Playing with Teaching Techniques

Gamelan as a Learning Tool Amongst Children with Learning Impairments in Northern Ireland

in Anthropology in Action

This article examines gamelan as a community musical tool in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. In particular, the article demonstrates how traditional pedagogic practices are changed in order to suit the needs of those who learn gamelan. A gamelan is an orchestra that includes metallophones (large glockenspiel-like instruments), gongs and drums. Originating from Southeast Asia, particularly from the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali, gamelan ensembles have long been used in the teaching of ethnomusicology in academic institutions and for purposes of applied ethnomusicology, as a musical tool, in the wider community. In these contexts, a gamelan instructor acts as a 'mediator' (Naughton 1996: 16) in the transmission of gamelan knowledge; mediating not only between the music and the learners, but also between the role of gamelan in its original sociocultural context and its newly adopted milieu. Drawing upon my experiences as a gamelan instructor, in particular, teaching children with visual and hearing impairments, I demonstrate how traditional teaching techniques are adapted to facilitate the learning of gamelan in the Northern Irish context.

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Anthropology in Action

Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice