What an angklung is and why a Google Doodle is celebrating the Indonesian musical instrument
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the angklung, an Indonesian musical instrument made of bamboo.
The animated illustration depicts six figures playing the instrument, with the sound waves it creates spelling out the company’s name. On this day in 2010, Unesco officially declared the angklung a World Heritage item.
What is an angklung?
The angklung’s origin dates back 400 years to West Java, Indonesia. It was created by the Sundanese people.
The instrument is made from a varying number of bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. These tubes are whittled to different sizes, which determines their pitch. They are are tuned to octaves, similar to Western handbells.
The base of the frame is held in one hand, while the other hand shakes the instrument. Angklungs are typically played in ensembles, with each player responsible for one pitch.
What is the instrument’s significance?
Hundreds of years ago, villagers in West Java believed the sound of bamboo could attract the attention of Déwi Sri, the goddess of rice and prosperity.
Each year, the village’s best craftsmen used special black bamboo to create angklungs. During the harvest season, they held ceremonies and played the instrument in hopes that the deity would bless them with fertile crops.
The instrument retains much cultural importance, shown by its status as a Unesco World Heritage item.
Unesco says: “The angklung is closely related to traditional customs, arts and cultural identity in Indonesia, played during ceremonies such as rice planting, harvest and circumcision.
“The special black bamboo for the angklung is harvested during the two weeks a year when the cicadas sing, and is cut at least three segments above the ground, to ensure the root continues to propagate.
“Angklung education is transmitted orally from generation to generation, and increasingly in educational institutions. Because of the collaborative nature of angklung music, playing promotes co-operation and mutual respect among the players, along with discipline, responsibility, concentration, development of imagination and memory, as well as artistic and musical feelings.”