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Similarities between Three Cultures in Music: Gamelan, Pygmy, and Carnatic Essay Example

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Culture has a powerful influence on a person’s music cognition including but not limited to recognition, emotions, preference, and the musical memory. Different communities thus embrace different music cultures because of their musical cognition. The music cultures adopted depends on the community’s lifestyle and traditions thereby depicting the kind of life that particular community lives. The music culture is further cognized in terms of age group and gender making certain music genres to be likened by different groups of the community. In the midst of these differences in music cultures adopted by different communities, certain music cultures such as Gamelan, Pygmy, and Carnatic appear similar to one another in the manner in which they are performed, delivered, and the type of instruments used.

In Indonesia, Gamelan, a traditional percussive instruments music that includes metallophones, wooden chimes and gongs, xylophones, bamboo flutes, and bowed instruments is played by traditional ensemble. The main feature of Gamelan is the metallophones, which are periodically hit by a mallet and the set of drums played by hand known as kedhang which produce the unique sound that gives Gamelan it’s familiarity in Indonesia. Gamelan is considered to be a very specific form of Indonesian music that was originally played in Java and Bali but has contemporarily been spread through migration which has in turn resulted into new styles incorporation (Tenzer 2013, p.16). In the contemporary world, Gamelan is collectively used to refer to Indonesian music.

Pygmies are a group of people with dwarfism, having their average heights regarded as below average. They form a wider ethnic group in the Central African nations, especially Congo (Brandel 2012, p.28). The pygmies’ life is constituted by various day to day ceremonies and celebrations, which mark important stages of their lives. This led to the composition of Pygmy music, which they perform during their sequential ceremonies. Pygmy music has variations ranging from the vocal singing to spiritual stories. Their musical instruments are simple hand-held implements mainly made of strings and wood such as the harp zither (ngombi), a string bow (limbindi) and bow harp (ieta).

Carnatic music, on the other hand, refers to a subgenre of Indian music that is popular in southern India. It is made up of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala states. Carnatic emerged from the traditional practices of the Hindu community and is unique due to Islamic and Persian influences in the Northern parts of India. The major composition of Carnatic music is the vocals which are composition of songs written and sung in different pitches (Koduri Serrà Julià, & Serra 2012, p.16-40). The vocals are accompanied by various hand held instruments played by hand and mouth such as violin, mridangam, ghatam, kanjira, venu flute, and a tambura. The performances of carnatic music are usually a part of various festivals of the Chennai held throughout India to commemorate Indian culture.

In similarity, Gamelan, Pygmy, and carnatic are cultural or traditional performances that commemorated certain stages or ceremonies in Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa and India respectively. These cultures use simple hand-held instrument, which are hit, blown, or struck to produce a unique pitched sound. This makes each musical culture familiar in their respective regions. Consequently, songs written and sung in unique vocal pitches to produce distinct sounds constitute their cultures. It is also important to note that they all have specific and unique traditional instruments with local names related to the local languages. This makes the musical cultures conform to the respective regions. Lastly, the musical cultures evolved from the locals’ lifestyle and practices that necessitated the commemorations of events of past events.

In conclusion, the traditional communities commemorated their life stages and cultures in celebrations that were marked by various performances. These performances were mostly presented in the form of vocal songs. They used simple hand-held instruments that were struck, hit or blown to produce a unique pitched sound that complimented the vocal songs. It is important to note that irrespective of the region, most of these cultures had several similarities in the manner in which they were celebrated, presented and the uniqueness, which makes them familiar to the respective localities.

Reference List

Brandel, R. (2012). The Music of Central Africa: An Ethnomusicological Study Former French Equatorial Africa the Former Belgian Congo, Ruanda-Urundi Uganda, Tanganyika. Springer.

Koduri, G. K., Serrà Julià, J., & Serra, X. (2012). Characterization of intonation in carnatic music by parametrizing pitches histograms. In Gouyon F, Herrera P, Martins LG, Müller M. ISMIR 2012: Proceedings of the 13th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference; 2012 Oct 8-12; Porto, Portugal. Porto: FEUP Ediçoes, 2012. International Society for Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR).

Tenzer, M. (2013). Balinese Gamelan Music:(Downloadable Audio Included). Tuttle