What is Angklung in English? Meaning explained, what is instrument on Google Doodle and how to play

A symbol of Indonesian culture, the origin of Angklung goes back 400 years to West Java

Today’s (16 November) Google Doodle celebrates the Indonesian instrument, the Angklung. Made of bamboo, it was officially declared a World Heritage Item by UNESCO on this day in 2010.

A symbol of Indonesian culture, its sound can be heard across the country during times of celebration. The Indonesian government regularly hosts Angklung performances to welcome guests to the Presidential Palace.

The animated illustration features six figures playing the instrument together, with colourful sound waves depicting the music they are playing.

So, what is Angklung, how do you play it and what does it mean in English? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the Angklung instrument?

The Angklung instrument is made from two to four bamboo tubes, set in a bamboo frame and bound with rattan cord. The tubes are carefully crafted, with different sizes determining the instrument’s pitch.

A symbol of Indonesian culture, its sound can be heard across the country during times of celebration. The Indonesian government regularly hosts Angklung performances to welcome guests to the Presidential Palace.

The instrument was declared a World Heritage Item by UNESCO on 16 November, 2010. They describe the instrument as: “closely related to traditional customs, arts and cultural identity in Indonesia, played during ceremonies such as rice planting, harvest and circumcision.”

Today’s Google Doodle celebrated the Indonesian instrument Angklung (Pic: NationalWorld/ Mark Hall)

What does Angklung mean in English?

The name Angklung comes from the Sundanese word “angkleung-angkleungan”, which refers to the movement of the player and the sound that the instrument makes. The word “angka” translate to tone, whilst “lung” means broken, so the word Angklung can mean broken tone or uncompleted.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines an Angklung as: “a percussion instrument of Indonesia and Malaysia consisting of a frame holding vertical bamboo tubes of different lengths and pitches which are struck with mallets or shaken.”

Who invented Angklung?

The origin of Angklung goes back 400 years to West Java, Indonesia. The instruments were used during harvest season to attract Déwi Sri, the goddess of rice and prosperity, with the hope she would bless the village with good crops.

In 1938 musician Daeng Soetigna brought the instrument to a new audience by creating an Angklung based on diatonic tone scale, these are called angklung padaeng.

An Indonesian musician plays the traditional bamboo percussion instrument called an Angklung (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)

How can you play it?

An Angklung is normally played in a group. The musician holds the base of the instrument in one hand, shaking or tapping the instrument with the other, creating a single pitch note. Other musicians will do the same with their instruments to create additional pitches, so that the group can create a joint melody.

How can you learn Angklung?

Angklung is taught orally, meaning that the tradition is passed down between generations through word of mouth. There are no written lessons or music and melodies are taught by ear and then memorised. Learning to play the Angklung takes dedication, patience and practice.

Discussing how the instrument can be taught, UNESCO said: “Angklung education is transmitted orally from generation to generation, and increasingly in educational institutions. Because of the collaborative nature of angklung music, playing promotes cooperation and mutual respect among the players, along with discipline, responsibility, concentration, development of imagination and memory, as well as artistic and musical feelings.”