Gamelan outside Indonesia

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Gamelan group Indra Swara in Mexico Gamelan indra swara.jpg
Gamelan group Indra Swara in Mexico

Gamelan, although Indonesia is its origin place, is found outside of that country. There are forms of gamelan that have developed outside Indonesia, such as American gamelan and Malay Gamelan in Malaysia.


Australia and New Zealand

See also New Zealand gamelan

Most of the gamelans in Australia are associated with universities or schools. One of the most famous is the gamelan Digul, made in the Digul prison camp in 1927 and brought to Australia during World War II. [1] In cities such as Melbourne, local gamelan groups take the opportunity to play in public to encourage interest both in gamelan music and in Indonesian culture. [2]

In New Zealand there are two gamelan sets in Wellington, one Javanese and the other Balinese. There are gamelan ensembles in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin. [3] [4] [5]


Gamelan in Museu de la Musica de Barcelona 165 Museu de la Musica, gamelan.jpg
Gamelan in Museu de la Música de Barcelona

Since July 2013 there is a complete gamelan gong kebyar set in the Museu de la Música de Barcelona. [6] From an opening workshop given by professor Andrew Channing, [7] the ensemble has had a stable formation called Gamelan Penempaan Guntur (Gamelan Forge of Thunders). The group offers regular concerts at the museum and other venues, including international festivals. [8]


See main article.


The first gamelan in Mexico is that owned by the Indonesian Embassy in Mexico City since the 1990s. It is a bronce Javanese slendro gamelan, but it started to be used and became active since young Mexican music students were convened by Fitra Ismu Kusumo, [9] an Indonesian student in Mexico, and began using and playing this gamelan in 2002 and founded the group Indra Swara. Currently in Mexico there are at least four sets of gamelan: a Surakartan style steel slendro pelog gamelan, and a Javanese slendro bronce gamelan, both owned by the Embassy of Indonesia in Mexico City; and gamelan Asep Mangsa(gamelan humo del tiempo), [10] a Javanese pelog gamelan, and gamelan Barudak, [11] a Sundanese degung gamelan, both owned by Indra Swara.

The Netherlands

The first gamelans outside of Indonesia were in the Netherlands, the country which had colonized the islands. Before World War II, the Javanese dancer Jodjana had a small gamelan group in the Netherlands, which accompanied his performances. He had to train Dutch musicians. Early during the war, the resistance fighter Bernardus IJzerdraat was killed by the Germans. His son Bernard then left home and in Amsterdam heard a group of stranded Javanese sailors play a gamelan at the Colonial Museum (later: Museum of the Tropics). He took lessons with them and soon started his own group with friends from his school in Haarlem. In this he received help from Jaap Kunst who taught him to transcribe the then existing 78 rpm recordings and who allowed him to use the beautiful antique Yogyanese gamelan set in the museum. This became Babar Layar, the first serious gamelan group in the Netherlands. Babar Layar played in Yogyakarta style, after Bernard studied one full year in the kraton. They often accompanied Mas Pakun, a Yogyanese dancer who studied theology in Amsterdam. When Mantle Hood came to Amsterdam to write his dissertation on pathet, Bernard trained him to play gamelan. (Mas Pakun died a few years later in a tragic traffic accident after his return to Indonesia.) Mantle Hood later taught ethnomusicology in the U.S., and is regarded as the founding father of gamelan in that country. Bernard married a Sundanese wife and emigrated to Indonesia in 1954, where he became known as Suryabrata, working for RRI Jakarta and Universitas Nasional.

Jaap Kunst advocated the idea of polymusicality, that is the idea that every human being can learn to understand any kind of music. So one could learn to appreciate not only western music but also Javanese gamelan, North-Indian sitar and tabla ensembles, the Japanese biwa etcetera. When asked (around 1955?) if there was any music that he could not understand, he played a record with a recording of Mexican Indians playing and singing in such a disorderly way that it was impossible to hear any structure.

In 1971, the ethnomusicologist Ernst Heins invited K.R.M.T. Ronosuripto of the Mangkunagaran palace, Surakarta to Amsterdam. This gave a new impetus to the performance of gamelan and Javanese dance in the Netherlands. Together with Mr and Mrs Ronosuripto, the Amsterdam Gamelan group played many concerts and performances with Javanese dance and shadow puppetry (wayang kulit). Rien Baartmans, who as a child had been taking lessons from Bernard IJzerdraat, studied wayang and kendhang with Pak Ripto, which very much stimulated his own group Ngesthi Raras in Haarlem.

