Almost every where in Yogya, Solo, Semarang and other cities in Central Java, in Karatons, in the market, in the villages, in the hotel's lobby, you should hear the magical melodious percussion music - the gamelan Javanese orchestra.
In his book 'music of Java' Jaap Kunst says, "Gamelan is comparable to only two things, moonlight and flowing water. ...mysterious like moonlight and always changing like flowing water ...".
Gamelan music is an integral part of all cultural activities in Java such as wayang kulit (leather puppets) performance, court dance, uyon-uyon (symphony orchestra performance), etc. There are two kinds of laras (tuning) in gamelan, namely slendro (comparable to minor key in Western music) and Pelog (major key). A complete set of gamelan consist of two sets of different instruments of Slendro and Pelog, such as:
The bars of the gamelan instruments can be made either from iron, copper or bronze. The bronze bars are the best choice. All the gamelan players are sitting cross-legged on a mat during a performance.
In a gamelan music concert or karawitan performance, the Kendang player or pengendang conducts the Tempo, while the melody is led by the bonang player
The gamelan orchestra includes some singers (Pesinden), female as well as male. There are some very famous Pesindens, their names are almost known by everybody in this region.
Some believe that in the ancient time, the first set of gamelan, by the name of Lokananta was created by gods and played in Mount Lawu, Eastward of Solo.
In short the history of gamelan was as follow:
The first gamelan was the three-toned Munggang, then the five-toned slendro gamelan and the last: the seven-toned pelog gamelan.