Gamelan refers to any one of several types of instrumental ensembles found on the islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia. The word gamelan comes from the Javanese word gamel, a kind of hammer, like those used by blacksmiths. The gamelan offers a rich experience for all the senses. Stepping over the instruments and touching them with one’s feet are forbidden; such actions are considered disrespectful to the instruments and potentially unsafe for the offending individual or other ensemble members.
Offerings of various kinds, including incense and flowers, are often made before a gamelan piece is played and on certain auspicious days. Traditionally, gamelan ensembles are used in religious contexts, often as accompaniment to rituals, customary practices, ceremonies and dancing. In relatively recent times, gamelan music has begun to accompany secular events, including tourist and concert performances, government functions and educational demonstrations.
Photo by Orchestra Amankila
There is no standard, fixed tuning in gamelan music. Each type of gamelan is distinctive, its music unique. Musicians can quickly turn their bodies then to easily transition from one tuning system to the other. Full gamelan of this kind can be found at large institutions inIndonesiaand internationally as well as in villages, in the homes of revered musicians and in the royal courts ofCentral Java. Gamelan ensemble types inBaliare many, and vary greatly in size, instrument composition, repertoire, age and function. Balinese gamelan of all kinds can be found intemples, village community centers, schools and institutes hotels and private homes. Opportunities to experience live gamelan music are plentiful inIndonesiaand beyond the archipelago.
Photo by Rio Akasaka
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