Gamelan is an Indonesian traditional ensemble of music. It consists primarily of percussive instruments played by the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese peoples. The most prevalent instruments consist of mallet-played metallophones and kendhang, a set of hand-played drums which register the beat. Religious rituals, ceremonies, dance, dance-drama, traditional theater, wayang puppet theater, singing, concerts, festivals, exhibitions, and more are all accompanied by gamelan. It is surely an important part of Indonesian culture.

The term “gamelan” comes from “Game”, a Javanese word for a blacksmith’s hammer. Metal gamelan instruments are common and many of them are played with hammer-shaped mallets. Gamelan appears to have emerged early in what is now Indonesia’s history. Unfortunately, there are few reliable sources of information from this time period. Certainly, it appears to have been a part of court life in the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of Java, Sumatra, and Bali from the 8th to 11th century. For example, its bas-relief portrayal ensembles from the Srivijaya Empire, c. From 6th-13th century CE, a renowned Buddhist monument in central Java can be found in Borobudur, where musicians are depicted playing stringed instruments, metal drums, and flutes.

Unfortunately, we do not have any recordings of the music that these musicians were playing. The gong first appeared in Indonesian gamelan during the Majapahit era. This instrument was useful in various forms of gamelan ensembles with other foreign additions such as stitched-skin drums from India and bowed strings from Arabia. In the year 1602, a new European power arrived in Indonesia.

The monarch of Mataram

The monarch of Mataram, Amangkurat I (r. 1646-1677), had an orchestra of between thirty and fifty instruments, principally gongs, according to Rijklof van Goens. When the monarch entered the court for a tournament on Mondays and Saturdays, the orchestra played. At the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, late-nineteenth-century musician Claude Debussy heard a type of gamelan. Indonesian musicians’ performances enthralled him and he spent many days in the Dutch East Indies Pavilion listening to them. He put forth a lot of effort to learn the structure and tuning. Later, he began producing music, influenced by the music he had heard.

Metal gamelan instruments are generally made of bronze, brass, or iron, but some are also made of wood, bamboo, leather, and strings. Gangsa is a combination of Tigang (three) and Sedasa (ten), the high Javanese phrase for gamelan, which is based on the composition of the elements used to make the best gamelan (bronze), namely three copper and ten tin. Pelaras is a person who adjusts the tone to match the existing gamelan standards, while Pande is the word for a gamelan developer.

Gamelan producing facilities are available throughout Java and Bali. These manufacturers have shipped hundreds of gamelan all across the world. When hearing it for the first time, the complexity of the relationships between the melody lines of the various instruments as well as the most “impressionistic” tone clusters confuses a lot of listeners. Especially, if the listener hears the music vertically or tries to interpret it “harmonically. Others praise the sound’s mellifluousness and some of the music’s soothing, meditative qualities.