Indonesian Traditional Musical Instruments

Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has an extensive collection of Asian traditional musical instruments. It includes musical instruments from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines and Thailand. This entry is about Indonesian traditional musical instruments. My knowledge of Indonesian traditional instruments is restricted to my visit to Yogyakarta’s Sultan Palace (Kraton) where all Indonesian traditional musical instruments were on display and local musicians actually play them for the visitors. A gamelan ensemble played behind a couple of dancers, and there were more than two dozens of them. In another part of the palace, a sprawling covered area was teeming with musical instruments and some puppets. If I recall correctly, the guide said that young Indonesians are encouraged to attend arts and music classes within the palace grounds to perpetuate their culture through performance arts.

Cultural Center of the Philippines collection of Indonesian Traditional Musical Instruments

Cultural Center of the Philippines collection of Indonesian Traditional Musical Instruments

The Gamelan

The gamelan is the traditional gong orchestra of Indonesia. It is composed of sets of tuned single bronze gongs, gong chimes, single and multi-octave metal xylophones, drums, one or more flutes, wooden plucked string instruments, and wooden xylophones. The first gong chime instruments were probably made in Java when bronze technology was introduced from the Asian mainland around 100 BC. Later, they were exported to other parts of the Indonesian archipelago and back to mainland Asia where bronze originally came from. The gamelan is performed at social, cultural, or ritual gatherings to welcome guests, to announce the departure of the head of the royal family, during court rituals, and particularly in Java, to accompany religious rituals. Today, radio stations broadcast gamelan music daily. It is an indispensable part of modern drama, puppetry, and theatrical and social dances. The instruments may be found in temples, courts, village community, buildings, museums, ceremonial theaters, schools, universities, radio stations, and private homes.

The room dedicated to Indonesian gamelan musical instruments.

The room dedicated to Indonesian gamelan musical instruments.

Set of Indonesian gongs

Set of Indonesian gongs

Gong ageng is the most sacred and honored instrument of the gamelan. It is made of bronze and is usually given its own name. To appease the spirits which live in and around the gong ageng, flowers and incense are offered to it every night. To play it, the center is struck with soft padded wooden stick to mark large musical phrases.

Gong Ageng

Gong Ageng

Set of Indonesian Gongs that looks similar to the babandir, gandingan and agung of the Philippines.

Set of Indonesian Gongs that looks similar to the babandir, gandingan and agung of the Philippines.

Kempul is a smaller gong to punctuate a smaller musical phrase than the bigger gongs. It has a protruding knob at the center and is struck with a padded wooden stick. The kempul plays in syncopation with the kenong.

Kempul

Kempul

Kenong is a small gong with a protruding knob at the center and laid horizontally on a wooden frame. The kenong is stuck with a wooden stick with a red cord wound around one end, and is played in syncopation with the kempul.

Kenong

Kenong

Gender barung is a bronze xylophone made up of thin, bronze bars connected to each other by cords and suspended over bamboo or metal sound chambers. It is similar to the slentern but has more bars to encompass two octaves. The gender barung is played with two mallets with disc shaped playing ends and is considered one of the finest instruments of the gamelan demanding a skillful playing technique.

Gender Barung

Gender Barung

Kendang is a double-sided membrane drum that is made from wood, usually of jackfruit, coconuts or cempedak, that has one side larger than the other. Buffalo hide is used for the larger, lower pitched end while soft goatskin is used for the smaller, higher pitch end.. The larger, lower-pitched one is usually placed to the right. Kendang are usually placed on stands horizontally and are hit with the hands. In a gamelan, the kendang keeps the tempo and signals some of the transitions to sections and at the end of a musical number. In dance numbers, the kendang player must follow the movements of the dancer.

Kendang

Kendang

Rebab is a two-stringed bowed lute consisting of a wooden body covered with very fine stretched skin. In the Indonesian gamelan, rebab is an essential elaborating instrument.

Rebab

Rebab

Celempung is a zither with 26 strings tuned in pairs.

Celempung

Celempung

Saron Panerus is the smallest among the saron instruments in a gamelan. It is an octave higher than saron barung. Among the three, it is played the most often and keeps a constant beat going throughout a piece. It is struck with a mallet angled to the right.

Saron Panerus

Saron Panerus

Saron barung is the middle among the saron instruments in a gamelan, based on size. It is not played as often as the saron panerus. It is struck with a wooden mallet or a peking mallet to give a shriller sound.

Sarun Barung

Saron Barung

Saron Demung is the biggest among the saron instruments in a gamelan. It is an octave lower than saron barung and is also played sparingly in a gamelan. Like saron barung, it is struck with a wooden mallet.

Saron Demung

Saron Demung

To read more, please read Philippines Traditional Musical Instruments, Chinese TMI, Indian TMI, Japanese and Thai TMI, and Korean TMI.

Where: Asian Traditional Musical Instruments, 4th Floor, CCP Main Building, Pedro Bukaneg Street, CCP Complex, Manila

When: Asian Traditional Musical is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 6pm.

How: From Vito Cruz Station of LRT Line 1, walk to Pablo Ocampo Street. Turn right on Pablo Ocampo Street and walk straight. In 2-5 minutes, you will arrive at the jeepney station of orange jeepneys that will take you to the CCP Complex.

How much: Asian Traditional Musical Instruments entrance fee: Students, P20 (US $ 0.44) and non-students, P30 (US $0.66), which is inclusive in the fee for Museo ng Kalinangan Pilipino (Museum of Philippine Culture).

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