In 1978 the new gamelan society Naga, founded by Rob van Albada, acquired a gamelan from Solo. This gamelan was used by several groups, performing traditional and modern music for gamelan. In the same year Elsje Plantema (a musician specializing in Javanese gamelan) and Rien Baartmans (dhalang) founded Raras Budaya, with the aim of performing wayang kulit in Dutch. Between 1980 and 1992, Raras Budaya performed numerous wayang plays. When Naga was dissolved in 1995, their gamelan was given to Raras Budaya, and is still used by gamelan groups conducted by Elsje Plantema. After Rien Baartmans died in 1993, Elsje Plantema changed focus. Without dhalang, her new ensemble Widosari concentrated on traditional and modern gamelan music, and projects with dancers, Javanese dhalangs (Sri Djoko Raharjo, Joko Susilo and others), composers like I Wayan Sadra, Al. Suwardi and Sinta Wullur, and the combination of gamelan and western instruments. Nowadays, several Javanese and Balinese gamelan groups are active in the Netherlands. Javanese style groups exist in Amsterdam, Indonesian Embassy The Hague 1975 ISTIKA (Ikatan Seni Tari Indonesia di Nederland) Trainer FX Suhardi Djojoprasetyo, Renkum and Arnhem. Balinese groups can be found in Amsterdam and The Hague. A Sundanese group exists in Leiden (Leyde). The gamelan emsemble in Delft (Museum Nusantara) has stopped playing (April 2014) because the museum was forced to close its doors after the state subsidy ended. 1975 ISTIKA ( Ikatan Seni Tari Indonesia di Nederland ) plays Javanese Traditional Karawitan dan Dance.


The Polish band - Warsaw Gamelan Group - is perhaps the only band in this part of Europe that plays Indonesian music. WGG specialises in music from central Java.


There are two Javanese gamelans in Portugal, one in Lisbon, at Fundação do Oriente and another in Oporto at Casa da Música. Besides being used for traditional Javanese music, the gamelan at Casa da Musica has been at the centre of very innovative projects, including the development of a Robotic Gamelan. Inspired by the ideas of gamelan collective practice, Companhia de Música Teatral developed the "Gamelão de Porcelana e Cristal" with hundreds of porcelain and crystal-ware pieces in Opus Tutti, an artistic and educational project that aims to improve community musical practices for infancy.

United States and Canada

See also List of gamelan ensembles in the United States and American Gamelan
Gamelan Son of Lion, a Javanese-style iron American gamelan based in New York City that is devoted to new music, playing in a loft in Soho, Manhattan in 2007. Gamelansonoflion.jpg
Gamelan Son of Lion, a Javanese-style iron American gamelan based in New York City that is devoted to new music, playing in a loft in Soho, Manhattan in 2007.

There are more than 100 gamelans in the United States. Gamelan music was introduced to the Western hemisphere at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. A Sundanese gamelan was imported as part of the Java Village exhibit and was acquired by the Field Museum of Natural History following the exposition. After the gamelan was restored in the late 1970s, it was used for instruction by a community arts organization, which gave its first performance in May 1978. The organization incorporated in 1980 as Friends of the Gamelan [12] and continues to perform with two central Javanese gamelan sets that it has acquired.

Many schools, universities and other institutions in North America own sets of gamelan instruments. These gamelans are typically played by mixed-gender groups of students, a practice that is rare in Indonesia for religious reasons. Among the earliest such groups were Wesleyan University [13] and UCLA. [14] Established institutional gamelan ensembles in the U.S. include Gamelan Nyai Saraswati at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gamelan Burat Wangi and Gamelan Kyai Dorodasih at California Institute of the Arts, [15] Gamelan Galak Tika at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, [16] Gamelan Lila Muni at Eastman School of Music, Gamelan Semara Santi at Swarthmore College, Sekaa Gong Hanuman Agung at Florida State University, Gamelan Saraswati at University of Maryland, College Park, Gamelan Kembang Atangi at Loyola Marymount University, Gamelan Giri Kusuma at Pomona College, and the Javanese Court Gamelan, “Son of the Good Earth,” at Creighton University. A Gamelan is also owned by the University of North Texas called Bwana Kumala (Light of the World). The Acadia University School of Music in Nova Scotia, Canada, has access to a Gamelan Degung. Students can take an Intro to Gamelan course, or audition for the Gamelan Ensemble. [17]

There are also professional gamelan ensembles. Gamelan Son of Lion is a group that focuses on newly composed music by both the composer-members of the group and invited composers from around the world. Gamelan Kori Mas [18] performs Balinese music on bamboo instruments in the San Francisco bay area. Gamelan X [19] is based in Oakland.

