Gamelan is a traditional javanese musical ensemble that highlight metallophones, xylophone, drums and gongs. The term ‘Gamelan’ refers to the instrument or tool, which is a unified whole that is realized and sounded together. The word Gamelan itself comes from Javanese language ‘gamel’ which means hitting or beating, followed by an ending that makes it a noun. Gamelan orchestra mostly played on the island of Java, Madura, Bali, and Lombok in Indonesia which using various types of ensemble sizes and shapes. Gamelan created in Java through the 18th century.
The presence of Gamelan was influenced by Hindu-Buddhist kingdom era that dominated Indonesia in the early days of history, which also represents the original Indonesian art. The instrument of Gamelan that we see today was actually been developed since the era of Majapahit Kingdom. Compared with the music of India, the only influence of the Indian-ish to Gamelan music is how it being performed. In Javanese mythology, Gamelan was created by Sang Hyang Guru in the era of Saka, which is the god who controlled all the land of Java, and he also has a castle on the mount Mahendra in Medangkamulan (now mount Lawu). Sang Hyang Guru is the first one who created the gong to summon the ‘dewa’ or gods. For a more specific message and then he create two gongs, then eventually formed Gamelan set.
The description of the ensemble’s first musical instrument of Gamelan was appeared in the temple of Borobudur, Magelang, Central Java, which has stood since the 8th century. Musical instruments such as bamboo flute, bells, drums in various sizes, harp and stringed musical instrument, is found in the relief. Many archaeological researchers believe that the musical instrument that attached on the relief is to be the origin of the Gamelan.
Nonetheless, tuning Gamelan orchestra is a complex process. There are four-way tuning in Gamelan orchestra, the slendro, pélog, ‘Degung‘ (found in the area of Sunda in West Java), and ”madenda” (also known as the diatonic, the same as the original minor scale that is widely used in Europe). Slendro – the term comes from the name Sailendra, the ruler of the kingdom of Medang in the dynansty of Srivijaya.
Gamelan music is a combination of the influence of many different foreign arts. The tone is influenced by Chinese, the musical instrument comes from South East Asia regions, the drum band and musical movement influenced by Indian, bowed strings of the Middle East, and even some parts also comes from Europe (in the military style)
The interaction between each components is loaded with melody, rhythm and timbre to maintain the glory of Javanese Gamelan music orchestra. In Bali, the pillars of this music brings a harmony to characteristic of Balinese rural community, which is also an inseparable part of everyday life.
Instruments of Gamelan
Bonang, the middle-to-high octave tone, is one of the leaders of the instruments in the ensemble. Especially in the percussion techniques pipilan, tone patterns are always anticipating the notes that will come and to lead the song to other instruments. This instrument is always as opener of a song (certain piece to be played) and then from that its kind of guiding the groove of track. Meanwhile, in ‘imbal-imbalan‘ simultaneously in retuning technique, Bonang doesn’t play role as a guide track, Bonang forms patterns of song intertwined with Bonang Panerus, and the highlight accent of it become kind of the garnish of the songs.
Kenong and Kethuk
Nowadays, Gamelan is being formally perfomed at special cultural occasions such as weddings, thanksgiving, and others.