Jakarta. Angklung, the traditional West Java musical instrument made from bamboo, has been included in Unesco’s list of intangible cultural heritage.
The instrument was among 46 items from 21 countries inscribed to the list at the Fifth Unesco Inter-Governmental Committee meeting on Intangible Cultural Heritage in Nairobi, Kenya.
The angklung now joins the wayang (the Javanese shadow puppet theater), the kris (the Javanese ceremonial dagger) and batik among the Indonesian representatives in the list.
I Gusti Ngurah Putra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said the government welcomed the recognition granted by Unesco.
“The reason the angklung was inscribed to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is because it has deep philosophical values for humanity, such as cooperation, respect and social harmony,” he said.
“Because to produce music with angklung requires good cooperation among the angklung players, as no melody can be played by a single player.”
Masanori Nagaoka, the culture program specialist at Unesco’s Jakarta office, said it was hoped the recognition would lead to greater awareness of angklung and its traditions.
“Being recognized by Unesco on the list ensures better visibility for the intangible cultural heritage and raises awareness of its importance, while encouraging dialogue that respects cultural diversity,” he said.
Each angklung is made with two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame.
It plays only one specific note, which is produced by shaking the instrument rapidly from side to side.
During the height of the Sunda Kingdom, when much of Indonesia was still Hindu, it was used to signal prayer times. Later on it was used by the Sundanese to boost morale, and was banned by the Dutch colonial masters.
That effectively relegated it to a children’s toy.
In the 20th century, the angklung was adopted by several other countries, including Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.
These were variations of the original, with the Thai angklung, for instance, using three bamboo tubes instead of two.
In addition to the four items Indonesia now boasts on the list of intangible cultural heritage, the country also has seven sites on Unesco’s list of world heritage sites.
Three of them — the Borobudur monument, the Prambanan temple complex and the Sangiran Early man site, all in Central Java — are on the list of world cultural heritage. The other four — the Komodo, Lorentz and Ujung Kulon national parks, as well as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra — are listed as world natural heritage.
“We’re now working on getting the Acehnese Saman Dance to be recognized as intangible cultural heritage,” Putra said.
“We’re going to work hard to have as much of our culture as possible recognized by Unesco, the main point being to get the rest of the world involved in preserving our culture.”
He said the government also wanted recognition of Indonesian culture to prevent other countries from laying claim to it.
The government earlier this year promoted the angklung by inscribing it on the back of the new Rp 1,000 coin, which was introduced in April