Instead of Minnesota Muslims in the news as usual, today we have some Minnesotans making news in a muslim country. Heard this on my way to work this morning – Minnesotans perform new music in Indonesia.
A gamelan is a musical ensemble from Indonesia, typically from the islands of Bali or Java, featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings. Vocalists may also be included.
The Gamelan Sekaten (or Sekati) is a ceremonial gamelan (musical ensemble) from central Java, Indonesia. The word sekaten itself is derived from syahadatain or shahada, the first requirement for converting into Islamic faith. Traditionally it is played once per year, on the occasion of Mawlid, Muhammad‘s birthday, for the week from the 6-12 of the month of Mulud (the third month of the Javanese calendar, corresponding to the Islamic Rabi’ al-awwal). On this celebration it is brought from the palace at 11 pm to two pavilions before the Great Mosque. It is played every day during that week except the Thursday night/Friday morning. On the eve of the birthday proper, it is returned at 11 pm.
The ensemble is said to have been created by Java’s first Muslim prince, or one of the Wali Sanga, in order to convert reluctant Javanese to the Islamic faith. However, it almost certainly already existed, though the music was probably used to propagate the faith. The style of the Sekaten ensemble is very loud and majestic, because it seeks to attract people to the mosque. It was said that if a saron player was able to play so hard that he broke one of the bronze keys, he would get a reward from the sultan
Islam, Gamelan, and Javanese Spirituality – go about halfway down the page
The nine muslim saints – the Walisanga – who are revered for establishing Islam in Java, were bearers of both the Quran and Javanese tradition. Sunan Bonang (died 1525 AD) may have given his own name to the prominent gamelan instrument, but it is Sunan Kalijaga (15th century AD), usually identified as the central figure of the nine, whose use of both gamelan and wayang kulit to promote the Islamic faith continues to resonate today with ensembles said to be of his own invention playing pieces which are identified as his own compositions.
I would be interested to see what native indonesian (presumably shafi’i) scholars say about the gamelan.