By Meghan Hynson

Abstract

For many Americans, music and the arts often constitute their first experience with the cultures of the Indonesian nation. Numerous ways exist in the United States for people to participate in Indonesian culture, and these opportunities have long been recognized as a peaceful means of garnering support for the country. While previous scholarly work has focused on how the arts can bolster cultural interaction, understanding, and respect between nations, little attention has been paid to examining musical and artistic developments aimed specifically at this purpose. This paper explores how developments in teaching Indonesian angklung (a bamboo musical instrument from West Java) have made the instrument an effective tool in music education and Indonesian “soft power” cultural diplomacy. Angklung developments and educational techniques have been used to foster cultural interaction in West Java at the Saung Angklung Udjo performance and learning center in Bandung. The center has used these developments to reach a global audience, create interactive performances, and organize world record-breaking angklung events in which hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people participate in Indonesian culture by playing angklung together.

Introduction

The visual and performing arts often constitute the first experience of many Americans with the cultures of the Indonesian archipelago. Providing opportunities in the United States to participate in Indonesian culture has long been recognized as a peaceful means of garnering attention and support for the country. Little consideration, however, has been paid to musical and artistic developments that are specifically geared toward fulfilling this purpose. With that in mind, this chapter focuses on the Indonesian angklung (particularly the tradition found in West Java) to demonstrate not only how pedagogical developments have made the angklung a feasible tool for introducing Indonesia into world music education but also how the application of these educational techniques in Indonesian international relations has made the angklung an effective means of “soft power” cultural diplomacy (Nye 2008).

I title this article “Indonesian Angklung: Intersections of Music Education and Cultural Diplomacy” for two reasons. First, approaches to and philosophies of multicultural music education have similar goals to cultural diplomacy, and second, the music education models developed and applied to angklung education in Indonesia (specifically in the area of West Java known as Sunda) have made the angklung an accessible tool for engaging foreign audiences in diplomatic events. Following a review of scholarly work on cultural diplomacy and its role in what music therapy scholars call “social healing,” this chapter presents a short history of the angklung and discusses developments in angklung educational techniques used to foster cultural interaction at the Saung Angklung Udjo (SAU) performance and learning center in Bandung, West Java. The implications for SAU’s pedagogical developments are then discussed in the context of the world music classroom, where, on a small scale, angklung can be used to cultivate understanding and respect for the Indonesian nation. I then conclude by examining how members of SAU have been able to use their pedagogical techniques to reach a global audience and organize world record-breaking diplomatic angklung events, in which hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people are introduced to Indonesian culture.

Cultural Diplomacy and “Social Healing”

If we are to understand how angklung functions as a tool for cultural diplomacy, it is important to get a sense of what cultural diplomacy is, as “the topic of cultural diplomacy is surprisingly broad, and what various actors in cultural diplomacy do involves an incredible array of activities ranging from using arts engagement to educate and develop economies in rural communities to leveraging culture to support national interests.”1 Within the context of this chapter, I speak to a definition of diplomacy offered in Martin Griffin’s article “Narrative, Culture, Diplomacy,” in which he observes that “diplomacy is, among other things, a modus operandi, a way of structuring interactions that leads to the securing, or advancing, of one’s interests in such a way as to avoid conflicts with others. . . . Diplomacy is thus a method of managing a relationship—often between parties with different levels of power and different batteries of assets—that assigns a kind of fiction of equality to each party in order to enable communication.” Griffin further points out that the goals of diplomacy are not only to enable communication or resolve failures in communication but also to avoid feelings, on either side, that one is merely a character already framed by a narrative that the other has assembled and set in motion (Griffin 2010:262–63).

Narratives about our own country or those foreign to us are created in a myriad of discourses, with media, the arts, scholarship, and politics being some of the most influential. When these information-giving systems promote a negative picture of one society in the public opinion of another, judgment, difference, and imbalance, or social “dis-ease,” arise. In the theoretical discourse on music therapy, authors Kevin Locke and Benjamin Koen have addressed these concerns, calling for a “social healing” through music to correct and repair stereotypes and judgmental narratives. According to Locke and Koen, “throughout all levels of society, health, wholeness, well-being, balance and harmony are all dependent on unity,” and music is one way in which mutual recognition and understanding can promote harmony within complex social spheres (Locke and Koen 2008:484). While our first instinct may not always be to consider illness within the context of society, music therapists Léonie Naylor and Michael Naylor remind us that sickness and disease are a manifestation of deeper imbalances within a given system, and healing is the process by which balance is restored within that system. Whether the focus of this healing is within a bodily system or a social system is theoretically the same, as issues such as racism, social unrest, and war can all be viewed as forms of imbalance and disease (Naylor and Naylor 2008:500).

A cultural diplomatic approach is just one of the ways in which various actors have attempted to heal social disease, implementing cultural products with the goal of influencing or shaping assembled narratives or opinions about one country in the public opinion of another. This approach can take a variety of forms and utilize any number of artistic paths, including music and the arts. Efforts to entice and attract cooperation and positive opinion via peaceful means have been termed “soft power” cultural diplomacy. Conversely, attempts to influence foreign publics through bullying tactics, such as fear or war, have been termed “hard power” (Nye 2008:94–95).

A fair amount of scholarship has been devoted to the topic of soft power cultural diplomacy, and it has been recognized that “diplomacy aimed at public opinion can become as important to outcomes as the traditional classified diplomatic communications among leaders” (Nye 2008:99). With regard to the arts, cultural diplomacy advocate Natalie Grincheva has discussed how the practice of cultural programs between different countries can be a powerful weapon in struggling with negative stereotypes and perceptions, and the visual and performing arts in particular have the power to engage citizens on a personal rather than a political level (Grincheva 2010:171). When viewed in this way, soft power cultural diplomacy through music and the arts represents a form of Locke and Koen’s “social healing,” as it is a peaceful means of trying to remedy the social ills that stem from misunderstanding and lack of communication. With a better idea of the goals of cultural diplomacy in mind, we can now begin to explore how developments in the Indonesian angklung have made the instrument well suited for these purposes.

Indonesian Angklung

Angklung instrument with three tubes.
Figure 1. Angklung instrument with three tubes. Photo by the author.

The angklung is a bamboo idiophone (fig. 1) that is constructed by mounting two to four graduated bamboo tubes on a frame (Baier 1985/86:8).2 When shaken, the angklung can produce two to four pitches that sound at the octave (depending on the number of tubes) or two to four pitches that sound in harmony.3 Angklung instruments can be hung and organized into rows and played solo, or individual angklung can be distributed among a group and played in hocket-like fashion, in which each player is responsible for sounding a single tone within a desired pattern or melody (similar to hand bells).4

Sundanese ethnomusicologist Juju Masunah dates the use of angklung in Indonesia to the seventh century CE and has discussed its importance as a form of musical accompaniment for parades, rites of passage, and agrarian rituals, such as planting, harvesting, and honoring the rice goddess Dewi Sri or Dewi Padi (Masunah et al. 2003:8–9).5 Traditionally, individual angklung sets were tuned to a tritonic or tetratonic scale and played rhythmically and cyclically in hocket-like fashion (Syafii 2009:8). Masunah and other scholars from the Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (the Indonesian University for Education in Bandung, West Java, hereafter UPI) have also documented five regional styles of angklung tuned to a variation of the pentatonic, five-tone scale salendro (Masunah et al. 2003).6 In addition to these regional variations, which continue to be performed, angklung is also often tuned in the West Javanese, or Sundanese, scales of salendromadenda, and degung. (West Java is also known as Sunda, and the scales and type of gamelan performed there are referred to as Sundanese.) Angklung is frequently combined with the playing of Sundanese gamelan to accompany dance and puppet theater, and when tuned in the West Javanese scales, these kinds of angklung are called Sundanese angklung, or angklung Sunda (Masunah et al. 2003:73).

While angklung is now a popular musical medium in West Java, Perris has described how bamboo instruments were pushed aside (by Westerners and natives) due to a preference for the gamelan instruments featured at colonial functions (Perris 1971:404). He also notes that in the 1920s angklung was considered a toy for children, and in the 1930s it was looked upon as a crude instrument used by beggars to attract the attention of passersby. The application of Western diatonic and chromatic tuning to the angklung by the “father of angklung,” Daeng Soetigna, in the 1930s, however, led to a widespread revival and renewed interest in the instrument. As a teacher in a Dutch school at the time, Soetigna was familiar with Western tunings and folk tunes, and he hypothesized that diatonic and chromatically tuned angklung could be an effective tool in music education. After approaching a craftsman in his village and learning how to carve a diatonic set of his own, Soetigna introduced diatonic angklung to boys’ groups and school classrooms. Following this innovation, others also learned how to tune the instruments in diatonic and chromatic scales, and the angklung quickly became a popular medium for playing contemporary Indonesian folk songs, such as “Hello Bandung,” kroncong, and even Western folk and popular tunes (Perris 1971:404).7Since this new angklung could be utilized to play folk songs and the new nationalistic music arising in the Indonesian archipelago at the time (much of which was diatonic), angklung tuned in the diatonic scale came to be known as “angklung Indonesia,” or Indonesian angklung (Masunah et al. 2003:73).8

Indonesian angklung, as a diatonically tuned instrument, occupies an interesting space within the context of Indonesian cultural diplomacy. Diatonically tuned angklung has had to continue living side-by-side with traditional Sundanese angklung, the various gamelan traditions of the archipelago, and a diverse array of other musical forms found throughout the country. When choosing what forms of music to use for Indonesian cultural diplomacy, all of these traditions could arguably be drawn upon, and some might even be considered more “authentic.” While I do not discount the importance of these other musical traditions for Indonesian cultural diplomacy, I have chosen to focus on the Indonesian angklung and propose how the pedagogical developments applied to the instrument have made it a particularly accessible and feasible tool for Indonesian cultural diplomacy efforts.

Saung Angklung Udjo (SAU)

Saung Angklung Udjo performance arena
Figure 2. Saung Angklung Udjo performance arena. Photo by the author.

Following in the footsteps of Daeng Soetigna (the so-called father of angklung), one of his students, Udjo Ngalagena, also promoted the widespread use of the angklung in Indonesian music education. In 1966 he created the Saung Angklung Udjo (hereafter SAU; see fig. 2), an angklung performance and learning center in Padasuka, Bandung, West Java (Syafii 2009:21).9 Today, SAU is run by Udjo’s children and family, and it continues to be extremely active in promoting angklung and a variety of Sundanese and Indonesian arts. In addition to teaching music and dance classes to students in the Padasuka community, the center puts on a daily “Bamboo Afternoon” tourist performance and is home to a bamboo handicrafts factory that specializes in bamboo souvenirs and high-quality angklung instruments (fig. 3).10 Sam Udjo, one of my informants and a senior member of the Udjo family, has also been extremely active in angklung outreach in rural villages and schools, and he is gaining support for angklung education from the Indonesian government.

Audience members playing angklung at the Bamboo Afternoon show
Figure 3. Audience members playing angklung at the Bamboo Afternoon show. Photo by the author.

Having spent several weeks at the SAU center in 2011, 2012, and 2016, I was able to observe the range of educational and performance activities happening there daily.11 The center was alive with students learning and rehearsing, and many of them also performed in the “Bamboo Afternoon” show that was staged at least once, sometimes twice, a day. These shows attract hundreds of students and tourists daily, partly due to good marketing but also in large part due to the unique and exciting experience that attending one of these performances affords. I wish to explain in more detail the techniques applied in this segment of the “Bamboo Afternoon” show, since they are commonly used in cultural diplomacy efforts and could easily be applied in the world music classroom.

Vertical row of hand signals for Do, Ti, La, Sol, Fa, Mi, Re, Do (from the top down)
Figure 4. Kodály hand signals. Photos by the author.

During the audience participation segment of “Bamboo Afternoon,” each person in the audience is given an angklung labeled with a cipher notation number and the name of one of Indonesia’s eight major islands or island groups. Each number and island pair is also equated to a hand signal and solmization syllable that is used in the music education methodology developed by Hungarian composer and music educator Zoltán Kodály (fig. 4). Therefore, each angklung tone is assigned its own number, island, and solmization syllable (fig. 5).

After distributing several hundred angklung to audience members, the leader of the show first instructs the audience in how to hold the instrument and shake it to produce a sound. Audience members then locate the number and island name written on their instrument and are led through several exercises to familiarize themselves with their number, island, and corresponding hand signal. For example, when the leader held up the Kodály hand signal for do, everyone with angklung number 1, or Sumatra, was prompted to play. Following this, the hand signal for re is held up, and audience members holding angklung number 2, or Kalimantan, are asked to shake their angklung. The leader continues to follow this process until all audience members equate their angklung number and island to a hand signal. By the time the leader reaches the last angklung for high do, or Papua, the audience has already sounded an entire octave of the C major scale while also learning the names of several of the largest islands or island groups of Indonesia. The angklung are labeled: 1) Do—Sumatra, 2) Re—Kalimantan, 3) Mi—Java, 4) Fa—Bali, 5) Sol—Sulawesi, 6) La—Maluku, 7) Ti—Nusa Tenggara, and 1) Do [high]—Papua. (High do has a dot above the number to indicate it is an octave higher.) The audience follows hand signals to play one octave of the diatonic scale up and down (video 1).

Angklung instruments labeled with Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Jawa, and Bali.
Figure 5. Angklung instruments labeled with an island and number. Photo by the author.

The audience is then guided through a series of short exercises. The first exercise familiarizes them with note duration; this is done by having them shake the angklung for four beats, two beats, and then one beat. Following the leader’s hand signals, the audience then plays an octave of the diatonic scale up and down, and the leader even includes an arpeggio so participants become more comfortable with following the hand signals quickly. After this, the audience is instructed in how to play chords. When the leader holds up his or her right fist (RH), the audience members who have Bali (4), Maluku (6), Sumatra (1), and Papua (high 1) shake their angklung to create a IV chord. Then, the leader holds up a left fist (LH) and creates a V chord by asking audience members who have Sulawesi (5), Nusa Tenggara (7), Kalimantan (2), and Lombok (high 2) to play. Finally, both fists (BH) signal an I chord. It is created when the audience members who have Sumatra (1), Java (3), Sulawesi (5), and Papua (high 1) shake their angklung. Having mastered all three chords, the audience is then led through a simple chord progression following the leader’s fist signals, like this:

RH, LH, RH, LH, RH, LH, BH, LH, BH, or (IV, V, IV, V, IV, V, I, V, I)

Video 1. Yayan Mulyana leads the audience with hand signals through playing up and down the C major diatonic scale. Video taken by the author.

Once the audience is familiar with the instrument and hand signals, the leader has them follow hand signals for several songs, for example, “Abdi Teh” (Sundanese for The Doll Abdi, also known as Pitter Pat in the West) and the song “Do-Re-Mi” (from The Sound of Music).12 Daeng Oktaviandi signals audience members through both Indonesian and Western tunes, helping them to play songs they might already know while they learn new ones from afar (video 2).

Video 2. Daeng Udjo uses hand signals to lead the audience in playing an Indonesian folk song. Video taken by the author.

Video 3. Yayan Mulyana uses a pointer and cipher notation to lead the audience in playing the Indonesian folk song “Burung Kakatua.” Video taken by the author.

After audience members have played several songs by following the hand signals, they are challenged to follow a pointer and try more complex arrangements written in cipher (number) notation on a large cloth. Yayan Mulyana leads the audience through the well-known Indonesian folk song “Burung Kakatua,” or Cockatoo Bird (video 3). These techniques, initially developed to teach angklung students at the SAU center, make it possible for anyone, regardless of whether they have musical experience or not, to play music and engage in Indonesian culture. In this way, audience members can learn an Indonesian folk song, sing in Indonesian about a native Indonesian bird, and have a hands-on experience with the angklung in just minutes.

