Archives For Indonesia

Yesterday, Saturday 7th October, I went to the Indonesia Kontemporer 2017 Festival in London. This is an annual festival that celebrates Indonesian arts and cultural traditions by combining performances, stalls showcasing Art and fashion, cooking demonstrations, exhibitions, food stalls and film screenings. The festival took place at Russell Square, part of the SOAS University of London. The weather luckily stayed dry for an Autumn day, which meant that everyone could enjoy the joyful atmosphere of gathering friends and families experiencing and celebrating the wonderful Indonesian culture.


I went to the event with my wonderful friends [left to right] Stephanie Onggowinoto, Teofilia Onggowinoto, Prajna Indrawati, Prajna Dewi and Amelia Widjaja. I know Stephanie, Prajna, and Amelia from the Royal College of Music and they are all fantastic and gifted pianists. I had the pleasure of meeting their siblings Teofilia and Dewi over the past few weeks and it has been lovely getting to know them. Prajna, Dewi, Stephanie, and Teofilia are from Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia and Amelia is from Padang a city in West Sumatra.

Whilst at the festival I tried some amazing cuisine, Chicken Satay, Bakwan, Indomie, Nasi Uduk, and Bakso. I particularly enjoyed ‘Sate Padang’ which is a specialty from Amelia’s home city. The desserts were fabulous and one of my favourites was Spekkoek, Thousand Layer Cake, which I have been told is extremely difficult and time consuming to make.  Pandan Chiffon cake was also delicious. This cake receives this name because the sponge is so light and similar to the material chiffon. I sadly do not have any pictures of the food as we were sharing and it was too tasty to let go cold 🙂


At the festival, I watched a musical performance from an ensemble playing the Angklung. This instrument from Indonesia is made from Bamboo and has a particular technique to make the instrument sound. Each instrument is pitched to a particular note. The ensemble performed without music and were lead by their conductor who showed the pulse with one hand like a conductor, but with his other hand presented Solfege hand signs and chord numbers to indicate which pitches should be playing. It was very interesting to watch. Here is a short video 🙂



In the afternoon I attended a story-telling exhibition lead by Felicia Siregar. She told stories from her two Bilingual, Indonesian and English, books for children called Pirok Goes to the City and Komodo wants to play Music. These stories introduce images from Indonesia:  landscapes, metropolitan life, animals and musical instruments. The second story was accompanied by Gamelan music. It was wonderful to see the children excited and enthralled by the stories and the music, I too also really enjoyed the show.


My friends also took me around the fashion exhibition and explained to me about their national dress, which is very colourful and ornate. Whilst admiring the fabrics I treated myself to a scarf that was hand woven on Komodo island in Indonesia. It is very colourful and has most of the colours of the rainbow woven into it so I am very happy, especially as the colder months are drawing closer.


Having the opportunity to experience the culture, cuisine, and arts from Indonesia showed me yet again that though the world is a large and wondrous place that in the end what we all have in common far outweigh our differences.  We should celebrate the things we have in common and be open and understanding of our differences.

Well my second year at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has finished and I’ve learnt so much that at least I have the summer now to digest it.


One of the units I took this year was in gamelan music, it was a four week immersion into the music and culture of Indonesia and formed part of the practical musicianship module which ran throughout the school year. Gamelan is an orchestra of percussion instruments. I had never heard of gamelan before taking this class and it was a great way to experience music from the Indonesian culture and explore the sounds and vibrations.


Balinese ladies playing Gamelan music during a Hindu festival.

The Indonesians use the music in many of their traditional dances and during their festivals. My favourite instrument was the ceng-ceng ( pronounced cheng-cheng ) which I loved to use in the practice sessions.


Ceng Ceng ( Cheng Cheng )

Ceng-Ceng consist of a set of four small cymbals mounted inverted on a wooden frame, which are struck with a pair of small cymbals held by the fingers to create crashing and shimmering punctuation along with the drummer – the Ceng-ceng player is often the drummer’s apprentice. The ceng-ceng is a deceptively difficult instrument to play well.

Dr J Simon van der Walt taught us the module and lead the ensemble into different tempo relationships a bit like a conductor.  We played whilst sat cross-legged on the floor with shoes off, there were 30 of us on the course.

J Simon Van Der Walt

Dr J Simon Van Der Walt

He made the group sessions entertaining and interesting for us all.  We began by learning different chants which we would then perform on instruments. So each word referred to an instrument. It was a lot if fun but the chants were fast and like tongue twisters it was so hard to keep up with at times.

In the last session I got to lead the Ceng-Ceng which I enjoyed tremendously and it was a fabulous way to end the course.

Sadly I didn’t think to get a photograph of our group but if you take part in a gamelan music group then I would love to see your photographs of an actual active group of gamelan musicians.

The RCS will be running a summer short course from the 8th to 12th September 2014 and if you are interested you can find further details on their website

I found this video on YouTube of a Gabor ( welcome ) dance which uses gamelan music and Balinese dancers which I hope gives you the flavour of the music and how it’s used.