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Indonesia (Bahasa Indon. Republik Indonesia)locked

  • Philip Yampolsky,
  • Dr Sumarsam,
  • Lisa Gold,
  • Tilman Seebass,
  • Benjamin Brinner,
  • Michael Crawford,
  • Simon Cook,
  • Matthew Isaac Cohen,
  • Marc Perlman,
  • Virginia Gorlinski,
  • Margaret J. Kartomi,
  • Christopher Basile,
  • R. Anderson Sutton
  •  and Franki Raden

Updated in this version

updated and revised, 1 July 2014; updated and revised, 25 July 2013; updated and revised, 1 July 2014

Country in South-east Asia.

I. General

1. Cultural and musical geography.

  • Philip Yampolsky
(i) Introduction.

Currently the fourth most populous nation in the world, Indonesia covers a vast archipelago of some 17,500 islands, of which about 6000 are inhabited (fig.1 ). Its people belong to approximately 300 ethnic groups and speak roughly the same number of languages. The Melayu (Malay) language, originally spoken by ethnic Melayu of the Malay peninsula, eastern Sumatra, and the Riau islands, developed into a trading, administrative and literary lingua franca in many parts of the archipelago; under the name Bahasa Indonesia it has been successfully established as the national language of independent Indonesia. Some 85–90% of the country’s inhabitants profess the Muslim faith, making Indonesia the world’s largest Muslim nation. Irian Jaya, the easternmost province of Indonesia, comprises the western half of the island of New Guinea; its population and cultures are Melanesian rather than Indonesian and it is therefore treated more fully elsewhere (see Melanesia, §II.

Map of the Republic of Indonesia

The territory of modern Indonesia is coterminous with that of the former Dutch colony known as the Dutch East Indies. From 1976 to 1999 Indonesia also claimed East Timor, not part of the Dutch colony. After establishing footholds in western Java and Ambon at the beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch gradually extended their control throughout the archipelago, though some regions (e.g. Bali, northern Sumatra, and parts of eastern Indonesia) were not fully brought under Dutch authority until the beginning of the 20th century. During World War II the Japanese army expelled the Dutch and occupied Indonesia. On 17 August 1945, with the defeat of the Japanese imminent, Indonesia declared its independence; the Dutch, however, attempted to return, and only after four years of guerrilla warfare did they accept Indonesia’s sovereignty.

(ii) National and regional culture.

As Indonesia has only been an independent nation for half a century, and indeed has only existed with its present boundaries for the last 100 or so years (since the Dutch achieved full control over the archipelago), the question arises of what exactly ‘Indonesian culture’ is. If the notion requires the existence of an Indonesia, then nothing created before about 1900 can be considered Indonesian; alternatively, Indonesian culture could be considered to be whatever has developed, over thousands of years, among hundreds of ethnic groups, on the thousands of islands now grouped together as Indonesia. These issues have provoked extensive and unresolved debate (Mihardja, 2/1977).

Government statements and policies on national culture are ambiguous and contradictory (see Yampolsky, 1995). On the one hand, the government claims the so-called ‘peaks of culture’ of the many ethnic groups of modern Indonesia as part of the national heritage. On the other, according to critics, the government’s cultural engineering policies and programmes to ‘preserve’ and ‘foster’ the ‘traditional’ (that is, in this context, ethnic, or ‘regional’) arts show a low regard for the arts themselves as traditionally practised and a distrust of the ethnic identity and ethnic pride they symbolize and affirm (see Widodo, 1995 and Yampolsky, 1995). The government also discountenances the so-called ‘animist’ religions with which traditional arts are often associated. Indonesians are pressured to adopt instead one of the five world religions: Islam, Christianity (counted as two: Catholicism and Protestantism), Hinduism, and Buddhism. Unless an indigenous belief-system can be interpreted as a form of one of the world religions, its adherents are described as ‘not yet having a religion’.

Many Indonesians outside the government are equally uncertain about the value of traditional culture, which is often seen as backward and (in the eyes of those who have accepted Islam or Christianity) heathen. Moreover, shared nationality has apparently not broken down musical barriers. With a few short-lived exceptions (e.g. Sundanese jaipongan and Minangkabau-language hiburan daerah; see §VIII, 1 below), attempts by the entertainment industry and the government to disseminate the music of one ethnic group to the rest of the country have failed, especially when the music in question is sung in a regional language rather than the lingua franca, Indonesian.

Even if traditional arts are in principle accepted as an element of Indonesia’s national culture, they are not shared by or known to all Indonesians. In music, a paradoxical situation has arisen: since no indigenous musical idiom or instrumentation is accepted by all Indonesians, any ‘national’ music must use foreign idioms and instruments, i.e. those of Western and, to a lesser extent, Middle Eastern music. The result is that the only kinds of music accepted throughout Indonesia are the various forms of ‘national’ popular music, which are sung in Indonesian and are not tied to specific ethnic groups. A related paradox is that in a country where nearly three-quarters of the population lives in rural areas, the music with the highest prestige and widest dissemination is the urban popular music of the cities, particularly Jakarta.

Within their home regions and ethnic groups, however, traditional musics survive and, in some cases, thrive. Often where one of the officially-sanctioned world religions has become dominant, an accommodation has been reached with traditional culture, permitting traditional practices (including music) so long as they do not violate the tenets of the world religion. Such accommodations favour secular entertainment forms of traditional music, the sort that might be performed to celebrate weddings, circumcisions, or community anniversaries. Typically, traditional music is enjoyed and supported more by the middle-aged and old than by the young, who prefer forms of urban popular music, but there are frequent exceptions to this rule.

(iii) Musical overview.

The outline that follows of the principal kinds of music that have developed or taken root in the islands now part of Indonesia focusses on genres, contexts and musical materials (instruments are discussed in §3 below).

Indonesia is so large and fragmented that few generalizations about music can apply to the entire country. Some observations of this sort are attempted here, but attention is also given to genres and musical traits that, while not distributed over all of Indonesia, cross one or more of the major cultural or geographic boundaries within the country. Music characteristic of a single clearly bounded entity (e.g. of Kalimantan, or of the Javanese ethnic group) is discussed in the appropriate regional sections below.

Margaret Kartomi has attempted to classify the music of much of Indonesia according to periods or ‘strata’ in the music-history of the region and to identify instruments, genres, and techniques characteristic of those strata (Kartomi, 1980). The principal strata she distinguishes are pre-Islamic, Islamic, and post-European. This effort is related to Kunst’s attempt to identify the elements of a ‘megalithic’ stratum (Kunst, 1939 and 1942), and to the interests of some scholars in determining the Austronesian foundations of Indonesian music. One objection to all such projects is that foreign musical influences have been felt in Indonesia for so long – Indian influence for perhaps 2000 years, Muslim influence for at least 1000, European influence for 500 – that they can in many cases no longer be disentangled from each other, let alone from an ‘original’ stratum. While it is true that certain features are often likely indicators of one or another strand of influence, many genres mix features from several strata. Historical classification will be avoided here in favour of identifying traits and complexes that may stand alone or in combination with others.

