is a term for various types of orchestra played in Indonesia.
It is the main element of the Indonesian traditional music.
Each gamelan is slightly different from the other; however,
they all have the same organization, which based on different
instrumental groups with specific orchestral functions.
The instruments in a gamelan are composed of sets of tuned
bronze gongs, gong-chimes, metallophones, drums, one or
more flute, bowed and plucked string instruments, and
sometimes singers. In some village gamelan, bronze is
sometimes replaced by iron, wood, or bamboo. The most
popular gamelan can be found in Java, and Bali.
In Indonesian traditional thinking, the gamelan is sacred
and is believed to have supernatural power. Both musician
and non-musicians are humble and respectful to the gamelan.
Incense and flowers are often offered to the gamelan.
It is believed that each instrument in the gamelan is
guided by spirits. Thus, the musician have to take off
their shoes when they play the gamelan. It is also forbidden
to step over any instrument in a gamelan, because it might
offend the spirit by doing so. Some gamelan are believed
to have so much powers that playing them may exert power
over nature. Others may be touched only by persons who
are ritually qualified. In Javanese gamelan, the most
important instrument is the Gong Ageng. The Javanese musicians
believe that Gong Ageng is the main spirit of the entire
Functions of Gamelan
Gamelan is a way of linking individuals in social groups.
Gamelan music is performed as a group effort, and so there
is no place for an individual showoff. Traditionally,
gamelan is only played at certain occasions such as ritual
ceremonies, special community celebrations, shadow puppet
shows, and for the royal family. Gamelan is also used
to accompany dances in court, temple, and village rituals.
Besides providing music for social functional ceremonies,
gamelan also provides a livelihood for many professional
musicians, and for specialized craftsmen who manufacture
Today, although gamelan music is still used for ritual
ceremonies and the royal family, it is also performed
as concert music at social and cultural gatherings to
welcome guests and audiences. Gamelan is also used to
accompany many kinds of both traditional and modern dances,
drama, theatrical and puppetry. In modern days, gamelan
can be kept in places such as courts, temples, museums,
schools, or even private homes.
foto credit: http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Indonesian/
Gamelan music is very similar to Javanese Gamelan music.
The music is in cycle too, however, it is usually faster.
One of the characteristic of Balinese gamelan music is
that, it has a lot of sudden changes in tempo and dynamics.
Like the Javanese gamelan, the instruments in Balinese
gamelan includes metallophones and gongs. However, there
are more metallophones than gongs in Balinese gamelan.
The metal keys in Balinese metallophones are ticker than
those of Javanese. These Balinese metallophones produce
very bright sound. Another characteristic of Balinese
Gamelan music is the used of cymbals. These cymbals create
fast rattling sound that usually cannot be found in Javanese
Picture Credit: Dr. Han Kuo-Huang
word "gamelan" came from Javanese "gamel,"
which means "hammer." Most of the instruments
in a Javanese Gamelan are gongs and metallophones, and
the music is of percussive nature.
The Spiritual Leader in Gamelan is the biggest gong, Gong
Ageng. However, the real leader during the performance
is the drummer. Gong Ageng is the largest hanging gong
in Javanese gamelan. It is also the lowest-pitched gong
in the gamelan. Like the Kempul, Gong Ageng has a flat
surface with a protruding knob at the center of the sphere.
The number of Gong Ageng in a Javanese gamelan varied
from gamelan to gamelan. Usually there will be at least
one Gong Ageng, and it is usually hang at the back of
Javanese Gamelan instruments, according to orchestral
What is batik?
The word batik is thought to derive from the Indonesian
word "tik" which means dots-- denoting a certain
method of applying colored patterns or designs to finished
The process of making batik.
The process of batik is simple but tedious. Finely woven
cotton and occasionally silk are used to make traditional
batik. There were two parallel traditions in batik, one
for the royalty and one for the common people.
The first step is to apply the hot wax. There are several
methods of waxing. The most popular methods are canting
method and cap method.
Picture credit: Dr George Henry
Picture credit : Bali Tribune, Edition 23 June 2001
After the initial waxing, the cloth thus prepared is then
dyed in indigo vat and dried in the sun on long sticks.
The oldest and first dye to be applied in classical Indonesian
batik was blue made from the leaves of the indigo plant.
Indigo dyeing was usually done by men.
The cloth is first pulled through a chemical agent which
helps the dye to bond to the cloth. It is left to drip
and is then pulled through the dye
Chemical dyes produce more predictable results and offer
better resistance to sunlight and frequent washing. After
the colors are obtained, the fabrics is rinsed thoroughly
and it is then transferred to boiling water. The finished
products are brilliant in both design and color. Producing
a high quality batik may take anywhere from five weeks
to over a year.
Purwa symbolizes human life in the world. Basically, the
genealogy of wayang is rooted in the gods named Hyang
Manikmaya and Hyang Ismaya. They are sons of Hyang Tunggal.
In the wayang performance, Hyang Tunggal is not visible.
