Gamelan outside Indonesia

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Gamelan, although Indonesian in origin, is found outside of that country. There are forms of gamelan that have developed outside Indonesia, such as American gamelan and Malay Gamelan in Malaysia.


Most of the gamelans in Australia are associated with universities or schools. One of the most famous is the gamelan Digul, made in the Digul prison camp in 1927 and brought to Australia during World War II.[1]

The Netherlands[edit]

The first gamelans outside of Indonesia were in the Netherlands, the country which had colonized the islands. Before World War II, the Javanese dancer Jodjana had a small gamelan group in the Netherlands, which accompanied his performances. He had to train Dutch musicians. Early during the war, the resistance fighter Bernard IJzerdraat Sr. was killed by the Germans. His son Bernard then left home and in Amsterdam heard a group of stranded Javanese sailors play a gamelan at the Colonial Museum (later: Museum of the Tropics). He took lessons with them and soon started his own group with friends from his school in Haarlem. In this he received help from Jaap Kunst who taught him to transcribe the then existing 78 rpm recordings and who allowed him to use the beautiful antique Yogyanese gamelan set in the museum. This became Babar Layar, the first serious gamelan group in the Netherlands. Babar Layar played in Yogyakarta style, after Bernard studied one full year in the kraton. They often accompanied Mas Pakun, a Yogyanese dancer who studied theology in Amsterdam. When Mantle Hood came to Amsterdam to write his dissertation on pathet, Bernard trained him to play gamelan. (Mas Pakun died a few years later in a tragic traffic accident after his return to Indonesia.) Mantle Hood later taught ethnomusicology in the U.S., and is regarded as the founding father of gamelan in that country. Bernard married a Sundanese wife and emigrated to Indonesia in 1954, where he became known as Suryabrata, working for RRI Jakarta and Universitas Nasional.

In 1971, the ethnomusicologist Ernst Heins invited K.R.M.T. Ronosuripto of the Mangkunagaran palace, Surakarta to Amsterdam. This gave a new impetus to the performance of gamelan and Javanese dance in the Netherlands. Together with Mr and Mrs Ronosuripto, the Amsterdam Gamelan group played many concerts and performances with Javanese dance and shadow puppetry (wayang kulit). Rien Baartmans, who as a child had been taking lessons from Bernard IJzerdraat, studied wayang and kendhang with Pak Ripto, which very much stimulated his own group Ngesthi Raras in Haarlem.

In 1978 the new gamelan society Naga, founded by Rob van Albada, acquired a gamelan from Solo. This gamelan was used by several groups, performing traditional and modern music for gamelan. In the same year Elsje Plantema (a musician specializing in Javanese gamelan) and Rien Baartmans (dhalang) founded Raras Budaya, with the aim of performing wayang kulit in Dutch. Between 1980 and 1992, Raras Budaya performed numerous wayang plays. When Naga was dissolved in 1995, their gamelan was given to Raras Budaya, and is still used by gamelan groups conducted by Elsje Plantema. After Rien Baartmans passed away in 1993, Elsje Plantema changed focus. Without dhalang, her new ensemble Widosari concentrated on traditional and modern gamelan music, and projects with dancers, Javanese dhalangs (Sri Djoko Raharjo, Joko Susilo and others), composers like I Wayan Sadra, Al. Suwardi and Sinta Wullur, and the combination of gamelan and western instruments. Nowadays, several Javanese and Balinese gamelan groups are active in the Netherlands. Javanese style groups exist in Amsterdam, Delft, The Hague, Renkum and Arnhem. Balinese groups can be found in Amsterdam and The Hague. A Sundanese group exists in Leiden (Leyde).


The Polish band - Warsaw Gamelan Group - is perhaps the only band in this part of Europe that plays Indonesian music. WGG specialises in music from central Java.


There are two javanese gamelans in Portugal, one in Lisbon, at Fundação do Oriente and another in Oporto at Casa da Música. Besides being used for traditional javanese music, the gamelan at Casa da Musica has been at the centre of very innovative projects, including the development of a Robotic Gamelan. Inspired by the ideas of gamelan collective practice, Companhia de Música Teatral developed the "Gamelão de Porcelana e Cristal" with hundreds of porcelain and crystal-ware pieces in Opus Tutti, an artistic and educational project that aims to improve community musical practices for infancy.