This survey is inevitably incomplete. Specific instances of genres of pratices discussed here have been chosen because of availability of recorded examples or because of substantial coverage in the scholarly literature (see bibliogaphy). Scholarly and popular documentation of Indonesian music has concentrated on Java and Bali and, to a much lesser extent, Sumatra. Although excellent studies of instrument construction and distribution throughout Indonesia were produced in the colonial era, the musical practice of the ‘outer islands’ (including Sumatra) was drastically under-reported until the late 1970s: there are some scattered studies from the 1920s and 30s, mostly based on brief fieldwork, overviews by Snelleman (1818) and Kunst (1946; Eng. trans. in Indonesian Music and Dance, 1994) and occasional descriptions by ethnographers, usually without much musical detail. Recordings of this period are even scarcer than written materials and often have only minimal documentation.

This situation began to change when recordings with scholarly commentary were published on music in Lombok by Seebass, East Kalimantan by Maceda and Revel-Macdonald, and Timor by Clamagirand. Further recordings with documentation have followed on North Sumatra by Kartomi and by Simon, Irian Jaya by Simon, East Kalimantan by Gorlinski, and highland South Sulawesi by Rappoport. In 1991 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, in collaboration with the Indonesian Society for the Performing Arts (Masyarakat Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, formed as Masyarakat Musikologi Indonesia in 1988), launched an extensive survey: the Music of Indonesia series of 20 compact discs presenting music from all over the country. Publication of another recordings series, Musik Tradisi Nusantara, was begun by the Indonesian government’s Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, in 1998.

Useful books and articles on the music of hitherto little-known areas have begun to appear, and there is a growing stream of dissertations and theses in Indonesia and abroad. In 1990 the Indonesian Society for the Performing Arts inaugurated a journal, Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, with frequent articles by Indonesian and foreign researchers on lesser-known traditions and regions. Ethnographic attention to these regions has also heightened. Nevertheless, the picture of Indonesia’s music is still sketchy and tentative. Only the ‘art’ music traditions of Java, Bali and Sunda (West Java) and some of the village traditions of these areas, can be said to be well covered.

(a) Scales and metres.

Tonal bases are most commonly pentatonic or tetratonic, but hexatonic and heptatonic scales exist. Vocal melodies and those of certain instruments or ensembles are sometimes restricted in range to less than an octave (extreme examples include Toba Batak melodies with an ambitus of a perfect 5th and Minangkabau saluang (flute) songs covering only a tritone). Some hexatonic and heptatonic scales or scale systems are imported from Europe or the Middle East, but some are apparently indigenous (e.g. Petalangan, Bugis, and Makasar examples). Others, like seven-tone pélog in Java and Bali, are concatenations of discrete five-tone scales, albeit sometimes with modulation within a single piece, thus producing a total of six or seven tones). Modulation and chromaticism may also occur in the imported heptatonic systems, leading to total collections of more than seven tones. Among the Kenyah in East Kalimantan, melodies for the sampeq lute may use different five-tone scales in the upper and lower registers, again producing six or seven tones altogether.

In ensembles combining instruments of permanently or temporarily fixed pitch (such as metallophones, zithers, or fretted lutes) with singers or instruments capable of variable intonation (fiddles, oboes, certain flutes), the more flexible group may provide additional tones not present in the fixed scale. This practice is pervasive in Sundanese music and is also found in the barang miring technique of Central Javanese gamelan music. In the gondang and gendang ensembles of the Toba and Karo of North Sumatra, the double-reed aerophones have six basic pitches determined by their fingerholes, but they are played with such variable intonation that the basic scale is elusive, similar to the saluang flute in West Sumatra. Messner (1989) has analysed the singing style in the Tanjung Bunga region of East Flores as structurally microtonal, but this has not yet been confirmed by cognitive research among the singers. Jaap Kunst observed melodies containing tritones in South Nias and Central Flores (Kunst, 1942, pp.35–8) noting that they occurred in conjunction with triple metre and alongside various culture traits he labelled ‘megalithic’. On this basis he speculated that tritones and triple metre might themselves belong to a very old megalithic cultural stratum.

Metres are most commonly duple (especially quadruple), with the melodic phrases usually of four, eight, sixteen (and multiples thereof) beats in length. As Kunst pointed out, triple metre is found in the so-called megalithic cultures of Nias and Flores, but it is also found in other contexts: in Melayu music (the lagu dua rhythm, a six-beat measure that may be organized as 2+2+2 or 3+3); in Mentawai and forest Riau; in Timor, interior West Kalimantan, and North Sulawesi. In most of these instances there is no association with Kunst’s tritone melodies or megalithic traits.

In addition to duple and triple metres, there are also some oddly distributed and as yet little-noticed pockets of ‘irregular’ and shifting metres. Examples of the first type are seven-beat metre in Sumba; five-, seven-, and fourteen-beat metres among certain Dayak groups in Kalimantan; and ten-beat metres in western Timor. Instances of shifting metre drawn from commercially available recordings include a dance hoho from Nias with a cycle of 30 beats phrased 10+8+6+6 (with each beat subdivided in three); a Minangkabau talempong (gong-chime ensemble) piece with the structure 16+12+18+8 (interior phrases are repeatable); and a dance song from Timor phrased 5+5+5+4 (again, like the Nias hoho, with ternary subdivision). Certain genres or repertories are pervaded with elusive shifting metres: the tabuik or tabut music of Minangkabau and Bengkulu, the old funeral repertory of the Balinese angklung ensemble and the music of the bamboo senggayung ensemble in southwest Kalimantan.

(b) Genres and ensembles.

Sung narrative. Genres of sung narrative, performed by one or two singers unaccompanied, or accompanied by only one or two instruments and sometimes with a chorus chiming in at the end of a line, are widely distributed. Performers are normally specialists – professionals, or others recognized as having particular aptitude for performance of the genre in question. A partial listing of genres includes hikayat in Aceh; in mainland Riau, nyanyi panjang among the Petalangan, and the Melayu genre transcribed and translated by Derks (1994); dendang Pauah, rabab Pariaman, rabab pasisie, and sijobang in West Sumatra; kunaung among the Kerinci in Jambi; taknaa′ among Kayan and belian tekena′ among Kenyah in Kalimantan; old-style karungut among Ngaju in Central Kalimantan, accompanied by a single kacapi (lute); cerita pantun, accompanied by kacapi (zither) in West Java; kentrung in Central and East Java, accompanied by frame drum; in South Sulawesi, violin narratives among the Bugis, sinrilli among the Makasar (accompanied by a spike-fiddle), and kacapi (lute) narratives in both groups; gelong among the Sa’dan Toraja; and aten in Buru. Some of these genres use a single repeating melody for long stretches of narrative, whereas others insert free-standing songs for variety. Most have a high degree of textual extemporaneity. In contrast, among the Javanese and Balinese, certain forms of narrative poetry are sung (usually solo) with fixed texts in complex stanza forms (e.g. macapat, kakawin, and kidung.)

