Gamelan courses

What is gamelan?

Gamelan music is the traditional music of Indonesia. The gamelan is a family of instruments such as gongs, chimes, drums, and xylophones. It is very accessible and communal, and everyone’s contribution is equally important. Our gamelan courses mainly use gamelan orchestras from Java.

Gamelan encourages players to develop confidence and transferable life and work skills, since it’s easy to learn the basics and you don’t need previous musical experience. Gamelan also has a philosophy of behaviour – about equality, respect, co-operation, and reflection – that helps players focus their behaviour, and better understand how they can work more effectively with others.

Here is what gamelan sounds like

This is an excerpt from Fireworks in the Bathtub, and other stories by Emily Crossland

How it works

Click for a detailed description of a gamelan course we ran with HMP Peterborough in 2015, have a listen to a performance by a group of women at HMP Elmley in 2015, and watch a group from Bognor improvising on the gamelan together.

This is a typical Good Vibrations gamelan course:

  • An intensive five day course for a group of 15 – 20 participants
  • Most will not have done anything musical before
  • Participants experience composing, improvising  and conducting too
  • At the end of the week they give an informal performance to staff, other prisoners and sometimes families are invited too
  • The performance is recorded and they get a CD each of the music they’ve made together
  • Participants benefit enormously from the short but intensive experience
  • They can gain nationally-recognised Open College Network or Arts Award accreditations