A Musical Trip to the Island of Java

Saturday night I was home, googling about events happening in Lisbon, until I saw that Museu do Oriente was throwing a celebration party on Sunday dedicated to its 8 years of existance.

With events ranging from oriental music workshops to martial arts, I had to be there to witness some of these.

15:30p.m, after a quick lunch at the docks, the gamelan workshop was starting, and with no shoes we were going into Macau’s Room on the 4th floor. As soon as we get in we see this type of orchestra, with musical instruments a little bit different from what we are used to see in the western countries, this “orchestra” was nothing else but a Gamelan from the island of Java.

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The Gamelan was introduced to us by a very nice lady named Elizabeth Davis, who, through my research, has gotten a degree in the University of Nottingham and in the Royal Academy of Music based in London. Elizabeth is also the founder of Machina Mundi and Yogistragong and she has studied the gamelan in Indonesia.

This “orchestra” from Java and Bali is made essentially of 3 groups:

  • Balungan Instruments – The skeletal of the melody
  • Colotomic Instruments – The rhythmic struture of the song
  • Panerusan Instruments – Play varations, improvisation and creativity

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The music itself is played in two different scales, a pentatonic scale, with 5 notes, given the name of “sléndro scale” and a scale with 7 notes, the “pélog scale”

Most of the instruments used are xylophones (gambang), metallophones (e.g – slenthem, pecking, gender etc), kendhangs (similar to a drum), gongs and bonangs.

The largest instrument is the “Gong Ageng” which is a really large gong. Just like with other instruments, I was very happy to get to play it.

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I want to write a personal thanks to Elizabeth for introducing me to a new music and culture, and also for letting me take all these photos at the end of the workshop. I hope to get to play the gamelan again in a near future, and who knows, in Bali or Java.

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One Comment to A Musical Trip to the Island of Java

  1. Alexandru says:

    Interesting !

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