8 Traditional Music of Indonesia – Cultures – Instruments

Indonesia is a very diverse country because it has a vast territory and is occupied by millions of people from various tribes. Therefore, traditional music in Indonesia is also diverse because each region has its own culture and art. Each traditional music grows in each region has a uniqueness which is different compared to other regions.

Traditional music of Indonesia develops in every region and passed through generations. It still exists in the community. This music has also been born, grown, and developed in the region since their ancestor lived.

In general, traditional music of Indonesia has the following characteristics:

  • Have simple lyrics and melodies.
  • Demonstrating an element of community togetherness.
  • The song lyrics are usually using the local language.
  • Usually accompanied by traditional music instruments that is typical of its area.

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Genre of Indonesian Traditional Music

In Indonesia, there are several types of traditional music genre or style that is formed by mixing several different cultures. Nevertheless, we still can found the original music of Indonesia which still survived until now. Some examples of the genre of Indonesian traditional music are as follows:

1. Keroncong

Keroncong is one of the traditional music that were developed in Indonesia since the Portuguese colonial era. At that time, the colonial brought the instrument of European music which then combined with the traditional musical instruments of Indonesia and resulted in keroncong music.

Manwhile, in 1930,  keroncong music is widely used in Indonesia’s movie industry. From time to time, this music is also used by the people to voice their struggle for independence.

See also: Indonesian Angklung Facts

One example of the famous keroncong song is Bengawan Solo. This song tells about the river Bengawan Solo which is the longest river in Java.Then, this song became famous all over Indonesia because of its beautiful lyrics and unique melody.

Meanwhile, Keroncong music continuously develops and produces new musical styles like Tembang Jawa and Gambang Kromong. Tembang Jawa is a different style of Keroncong accompanied by a seven-note scale gamelan. While, Gambang Kromong is a keroncong music used as a companion in the local theater called Komedy Stambul. Furthermore, Gambang Kromong is widely known primarily as a Betawi community culture in Jakarta.

See also:Indonesian Heritage Indonesian Tribes

2. Dangdut Music

Dangdut is one of the most popular traditional music since 1970 and still popular until today.

Dangdut music was originally one form of dance music. It combines both of local music traditions, Indian, as well as Malaysian film musics.

Meanwhile  the style of dangdut developed in Jakarta since 1960s.  In the begining, Dangdut music was born in the mid-20th century. Thus, there are the desire of Indonesian young musicians to develop both modern and traditional music.

Meanwhile, In 1990, the government analyzed by viewing the music as an important pledge of Indonesia’s development. Moreover, the music had attracted people across socioeconomic classes. Moreover, not only in Indonesia, this music is also famous in Malaysia and is known as the symbol of Malay people.

See also: Indonesian CulturesIndonesian People

3. Modern Qasidah

Qasidah is music comes from Arab and has been widely known in Indonesia.

Qasidah songs are usually a poetry which accompanied by chanting and percussion. Modern Qasidah comes from Islamic pop  mixed with local dialect.

Moreover, it lyrics describe the situation of Indonesia at that time.


4. Campursari

Campursari is a dangdut music that is influenced by Javanese culture especially in Central Java and East Java. However, there is also a widely known version of Sunda Campursari in Bandung, West Java.

See also: Indonesian WritersIndonesia Lifestyle

5. Folk Music

Folk music in Indonesia generally describes the diversity of Indonesian culture and ethnicity. Usually, folk songs will use local language which can then be combined with western music and instruments. Folk music in Indonesia is very diverse, and today there is a folk song with pop, rock, house, hip-hop or other styles.

See also: Most Beautiful Fabric in Indonesia – Indonesian Fashion Designers

6. Jaipongan

Jaipongan is a complex rhythmic dance music which comes from Sunda, West Java. The Sundanese use this music as a companion of their traditional dance, Jaipong dance. This music has a unique rhythm and makes general people hard to imitate it. The original traditional music instrument of the Sundanese are usually used to accompany this type of music.