Examples of solo sung narrative accompanied by larger instrumental ensembles are comparatively rare: gambang rancag of the Indonesian-Chinese (peranakan Cina) of the Jakarta region, accompanied by the gambang kromong orchestra; modern karungut of the Ngaju in Central Kalimantan; and kentrung in some parts of East Java. It seems likely that these are all expansions of genres originally performed by one or two musicians only.

Lyric singing. Specialist performance of lyric singing (that is, verses not part of religious or shamanistic observance and without extended narrative) by a soloist, typically accompanied by one instrument, is equally widespread; indeed, in many places the same musicians sing and accompany both lyric and narrative forms. (Unaccompanied lyric singing by specialists is rare, except for non-narrative macapat singing in Central Java and Bali.) The verses may contain advice or conventional wisdom, lament, social commentary, joking or teasing references to individuals or groups, accounts of personal experience, or expressions of longing for home or a loved one. A common pattern is for a male singer and a female singer to trade serious or teasing verses, typically on the themes of love and courtship: for example, dendang jo saluang among the Minangkabau, where the singers are accompanied by an oblique flute; biola rawa Mbojo in eastern Sumbawa, using a violin; guitar songs in southern Sumatra and South Sulawesi; and songs in Sumba accompanied by the four-string plucked lute jungga. Among the Bugis and Makasar verses may be exchanged, but usually by male singers, without the romantic or teasing tone and with two (or more) singers accompanying themselves on violins (Bugis) or kacapi lute (Makasar). Exchanged verses accompanied by a larger ensemble are found, for example, in ronggeng (see below) music of Melayu groups in Sumatra and elsewhere; in the gambang kromong ensemble of the outskirts of Jakarta; in Bugis mixed-instrument ensembles; and in the early, competitive form of kroncong singing. Specialist lyric singing by a single vocalist without the exchange of verses is usually also a possibility wherever the other form is found; there are also some societies where the single-singer form (typically accompanied by a plucked lute) is the norm, as among the Kayan of Kalimantan and the Kajang and Mandar of South Sulawesi.

Informal music. Certain forms of private or informal music-making by non-specialists are found throughout the archipelago: singing, of course, for emotional release or for the amusement of oneself or others close by; and the solo playing of bamboo flutes and jew’s harps. Reed aerophones may also be played for these purposes, though less commonly than flutes. Jew’s harps and other soft instruments are often also used in courtship; for example, a jew’s harp played quietly at night can signal a young woman that her sweetheart is waiting for her outside. This practice is reported from many parts of the country.

Collective work is a common occasion for informal music-making. To husk rice, groups of women may pound it in a mortar using long pestles, striking them against the mortar in interlocking rhythms. Often the music is purely percussive; however in Natuna Besar, an island in eastern Riau, the pestles are tuned to produce seven clear pitches. The Javanese kethoprak theatre is said to originate in the enactment of stories to an accompaniment of mortar rhythms.

Group singing. Many types of music involving multiple singers exist. There is group singing in unison or octaves and singing in which a soloist is answered by a chorus in unison or octaves. Examples include didong from the Gayo in Aceh; janger from Bali; the Islamic popular music qasidah moderen; work songs in Sumba; dance songs in Kei and Timor; and the pakarena chorus in South Sulawesi.

Two-part homophony, with all or most changes of pitch or text made simultaneously, is uncommon in western Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Bali, and the western and central regions of Kalimantan), but it occurs comparatively often in the eastern half of the country (e.g. among the Toraja of South Sulawesi, and in Flores, East Kalimantan, and North Sulawesi). Some styles are characterized by parallelism in a single interval (3rds, 4ths, or 5ths); some move more flexibly within a mainly triadic framework or one permitting open 4ths and 5ths; some are flexible within a narrow compass, producing many 2nds (e.g. the Balkan-sounding style of Tanjung Bunga in east Flores). Some styles mix several of these procedures. Sporadic harmony within a predominantly unison or octave texture is also encountered: on specific melody tones, as among the Ot Danum of West Kalimantan, or in brief responses interjected by a chorus, as among the Mek of Irian Jaya.

Homophonic singing in more than two parts is rare outside Christian hymnody. An exception is the three-voice gore of central Flores. The ‘exceedingly beautiful and curious polyphonic (four or more parts) communal harvest songs of a primitive sort’ reported from northern Minahasa (Sulawesi) by Kunst (1946; Eng. trans. 1994, p.183) may be another exception (researchers for the Music of Indonesia series looked for them in 1997 but could not find them), but it is not clear from the description whether or not these were homophonic.

Melody with drone has so far been recorded only among the Toraja of highland South Sulawesi, in central Flores, in Roti, and among some groups in the Irian Jaya highlands. Among the Toraja a soloist stays close to the drone pitch, rarely venturing farther afield than a major 2nd above or below. In Flores, the drone pitch is often movable, and melody seems less restricted. Another technique in Toraja is the more or less continual sounding of two drones simultaneously, but with a shifting balance such that when most of the singers are on one a few are on the other (badong). In Flores, drones are sometimes combined with two-part homophony for all or part of a song.

A polyphonic relation can occur between soloist and chorus when, for example, a florid or parlando solo overlaps or overlies a choral melody. This is found in Nias, where the hoho chorus sings in unison; in Flores, where the chorus may be in two-part homophony; and in Central Javanese gamelan music, in the relation between the free-metre female soloist (pesindhèn) and the unison fixed-metre male chorus (gérong).

Heterophonic singing (individual variation in simultaneous versions of what is conceptually the same melodic line) is common throughout the country. It ranges from relaxed unison singing with occasional harmonies or rhythmic discrepancies (e.g. among the Kayan Mendalam in West Kalimantan and in ngel-ngel singing in Kei) to wild hurly-burly. Islamic male devotional singing (see below) often involves heterophony (dikie rabano in West Sumatra; dabus in Halmahera). Particularly unrestrained heterophony is found in some wor singing in Biak (north of western Irian Jaya) and some group macapat singing in East Java and Madura. As in Javanese gamelan music, prescribed destination tones, where the individual lines come together, keep the macapat from disintegrating into chaos.

Simple antiphonal alternation of verses or parts of verses, with one group responding to another (often men responding to women, or vice versa) is found among the Toraja and in dance songs in Timor. Rapid-fire antiphonal responses of short phrases occur in the Irian Jaya highlands.

In Central Flores, Jaap Kunst reported both full canon and a ‘collapsing canon’ in which the voices ‘melt together into unison’ after a canonic opening (Kunst, 1942); however, Music of Indonesia researchers in Flores in 1993 and 94 found no examples of either technique. Similar procedures are found in the Mek region of Irian Jaya: two singers singing the same song but one starting somewhat later than the other (Simon, 1978), and dance-songs beginning with imitative entries but not continuing imitatively (Musik aus dem Bergland West-Neugineas, 1993). Fleeting imitation is also heard in unmetred segments of salawat dulang singing in West Sumatra.