While the musical examples presented are very simple, it is also important to note that SAU has developed the playing of angklung into a complex art form. Students at SAU who have studied angklung for many years often come to have a deep understanding of Western music theory and have the ability to arrange and perform complex musical pieces for angklung orchestra. For instance, I witnessed their performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” during my fieldwork (video 4).13

Video 4. Video clip of the SAU angklung orchestra playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Video taken by the author.

Angklung as an Official Music Education Tool

Before examining how angklung can become a tool in cultural diplomacy, it is important to take the time to explore how Indonesian scholars and government officials have interpreted angklung’s significance within their own society and formal systems of music education. For example, in 1968 the Indonesian government issued an official document recognizing the importance of angklung and declaring it an official music education tool. A translation of the official document drawn up by the Indonesian Ministry of Education reads:

A. Angklung, which in the beginning was used as a musical instrument, turns out later to hold importance in the area of character building, such as working together, collaboration, discipline, precision, dexterity, responsibility, etc. All of which later become important in music education in drawing people’s attention to music, awakening musicality, and developing rhythmic feeling, melodic feeling, harmonic feeling, and others.

B. In connection with the items mentioned above in section A, we draw the conclusion that although angklung is not yet a refined musical instrument, it can be counted on as an educational tool to the point that it should be officially acknowledged as a tool for music education.14

Echoing the sentiments conveyed in this document, Sundanese ethnomusicologist Juju Masunah, educators at SAU, and scholars at the Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI) have worked hard to promote the value of angklung not only as a music education tool but also as a means for promoting cross-cultural collaboration and understanding (Masunah et al., 2003). Although other forms of Indonesian music are arguably capable of reaching the same goals, the importance that the government and these groups have placed on the angklung makes it worthwhile to consider how angklung can be used as a tool for cultural diplomacy in the world music classroom and the larger public sphere. Angklung’s feasibility and the techniques employed for teaching with the instrument in the classroom also indicate how it can be used to engage a large audience at diplomatic events.

In the World Music Classroom

As a music educator who has gone to great lengths to integrate diverse musical traditions into my classroom, I have found that time, money, standards that need to be reached, the skill level of the students, and my own knowledge of foreign music have all become issues to work around when trying to teach with a world music approach. This has been especially true when trying to teach about music and culture from Indonesia. Most music education publications and curricula dealing with Indonesia tend to focus on the gamelan traditions of Bali and Java, and gamelan can offer students a quick and easy hands-on introduction to the island nation. Getting access to an ensemble, acquiring the funds to buy one, and having the space to store one, however, have posed considerable difficulty for me.15

It is often frustrating that economy dictates what music is taught, but in my experience, angklung can be a viable option when striving to teach music from Indonesia. For the most part, angklung is relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at a small fraction of the cost of a gamelan. If purchasing angklung of the highest quality from SAU, a full octave set in C major is around $25.16When distributed in a class, an octave set can already accommodate eight students. SAU produces over thirteen different angklung sets, ranging from single-octave units to sets that include hundreds of pieces spanning the whole range of the piano. More complete sets can also include hung sets of large harmonic angklung (angklung that are tuned to play chords) and angklung arumba (bamboo xylophone-like instruments used for melodic and rhythmic accompaniment).17

In addition to their affordability, I have found that angklung instruments are lightweight and can easily be packed up, stored, and moved around. This makes them particularly well suited for general music classes, demonstrations, and community music making. Since angklung can be taught with or without the use of notation, it engages students of all ages and abilities. Considering that angklung instruments can be tuned diatonically and chromatically, they can be used to teach principles of Western music theory and have the tonal flexibility to play music from all over the world. This tonal flexibility has also proved useful when trying to teach a variety of music not only from the Indonesian archipelago but also from various countries around the world. Performers can sing while shaking angklung. When focusing on music from Indonesia, angklung can be used to play songs from various islands, providing a way to introduce the island from which a song comes and to explore the diversity and geography of Indonesia. When the angklung is paired with Indonesian folk songs (a common practice in Indonesia), students are introduced to the language and can learn about the folk music of the archipelago.