7. Gambus

Gambus is a traditional Indonesian music mixed with Middle-East-derived Islamic vocals and instrumental music. The characteristic of gambus music is the existence of 12-string pear-shaped guitar which is used as a companion instrument.

See also: Indonesian Etiquette – Indonesian Art Gallery

8. Tembang Cianjuran Sunda

Tembang Sunda is a song with lyrics like poetry. It developed in the colonial era in the area of Cianjur, West Java. In this music, the lyrics are sung very distinctively for expressing freedom. The accompanying music used is the kecapi indung, kacapi rincik, suling or bamboo flute, and rebab.

These are our discussion about Traditional Music in Indonesia. Please note that the discussion above only describes a small bit of traditional music in Indonesia. Because of the vastness of Indonesia, the traditional music is also large in amount.

Uses of Traditional Music in Indonesia

Traditional music of Indonesia continues to be maintained and inherited from generation to generation. Thus, traditional music is very beneficial for the people of Indonesia. The following are some of the benefits and usage of Indonesian traditional music for the local community:

A. Entertainment Facilities

In general, music is used as entertainment for humans to relieve their fatigue due to routine daily activities. Likewise with traditional music, local people make traditional music as a recreation and gathering event together with other citizens. On the other hand, in every region, there will usually be a music show at a certain time. Indonesian people are very enthusiastic about every music performances held in their area. If there are live music performances around the area they live, they will flock to come and watch the show happily.

See also: Festivals in Indonesia – Buddhism in Indonesia

B. Medium for Cultural Ceremony or Ritual

Indonesian society is a society which continuously upholds the traditional ceremony passed on from their ancestors. Usually when performing traditional ceremonies, traditional music will be used as companion when the ceremony takes place. The ceremonies are such as ceremonies of birth, death, marriage, religion, and state. Beside that, in Indonesia there are still some areas that still believe in things that seem magical. Residents in the area believe that the sounds produced by certain musical instruments have magical powers. Therefore, traditional musical instruments are still used as a medium for cultural ceremony or ritual.

See also: National Library of Indonesia – Indonesian Floating Market

C. Dance Companion

As already mentioned above, Indonesia has a diverse culture. One of the cultures that Indonesia has the traditional dance which representerd every region in Indonesia. In practice, traditional sounds or music are used by the community to accompany their typical regional dances. Each traditional dance in Indonesia can only be accompanied by the music of their own region.

However, nowadays dance music is not only using traditional music. There have been many traditional dances which accompanied by modern music such as poco-poco dance, dance, and so on.

See also: Unique Facts About Indonesia – Why is Indonesia Important

D. Medium for Communication

Since ancient times, the sounds produced by musical instruments have a certain meaning for members of their community groups. With a certain rhythm pattern, the sounds are used as a sign for community members of a particular event or activity. Then, until now, the sounds produced by traditional music instruments are still used for communication medium in certain areas in Indonesia. Musical instruments that are usually used for example are kentongan and mosque’s bedug.

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E. Medium for Self-Expression

Every traditional musics was created with the intention to express the emotions of the songwriter. Besides it is beneficial for songwriters, music players can also use traditional music as a medium to show their own potential. Every feeling and emotion of these artists will be more easily expressed when they play traditional music. In addition, through the traditional music artists can express their thoughts, ideas, and contemplation about self, community, world, and God.

F. Financial Benefits

Apart from being a medium for self-expression, traditional music can also be a source of income for the artists. They can record their artwork in the form of a tape or compact disk and then sell it to the market. Once the income earned, local artists can meet their living needs. In addition, local musicians also often hold live music performances. With these musical performances, many people who attend and pay the entrance ticket will be a source of income for the musicians. Not only in the local area, the musical performance may also be performed in other parts of Indonesia and even abroad.

We must appreciate this priceless cultural heritage of Indonesia. Hopefully you find this article useful for you. And please still looking forward to our next discussion about the other unique facts of Indonesia.

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