The Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in the Netherlands contains ICH of which the communities, groups or individuals involved have written a safeguarding plan. Those plans are reviewed by an independent review committee. Every three years an evaluation of the safeguarding takes place.


Gamelan is the name for both the instruments and the music; it comes from the word gamel which means to beat or whip. It is a collection of percussion instruments, played by hand or with a baton/hammer, and consists of:

  •  saron and peking (for the melody)
  • bonang (for sound variation, sound depth, embellishment, additional effects)
  • gong (punctuation, indicates phases and phrases in the melody)
  • kendang (temperament, rhythm, tempo, end)

 Building the instruments requires heavy manual work. The sound plates are made after a long process of cutting and hammering iron. The kendang (drum) is made of hardwood and leather. The wooden bases are simply painted and decorated.

 Gamelan serves as musical accompaniment to various forms of performing arts: wayang kulit (shadow theatre with leather puppets); wayang wong (live theatre), tayub/janggrung (dance and song festival), ludrug (playful folk theatre), jaran kepang (horse dance), serimpi (traditional Javanese dances) and tembang (sung poetry). These are performed at community festivities and organised by socio-cultural organisations, including the commemoration of the arrival of the first contract workers in Suriname, Idul Fitr (Eid), New Year, as well as at personal events: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, inaugurations and so on. Performances also take place at the invitation of heritage partners and institutions. 

 Gamelan lessons include playing technique, recognition of sound and rhythm and ensemble playing. The dynamism is expressed, among other things, in the colouring of the music with influences from Surinam's rich musical traditions. In the course of time, modern pieces have been written as well as classical ones. There is room for new melodies and new applications, for refinement and adaptation.


The first generation of Javanese in Suriname had the knowledge and skill to make the instruments. Because the craft was not widely passed on, there are only a few in The Netherlands who possess this skill. Nowadays, both men and women play the gamelan, and so do children. Because of mixed marriages, people from other backgrounds are increasingly introduced to the gamelan. The earlier generation of practitioners played the gamelan by feel. Notation did not exist. The sounds and skills from India were still strong in the memory. Gradually, the realisation dawned that notation is indispensable for the transmission to young people. Over the years, notations were put in writing and refined. This has led to musical improvement. However, these notations have still not been published in a booklet. 

 In the Netherlands, the Stichting Comité Herdenking Javaanse Immigratie, STICHJI (Foundation Committee Commemoration Javenese Immigaton) is committed to keeping the history and heritage of the Javanese Surinamese alive. STICHJI therefore acts as a sponsor for the nomination of the Surinamese-Javanese Gamelan.

In The Netherlands there are eight gamelan ensembles, which formed the Network Surinamese-Javanese Gamelan on 9 December 2018. They practice the gamelan and performing arts dependent on gamelan. The eight companies are:

  •     Bangun Muljo Delfzijl of the social-cultural association Gotong Rojong, 1982.
  •     Bangun Utomo Hoogezand, 1993.
  •     LCN 2000 Amsterdam, 2000.
  •     Slamet Budaya Amsterdam; cooperates closely with LCN 2000, specialised in terbangan.
  •     Trisno Suworo Rotterdam; from the foundation Bebarengan Anggawé Rukuning Rakyat, 1998.
  •     Bangun Tresna Budaya The Hague, founded 1997; statutes 2007
  •     Witing Klapa The Hague; from Manggar Megar Foundation, 2004.
  •     Sugambra Eindhoven, 2019

The practitioners consist of the players who are part of the ensembles, on average eight per ensemble. In addition, there are the students who are apprenticed to these ensembles. Outside these ensembles there are individual gamelan practitioners who have brought the skill from Suriname.


The gamelan can be considered a shared heritage with roots in Indonesia. It was developed in Surinam by the Javanese who were brought from Indonesia by The Netherlands during the colonial period to work as contract labourers in Surinam. The impulse to develop the Surinamese gamelan was given in 1903, when the Nederlandse Handels Maatschappij imported a set of instruments from India for the workers of plantation Mariënburg. This was an appreciated gesture because the Javanese contract workers were intensely homesick. It enabled them to give shape to forms of art, entertainment, and amusement that they were used to in their country of origin, also in Suriname. They were gradually recognised for this in Surinamese society. It was important for the strengthening of their identity. In Surinam, a prototype gamelan was then created, which was taken to The Netherlands by the Javanese Surinamese who emigrated in the 1970s. Because nickel, tin and copper could not be found in Surinam to make an alloy of bronze like in India, an alternative was sought. That is why they started using iron extracted from oil drums and other objects. Emigrated practitioners formed gamelan groups in the Netherlands. They brought the soundboards for the instruments themselves (except for Bangun Muljo) or these were imported from Surinam. The further construction (soundboards) was done in the Netherlands. The masters among the practitioners gave one-on-one instruction to their pupils. A number of them gained further training by taking lessons at institutions for musical education. They are the current experts. Refinement of musical notation and playing technique is the result of their efforts and that has ensured that there is a significant difference between the practice in Surinam and in the Netherlands.


Safeguard actions

  • Continuation of information and awareness-raising campaigns about the loss of the gamelan, not only aimed at the Javanese-Surinamese community, but society as a whole.
  • Information and awareness campaigns aimed at young people are organised, shaped by young people.
  • They will build a website for the Network Surinamese-Javanese Gamelan where information is shared about activities, stories, film images, music videos and the like to strengthen the promotion and communication.
  • The publication of the notations will be undertaken for use in the Netherlands and Surinam.
  • The existing workshops will be continued, and people will help each other to set them up at their own locations.
  • The possibility is being investigated to develop an appealing teaching programme (teaching material and teaching programme) for young and old in cooperation with (an) institution(s) for musical education.
  • A list of all kinds of documentation and where it can be found will be drawn up, so that it can be made available to the public on the Network's website.
  • At each location where a company is based, it will be investigated which partners (old and new) can be of significance for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, and proactive contact will be made to see which form of cooperation is possible.
  • An annual interactive gamelan activity is organised, in which the companies take turns to take the lead.
  • To stimulate youth participation, a prize will be established for exceptional achievements such as: an innovative musical composition; a striking story or poem; choreography of a dance, all to be performed with accompaniment of the gamelan.
  • Research will be done to find out what is important for young people. They will also find out why young people who once played gamelan stopped playing, and where they would like to invest their energy in again.



Stichting Comite Herdenking Javaanse Immigratie
Vaartdreef, 126