Fortuitous counterpoint (i.e. two unrelated pieces performed at the same time) occurs at big celebrations all over Indonesia (Rappoport, 1999; see also Simon, 1978, p.442 for an instance from Irian Jaya), but deliberate, coordinated counterpoint is rare. Two instances are singing for the wera dance in western Flores and singing for the raego′ dance in the mountains of western Central Sulawesi. In both cases, men and women sing different melodies, with contrary motion and some rhythmic independence.

Gong-chime ensembles. Instrumental ensembles dominated by a set of bossed gongs (a ‘gong-chime’) played melodically or in melodic-rhythmic ostinati are common. The gongs may be placed horizontally in a rack and played by a single player or by more than one; or they may be suspended freely on cords or completely dismounted and hand-held, in which cases several players are needed, each controlling one or two gongs. Drums are often included in the ensemble, as are non-melodic gongs marking (or ‘punctuating’) the melodic period and internal subdivisions (if there are any); singers, flutes, and lutes rarely take part. Examples are found in Minangkabau and Lampung; among the Petalangan of mainland Riau; in Bali (the bebonangan or balaganjur ensemble); in Central Java (the ancient ceremonial monggang); in many Dayak groups of Kalimantan (Kanayatn, Taman, Ot Danum, Ngaju, Benuaq, and along the Jelai river in the southwest); in the Bolaang Mongondow region of North Sulawesi; and in Maluku, Timor, Sumba, and Flores. Typically the ensemble plays outdoors for festivities, often accompanying dance. In some regions (Kalimantan, Timor, Sumba, and North Sulawesi) it has a particular repertory for funerals or wakes that is not heard on other occasions. Gong-chime ensembles are not reported in Irian Jaya (except those brought there by immigrants from elsewhere in Indonesia).

The gamelan-wayang complex. The famous gamelan of Java and Bali may be seen as a special development or elaboration of the gong-chime ensemble described above. It is proposed here that for analytical clarity the term ‘gamelan’ should be reserved for ensembles that resemble, in instrumentation and musical organization, the Central Javanese court gamelan or the Balinese gamelan gong ensemble.

To be called a gamelan, according to this proposition, an ensemble must contain at least one form of melodic metal percussion idiophone (either gong-chime or keyed metallophone or both) and hanging gongs (or substitutes for them) serving to ‘punctuate’ the melody; by contrast, in a gong-chime ensemble, the hanging gongs are optional and a gong-chime must be present. Melodic keyed metallophones are very commonly present in gamelan, but they are not (in this definition) requisite.

Regarding musical organization, this proposition stipulates a crucial distinction: that in a gamelan there must be at least two simultaneous melodic lines, related in content but of contrasting musical character, whereas in gong-chime ensembles there may only be the one line carried by the gong-chime itself. The relation between the melodic lines in a gamelan may be, for example, that of a ‘full’ melody and its abstraction, or a comparatively simple melody and a more complex elaboration based on it. The simultaneous melodic lines may exhibit the relationship that has been described as ‘stratified’ (Hood and Susilo, 1967), where a simpler or more abstract version of the melody is played at a lower rhythmic density than a more complex version. They may also show a registral form of stratification, with the more complex versions sounding in a higher register. (Forms of stratification are also found in some non-gamelan ensembles, such as Balinese gender wayang duos or quartets, Sundanese kacapi suling and kawih, and kroncong.)

Certain ensembles termed ‘gamelan’ in the literature, or by their own societies, are excluded in this definition. It is, for example, customary in the literature to call every Balinese ensemble a gamelan, including those with no melodic metallophones or no hanging gongs. Gamelan as defined here are found throughout Java and Bali, Madura, Lombok, and among the Banjar of South Kalimantan. Migrants from Java, Bali, and Madura to other parts of Indonesia have often brought gamelan music with them; there has also been effort by the national government to establish gamelan as a symbol of ‘Indonesianness’, which has led to the presence of gamelan in the offices of government departments in many provincial capitals.

A number of other performance genres are so closely linked to gamelan as to form a complex, disseminated (with variations) as a unit. In societies where gamelan are found, one or another form of wayang, the puppet theatre (or, in the case of wayang wong, the human theatre modelled on puppet theatre) is also typically found, usually accompanied by gamelan. Also found in association with gamelan and wayang are topèng (masked dance) accompanied by gamelan; macapat poetry (both as an element in gamelan music and on its own); and imitations of gamelan without melodic metal percussion idiophones and instead featuring bamboo or wooden xylophones (in Banyumas and Bali), flutes (gong suling in Bali), or just voices (jemblung in Banyumas, memaca in Madura, and cepung or cekepung in Lombok and East Bali).

The Melayu complex. The culture of the Melayu ethnic group has been influential not only in the areas of Indonesia directly controlled, at one time or another, by Melayu rulers (e.g. the east coast of Sumatra, excluding Aceh and Lampung; the Riau islands; the west coast of Borneo; and major settlements in West Kalimantan along the rivers going inland from the coast), but also in much of the rest of the country, where cultural forms associated with the Melayu were adopted by local rulers who were not themselves Melayu. In the performing arts, certain hallmarks of Melayu culture can be distinguished. These include the following: small ensembles with violin as melodic leader (typically alternating between accompanying a vocalist and taking the lead when the vocalist is silent); use of a class of verse-forms called pantun, sung in Melayu, often by two singers in alternation; and female singer-dancers usually known as ronggeng (see below). Another important feature is the presence of Melayu-language theatre forms using conventions of the bangsawan theatre of Malaysia to tell local and classical Melayu stories, accompanied by a violin-led ensemble (examples of such theatre forms are bangsawan itself, once widespread in Riau; mendu and langlang buana in the Natuna islands; dermuluk in South Sumatra and mamanda in South and East Kalimantan). Two more elements of the complex can be included: Islamic devotional and entertainment genres (dikir or zikir, gambus or zapin), and a particular complementary relation between pairs of identical instruments or between two players on one instrument, such that one plays a simple, repetitive part that the other elaborates or ‘responds’ to. This relation is not precisely stratification, since in Melayu music both the ‘basic’ part and the elaboration are played in the same register, and the two parts may move at the same speed.

It should be noted that the Islamic genres mentioned above are sometimes thought to be Melayu in origin. This is because in much of Sumatra, Riau, and Kalimantan it was Melayu rulers and settlers who established and practised Islam, and the religion and the ethnicity came to be construed as identical. In eastern and southern regions of Indonesia, however, these genres are seen not as Melayu but simply as Muslim.

