Teaching Traditional Music in Malaysian Schools: Considering the Cultural Context

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Shahanum Mohd Shah
Mohamad Adam Masumi



When dealing with traditional music, cultural context and authenticity are issues that need to be considered in designing the teaching of local music traditions. Traditional music is, by nature, an oral tradition.  Learning traditional music among musicians was by non-formal education, i.e., by listening, observing and playing.  The transfer of skills and knowledge was carried out orally within the community of musicians. With the advent of formal music education in schools and universities, notation is now being used in part to facilitate and expedite the learning process. However, teaching certain traditional music using notation may not only be a misrepresentation of the authentic practice of this music but may also not give students the skills necessary in playing traditional music as opposed to playing in western ensembles. Establishing an accurate context for practical activities on the gamelan can provide not only a sound methodology but also allow for appropriate evaluation.

This study examined the teaching approaches of selected Malay traditional music in Malaysian schools and universities. This study utilized a qualitative approach. Ten school and university gamelan instructors were interviewed on the nature of the transmission process of traditional music in the classroom.  Based on the responses provided by these respondents, it appears that the nature of the transmission process may not occur in the cultural context and that preservation is of the music and playing techniques.


Keywords: traditional music, cultural context


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How to Cite
Shah, S. M., & Adam Masumi, M. (2016). Teaching Traditional Music in Malaysian Schools: Considering the Cultural Context. International Journal of Learning and Teaching, 8(1), 69–76. https://doi.org/10.18844/ijlt.v8i1.511


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