Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


Jamming with the gamelan

When the gamelan and different music styles come together. A self-guided lesson with videos and quizzes.


Subject: Music


Level: Lower Secondary, Upper Secondary

Recommended time: 30 minutes

For Educators

Lesson Objectives: 

• Gain awareness of gamelan as a music tradition
• Identify key instruments in a gamelan ensemble
• Listen to how different music styles can come together to create new sounds

Through this self-guided lesson, students will gain a basic understanding of gamelan music as a music tradition from Indonesia. They will also have the opportunity to listen to how the gamelan sounds when played as an ensemble and the sounds of individual instruments. They will also be able to hear how musicians continuously create new sounds by combining musical instruments and sounds from different music traditions and styles.

This lesson features excerpts taken from The Gamelan Social (2015) by Kulcha, a production that was part of Feed Your Imagination (F.Y.I), a series created for students. 

As an optional follow-up, educators can download Handout 2: Educator's Notes and carry out the suggested lessons to extend  your students' learning about gamelan music, in the classroom.

For Students

Do you know what a gamelan is? How does it sound and look? Do you know where it comes from and what it is used for? What happens when instruments from different music traditions and styles are played alongside a gamelan ensemble? 

Experience these and more through the videos, quizzes and handout that have been created to introduce you to a musical tradition that has been around for centuries. 

Music, culture & tradition

Activity 1: Music from different communities

1. Before you begin, scroll all the way down and download Handout 1: Student Activity Sheet. Now, think of these questions and fill in your answers in the handout.

a. Can you think of an important occasion where music is important to the rites and rituals or traditions in your own culture (e.g an important milestone, a celebration, mourning for a loved one)?

b. Can you describe what type of ensemble is responsible for creating the music and how the music is expressed (e.g through singing, instruments)?

2. How does music add to the activities that are happening in the videos below? 

Watch the three videos and fill in your answers in the handout. Share your answers with your friends to find out what they think. 

a. Hindu devotees celebrating Thaipusam

b. A lion dance performance

c. A kompang ensemble in a Malay wedding procession

Watch these videos and answer the questions in the handout.

Activity 2: Introduction to the gamelan

Gamelan is a traditional orchestra found in Indonesia. It consists mainly of percussion instruments that are unique to the gamelan. Some historians believe that gamelan music and its instruments have been around since the 6th century. The two most popular styles of gamelan music in Indonesia are Javanese and Balinese gamelan.

Watch the videos to listen to gamelan music and get acquainted with the individual instruments. Then, try your hands at the quiz to find out more about the purpose of gamelan music, its practice and traditions.

Watch & learn

When different music styles come together

Activity 3: Instruments from different music traditions

1. Think about these questions and answer them in Handout 1: Student Activity Sheet.

a. Have you encountered any popular band/artist that uses traditional instruments in at least one of their songs? If yes, name the instrument(s).

b. Did it make the band's/artist's music sound more traditional than usual? If yes, why?

c. How does the music make you feel?

Activity 4: Listen & reflect

Before Watching

Think about these questions. Fill in your answers in Handout 1: Student Activity Sheet.

1a. How would you describe gamelan music when you listened to it in Ricik-ricik? You can use this list to help you describe how the music sounds.

b. Do you think that by adding the bansuri (a type of Indian flute) to a gamelan ensemble, it will change how gamelan music sounds traditionally?

After Watching

Refer to Handout 1: Student Activity Sheet and fill in the answers to these questions. Then, share them with your friends to find out what they think.

2a. What other non-traditional instruments can you spot in the band?

b. After watching the performance of Kaleidoscope by Kulcha, how would you describe the music now after the addition of the bansuri? You can use this list to help you describe how the music sounds.

c. With the addition of these instruments, did the gamelan music sound traditional? If no, why?

i. Keyboards 
ii. Acoustic Drums 
iii. Electric bass

d. Do you think that by adding instruments that come from different music traditions and styles will change the purpose of gamelan music? Why?

e. If you had a choice of any musical instrument to add to the band, what would you add? How would this change the way the music sounds?


Activity 5: 3, 2, 1

Before concluding the lesson, think about the following.

1. Name 3 instruments from the gamelan.

2. List 2 practices or traditions associated with the gamelan.

3. What is 1 new thing you have discovered about mixing different music traditions/styles of music together?