Ronggeng, tayuban, and joged. A widespread form of entertainment involves professional female dancers who invite non-professional men (guests at a wedding, for example, or spectators at a public performance) to dance with them. The woman’s dance is usually flirtatious, combining invitation with evasion, while the man’s dance often mimes infatuation or pursuit. The music is provided by the female dancers’ own troupe, often with the female dancer singing while dancing. Unlike, for example, the zapin dance, which has basically the same movement-pattern and accompaniment everywhere it is found, this dance and its music draw on local dance styles and music repertories. In rural parts of the Melayu culture area the music for ronggeng or joged is played by an ensemble of violin, two frame drums, and usually a single gong; in cities, the gong is considered old-fashioned and is omitted, and an accordion is often added. In Central Java, on the other hand, this type of dancing at a tayuban is accompanied by gamelan. In West Java, the ronggeng (dancer) could be accompanied by the ketuk tilu (an ensemble of rebab, non-melodic gongs, a hanging gong, drums, and other percussion) or by tanjidor (combining European wind-band instruments with Sundanese percussion). In Bali the accompaniment for a female dancer is an ensemble (joged bumbung) of bamboo xylophones organized on the model of a gamelan; in former times there were also male professional dancers (gandrung). Still other examples of this form of dance are: cokek, accompanied by gambang kromong, among the Peranakan Cina (persons of mixed Chinese and Indonesian descent) in Jakarta; gandrung Banyuwangi in East Java; ronggeng in Ternate and Tidore; and jaipongan in West Java.

Martial arts genres. Pencak, silat, and kuntau (among other terms) refer to a variety of martial art or ‘self-defence dance’ widespread in Indonesia, particularly among Muslims. The common accompaniment to this genre is an ensemble of drums, non-melodic gongs and a double-reed aerophone; among the Petalangan in the forest of mainland Riau, a xylophone or single-row gong-chime is used instead of the double-reed. This type of genre is found throughout Sumatra, Java, and Madura, in Muslim areas of Kalimantan, in Sulawesi, Maluku, Bali, and in scattered locations in the islands running east from Bali. It has been taken up as a sport and entertainment in rural Islamic schools (pesantrèn), which may account for its Muslim associations, but it is not exclusively or essentially a Muslim art (Bouvier, 1995, p.155). Its origins in Indonesia are obscure; it is sometimes said to have come from the Malay peninsula to Sumatra and to have spread to the rest of Indonesia from there.

Music for shamanism, magic and curing. In Sumatra and across Kalimantan from west to east (and perhaps farther east into Sulawesi and Maluku), a form of shamanism is found that involves a journey into the mystical world to obtain medicine to cure an illness or distress (personal or communal), or to obtain the diagnosis necessary to effect a cure. Usually it is the shaman who makes the journey, or the shaman may send the soul of the patient; music is played to guide or accompany the traveller. The nature of the music differs from place to place: among the Petalangan in mainland Riau, it is drumming played by two musicians, one at either end of a long drum; among the Kanayatn in West Kalimantan and the Benuaq in East Kalimantan it is played on a gong-chime ensemble, to which the Dusun Deyah of South Kalimantan add a two-string plucked lute (kacapi); and among the Ot Danum in West and Central Kalimantan it is singing (timang) accompanied by hourglass drums. The unifying feature of this music is that it consists of many discrete pieces (such as melodies, songs, or drum-rhythms), each appropriate to a specific stage of the journey. The term for the shamanistic rites is often belian or a cognate.

In widely scattered regions of Indonesia, bamboo flutes have, in addition to their use in many forms of secular music, associations with magic, healing, and esoteric practices. In parts of the north coast of Irian Jaya, flutes are associated with men’s secret initiation rites; women traditionally may not play them or even see them. Among the Toraja in South Sulawesi, flute ensembles play for curing and to avert disease. In Sumatra (among, for example, the Minangkabau, Petalangan, and Toba), solo flutes are sometimes used to cast spells, particularly for love magic.

The Muslim music complex. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world, generally estimated at 85–90% of the nation’s total population. In Muslim communities all across the country, types of devotional, quasi-devotional, and secular performance involving music are found, exhibiting similar traits everywhere (here, ‘devotional’ music is that performed at explicitly religious gatherings, in the mosque or in a public space or private home). For the most part, these Muslim genres show little influence of local musical traditions.

Since at least the 1500s, there has been a strong component of Sufi mysticism in Indonesian Islam, particularly in rural areas, where it has often blended with indigenous and Hindu-Buddhist mystical and magical beliefs. Some forms of Muslim devotional music have clear links to Sufism; others may derive from other strains of popular Islam, probably again with Sufi elements. The very idea of devotional music (as distinguished from Qur’anic recitation or the recitation of poems in praise of Muhammad, both not considered as music by Muslim definition) belongs in Indonesia to popular Islam (if not Sufism) and is mistrusted by the orthodox. Clearly of Sufi origin are the use in devotional service of group singing and chanting of Arabic verbal and melodic formulae (usually called dikir or zikir), group singing of Arabic poems (qasidah), and the openness in these devotions to instrumental music (typically untuned percussion), dance, and ecstatic or trance states. These traits may be found individually or in combination; often their origin in Sufi practice is unacknowledged and perhaps not recognized.

The most common forms of Muslim devotional music in Indonesia make use of singing by a soloist and a chorus of men or women (but not both) singing in heterophonic unison. The singers often dance in sitting, kneeling or standing positions. The singing and dancing are often accompanied by a group of instrumentalists playing frame drums in interlocking rhythms, and melodic instruments are not present. Examples of such genres are salawatan, hadrah, and rudat or rodat in Java and Madura, dikie rabano in West Sumatra, butabuh in Lampung, and similar genres in Sulawesi and elsewhere. Poems in praise of Muhammad (the Burda of al-Busirī and the Mawlid of al-Barzanjī) may be recited to the accompaniment of frame drums (without dance). Samman, recorded in Aceh and Madura, reported from Halmahera and probably found in many other locations as well, reflects in its name its origin in practices of the Sammāniyya order of Sufism, an offshoot of Khalwatiyya introduced into northern Sumatra around 1800; it uses no drums, and its practitioners are likely to go into trance in the course of a performance.

Another devotional genre with clear links to Sufism is known in Indonesian as dabus (and variants of that term in local languages). All forms of Indonesian dabus involve (along with qasidah and dikir accompanied by frame drums) displays of invulnerability: dancers stab themselves with iron awls, but the faith and esoteric knowledge of the spiritual leader (khalifah or syeh) ensure that they are not harmed. In Halmahera, dabus is said by participants to derive from the practice of the Rifā‘iyya order (named after Aḥmad ibn ‘Alī al-Rifā‘ī, 1106–82 ce); in Sumatra, a formal connection to Rifā‘iyya is not reported, but the frame drums used are called rapa‘i (an Indonesian pronunciation of al-Rifā‘ī’s name). The West Javanese dabus groups studied by Vredenbregt (1973) were not Rifā‘iyya, but Qādiriyya.

Many of these devotional genres using frame drums or other percussion may also be performed as entertainment in secular contexts such as domestic festivals (weddings, circumcisions, inauguration of a new house), community celebrations, and presentations for tourists and other outsiders (including audiences for cassette recordings or government-sponsored competitions). Secular content may be mixed with religious on such occasions, and the mood and style of the performance are likely to be more worldly and virtuoso. Genres such as indang or salawat dulang in West Sumatra are sometimes said to send the performers into trance, suggesting the mystical quest for religious ecstasy, but more often the aim in such performances is mainly entertainment.

