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Music in Indonesia Research Paper

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Rehab Samy Barakat


Research Paper

Music in Indonesia

        Indonesia is one of the most special countries in the Southeast of Asia; has 17,500 islands and over than 238 million people live in, which makes it the fourth country in the highest population in the world. The Indonesian culture was influenced by many countries as India, China, European and Arabian, thus Indonesia was the mother country of many musical styles. Their music styles was affected by religious thoughts and old age traditional norms from the early time of immigrants in Indonesia, Hindu age, Dutch colonist era, and Portuguese traders. They mainly affect the Java, Sumatra and Bali islands. From the central and east java and Bali Gamelan music has developed. It is the oldest and most traditional music in Indonesia. The second most famous style is Dangdut music, it widely presented in political campaigns as it is cool and energetic and the dancing performance is one of its kind there. Other music that originated in other countries are Keroncong that developed in Portugal and pop, rock and Jazz fusion developed in American but was transferred and updated in Indonesia. There music was not only interesting to Indonesian people, western composers was admired by their styles especially gamelan music. The aim of this research paper is to explore the main Indonesian’s music, instruments and main composers.           

        Gamelan music is the most popular traditional music in Indonesia and the oldest as well. It was considered a local traditional music since the time it was developed till now. The word itself means to hammer. According to the Javanese legend, gamelan was created in the 3rd century by "Sang Hyand Guru" who was a God-King back before the Hindu-Buddhist culture. It was created through the process of combining local instruments such as bronze keetle drums and bamboo flute with other instruments introduced from China and India. To communicate with Gods, so he invented an instrument called Gong. After that he wanted to communicate and send complicated messages to Gods, so he invented two Gongs. From the sound of these two instruments the Gamelan music was developed. As a result of this legend, the musicians have to take off their shoes before playing or touching the instruments. They also, do not step on instruments or touch it with their legs or they will be cursed by Gods. After that several musical instruments were added as hourglass-shaped drums, lutes, harps, flutes, reed pipes, cymbals in reliefs at Borubudur and Pramabanan. It was handed out through generations; was not written down but people learned it by playing it. Consequently, it became an important part of their culture and each Island added their touch on it. In 1580, Sir Francis Drake described the music as the most “strange, pleasant and delightful” music he has ever heard. The most famous style of gamelan music was the gamelan Sekaten, which was introduced in the 16th century. However, in the 19th century the gamelan music was famous than anytime, in the time of sultans of Yogyakarta and Solo styles. Yogyakarta style was mysteries and undefined, while the solo style was simple and quite. After the independence in 1949, the two styles were diminishing. The music transferred to the poor states and played by the poor players, but the professional players were still linked to the royal class. Today, the gamelan music is still the most famous traditional music in Indonesia; played in their festivals and weddings, but not as popular as pop, rock and jazz Indonesian music. They are played in their local halls when the entire neighborhood gather and remember all their beautiful memories. In festivals and weddings most of the crowds get enthusiastic by hearing it. In radio stations, musicians’ ensembles have their own stations. Still demanded in the puppet, drama, dance shows.

        The gamelan orchestra is the traditional musical ensemble of Java and Bali, who play exclusively with gamelan musical instruments. The main one in the orchestra is the drummer and the instruments are the metallophones, kendang, gongs, bamboo Flutes (suling), bonang. The main instruments of a gamelan orchestra are wooden mallets, padded sticks or hammers. Metallophones consist of tuned metal bars that are struck together to produce a sound usually with mallets. The mallets are kendang and gongs, the kendang is a two-headed drum used by the marine of Southeast Asians. While the gongs consist of three types the first type is the “suspended gongs” that are flat gongs, a circular discs of metal is suspended vertically by a cord that passes through the holes that is near to its top edge. The second type of gongs is the "Bossed gongs" they have a raised center boss and has to be balanced and the players play it horizontally. The third type of gongs is the "Bowl gongs" they have a bowl-shape, and considered bells more than gongs. Gongs generally are made from bronze or brass and some alloys as well. Indonesian gongs are a drumming instrument that has a bowl shape and a round knob in its core. They are a traditional instrument, and considered one of the gamelan instruments. Moreover, there is another gamelan instrument, which is the flutes or the suling as the Indonesia name it, it is an Indonesian flute that has a ring shape. The local type flute can be tuned into several scales. They are made of long and thin walled bamboo tube called “tamiang” bamboo and the mouth part of the flute is made of rattan. Moreover, there is another instrument used by the Javanese gamelan ensemble called “boning”, it has small gongs called “kettles” or “pots” on the strings surrounded by “rancak wood”, they are placed horizontally on the strings and the wood frame can be two or more wide. The small gongs “pots” have boss in its middle surrounded by either a lower pitched flat head boss or higher pitched arched boss. The small gongs are stricken by cushion sticks called “tabuh.”

 There are two types of gamelan music, Balinese, and Javanese Gamelan music. The Balinese gamelan music produces very bright sound and uses fast rattling cymbal. Basically, there is a sudden change in tempo and dynamics that is made up mostly of gongs and more metallophone. While Javanese gamelan music composed of bronze gongs, metallophone, cymbals, and a time beater. Gong ageng is the main spirit of Javanese Gamelan. There are three melody styles to play them: drumming, cycling, and polyphonic. First, the drumming includes "gong-chemics" musical ensemble, where the drums are mainly heard. Second, the cycling rhythm; music will be repeated over and over until the drummer ends it with a sign. Third, there is polyphonic in which music is composed of layers of rhythm patterns. Gamelan is mainly played with this polyphonic Stratification structure that is a result of “hocket” or an “interlock.” For the scales in the Indonesian music, there are two main scales that are mainly used in all music styles. Slendro is a pentatonic scale and Pelog is a heptatonic scale. Slendro is called after the Sundanese and it is older scale; was used first in Indonesian Gamelan scale. Pelog term is referred to "pelag" which means beautiful in the Indonesian language. “Pelog” is different than other instruments; it is one that has seven notes while the others have five. The seven or five notes are both used in the Indonesia songs and music notes, but the five notes is mainly played. 



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