Kyai Barleyan, a Javanese gamelan at Oberlin College in Ohio. Acquired in 1970, it is believed to be the third-oldest gamelan in use in the United States. Oberlingamelan.JPG
Kyai Barleyan, a Javanese gamelan at Oberlin College in Ohio. Acquired in 1970, it is believed to be the third-oldest gamelan in use in the United States.

Since 1979, a few gamelan ensembles have been organized as community arts organizations or clubs. The first Javanese community group was the Boston Village Gamelan, now known as Gamelan Laras Tentrem [20] in Massachusetts, and the first Balinese community group was Gamelan Sekar Jaya in California. Other community Balinese gamelan ensembles are Gamelan Mitra Kusuma in Washington, D.C., Gamelan Dharma Swara at the Indonesian Consulate in New York City, [21] Space City Gamelan in Houston, the Lehigh Valley Gamelan in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Gamelan Tunas Mekar in Denver. Gamelan Sari Raras is an active Javanese ensemble in Berkeley, California; the name was given to the group by Widiyanto (aka Midiyanto), and the instruments, brought to the U.S. from Java in 1971, are named Kyai Udan Mas, or Venerable Golden Rain. The Indonesian Embassy in Washington, DC [22] hosts another Javanese gamelan, as well as offering classes in Balinese gamelan and various styles of Indonesian dance.

Canadian composer Claude Vivier wrote several works for Balinese and Javanese gamelan after visiting the region in 1977 and 1978, including Aikea and Cinq chansons pour percussion (1980). [23] Canada's oldest gamelan is the Toronto-based Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan (with Sundanese degung instruments), founded in 1983. Another early gamelan ensemble is Kyai Madu Sari (Venerable Essence of Honey), donated by the Indonesian Government after the 1986 Expo in Vancouver, which resides since then at the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. A gamelan gadhon, Alligator Joy, was commissioned from Pak Tentrem of Solo, Central Java and brought to Vancouver in 1990 and resides at the Western Front Artist Center. Both Vancouver-based ensembles are regularly used in performances by the Vancouver Community Gamelan. [24]

United Kingdom

There are over eighty gamelans (as of 2002 [25] ) of various kinds in the United Kingdom, many of them based at colleges or community centres. University of York was the first British university to purchase a gamelan, named Kyai Sekar Patak; it is still played by students there. The oldest community Gamelan group in the UK is the Oxford Gamelan Society, which plays Kyai Madu Laras, donated to the University of Oxford's Bate Collection of Musical Instruments by the Indonesian ministry of Forestry in 1985. Other active groups exist at SOAS, Dartington College of Arts, Queen's University Belfast, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Durham, Kingston University and City University, London, amongst others. A program of classes has relaunched at Southbank Centre, which also has a performing group of gamelan professionals, the Southbank Gamelan Players. In Cambridge, the [26] (Gamelan Duta Laras) plays both traditional music and new compositions, and gives yearly dance performances as well as running introductory workshops. The Glasgow-based Gamelan Naga Mas [27] regularly gives performances and introductory workshops, teacher and special needs (Gamalanability) courses in Scotland. The London Symphony Orchestra [28] holds a Balinese gamelan at LSO St Luke's; this is used by schools, a community group, players of the orchestra and Balinese composers.


There are several gamelans in the Republic of Ireland, both institutionally and privately owned.

The first gamelan in Ireland was acquired by the music department of University College Cork. The gamelan was custom made for UCC by gong-smith Pak Tentrem Sarwanto in Java and arrived in Ireland in 1995. The UCC Javanese gamelan was given the name Nyai Sekar Madu Sari (Venerable Flower of Honey Essence) in a traditional naming ceremony.

