Gamelan, another Indonesian tradition, on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

On 15 December 2021 evening Jakarta time, the news of Gamelan inscription on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage circulated fast. It sparked joys among high officials and musicians alike.

“I feel so proud,” said Ki Purbo Asmoro, a master Gamelan artist from Solo. “Gamelan is my soul,” said another master artist, Ki Blacius Subono.

Gamelan, the traditional Indonesian percussion orchestra with xylophones, gongs, gong-chimes, drums, cymbals, string instruments and bamboo flutes, is probably one of the most representative traditions of Indonesia, along with Wayang shadow puppet and batik making, already on the UNESCO list.

The music is played by men, women and children of all ages in religious rituals, ceremonies, traditional theatre, festivals and concerts. It is also used for music therapy to establish a connection between humans and the universe. Gamelan is an integral part of Indonesian identity dating back centuries; archaeological evidence of the practice has been found in the relief sculptures of the eighth-century Borobudur temple.

The Minister of Education and Culture, H.E. Mr. Nadiem Anwar Makarim, also rejoiced in the news and said that Gamelan has enriched Indonesia’s culture and influenced world music.

Gamelan is an important source of national pride and continues to be passed down from generation to generation through informal and formal education, including in-school and after-school activities.

However, Ki Purbo Asmoro is not just euphoric. “This recognition reminds us of our obligation to preserve and nurture our tradition for many generations to come,” said he.

As part of the nomination process, the Government of Indonesia proposed a series of safeguarding actions, including the advanced training of the musicians and gamelan instrument makers, digitization of old analogs recording, and establishing a national gamelan organization/secretariat.

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