In Sumatra these performances may involve coordinated upper-body dance movements by a group of kneeling or sitting dancers; this may originate in Sufi practice or may have been taken up into it and elaborated. The apparent concentration of this dance practice in Sumatra suggests that it is a local element that has influenced Muslim music. Another instance of local influence is seen in salawatan groups such as one in Trenggalek, East Java (reported by I.M. Harjito), which uses frame drums but not the interlocking rhythms typical of them in much Muslim music. Instead, the drums provide a four-square rhythmic framework clearly imitating the gong-punctuation of Javanese gamelan music, while a Javanese two-headed barrel drum is added for rhythmic interest. The Central Javanese secular genre santiswaran transfers whole pieces from Javanese gamelan to an ensemble of singers and frame drums, plus a Javanese drum.

Secular music and dance featuring the gambus, a round-backed, plucked lute with a skin soundtable, is widespread in Indonesian Muslim communities. The instrument is popularly regarded as originating in the Middle East (scholars agree, pointing to the Yemeni qanbūs as the probable ancestor). For this reason, the gambus is generally perceived in Indonesia as intrinsically Muslim (‘an icon of Arabic culture’; Capwell, 1995), and it is thus acceptable to many Muslims who would ordinarily frown upon secular entertainment. Some of the music and dance associated with gambus is also thought to be Middle Eastern (e.g. the zapin or jepen dance). Gambus players usually sing while playing, and they are often backed by a group of small two-headed frame drums (usually with the Arabic name marwas) played in interlocking rhythms. In rural areas, the song texts typically have little or no Islamic content.

In cities, accompaniment of the zapin dance is often taken over by orchestras called orkes gambus, which replace the rural gambus with the wood-faced Middle-Eastern ‘ūd and add violins, keyboards and other instruments (for further information on this and other urban popular musics targeting a Muslim audience, see §VIII, 1 below).

The European music complex. The idiom and instruments of European music have spread through Indonesia in three forms: popular music, the music of military bands, and the music of the Christian church.

Initially, in the 19th century and before, the impact of this music was felt primarily among the relatively few Indonesians in close contact with Europeans: ‘native administrators’ and others wealthy enough to adopt elements of European life-style, Eurasians, soldiers in the colonial army, students (necessarily from well-connected families) in Dutch-language schools, and the small group of Indonesian Christians (consisting at that time mainly of Ambonese, Manadonese, and Toba Batak). In the 20th century, commercial recording, radio and television broadcasting, and the broader dissemination of Christianity have spread European music much more widely through the country. The impact is twofold: on the one hand, European music genres and musical idioms are often adopted wholesale, producing hymns, popular songs, and patriotic anthems (including the national anthem, Indonesia Raya) that are composed by Indonesians but are in their music essentially European. On the other hand, many hybrid forms have sprung up, combining elements of European and one or another form of Indonesian music.

In popular music, one such hybrid is kroncong (see §VIII, 1 below) or its South Sulawesi version, gitar los quin. Another is katreji, a genre of popular dance music in Maluku, using European dance forms such as polka and waltz (the name of the genre is an adaptation of ‘quadrille’). The instrumentation includes one (or more) violins, guitars (among them possibly a Hawaiian guitar), ukulele, and local drums, with performances featuring a person calling out the movements (Gieben, Heijnen, and Sapuletej, 1984, pp.95–6).

The solo acoustic guitar is ubiquitous in cities and towns. The basic instrument of regional lagu daerah (see §VIII, 1 below) and Western-model popular music, the guitar has also acquired, in some regions, repertories of strophic singing (usually with verses traded between male and female soloists). Often the melodies to which the verses are sung are in a minor tonality; this, like the song form itself, may be an instance of influence from the local music culture. One melodic strophe is repeated (typically without refrain or contrasting melody) throughout a song, which can continue for 20 to 30 minutes. The guitar accompaniment often consists of an ornamented version of the vocal line, without chordal support other than statement of tonic and dominant in the bass. A four-string, locally-made lute (jungga), modelled on and usually shaped like a guitar, is played for such songs in Sumba.

A different development is found in Irian Jaya, where string bands with numerous guitars, a gigantic two-string bass (laid out horizontally and struck or plucked with a stick), singers, and an assortment of local single-headed drums play in the ‘pan-Pacific pop’ style for yospan (or yosim-pancar) dancing, a genre that developed in the late 1960s and has swept the province.

It should be noted that the guitar does not seem in these areas to have supplanted a pre-existing lute. In Irian Jaya or southern Sumatra, there is no report of an earlier lute (except, in Sumatra, the gambus, which has a very different idiom from that of the guitar). In Sulawesi and Sumba earlier lutes do exist, but their music (like that of the gambus) is thoroughly unlike that of the guitar. It appears that the guitar has generated its own repertories without weakening others.

The electric guitar has been taken into at least one ensemble in which its music shows little or no European character (aside from the timbre of the instrument). This is the Cirebonese tarling ensemble, which is named for its featured instruments, gitar and suling (flute), and usually also includes Cirebonese gongs and drums; its idiom is essentially that of Cirebonese gamelan music transferred to this mixed instrumentation.

European wind instruments were introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch and, in North Sumatra, by German missionaries (Boonzajer Flaes, 1993; Herbert and Sarkissian, 1997). They were played for military purposes, in the household orchestras of wealthy landowners, and, in the late colonial period, in public stafmuziek performances for civilians. The musicians were mostly Indonesians or Eurasians, and through them the instruments moved out into Indonesian circles. In Batavia they gave rise to a hybrid tradition called tanjidor (from Portuguese tangedor, an instrumentalist) that still survives among the Betawi (the ethnically [mixed] Indonesians of the Jakarta region). The defining repertory of tanjidor is European marches and waltzes, but the ensemble also plays popular tunes, in a style sometimes showing the influence of 1920s and 30s jazz. Jazz influence is also heard in the lagu sayur repertory of the gambang kromong ensemble in Jakarta, which mixes Chinese, Sundanese, and European instruments. Slightly to the east of Jakarta, in the Karawang region, another kind of tanjidor is found, also playing marches and waltzes but supplementing them with Sundanese repertory sounding exactly like Sundanese music played on the instruments of a wind band. Both the Betawi and the Sundanese tanjidor accept non-European instruments: Sundanese drums and gongs and, in the case of some tanjidor west of Jakarta, a Chinese fiddle of the erhu type.

Bands called tanji or tanjidor are also found in South Sumatra around Palembang, in South Sulawesi around Ujung Pandang, and in West Kalimantan around Pontianak. The Pontianak variety nowadays plays marches, waltzes, and the popular music genre, dangdut. A South Sulawesi tanji heard by Music of Indonesia researchers in 1996 consisted of two trumpets, a cornet, a snare drum, and a bass drum with one cymbal attached on top. The cymbal was clashed with a metal pot lid and the heads of the snare drum were thick films (of the sort newspapers are printed from), while the repertory comprised pop tunes.

