Indonesian Music

Indonesian music, collective term for the music of the Indonesian islands. Indonesian music as a whole reflects the long and eventful history of a multitude of specific musical cultures of more than 300 different ethnic groups. The old Indonesian heritage emerged from the mixing of indigenous elements with influences that began in the 2nd millennium BC. BC flowed into the island complex in different waves. In the 1st millennium AD a. Indian and Chinese and since the 16th century occidental influences (especially the Portuguese and Dutch) determined the musical cultures of Indonesia to different degrees. As a common base for large regions of Indonesia are the Gamelan called instrumental ensembles of Javanese origin. On Java itself and v. a. In Bali, an extensive princely and ritual repertoire of orchestral pieces has emerged over the centuries.

Java: The music of Java has always sounded and passed on orally. It was not until the end of the 19th century that musicians at the royal courts of Surakarta and Yogyakarta developed notation systems in order to be able to record melodic progressions. After a few forerunners, a system finally prevailed that had been developed in 1890 at the court called Kepatihan in Surakarta. It is based on the principle that the pitches of the respective system (5 or 7 levels) are symbolized by Arabic numerals. Points above or below the numbers indicate the higher or lower octave range. This notation system is also used in teaching at the Javanese music schools and academies.

Bali: The Balinese musical traditions are even more instrumental than those of central Javas. In the Balinese ensembles there are numerous bar games, the bars can either lie loosely or be attached with strings. These metallophones are often built in pairs, the pairs being deliberately slightly detuned from one another. This creates a vibrating sound that corresponds to the sound ideal and is felt to be alive, a back-and-forth oscillation that is perceived as roughness and beating. In Balinese gamelan are Rebab (Rabab) and Suling represented the bamboo flute, the ensemble is led by a drummer. The cymbals and a number of idiophones that have a punctuating function are important. This also includes a small bell tree called a gentorak. According to the Balinese view, instrumental music emerges from the sound connection of Suling and Rebab, which gives both instruments an outstanding function in the ensemble.

The vocal music in Bali has so far been little researched. Depending on the literary source, four major vocal genres are distinguished: Kekawin, Kleid, Geguritan and Gegendingan. Kekawin is a poem in the old Javanese language and dates from the 9th and 15th centuries. Clothing (“singing”) is closely tied to the sung performance. The Central Javanese texts of this poem deal with the war and love adventures of the nobility. The texts of the Geguritan date from the 19th and 20th centuries and are written in Balinese. Contrary to this refers to different forms of singing in predominantly oral tradition.

Sumatra: The Batak people live in the north of Sumatra, each of whom has its own characteristic traditional music. Gondang music is one of the most virtuoso types of music in Southeast Asia. It consists of a combination of drums, gongs and an oboe. The differences in the music of the individual Batak groups lie in the number of drums and gongs as well as in the composition and size of the instruments.

Music practice: Around 25 differently composed gamelans still accompany ritual and dramatic dances as well as the shadow play on Bali as part of the great temple festivals. They sound more brilliant and show more contrasts in dynamics and orchestration than the ensembles on Java. While Bali has closed itself completely to Islam, most of the Great and Lesser Sunda Islands have been heavily influenced by Persian-Arabic music and Islam. This can be seen in some of the instruments commonly used here, such as the plucked lute (gambus), frame drum (rebana), wooden shawl (serunai) or the skewer lute (lagiya) played on nias. Various double-headed drums, often called kendang, jaw harps (genggong), rattles, buzzers, bamboo flutes and trumpets, bamboo zithers, pounding pipes, are considered autochthonous musical instruments of Indonesia according to computerannals. Chime bars and others The reliefs on the stupa of Borobudur show depictions of musicians and musical instruments, which give an insight into the musical practice of the reign of the Shailendradynasty (8th-9th centuries). The second Javanese tone system (next to Pelog), the Slendro, derives its name from this Indian ruling family.

An overview of the various musical regions shows the particular diversity of Indonesian music: Borneo was exposed to foreign influences on the coasts inhabited by Indonesians, while the Dayak in the interior of the island have preserved mouth organ, jew’s harp and simple recitative chants of old age. In the central part of Celebes, chants with a small range are common. Islam gained a foothold in large areas. But Christianity and animistic religions are also represented on the island with appropriately influenced musical cultures that are sometimes close to one another. The styles of music on most of the Lesser Sunda Islands are similarly different. Numerous percussion instruments accompany the bull races on Madura. Many musical forms and genres have developed on Timor and Flores and some early and special forms of old sound instruments have been preserved. On the Moluccas you can only come across the last remnants of an ancestral musical culture. In the mountains of Papua New Guinea, the Papuans cultivate chants with ornate triad notes. This tradition can also be found in a less pure form on Flores. In Sumatra, the Bataks, who converted to Christianity, accompany their ancestral celebrations with the orchestra named after the drum Gondang (other instruments: drum circle, oboe, gongs, three-stringed lute). In the case of the Minangkabau who have converted to Islam, only women play in the  Talempong ensemble, which is named after its gong circle (other instruments are individual gongs and drums).

Popular music: As a result of the music industry, since the 1970s, Indonesian entertainment and popular music has spread beyond the region. The so-called Kroncong goes back to a more than 300 year old Portuguese-Indonesian tradition, but over the past hundred years there has been an expansion of the repertoire due to the development of numerous styles. The most important instruments of a Kroncong line-up, which are used to accompany the singing, are the ukulele, banjo, melody guitar, plucked cello, double bass, violin and flute. A style inspired by Indian film music is dangdut. The texts deal with problems in the family, the working conditions and the problems of job creation. In addition to the Indian tabla, the guitar and flute are the typical instruments of this style.

Indonesian Music

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