When searching for folk songs to play in the world music classroom, numerous diatonic, Indonesian examples are easily accessible.18 Many can be found on the Internet or in Indonesian songbooks, such as lagu wajib nasional (national songs)19 and lagu daerah (regional songs).20 Another good resource is Ailsa Zainu’ddin’s 1969 publication Lagu-Lagu Dari Indonesia/Songs of Indonesia, a collection of music and lyrics for fifty-six popular Indonesian tunes with English translation. The song texts found in these collections can provide rich information on Indonesian history and geography. They also provide a chance to sing in Indonesian and represent a diverse array of folk songs from many regions of the archipelago. While it is not expected that students will learn to speak Indonesian from singing these songs, the tunes are short and easy enough that a few words may be taught.

In addition to being a tool to introduce a diverse array of Indonesian music and folk songs, playing the angklung is a great way to foster group cohesion through ensemble performance. Cowan has suggested that “nothing creates a sense of trust and mutual respect as fully as a meaningful collaboration,” and true relationship-building exchanges are ones in which feelings of control and dominance are minimized (Cowan and Arsenault 2008:11). This is a major aspect of community music making as well. Although this can take place while playing gamelan and other Indonesian music, the feasibility and the educational aspects discussed here have made angklung an especially accessible tool for this purpose. Angklung also has the capacity to promote unity, togetherness, acceptance, and understanding among diverse groups of people—a factor I believe positions angklung as one of the most useful Indonesian musical instruments for cultural diplomacy.

Angklung in Cultural Diplomacy

Before turning to angklung’s role in cultural diplomacy efforts, I must address the issue of authenticity. In my presentations of this work, some audience members have raised concerns regarding the authenticity of diatonically tuned angklung, considering that traditional angklung from West Java is tuned in Sundanese scales. This begs two questions: 1) Is diatonicism even viewed locally as something inherently Western in Sunda? 2) Who gets to claim diatonicism as authentically theirs? As a tonal medium that Sundanese musicians frequently draw upon and have equal access to as a form of expression, diatonicism has become an integral part of the ancient and longstanding angklung tradition and music making in Indonesia generally. A modification in angklung tuning makes it no less authentic, especially considering that many nationalistic Indonesian tunes are sung in the diatonic scale. Therefore, the issue of diatonicism and authenticity should not deter us from considering Indonesian angklung as a tool for cultural diplomacy.

Theoretical research on cultural diplomacy actually suggests that modifications and hybrids of traditional forms, as in the case of diatonically tuned angklung, facilitate cultural diplomacy. In his essay “Hybrid Cultures and Communicative Strategies,” Argentine anthropologist Néstor Garciá Canclini discusses hybrids and innovations existing in Mexican, Guatemalan, and Peruvian cultures as liminal creations that “are concerned less with the preservation of purity than with the productivity of admixture” (Canclini 2012). Commenting on this, cultural diplomacy scholar Yudhishthira Raj Isar states, “Music is a domain particularly rich in such liminalities,” and hybrid forms of culture and cultural practice have the prospect of leveraging more cordial political relationships (Isar 2012:6). When tuned diatonically, angklung does become more accessible, and as a hybrid of Indonesian and Western elements, it has the unique ability to connect people from all over the world.

Given its accessibility, angklung has long been recognized as a tool for cultural diplomacy. Beginning in the 1960s, Udjo Ngalagena (the founder of SAU) became famous for traveling abroad and bringing angklung to large numbers of people at diplomatic events. After distributing the instruments for foreigners to play, he would then use hand signals or cipher notation to engage the group in playing Indonesian songs. (This was taken directly from the education model at the SAU center.) Before long, angklung performances at SAU and abroad started to involve hundreds of people playing the angklung together. These angklung kolossal, or colossal angklung performances, quickly became a popular way of engaging foreigners in Indonesian culture, and they later became the model for world record-breaking performances.

