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Geography & Topography

Capital: Jakarta

Population: 242,325,638

Area: 1,904,569 km2

Language: Indonesian

Religion: Islam (87.2%), Protestants, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism.

Currency: Rupiah



At their closest point Indonesia is just 150km north of Australia, and has a population of 238 million people.  Across its 17,508 islands and 33 provinces, Indonesia consists of distinct ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. The Javanese are the largest and politically dominant ethnic group.  Indonesian is the official national language which is universally taught in schools and consequently spoken by nearly every Indonesian. Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population.

The music in Indonesia predates historical records, and various native Indonesian tribes often incorporated chants and songs accompanied with musical instruments in their rituals. Today the contemporary music of Indonesia is popular in the region, including the neighbouring countries of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Genres of Indonesian contemporary music include Indonesian pop, rock, jazz, and hip hop.

Performing Arts



The most recognisable instruments in traditional Indonesian music are:


Kendang, one of the primary instruments used in the Indonesian Gamelan ensembles


Kendang (drums):

Kendang are thought to have originated from Indonesia in the 9th Century but have spread to other parts of Southeast Asia. The kendang is a two-headed membrane drum constructed in a variety of ways by different ethnic groups. Among the Javanese, Sundanese, or Malay peoples, the kendang has one side larger than the other, with the larger, lower-pitched side usually placed to the right, however among groups like the Balinese, Tausug, or Maranao, both sides of the kendang are of equal size.  Kendang is one of the primary instruments used in the Indonesian Gamelan ensembles of Java and Bali.

Angklung: The angklung was developed by the Sundanese people of West Java in Indonesia during the 17th Century.  In the Hindu period and the era of the Kingdom of Sunda, the angklung played an important role in ritual ceremonies. It is made out of bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved so that they have a distinctive resonant pitch when being vibrated.


Sasando, a plucked string instrument consisting of a bamboo cylinder and several wedges

Sasando: The sasando is a plucked string instrument native to Rote island in East Nusa Tenggara. The sasando consists of a bamboo cylinder surrounded by several wedges where the strings are stretched, enclosed by a bag-like fan of dried lontar or palmyra leaves, which functions as the resonator of the instrument.




Legong (pronounced LAY-gong) is a graceful Balinese dance performed usually by young girls dressed in gold brocade wrapped tightly around their bodies and headresses decorated with flowers.

In the dance, accompanied by gamelan ensemble, two beautiful dancers move their bodies, hands, fingers, heads and eyes with supple grace and in perfect unison with each other. Seeing is believing.


Kecak (pronounced KEH-chahk) is a Balinese music drama which originated in the 1930s. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, it depicts a battle from the Ramayana where monkeys help Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana.

It is performed by 100 or more men wearing checked cloth around their waists, seated in a circle, swaying to the rhythmic echoes of their own voices, chanting “cak” and throwing up their arms … a sight to behold!

Barong (pronounced BAH-rong) is a dance that epitomizes the eternal struggle between good and evil. The barong is a mythological animal, often represented by a lion (barong ket). He is a protector spirit and enemy of Rangda, the demon queen.

The barong costume resembles a lion with long mane, small head, bulging eyes and sharp fangs. It is manoeuvred by two men, one in front of the other. The barong has mischievous but controlled movements – snapping its jaws now and then.

Jatilan or kuda kepang is a trance dance involving eight or more male dancers with weaved bamboo hobby horses. The dancers move as if they are riding a horse during war and may carry holstered weapons. They wear knee-length pants and bangles on both legs. The dance is accompanied by music and sometimes masked comedians. The dancers would begin in an orderly fashion, trotting around but the dance would not be deemed complete till some dancers are posssessed by the spirit of the horse and start behaving wildly.


Some interesting facts:

  • Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, comprising of five main islands – Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya.
  • Indonesia is counted amongst the largest producers of nutmeg in the world.
  • The local name of Indonesia is ‘Tanah Air Kita’, which translates to ‘Our Land and Water’.

Indonesian community in Australia:

More information about the Indonesian community: