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 work more effectively with others.

This is what gamelan sounds like:

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

This is what it looks like when it’s being played:

Watch a group from Bognor improvising on the gamelan together.

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

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Photography by Toby Madden/The Independent, Osman Deen/South London Press, Camilla Panufnik, Elspeth Van Der Hole, GDA Design, Gigi Chiying Lam, G. Bland, Alan Bryden, Mark Carlin, Rachel Cherry, Francois Boutemy, Andy Hollingworth, Rebaz Yassin, and Guy Smallman.

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