United States and Canada[edit]

See also List of gamelan ensembles in the United States and American Gamelan

Gamelan music was introduced to the Western hemisphere at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. A Sundanese gamelan was imported as part of the Java Village exhibit and was acquired by the Field Museum of Natural History following the exposition. After the gamelan was restored in the late 1970s, it was used for instruction by a community arts organization, which gave its first performance in May 1978. The organization incorporated in 1980 as Friends of the Gamelan[2] and continues to perform with two central Javanese gamelan sets that it has acquired.

Many schools, universities and other institutions in North America own sets of gamelan instruments. These gamelans are typically played by mixed-gender groups of students, a practice that is rare in Indonesia for religious reasons. Among the earliest such groups were Wesleyan University [3] and UCLA [4]. Established institutional gamelan ensembles in the U.S. include Gamelan Nyai Saraswati at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gamelan Burat Wangi and Gamelan Kyai Dorodasih at California Institute of the Arts [5], Gamelan Galak Tika at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [6], Gamelan Lila Muni at Eastman School of Music, Gamelan Semara Santi at Swarthmore College, Sekaa Gong Hanuman Agung at Florida State University, Gamelan Saraswati at University of Maryland, College Park, Gamelan Kembang Atangi at Loyola Marymount University, Gamelan Giri Kusuma at Pomona College, and the Javanese Court Gamelan, “Son of the Good Earth,” at Creighton University. A Gamelan is also owned by the University of North Texas called Bwana Kumala (Light of the World).

There are also professional gamelan ensembles. Gamelan Son of Lion is a group that focuses on newly-composed music by both the composer-members of the group and invited composers from around the world.[7] performs Balinese music on bamboo instruments in the San Francisco bay area.[8] is based in Oakland.

Since 1979 a few gamelan ensembles have been organized as community arts organizations or clubs. The first Javanese community group was the Boston Village Gamelan [9] in Massachusetts, and the first Balinese community group was Gamelan Sekar Jaya in California. Other community Balinese gamelan ensembles are Gamelan Mitra Kusuma in Washington, D.C., Gamelan Dharma Swara at the Indonesian Consulate in New York City [10], Space City Gamelan in Houston, the Lehigh Valley Gamelan in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Gamelan Tunas Mekar [1] in Denver. Gamelan Sari Raras is an active Javanese ensemble in Berkeley, California; the name was given to the group by Widiyanto (aka Midiyanto), and the instruments, brought to the U.S. from Java in 1971, are named Kyai Udan Mas, or Venerable Golden Rain. The [11] hosts another Javanese gamelan, as well as offering classes in Balinese gamelan and various styles of Indonesian dance.

Canada's oldest gamelan is the Toronto-based Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan (with Sundanese degung instruments), founded in 1983. Another early gamelan ensemble is Kyai Madu Sari (Venerable Essence of Honey), donated by the Indonesian Government after the 1986 Expo in Vancouver, which resides since then at the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. A gamelan gadhon, Alligator Joy, was commissioned from Pak Tentrem of Solo, Central Java and brought to Vancouver in 1990 and resides at the Western Front Artist Center. Both Vancouver-based ensembles are regularly used in performances by the Vancouver Community Gamelan [12].

United Kingdom[edit]

There are over fifty gamelans of various kinds in the United Kingdom, many of them based at colleges or community centres. University of York was the first British university to purchase a gamelan, named Kyai Sekar Patak; it is still played by students there. The oldest community Gamelan group in the UK is the Oxford Gamelan Society, which plays Kyai Madu Laras, donated to the University of Oxford's Bate Collection of Musical Instruments by the Indonesian ministry of Forestry in 1985. Other active groups exist at SOAS, Dartington College of Arts, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Durham, Kingston University and City University, London, amongst others. A program of classes has relaunched at Southbank Centre, which also has a performing group of gamelan professionals, the Southbank Gamelan Players. In Cambridge, the [13](Gamelan Duta Laras) plays both traditional music and new compositions, and gives yearly dance performances as well as running introductory workshops. The Glasgow based Gamelan Naga Mas [14] regularly gives performances and introductory workshops, teacher and special needs (Gamalanability) courses in Scotland. The London Symphony Orchestra[15] holds a Balinese gamelan at LSO St Luke's; this is used by schools, a community group, players of the orchestra and Balinese composers.


There is, at present, only one Gamelan in the Republic of Ireland. It is located in the music department of University College Cork, in the "Seomra Gamelan." The Gamelan was custom made for UCC by gong-smith Pak Tentrem Sarwanto in Java and arrived in Ireland in 1995. The UCC Javanese gamelan was given the name Nyai Sekar Madu Sari (Venerable Flower of Honey Essence) in a traditional naming ceremony. The UCC gamelan presents a public performance at least once a year under its director, Mel Mercier.


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