series

Gamelan

Southbank Centre is home to a beautiful Javanese percussion orchestra known as gamelan, and throughout the year there are many chances for you to hear and to have a go at playing it.

In 1987, Southbank Centre was privileged to receive a beautiful Javanese percussion orchestra called gamelan. This was a remarkable gift from the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to the people of Great Britain as a gesture of friendship. As in the case of many important gamelan ensembles, the gamelan was named ‘Kyai Lebdha Jiwa’ or ‘The Venerable Spirit of Perfection’.

Founded by Alec Roth, Southbank Centre Gamelan Programme has since reached out to thousands of people and provided many opportunities to learn about and play these amazing instruments. The gamelan programme is facilitated by a core group of expert tutors, many of whom have lived and studied in Indonesia and have a wide knowledge of Indonesian Arts and culture as well as a prolific background in Western music. There are now over one hundred gamelans in the UK and a thriving gamelan community in which our tutors play a vital role.

Southbank Gamelan Players, Ensemble in Residence at Southbank Centre, have an international reputation for the performance of traditional Indonesian music as well as new music for gamelan and exciting collaborations with musicians and dancers across a variety of art forms.

Get involved : Southbank Centre’s Gamelan Programme offers something to suit everybody: from family, school and group workshops to regular classes and performances. No previous musical experience is necessary to play the gamelan and enjoy its wonderful sounds.

Gamelan is both a rewarding musical and social activity. Playing the gamelan can inspire self-confidence, improve coordination and listening skills, encourage team-building and be a great opportunity to try something new or develop your playing skills in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Learn to play the gamelan, see performances of gamelan, or find out more about these beautiful instruments here.

Get in touch

For more information about gamelan at Southbank Centre, contact us:
Tel: 020 7921 0767
Email us

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The Venerable Spirit of Perfection

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Falling Shawls is a floating textile installation that artist Outi Pieski describes as a ‘drawing in air’
Photo of the sculpture Gnome King by Kalle Mustonen

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Encounter perspectives from women refugees in the UK

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Explore gift giving and social meaning through printmaking with refugees
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A cinematic masterpiece comes alive accompanied by the spine-tingling score performed live

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Free

Art
Various times, 13 Jan 2017 - 31 Dec 2017
Falling Shawls is a floating textile installation that artist Outi Pieski describes as a ‘drawing in air’
Photo of the sculpture Gnome King by Kalle Mustonen

Free

Art
Various times, 5 Jul 2017 - 30 Aug 2017
See sculpture from a Finnish artist who reimagines modern culture in monumental and mythic terms
Still from Charwei Tsai: Hear Her Singing at Southbank Centre's Refugee Week

Free

Art
Various times, 19 Jun 2017 - 2 Jul 2017
Encounter perspectives from women refugees in the UK
Art
Various times, 16 Dec 2016 - 20 Aug 2017
Climb into and get lost inside the eccentric world of Moominland
Aerial Views of the Southbank Centre Food Market

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Various times, 23 Jun 2017 - 25 Jun 2017
Southbank Centre Market is a food lover's perfect destination
Southbank Centre Archive Visitors and Objects

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11:00 am, 24 Jun 2017
Explore refugees’ and migrants’ influence on Southbank Centre
Photo of Refugees Welcome

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12:00 pm, 24 Jun 2017
Experience a work of art about welcoming refugees

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Art
12:00 pm, 24 Jun 2017
Take part in an afternoon of creative activity in celebration of Refugee Week
Printing Workshop part of Refugee Week at the Southbank Centre

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Various times, 21 Jun 2017 - 25 Jun 2017
Explore gift giving and social meaning through printmaking with refugees
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12:00 pm, 24 Jun 2017
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1:00 pm, 24 Jun 2017
Experience the power of song to bring communities together
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Bring your family and friends to play our Javanese gamelan percussion orchestra
Various times, 24 Sep 2016 - 24 Jun 2017
An introduction to the Javanese gamelan percussion orchestra and playing techniques
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Various times, 24 Jun 2017 - 25 Jun 2017
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What is gamelan?

The term gamelan refers to the ensemble of percussion instruments on which traditional gamelan music of Java and Bali is played. A complete Javanese court-style gamelan comprises two sets of instruments, one for each tuning system: sléndro (a five-tone scale) and pélog (a seven-tone scale). Within each of these tunings are three pathet, a Javanese concept referring to both mode and mood. No two gamelans are tuned exactly alike; each ensemble is unique and may often be given a name.

How does it work?

The layout of the gamelan reflects the role of the different instruments in the music. In the middle of the gamelan, the balungan (or ‘skeleton’ melody) is played on the bronze metallophones (saron family and slenthem).

The balungan is punctuated by the larger gongs (gong ageng and kempul) and the horizontally-mounted gongs (kenong, kethuk and kempyang) at the back of the gamelan.

At the front of the gamelan a selection of more complex instruments embellish the melody - the two bonang (double rows of gong chimes mounted on a frame), gendèr (multi-octave metallophone), rebab (fiddle), gambang (xylophone), siter (plucked zither) and suling (bamboo flute). A complete ensemble also includes a gérong (male chorus) and pesindhèn (solo female vocalist). The whole gamelan is co-ordinated by the drummer in the centre of the ensemble, playing a selection of kendhang (double-headed drums).

What is it used for?

Traditionally, gamelan music is used in Java for a number of different artistic and cultural purposes. The gamelan can often be found at religious ceremonies, palace rituals and many occasions including weddings, funerals, coming of age ceremonies, village cleansing rituals, celebrations to mark the birth of a new child or important events and birthdays.

The gamelan is often used to accompany dance or shadow-puppet plays and other theatrical forms. Gamelan is also played during klenengans - occasions where communities and local musicians get together to perform for enjoyment or to mark a particular social event.

In addition to ancient traditional gamelan music, popular genres co-exist (Campursari, Keroncong and Dangdut) which are vocal oriented and can sometimes incorporate Western instruments - keyboards, trumpets and drums - with Western tuning.

Organise a team-building away day with a difference and play the gamelan at Southbank Centre. Work together and get creative in this workshop, which is designed to improve co-ordination and develop how your team communicates with each other.

fee

£957 +VAT for a two-hour workshop for up to 20 participants
Additional rooms and catering can be booked separately as part of your team-building experience

booking

Contact Sophie Ransby, Gamelan Manager
Tel: 020 7921 0767
Email: gamelan@southbankcentre.co.uk

This unique experience will teach participants how to play the gamelan and all its parts and how they have to work together for a final performance at the end of the session.

No prior musical knowledge or experience is necessary. Comfortable clothing is advisable.

stories

podcast
Southbank Gamelan Players perform Subakastawa, a popular gamelan piece
podcast
A joyful performance by Southbank Centre Gamelan Players

more about gamelan