Preserving art of gamelan music

Masilah playing the bonang gamelan instrument during a training session.

INTI International University’s Student Services Department is organising gamelan classes for its students and staff in an effort to preserve this traditional art form for future generations.

Associate Professor Chan Kait Loon said taking up gamelan classes would help develop teamwork and precision, qualities that were valuable in today’s global workforce.

“The classes will cultivate a sense of pride for Malaysia’s rich cultural heritage among our students of various nationalities.

“The university hopes that these classes will foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of this art,” he said.

Chan said the idea of promoting gamelan music at INTI was introduced by the university’s vice-chancellor Dr Joseph Lee in 2017.

Certified trainer Yuzaimuddin Md Yusof has been in charge of the gamelan classes since 2017.

He has extensive experience in the art and has qualifications that include the Traditional Music Performing Level Two certificate, National Arts and Culture Trainer Melaka for kompang and gamelan, as well as a Cak Lempong Trainer certificate.

INTI International University librarian Masilah Mansor said gamelan music was soothing to the soul.

“To be able to learn traditional music has always been a dream of mine,” said Masilah, 54, who had no prior training in traditional musical instruments.

Final-year Bachelor of Computer Science student Michelle Fang was excited to learn the musical instrument.

“The gamelan is a unique traditional music which brings together different instruments.

“The sound differs from that of orchestras,” said Fang, who also plays the piano, violin, flute, demong and bonang.

She said she was taking advantage of the classes conducted on campus as she might not have time to learn music when she joins the workforce.

Diploma in Quantity Surveying student Yeo Joyee said she was exposed to gamelan music and instruments at school.

“I played gamelan for three years in secondary school. There was a teacher who trained the school team to play the instruments, and we performed at various events organised by the school,” said Yeo, who believes that music is a form of therapy.

Meanwhile, Tan Jia Hong, 20, said, “Learning to play a new musical instrument is challenging, but I love challenging myself as much as I love music.

“Why should I limit myself to modern music and not venture into something like gamelan to broaden my horizons?”

He said the gamelan had simpler notes than piano.

Tan, who plays the gambang instrument, said music was not just a form of entertainment, but it also helped him to focus on his studies.

He said traditional music should be introduced in primary school to preserve the art form.

When asked about INTI’s gamelan group’s performance at the university’s recent convocation ceremony, he said, “It was quite surprising when Yeo and I were asked to perform at the convocation ceremony after the first training session, but we were excited to give it a try.”

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