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The NMM presents: "Gamelan! A Way of Life"

“Learning about gamelan music is learning about life,” according to gamelan master Midiyanto. Celebrate the music and instruments of the Kyai Rengga Manis Everist Gamelan and discover how gamelan is a reflection of Indonesian lessons, values and culture. The exhibition opens March 25 in the National Music Museum’s Groves Gallery for Special Exhibitions in Vermillion, SD, with a public reception from 5pm-7pm. The NMM’s Tatag community ensemble will perform at 6:00 p.m.

A picture of a set of Indonesian gamelan gongs, suspended by red ropes from a teak rail, adorned with gold leaf dragons and filigree.

Beginning on March 26, the exhibit will be open to the public through the summer months on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 AM to 4 PM, and on Saturdays from noon to 4 PM. Admission is free.

“Gamelan: A Way of Life” will showcase the NMM’s Javanese gamelan with family friendly text and activities and display – for the first time - eight newly acquired and spectacularly decorated flat leather shadow puppets that illustrate some of the main characters of the epic Ramayana. Shadow-puppet theater is a popular form of entertainment in Indonesia and uses gamelan to help communicate the story.

Originating in Indonesia centuries ago and varying by region, gamelan means “ensemble” and refers to a revered set of mostly percussion instruments, crafted and tuned to be played together. Themes to be explored in this special exhibit include: “Unity in Diversity,” the motto of Indonesia, which indicates how the nearly 20,000 individual islands make up one country, a concept that is mirrored in the variety of gongs, pots, and metal and wood xylophones that make up one unified ensemble. A second theme, “Permanence and Impermanence,” refers to values such as love, respect and honor, all reflected in the permanence of bronze, against such fleeting matters as money and possessions, represented by the impermanence of wood. The “Inevitable Gong” theme reveals how gamelan music is propelled toward the final gong just as our lives are driven toward an inevitable goal.

A picture of a museum gallery, containing an array of Indonesian instruments made of teak and bronze.

The National Music Museum’s Javanese gamelan is one of the largest and finest outside of Indonesia. Radiant with gilding and teakwood frames adorned with carved dragons (nagas) and crowns, the Kyai Rengga Manis Everist Gamelan was ceremoniously named to honor its spiritual qualities and patronage. Purchase funds were a gift of Margaret Ann Everist, Sioux City, Iowa, 1999.

In addition to the temporary exhibition, the NMM museum store and NMM Live! concert series will also be in full swing this spring and summer. More information can be found on our Facebook page, or online at

A picture of a museum gallery, containing an array of Indonesian instruments made of teak and bronze.
“Gamelan! A Way of Life” will open at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD with a public reception from 5pm-7pm on Friday, March 25.



A limited edition catalog of the exhibit, Gamelan! A Way of Life, is available for purchase through the NMM gift shop.

Featuring an essay by the curator, lush photographs, an exhibit checklist and more, this catalog is the perfect commemorative keepsake from your visit to the NMM, or a great addition to your collection even if you can't join us in person!


61 Pages

Full color throughout

Gamelan! A Way of Life

© 2022 National Music Museum