Galway also boasts a gamelan. It is owned by Soundscape, a Brothers of Charity group. [29] The gamelan is used both for in a music therapy and community outreach capacity [30] and also by an amateur musicians group called Gamelan na Gaillimhe. The official opening ceremony of the gamelan, where it was welcomed to the city of Galway by both the local musicians group and members of London group Siswa Sukra, was held in the Town Hall Theatre on 1 October 2011. [31]

The first regular gamelan orchestra in Ireland's capital city of Dublin was established in University College Dublin in October 2012, directed by Dr. Peter Moran. [32] This is a Solonese set of instruments, originally owned privately by Niamh Tiernan. [33]

In April 2013, the National Concert Hall announced that Peter Moran was to establish a second gamelan orchestra in Dublin, with newly built instruments presented as a gift from Sultan Hamengkubuwono X of Yogyakarta, to be housed permanently in the National Concert Hall. [34] As of 2018, there were four different ensembles regularly rehearsing and performing on these instruments. [35]


Gamelan Dadali is the first (and so far the only one) Javanese gamelan group in Moscow, Russia. It was established under the patronage of the Indonesian Embassy in Moscow in 2017. The name of the group was inspired by the Javanese word Dadali which means garuda. Garuda is the symbol of the Indonesian state. The name Gamelan Dadali reflects an Indonesian cultural symbol in Moscow.

The group has more than 50 songs in its repertoire including classic and modern compositions. [36] Gamelan Dadali team also performs musical accompaniment to the Wayang Kulit shadow theater and classical Indonesian dance. [37] The group performs during cultural festivals, it accompanies yoga events, as well as exhibitions and presentations.

In December 2021, the group presented the first-ever wayang performance in the Russian language with a Russian-speaking puppeteer. [38]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gamelan</span> Traditional ensemble music of Indonesia

Gamelan is the traditional ensemble music of the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese peoples of Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments. The most common instruments used are metallophones played by mallets and a set of hand-played drums called kendhang/Kendang, which register the beat. The kemanak and gangsa are commonly used gamelan instruments in Bali. Other instruments include xylophones, bamboo flutes, a bowed instrument called a rebab, a zither-like instrument siter and vocalists named sindhen (Female) or gerong (Male).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Music of Indonesia</span> Music and musical traditions of Indonesia

As it is a country with many different tribes and ethnic groups, the music of Indonesia itself is also very diverse, coming in hundreds of different forms and styles. Every region have its own culture and art, and as a result traditional music from area to area also uniquely differs from one another. For example, each traditional music are often accompanied by their very own dance and theatre. Contemporary music scene have also been heavily shaped by various foreign influences, such as America, Britain, Japan, Korea, and India.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gamelan degung</span> Indonesian traditional musical instruments

Gamelan degung is a form of Sundanese musical ensemble that uses a subset of modified gamelan instruments with a particular mode of pelog scale. The instruments are manufactured under local conditions in towns in West Java such as Bogor. Degung music is often played at public gatherings in West Java, such as at local elections, as well as many other events. There is international interest in degung as well among communities in other countries interested in Indonesia and gamelan music.

Pelog Indonesian musical scale used in Gamelan

Pelog is one of the essential tuning systems used in gamelan instruments that has heptatonic scale. The other, older, scale commonly used is called slendro. Pelog has seven notes, but many gamelan ensembles only have keys for five of the pitches. Even in ensembles that have all seven notes, many pieces only use a subset of five notes, sometimes the additional 4th tone is also used in a piece like western accidentals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angklung</span> Indonesian musical instrument made of bamboo

The angklung is a musical instrument from the Sundanese people in Indonesia made of a varying number of bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved to have a resonant pitch when struck and are tuned to octaves, similar to Western handbells. The base of the frame is held in one hand, while the other hand shakes the instrument, causing a repeating note to sound. Each performer in an angklung ensemble is typically responsible for just one pitch, sounding their individual angklung at the appropriate times to produce complete melodies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wayang</span> Indonesian puppet theatre

Wayang, also known as wajang, is a traditional form of puppet theatre play originated on the Indonesian island of Java. Wayang refers to the entire dramatic show. Sometimes the leather puppet itself is referred to as wayang. Performances of wayang puppet theatre are accompanied by a gamelan orchestra in Java, and by gender wayang in Bali. The dramatic stories depict mythologies, such as episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as local adaptations of cultural legends. Traditionally, a wayang is played out in a ritualized midnight-to-dawn show by a dalang, an artist and spiritual leader; people watch the show from both sides of the screen.

Sundanese people Ethnic group from Indonesia

The Sunda or Sundanese are an indigenous ethnic group native to the western region of Java island in Indonesia. They number approximately 42 million and form Indonesia's second most populous ethnic group. They speak the Sundanese language, which is part of the Austronesian languages.

Gamelan Sekar Jaya

Gamelan Sekar Jaya is a Balinese gamelan ensemble located in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has been called "the finest Balinese gamelan ensemble outside of Indonesia" by Indonesia's Tempo Magazine. It performs the music and dance of Bali in many different genres of Balinese gamelan, mainly gamelan gong kebyar, gamelan angklung, gender wayang, and gamelan jegog. Past performances have also featured ensembles playing in other styles as well, including gamelan joged bumbung, kecak, gender batel, gamelan gambuh, genggong, and beleganjur. GSJ has also performed contemporary pieces featuring instruments from the Western tradition.

Gong ageng

The gong ageng is an Indonesian musical instrument used in the Javanese gamelan. It is the largest of the bronze gongs in the Javanese and Balinese gamelan orchestra and the only large gong that is called gong in Javanese. Unlike the more famous Chinese or Turkish tam-tams, Indonesian gongs have fixed, focused pitch, and are dissimilar to the familiar crash cymbal sound. It is circular, with a conical, tapering base of diameter smaller than gong face, with a protruding polished boss where it is struck by a padded mallet. Gongs with diameter as large as 135 centimeters have been created in the past, but gongs larger than about 80 centimeters are more common especially to suit the budget of educational institutions.

Kendang Indonesian traditional drum musical instruments

Kendang or Gendang is a two-headed drum used by people from the Indonesian Archipelago. Kendang is one of the primary instruments used in the Gamelan ensembles of Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese, the Kendang ensemble as well as various Kulintang ensembles in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. It is constructed in a variety of ways by different ethnic groups. It is a relation to the Indian mridangam double-headed drum.

Bonang Indonesian musical instrument used in Gamelan

The bonang is an Indonesian musical instrument used in the Javanese gamelan. It is a collection of small gongs placed horizontally onto strings in a wooden frame (rancak), either one or two rows wide. All of the kettles have a central boss, but around it the lower-pitched ones have a flattened head, while the higher ones have an arched one. Each is tuned to a specific pitch in the appropriate scale; thus there are different bonang for pelog and slendro. They are typically hit with padded sticks (tabuh). This is similar to the other cradled gongs in the gamelan, the kethuk, kempyang, and kenong. Bonang may be made of forged bronze, welded and cold-hammered iron, or a combination of metals. In addition to the gong-shaped form of kettles, economical bonang made of hammered iron or brass plates with raised bosses are often found in village gamelan, in Suriname-style gamelan, and in some American gamelan. In central Javanese gamelan there are three types of bonang used:

<i>Wayang wong</i> Indonesian traditional theatre

Wayang wong, also known as wayang orang, is a type of classical Javanese and Balinese dance theatrical performance with themes taken from episodes of the Ramayāna or Mahabharāta. Performances are stylised, reflecting Javanese court culture:

Wayang wong dance drama in the central Javanese Kraton of Yogyakarta represents the epitome of Javanese aesthetic unity. It is total theatre involving dance, drama, music, visual arts, language, and literature. A highly cultured sense of formality permeates every aspect of its presentation.

Calung Indonesian traditional musical instrument

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sundanese dance</span> Sundanese traditional dance, Indonesia

Sundanese dances is a dance tradition that is a part of ritual, artistic expression as well as entertainment and social conduct among the Sundanese people of West Java and Banten, Indonesia. Sundanese dance is usually cheerful, dynamic and expressive, with flowing movements in-sync with the beat of kendang accompanied with Gamelan degung music ensemble.


Sandiwara is a genre of traditional theatrical drama of Indonesia. In general, it refers to any kind of drama or theatrical performances, and literally sandiwara means "to pretend" or "to act". However, the term is often used to describe a genre of traditional drama of West Java. Sandiwara Sunda is a type of sandiwara performed in Sundanese and presenting Sundanese themes, folklores and stories. It is quite similar to Javanese ketoprak or wayang orang.

Indra Swara Musical artist

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Theatre of Indonesia Indonesian theatre

Indonesian theatre is a type of art in the form of drama performances that are staged on a stage, with a distinct Indonesian nuance or background. In general, theatre is an art that emphasizes the performing arts that are displayed in front of a large crowd. In other words, theater is a form of visualisation of a drama that is staged on the stage and watched by the audience. Indonesian theatre includes the performing arts of traditional theater and modern theatre located in the territory of Indonesia. Some examples of Indonesian theater are Arja, Wayang, Wayang wong, Lenong, Ludruk, Janger, Randai and others. Theatre in Indonesia can also be referred to as regional or ethnic theatre, because it originates and develops from 1,300 ethnic cultures in Indonesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kompang</span> Indonesian traditional musical instrument

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