music of Java

21 May – 12 July 2009

Exhibition closed

Room 3

The Asahi Shimbun Displays
Objects in focus

Supported by

A display exploring the historical and cultural context of the large gong from a Javanese gamelan.

This display shows the ornate great gong from a Javanese gamelan (an ensemble of musical instruments) which was brought back from Java in present day Indonesia by Sir Stamford Raffles. It explores the historical and cultural context of the instrument and the role of gamelan music in Java.

Gamelan ensembles are sets of wooden and metal instruments which are used to accompany ceremonies, feasts, dance and shadow puppet performances. Gamelan music has a long history in Java and remains central to ritual and cultural performance today.

The gong on display is decorated with winged snakes and mystical birds. It is lacquered in black and red and is richly embellished with gilded detail. It is likely that Raffles himself commissioned this gamelan between 1811 and 1816 when he was Lieutenant-Governor of Java.

Further information

Full press release 

Great gong from the Raffles Gamelan (detail)

Great gong from the Raffles Gamelan (detail). From Java, Indonesia, 19th century AD.