Malay Gamelan

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The Malay gamelan musicians with their instruments

The Malay gamelan which exists today in Malaysia is basically from the courts of Riau-Lingga, Pahang and Terengganu. Although originated from the land of Java, Indonesia, the Malay gamelan has developed a distinct identity compared to the Javanese, Balinese and Sundanese gamelan from Indonesia.

The Malay gamelan was usually played at royal occasions during the reign of Sultan Ahmad of Pahang (1882-1914) and Sultan Sulaiman of Terengganu (1920-1942). Based on the ancient royal gamelan set discovered in 1966 at Istana Kolam, Terengganu, a set of Malay gamelan consists 7 basic instruments, which are:

  1. Keromong, also known as Bonang Barung (a set of 10 small kettle gongs)
  2. Gambang (a wooden xylophone)
  3. Saron Kecil, also known as Saron Barung (a set of metallophones)
  4. Saron Besar, also known as Saron Demung (another set of metallophones, slightly bigger than Saron Kecil)
  5. Kenong (a set of 3 or 5 large kettle gongs)
  6. A pairs of hanging Gongs, which are Gong Kecil and Gong Besar
  7. Gendang (a barrel drum)
Dancers performing a Malay gamelan dance

This best royal kept secret was first brought to Kuala Lumpur in 1969 in a public performance. Since then, it has become a part of the Malaysian arts and cultural heritage.

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