In North Sumatra, beginning in the second half of the 19th century, Lutheran missionaries from Germany promoted wind bands in Nias and among the Toba Batak. The bands are extinct in Nias but still common in North Sumatra, where they play for church services and at funerals and domestic festivals. Their music consists of Protestant hymns, Christmas carols, and exuberant gondang melodies from the repertory of the tuned drum ensemble.

In eastern Indonesia, 19th-century Dutch missionaries relied on bamboo transverse flutes rather than wind bands. Flute orchestras playing Western hymns in standard harmony are now common in Christian communities in Maluku, Nusa Tenggara Timur, North Sulawesi, and Irian Jaya. In some regions, from the 1860s onwards, bamboo ‘trumpets’ (korno or tenor) were added to these orchestras. In North Sulawesi bamboo imitations of other European brass instruments succeeded the korno, resulting in a full ‘bamboo brass band’. Subsequently the bamboo imitations were replaced in many ensembles with locally-made zinc or copper versions (Boonzajer Flaes, 1992 and 1993). The repertory and idiom of the North Sulawesi bands are thoroughly European; a local component of the repertory (comparable to the Toba gondang tunes in North Sumatra) is not found. In Madura, ngik-ngok ensembles including zinc horns play music of Madurese, not European type.

Christian hymns (along with secular popular music) have also been powerful disseminators of Western ideas of tuning, scale, harmony, melodic form, and syntax. It should be noted, however, that outside of trained church choirs reading notation, harmony tends to be rudimentary, rarely going beyond parallel 3rds. It is tempting to look for the source of the homophonic style of central Flores and Kalimantan non-church singing in church music, but in fact the non-church singing is harmonically freer and more vivid than the church style. It is likely that some traditions of part-singing pre-date church influence and furthermore that these have in some cases mixed with church styles.


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2. History.

  • Dr Sumarsam

On the basis of its contact with foreign cultures, Indonesian history can be divided into three somewhat overlapping historical periods: the contact with Hinduism/Buddhism (1st–14th century), the contact with Islam (15th century onwards), and the contact with Western cultures (16th century onwards). Indonesian music cultures reflect a musical heritage that is the product not only of interaction between indigenous and foreign cultural forces, but also of contact among Indonesian ethnic groups. Considering this diversity, it is to be expected that heterogeneity is the salient feature of Indonesian music.

(i) Pre-colonial.

Trade has long been a vehicle for Indonesians to have contact among themselves and with peoples from neighbouring areas. The rise of commerce at the beginning of the Christian era intensified Indonesia’s intra- and inter-regional relationships. Contact with Indian culture was a major feature of this period, resulting in the Hinduization of many Indonesian islands and the rise of a number of Hinduized Indonesian empires after the 5th century. For example, the 7th-century Sriwijaya empire of Sumatra, besides being an important political and mercantile centre in the archipelago, was also known as a centre of Buddhism. In the absence of evidence, it is to be assumed that some forms of Buddhist music were practised there. Much pictorial evidence of music on temple walls (for example on the 9th-century Buddhist monument Borobudur) affords tantalizing glimpses of musical life (in the case of Borobudur, of the ancient Central Javanese Mataram empire). However, the absence of collaborative evidence does not allow definite conclusions about the music actually practised there.

As the centre of power moved to East Java (10th–15th centuries), more is revealed about the impact of Indian culture on Javanese religion and literature, including the creation of kakawin sung-poetry, a localized form of Indian poetry. In spite of the strength of the Hinduization of Indonesia, however, traces of Indian music in Indonesian music traditions are limited. Instead, this period is characterized by musical developments with distinctive and localized Indonesian characteristics.

Among the many kinds of musical instruments, the bronze gong has had an important role in Indonesian music; indeed, the onomatopoeic word ‘gong’ may be of Javanese origin. However, lack of evidence has obscured the origins of the bronze gong. It is well known that the Bronze drum was the earliest bronze instrument in South-east Asia, originating from the Dong-son culture in Vietnam long before the Christian era. When it arrived in the Indonesian islands, however, its musical function diminished, and it changed to become a ritual object.

Early evidence of gongs of different sizes can be found in drawings on the walls of 14th-century East Javanese temples. In some old Javanese literature, the gong is often mentioned as part of small ensembles. Some literature dating from the 12th to 16th centuries – such as the Bharatayuda, Wretasancaya, and Wangbang Wideya – mention small gongs in ensembles for accompanying wayang puppet performance. Other instruments in these ensembles included percussion instruments (salunding metallophones and kemanak, bronze banana-shaped idiophones) and flutes. Such soft-sounding ensembles, often with singing and sometimes with string instruments, were considered ‘indoor’ ensembles, while loud processional ensembles consisting of gongs and other percussion instruments (sometimes with wind instruments) were considered ‘outdoor’ ensembles.

Eventually, gongs became important symbols of power and wealth among Javanese rulers. An early traveller to Java in 1605 describes processional music played before the ruler of Banten (West Java), which consisted of 10 to 12 ‘copper pans’. The traveller also pointed out that the principal music of the ruler consisted of huge ‘pans’. A crude drawing by the Dutch engraver of the royal palace of Banten in 1596 confirms the existence of such an ensemble, consisting of four large hanging gongs and two sets of four gong kettles. Another drawing of a similar ensemble in Tuban (East Java) in 1599 shows it being used to accompany an equestrian tournament.

Subsequently, the gong ensemble developed into a more elaborate orchestra. In the mid-17th century, the Dutch trading ambassador to the Mataram kingdom, Rijklef van Goens, describes a larger gong ensemble in the Mataram court, consisting of 20 to 30 or even 50 small and large gongs. The ensemble’s function was to accompany the appearance of the king, processions, equestrian tournaments, and perhaps also battle. Van Goens also mentions an ensemble consisting of many small gongs, flute, and string instruments: there is a possibility it may have been an early version of the present-day gamelan ensemble.

Beginning in the 12th century, Java became one of the most important political and mercantile centres in the region. Particularly important for this discussion is the 14th-century Hindu-Javanese Majapahit kingdom, whose hegemonic territory included many Indonesian islands. The contact of the centre of Java with South Kalimantan in this period resulted in the introduction of Javanese gamelan, dance, and wayang performance there. There was also intensive contact between Java and Bali, due to the expansion of Java’s centre and the flight of Hinduized Javanese to Bali after the encroachment of Islam into Java in the 15th century. There are some instruments depicted on the walls of the 14th-century Panataran temple in East Java that, while their traces can no longer be found in Java, still exist in Bali. It has been suggested that some contemporary Balinese ensembles (including gamelan salunding and the gambuh ensemble for the dance drama of the same name) originated in Java, although supporting evidence is hard to find. Whatever musics were transferred to Bali from Java were made to fit with local tastes.