Udjo Ngalagena’s diplomasi angklung, or angklung diplomacy, received great support from the Indonesian government, particularly the Orde Baru, President Suharto’s New Order regime.21 Udjo’s mission of Angklung Sebagai Identitas Budaya National (Angklung as a National Cultural Identity) advocated angklung as a symbol of the nation’s unity. When brought abroad it could be used to play folk music from throughout the archipelago and better express the nation’s motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). The idea that angklung stands as a symbol of Indonesian cultural identity was solidified even further when angklung joined Indonesian wayang kulit (shadow theater) on the UNESCO Representative List of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010 (“Indonesian Angklung”).

Today, Udjo’s family carries on his legacy of angklung diplomacy by bringing angklung to large numbers of foreigners in a recognized method of “soft power” cultural diplomacy. Working with the Indonesian government and global embassies, SAU has continued to coordinate spectacular, colossal angklung events designed to reach the largest number of people possible. This tradition of holding colossal angklung events has led SAU to attempt to break two world records for the most number of people playing angklung at one time.

The first attempt took place during the Indonesian festival on July 9, 2011, in Washington, D.C. Members from SAU, collaborating with the Indonesian embassy in Washington, gathered more than 5,182 people on the National Mall to set a new world record for the most colossal angklung performance in history. The event drew a wide range of participants, including Indonesians, DC residents, and tourists. When commenting on the event and the way in which angklung was able to bring together such a diverse community, Indonesian ambassador Dino Pati Djalal observed, “This is what multiculturalism is all about” (Bayuni 2011). On the day of the event, each person on the National Mall was given an angklung and a batik udeng (Balinese customary headgear for men) or a batik sash (for women). Andy Daeng Oktaviandi, Udjo Ngalagena’s son, flew from Indonesia for the event and guided the performance. By following the methods employed during the “Bamboo Afternoon” performances at SAU, Daeng introduced the audience to their number, island, and hand signal. He warmed up the players with the songs “Home on the Range” and “Country Road,” and he later broke the record with everyone playing “We are the World.”22

More recently, on June 30, 2013, the record was broken again in Beijing as 5,393 people followed hand signals and played “We are the World” on the angklung. As mentioned in “New World Record Set in Beijing for Largest Angklung Ensemble,” the CCTV (China Central Television) report on the Beijing concert, “The event is more than just an attempt to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. There’s also a friendly message being conveyed through the music.” This was further supported by what Imron Cotan, the Indonesian ambassador to China, said: “Angklung can only be played harmoniously. I would like to underline the word ‘harmoniously.’ So I think this is indeed an opportunity to show to the world that China and Indonesia will only be progressing together harmoniously” (Bayuni 2011).23

As these two world record-breaking efforts show, colossal angklung events are able to engage enormous audiences and spread a common message among the diverse citizens who come together to participate in such events. While it is a clichéd expression, “We are the World” is a message driven home by this unique instrument, since it advocates global citizens to recognize unity and to promote peace between nations.

Throughout this chapter, I have attempted to demonstrate how musical and pedagogical developments within the Indonesian angklung tradition from West Java have made it well suited for reaching the goals of social healing and cultural diplomacy. By intersecting both ethnographic and pedagogical information, I have proposed angklung as a noteworthy means of cultural diplomacy that can be drawn upon in both music education and community events. While the world record-breaking efforts are just two examples of how angklung has been used in a culturally diplomatic way, these instances demonstrate the capacity for the instrument to bring a large and diverse crowd of people together and to engage them in Indonesian culture. It is my hope that this chapter stirs more ideas about how we might employ music and the arts to promote respect and bolster relationships between nations, keeping in mind that they can be as simple as activities in our classrooms or as phenomenal as world record-breaking international collaborations.

 

 

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