The two sons emerged as lights simultaneously. Manikmaya's
light was glowing brightly. Ismaya's light was dark. Both
of them competed to proclaim that they were the older
of the two.
spark light was named Manikmaya, who lives in Suralaya
(the kingdom of gods). Manikmaya is so proud to himself
since he perceives himself to have no weakness and to
be powerful. That kind of attitudes makes Hyang Tunggal
give him some weaknesses
Then, Hyang Tunggal stated that the dark light was older,
but he was predicted that he could not have the god's
personality. He was given a name Ismaya. Since he had
the human personality, he was asked to stay in earth to
take care the god's descendent, the Pandawa. Then he was
sent to the world and named Semar. He has the ugliest
human being outlook.
two events are symbols. Ismaya symbolizes the body of
human being. Ismaya symbolizes the soul of human being
(inner body). The body (Semar) always takes care of five
senses (Pendawa): sense of smelling (Yudhistira); sense
of hearing (Werkodara); sense of seeing (Arjuna); sense
of taste (Nakula); and sense of touching (Sadewa
task of Semar is to take care the wellbeing of Pendawa,
in order to avoid the war with Korawa (sense of Anger).
However, Hyang Manik Maya always persuades them to fight.
Finally, there is Baratayudha where Pandawa become the
Ki Dalang (The Puppeteer)
Dalang is a complete artist. It is said so because a dalang
is the director and the main player of the show. Beside
moving the wayang, they are also give them voice; they
are comedians, and also preaching the spiritual teaching.
A Dalang is also the conductor of the gamelan orchestra
a wayang show, the languages used are not only one (Javanese/
Balinese) but also Sanscrete or Old Javanese/Balinese
Language. In the modern time, there are a lot of Indonesian
words and sentences slipped in the shows.
of that the story of wayang often contain spiritual teachings
or the shows are produced in connection of certain religious
ceremonies, a dalang was expected to fulfill high standards
of spirituality. Before they are initiated as dalang,
they need to practice meditation and asceticism. In the
shows, they are believed to be able to communicate between
the physical and spiritual world. A Dalang is often be
categorized as a communicator, spiritual person, and of
course a complete artist.
Gamelan (accompanying music)
The Gamelan is the musical instruments. In the Javanese
Wayang, these instruments nowadays consist of at least
15 different types, mostly made of bronze and generally
of the percussion type, mostly made of bronze and generally
of the percussion type; a small bamboo flute (suling),
one or two horizontal drums on wooden stands (kendang),
a two stringed violin-like instrument (rebab) and a wooden
xylophone (gambang) are the non percussion and/or non-bronze
musical instruments used to accompany a wayang purwa performance.
kothak or wooden chest. The kothak normally functions
as a storage box for the wayang puppets and other equipment
such as the kelir, chempala and kepyak. To store a professional
set consisting of around 200 puppets, its measurement
should be approximately 150 cm. long, 80 cm. wide and
60 cm. high (with lid on).
chempala or wooden knockers are usually made of teak wood.
There are two kinds, one about half size of the other.
The larger of these is approximately 20 cm. long with
a diameter of about 5 cm. This is usually held in the
dalang's left hand, is used to knock the kothak to produce
the sound effects and coded orders he requires. When his
two hands are busy manipulating the puppets, he uses the
small chempala for the same purpose by holding it between
the toes of his right foot, for he sits cross-legged,
his right foot crossing his left thigh. As mentioned above,
the knocking sounds not only produce sound effects, but
also serve as the coded orders/signals of the dalang,
orders to the musicians on what melodies to play, to slow
down or quicken the rythm, to play it loudly or softly,
or stop the music.
kepyak or metal rappers. This is usually made of three
pieces of bronze plate measuring approximately 15 cm.
long and 10 cm. wide suspended on small cords or chains
to the outer side of the kothak. The dalang hits it with
the toes of his right foot or with the small knocker held
between the toes of his right foot. The function of this
tool is mainly to produce sound effects; occassionally
it functions as a chempala in giving the coded signals.
in Bali is a sacred performing art. It is sacred since
the performing art in Bali becomes an arena of transmitting
the basic philosophical thought to the audience. The audience
is perceived as coming from three realms of world (the
realm of gods, the realm of human being, and the realm
existence of wayang characterizes much of the Balinese
ritual, from ceremonies for pregnancy to the rituals for
weddings. These rituals serve the function of harmonizing
the three worlds, often utilizing wayang as the main instrument.
a sacred performing art in Bali, there are numbers of
purification ceremonies for the wayang, puppetteer, gender
(gamelan), and the gamelan players. Before the wayang
is performed, certain purification ceremonies will be
Wherever you go in Bali, the air is full of gamelan music.
People play gamelan at the temples when the calenderacally
ceremonies being held, at the village halls, on the streets
when the ceremony procession goes to a temple or cemetary.
Sometimes gamelan is also played to greet high ranking
government officials who come to visit.
The gamelan orchestra usually (if not, always) accompanied
by dancers. For temple ceremony purposes they usually
belong to different generations. Late age and not having
a formal training is not a constraint. During temple ceremonies
you may see ladies in their 80's dance gracefully. You
may also see a little girl dances with her mouth opens
because her mother puts to much lipstick on her lips.
Boys and girls, men and women, they all dance. Not all
of them go through a formal training before being able
to dance publicly. They just do that. But, why do they
When we are talking about offering, what comes to our
mind is flowers, fruits, cakes, etc. For the Balinese
a dance is another kind of offering too. The main purpose
of dancing is as an offering for the God and deities,
not as a performance for public.
At a temple ceremony, to greet the gods a group of dancers
(mostly women) circle the central shrines three times.
While dancing in simple movements but very grace and intense,
they carry some ceremonial objects, such as holy water,
fire, some pieces of cloth in different colors, etc. The
dancers move slowly in clockwise direction that symbolizes
ascent of the sacred mountain. The gamelan group accompanies
the dancers and others sing prayers.