Music of Indonesia - 6 Beautiful Forms of Traditional Music in Indonesia

Music is an integral part of every culture in this world. It is seen as a form of entertainment and a way of spending time with a community. The music of Indonesia is quite diverse as the country is home to a variety of ethnic groups spread over eighteen thousand beautiful islands! Indonesian music has evolved over the past years being affected by cultures of another country. Islam being the religion of the majority of the population has had much impact on the music of the country.

Let's take a look at some of the country's beautiful traditional forms of music.

1. Gamelan 


It is the most popular and widely spread form of music in Indonesia.  The word Gamelan comes from Javanese which means mallet or hammer and is a musical form which is performed with the help of 50-80 instrument orchestra. The instruments involved are local percussion drums and metallophones.

This form of music of Indonesia is widely practised in Bali, Java and Lombok and it is considered to be a court tradition created by God King Syang Hyang Guru. The Indonesian government is planning to propose Gamelan as a UNESCO cultural heritage. Wirun Village located in central Java province is quite famous among tourists and is home to Gamelan craftsmen for generations.

Where is it popularly practised? Bali, Java, Lombok, Wirun Village 

2. Tembang Sunda

Tembang Sunda Music of Indonesia

This genre of music of Indonesia is also famous by the name of Seni Mamaos Cianjuran and is said to be a type of sung poetry. It is most popular in western Java. It evolved in the mid-nineteenth century and has always had much support from the rich courtly class.

Tembang Sunda is made up of two parts namely vocal and instrumental (pirigan). The vocals are generally by a solo vocalist accompanied by indigenous music instruments which are used such as rebab, suling and kacapi indung. Tembang Sunda which was initially performed at private events such as receptions has recently started being performed at public concerts as well.

Where is it popularly practised? Western Java

3. Dangdut

Dangdut, music of Indonesia

Dangdut is a very popular music of Indonesia. Termed as Indonesia’s own pop genre Dangdut has borrowed heavily from Hindustani and Arabic music. The roots of this genre are said to be in Arabic Qasidah and as of recent, it has been inspired by the Western rock and Malaysian film music. 

Where is it popularly practised? Jakarta 

4. Keroncong

Keroncong, music form of Indonesia

Originated in the Tugu village of Jakarta, Keroncong relates to both a genre of music of Indonesia as well as an instrument similar to a ukulele. The music is said to have been inspired by Portuguese music Fado and is popular in Java. It is usually played with the help of a Kroncrong (the instrument), a flute, a violin, a cello and melody guitar.

During the early nineteenth century, it evolved into ballroom dance music such as Keroncong Cha Cha, Keroncong Tango and Keroncong Foxtrot for the middle class and is now considered as one of the oldest Indonesian folk music. It is a dying form of music as it is much ignored by the youth of the country.

Where is it popularly practised? Jakarta and Java

5.  Qasidah

Qasidah, instruments used

Qasidah which is an Islamic form of poetry and ode is quite famous in Indonesia due to the country’s huge Muslims population. Mostly centred in Jakarta, it is mostly sung solo and by groups of women. This music of Indonesia has adopted the modern versions of pop known as pop Qasidah. The traditional forms of Qasidah are sung in villages of Java while the more contemporary forms add moral values of the new age like targeting vices such as drinking and smoking. One of the famous all-women group of this genre is Nasida Ria.

Where is it popularly practised? Jakarta, Java

6. Campursari


This genre of music of Indonesia was created by Manthous in 1980 and is a fusion style of music that combines Dangdut, Keroncong and Gamelan. The word is from the Javanese dialect and means a mixture of essences. It comes from the regions of east and central Java and Yogyakarta. The lyrics of Campursari are in Javanese and the instruments used are similar to that of Gamelan. It is not very popular among the younger generations.

Where is it popularly practised? Yogyakarta, Java

Contemporary Music in Indonesia

hip hop culture in Indonesia
The contemporary music of Indonesia has taken influence from American, British, Japanese and Korean pop music. During the late twentieth century, genres such as Rock, Soul Punk, Hip hop and Metal gained much popularity among the younger generations of Indonesia.  When these genes were introduced in Indonesia they were looked down as the embodiment of all bad values. But in recent years, people have become more accepting and is now a major factor in the lives of modern-day Indonesians.

Some of the rock bands of Indonesia infuse the Dangdut style in their performances.

Rap and Hip Hop are also quite popular in the Indonesian pop scene. It gained popularity in Indonesia in the early '90s. The popular bands of this hip hop are Boyz Got No Brain, Neo, Saykoji, and Ecko Show. Benjamin S. who is considered to be the 'Father of Rap' in Indonesia fused Rap with the indigenous genre of Gambong Kromong thus creating a new genre of Indonesian rap.

Musical Instruments native to Indonesia

Angklung Musical instruments of Indonesia
The archipelago has many indigenous instruments such as various drums (bedug and rebana), suling(flute), and different types of gongs. Angklung, one of the most famous instruments of Indonesia is made up of a number of bamboo tubes fixed on a bamboo frame.

Music Festivals in Indonesia

The Jakarta Rock Parade, a three-day music festival is one of the most popular music festivals of Indonesia. Last year around a hundred Indonesian artists performed at this event. Some of the most popular Indonesia rock bands are Noah, Andra and the Backbone and Nidji.

The music of Indonesia, which is a major part of their culture is slowly being lost and needs to be revived. Recent times, efforts are being made to document the various forms of music of the country. The most studied regions in terms of regional music being Bali and Java.

This post was published by Ananya Sinha

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