banten. Playing
angklung as an orchestra requires cooperation and coordination, and is believed
promotes the values of teamwork, mutual respect and social harmony.
On November 18, 2010, UNESCO officially recognized Indonesian
angklung as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and
encourage Indonesian people and government to safeguard, transmit, promote
performances and to encourage the craftsmanship of angklung making.

History
According to Dr.Groneman, angklung had already been a favorite musical
instrument of the entire archipelago even before the Hindu era. According to Jaap
Kunst in Music in Java, besides West Java, angklung also exists in South Sumatra
and Kalimantan. Lampung, East Java and Central Java are also familiar with the
instrument.
In the Hindu period and the time of the Kingdom of Sunda, the angklung played
an important role in ceremonies. The angklung was played to honor Dewi Sri, the
goddess of fertility, so she would bless their land and lives. The angklung also
signaled the time for prayers, and was said to have been played since the 7th century
in Kingdom of Sunda. In the Kingdom of Sunda, it provided martial music during the
Battle of Bubat, as told in the Kidung Sunda. The oldest surviving angklung is 400
years old Angklung Gubrag. It was made in the 17th century in Jasinga, Bogor. Other
antique angklung are stored in the Sri Baduga Museum, Bandung. The oldest
angklung tradition is called "Angklung Buhun" (Sundanese: "Ancient Angklung") from
Lebak Regency, Banten Angklung buhun is an ancient type of angklung played by
Baduy people of inland Banten province during Seren Taun harvest ceremony.
11 | P a g e

[INDONESIAN MUSIC]

Daeng Soetigna in 1971


In 1938, Daeng Soetigna, from Bandung, created an angklung that is based on
the diatonic scale instead of the traditional plog or slndro scales. Since then, the
angklung has returned to popularity and is used for education and entertainment, and
may even accompany western instruments in an orchestra. One of the first
performances of angklung in an orchestra was in 1955 during the Bandung
Conference. In 1966 Udjo Ngalagena, a student of Daeng Soetigna, opened his
"Saung Angklung" (House of Angklung) as a centre for its preservation and
development.
UNESCO designated the angklung a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible
Heritage of Humanity on November 18, 2010

12 | P a g e