The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Music of Indonesia

Southeast Asian music
East Timor

Indonesia is culturally diverse and is home to hundreds of forms of music, with those from the islands of Java, Sumatra and Bali being the most frequently recorded.


Tembang sunda

Tembang sunda or usually called as Seni Mamaos Cianjuran or just Cianjuran is a form of sung poetry which arose in the colonial-era Kabupaten of Cianjur. First known as an aristocratic art, Cianjuran composer was R.A.A Kusumahningrat ( Dalem Pancaniti ) ruler of Cianjur (1834 - 1862). the instrument of Cianjuran is Kacapi Indung, Kacapi rincik and suling or bamboo flute and Rebab for Salendro composition. The lyrics are typically sung in free verse, but a more modern version, panambih , is metrical.

Kecapi suling

Kecapi suling is a type of instrumental music that is highly improvisational and popular in parts of Java. It is related to tembang sunda .


The most popular and famous form of Indonesian music is gamelan, an ensemble of tuned percussion instruments that include metallophones, drums, gongs and spike fiddle s along with bamboo flutes. Similar ensembles are prevalent throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, but gamelan is from Java, Bali and Lombok. There are rivalries between different regions' variations of gamelan, especially Java and Bali.

Central Java

Central gamelan is intricate and meticulously laid out. The central melody is played on a metallophone in the center of the orchestra, while the front section plays elaboration and ornamentation on the melody, and, at the back, the gongs slowly punctuate the music.

The metallophones cover four octaves, and include types like the slenthem , demung , saron panerus and balungan . The soul of the gamelan is believed to reside in the large gong, or gong ageng . Other gongs are tuned to each note of the scale and include ketuk , kenong and kempul . The front section of the orchestra is diverse, and includes rebab , suling, siter , bonang and gambang . Male choruses (gerong) and female (pesindhen) solo vocalists are common.


Gamelan is rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism, though the island of Java is almost entirely Muslim today. Islam arrived in the 15th century, filtered through Hindustani Indians. With the arrival of the Dutch colonizers, a number system called kepatihan was developed to record the music. Music and dance at the time was divided into several styles based on the four main courts in the area -- Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Pakualaman and Mangkunagaran .

West Java

West Java, or Sunda , has a diverse brand of gamelan. Gamelan Degung, gamelan salendro and tembang sunda are three primary types.

Gamelan degung

Degung is accessible and enjoyable, using a small variety of instruments, most notably the distinctive Sundanese suling, a type of bamboo flute. Degung developed in the courts controlled by the Dutch. A pop form, called pop Sunda , became internationally famous in the 1980s.

Gamelan salendro

Gamelan salendro is used primarily to accompany classical or more modern social dances, and is considered a low-class form. The 20th century saw a rise in the popularity and importance of male and female singers.

East Java

Gamelan from eastern Java is less well-known than central or western parts of the island. Perhaps most distinctive of the area is the extremely large gamyak drum .


The Osinger minority in Java are known for social music for weddings and other celebrations, called gandrung , as well as angklung, played by young amateur boys, which is very similar to Balinese gamelan.


Bali is known for its imitative "monkeychant", or kecak, singing style, in which the men imitate jungle monkeys while gamelan rhythms accompany them. Gamelan angklung is a style traditionally played at religious ceremonies such as cremations. Parades featuring cymbals (called ceng-ceng ) playing gamelan bebonangan are common. Most recently, gamelan gong kebyar developed during the Dutch occupation. Kebyar is popular dance-oriented music known for its explosive style. The 1950s saw the development of joged bumbung, which was based on an old dance style called joged. Gamelan joged bumbung is played on bamboo instruments. Gamelan jegog is an ensemble of instruments made from giant bamboo up to 3 meters long. Spiritual kinds of gamelan include gamelan gong gede , gamelan gambang , gamelan selunding and gamelan semar pegulingan .

Pop and folk music

Indonesian pop and folk is quite diverse, embracing rock, house, hip hop and other genres, as well as distinctly Indonesian forms. There are several kinds of "ethnic" pop music, generally grouped togheter as Pop Daerah (regional pop). These include Pop Sunda, Pop Minang, Pop Batak, and others. The regional pop musics mostly use local languages and a mix of western and regional style music and instruments.


Kroncong has been evolving since the arrival of the Portuguese, who brought with them Europeean instruments. By the early 1900s, it was considered a low-class urban music. This changed in the 1930s, when the rising Indonesian film industry began incorporating kroncong, and then even more so in the mid- to late 1940s, when it became associated with the struggle for independence.

Langgam jawa

There is a style of kroncong native to Solo called langgam jawa , which fuses kroncong with the gamelan seven-note scale.

Tembang jawa

Similar in style is tembang jawa. Perhaps its greatest current star is Didi Kempot .

Gambang kromong

Early in the 20th century, kroncong was used in a type of theater called komedi stanbul ; adapted for this purpose, the music was called gambang kromong.


Dangdut is a form of dance music that has been popular since the mid-1970s. Dangdut is based around the singers, and stars include Rhoma Irama and Elvy Sukaesih (the King and Queen of Dangdut), along with Inul Daratista, Evie Tamala , Mansyur S , A. Rafiq , Dewi Yull and Fahmy Shahab .


Jaipongan is a very complex rhythmic dance music from Sunda . The rhythm is liable to change seemingly randomly, making dancing difficult for most listeners. Its instruments are entirely from Sunda, completely without imported instruments from the West, China, Japan or elsewhere. It was invented by artists like Gugum Gumbira after Sukarno prohibited rock and roll and other western genres.

Qasidah modern

Qasidah is an ancient Arabic word for religious poetry accompanied by chanting and percussion. Qasidah modern adapts this for pop audiences.


Gambus literally means oud, referring to a type of lute. It is used to denote a type of orchestra and the music it plays, believed to be introduced by Muslim settlers from Yemen. Though popular among Arabs in Indonesia, it has gained little popularity elsewhere.

Tapanuli ogong

From Tapanuli , tapanuli ogong is a form of dance music played with a type of lute, trumpet and flute.

See also


  • Bass, Colin. "No Risk -- No Fun!"". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 131-142. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Heaton, Jenny and Steptoe, Simon. "A Storm of Bronze". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 117-130. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

External link

  • Murni's in Bali: Balinese Music
  • Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Last updated: 03-09-2005 15:28:02
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01