Java has long been known for its gong manufacturing. A 16th-century traveller reported that gongs from Java were exported to other Indonesian islands, including Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, and the Lesser Sunda islands. In these locations (as in Java) the gong was treated as a valuable commodity, a symbol of wealth and power. However, local instruments with more accessible materials of construction were used more frequently in these islands.

Ensembles with bronze instruments in other islands did not develop to the degree of the sophistication of Javanese and Balinese gamelan. Generally, when gongs are used in such ensembles, a set of small gongs provides an short melodic ostinato, accompanied by other instruments. The Dutch traveller Francois Valentijn, who spent nine years in Ambon in the late 17th century, witnessed such an ensemble in Maluku. In a brief report he mentions the tataboang (a set of five or six small gongs) playing in a bar of 16 beats, punctuated by a larger gong every half-bar with the accompaniment of tifa (drum). He also mentions a dance accompanied by gong and rebana (a frame drum associated with Islam), the use of the latter instrument indicating some contact between the islands and Islam.

The spread of Islam and the establishment of Islamic states throughout Indonesia from the 15th century onwards made possible the introduction and localization of Islamic music. In many instances, the rebana was incorporated. The dominance of Sufism in the early Islamization of Indonesia resulted in a positive stance towards music (according to Sufism, music could be used as conduit to communicate with God).

It should be noted that the establishment of the influential Islamic harbour kingdoms in Mallaca in the 15th century brought Sumatra and islands in its vicinity under the suzerainty of Malay rulers. This resulted in the adaptation of Malay dances and music in Sumatra, including the establishment of nobat, a court ensemble, in a number of Sumatran courts. Consisting chiefly of wind instruments (nafiri and sarunai) and drums, nobat, according to the early 17th-century Sejarah Melayu (‘Malay Annals’), was first constituted in Sumatra by the Queen of Bintan.

(ii) Colonial.

In many traditional cultures, the introduction of European music into the archipelago brought about syncretic dynamism in musical repertories, ensembles, and ideologies for centuries to come. This can be seen either as the result of a European ‘invasion’ or as an inevitable outcome of colonial Indonesian society. In some instances, European culture had no apparent impact on Indonesian music. For example, because of geographical isolation, indigenous musics in many small communities in upland areas and in remote islands retained their indigenous features. In the period under discussion, Islamic music continued to expand, interacting with regional musics and developing a variety of hybrid ensembles and repertories.

During the arrival of Western cultures, consisting of the periods of trade domination (16th–19th centuries) and colonization (19th–early 20th centuries), three types of Western music were introduced in the archipelago: church, secular, and military. European missionaries first introduced church music in the eastern Indonesian islands in the 16th century, and later in other islands. Besides serving the needs of Europeans, church music was used to convert inhabitants, although Christianity never attained a stronghold in the archipelago.

Along with church music, Europeans also brought secular music with them. Portuguese and later Dutch overlords and colonial officials in the 17th to 19th centuries retained their own slave musicians who performed European folk and art music repertories on European string and wind instruments. To secure their trade and political domination, traders (later colonizers) brought military forces, and with them, European-style military bands.

Eventually European secular and military music played important roles in the lives of both Europeans and Indonesian aristocracy. For example, in Batavia (now Jakarta) and its vicinity, music was ubiquitous in European households as well as in concert halls, clubs, and theatres. In the courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, European music became an integral part of Javanese court life, complementing the existing gamelan music. It not only accompanied European social dancing when the king held receptions for his European guests, but was also played in other court ceremonies, frequently simultaneously or in alternation with gamelan.

Among the indigenized Western musics, the most popular and long-lasting genre is kroncong, which traces its development back to the introduction of Portuguese music in the 16th century (see §VIII, 1 below). Initially consisting chiefly of string instruments, the kroncong ensemble and its music spread throughout many Indonesian cities, its popularity partly a result of its incorporation of regional musical styles.

Indigenized forms of Western musical ensembles appear in various pockets of the archipelago. In Sumatra, a brass band has featured in various rites-of-passage in the Batak Christian community. Among the Minahasans of Sulawesi, the European brass band has been adopted and evolved through various phases, manifesting itself in a variety of ensembles in which bamboo instruments replace some of the original brass instruments. Among the Betawi of West Java, the tanjidor ensemble is also an adaptation of the European brass band, incorporating Sundanese gamelan instruments. Similarly, the bheru ensemble (also known as ngik-ngok) in the island of Madura uses a mixture of locally-made European brass instruments and snare drums with a few indigenous Madurese instruments. In yet another example, the prajuritan military music of the Yogyakarta court is a combination of European drums and fifes with Javanese cymbals, wind instruments, drums, and gongs. In the same court, European drums and wind instruments join the gamelan ensemble in accompanying several court dances.

In some instances, colonialism channelled the development of indigenous music in certain directions. For example, in order to ‘compete’ with colonial might, Javanese court musicians created gamelan ensembles with larger and more numerous instruments. In Bali, through diminishing the power of the Balinese aristocracy, colonialism contributed to the democratization of gamelan music. Consequently, a wealth of new dances and musical forms emerged, including the well-known gamelan gong kebyar.

Dutch scholar-officials, residing in Indonesia in the 19th and early 20th centuries, initiated the formal study of Indonesian culture and music. They also introduced Indonesian intellectuals to European modes of thought. In Java, this exposure to European thinking led the Javanese élite to consider gamelan as ‘high’ culture that was compatible with European art music. Notation for gamelan, which was introduced in the late 19th century and modelled after Western notation, reinforced this view.

At the turn of the 20th century, the colonial government introduced Western music lessons in Dutch schools attended by Dutch children and children of the Indonesian élite. In particular, the teaching of Western music at schools for Indonesian teachers contributed significantly to its proliferation. Concurrently, other Western music genres, popular and classical, were introduced through films, music books, and private lessons.

(iii) Post-colonial.

The rise of nationalism at the beginning of the 20th century led to the independence of Indonesia from the Dutch in the late 1940s. Indonesian nationalists were keenly aware that hundreds of ethnic groups, each with their distinctive cultural traditions, would have to be united under the newly-constructed Indonesian nation-state. The quest for national unity and identity was of critical importance, and its impact was reflected in music. On the one hand, nationalism inspired Indonesians to recognize the role played by regional musics in Indonesia’s identity. On the other hand, Western music, which had long been known by most Indonesians (regardless of their ethnic backgrounds), played an important role in this search for national identity. The creation of many patriotic songs (including the national anthem) in Western musical style was in many senses a natural outgrowth of the national awakening.

Indonesians were caught between the desire to identify themselves with regional arts and the need to create a unified pan-Indonesian art. Responding to this dilemma, Indonesian nationalists and intellectuals promoted various ideas, ranging from the notion that national art should consist of the pinnacle of regional music (namely Javanese court gamelan) to the suggestion that Indonesia’s national music should be a form of indigenized Western music, such as kroncong. The definition and redefinition of what constitutes ‘national’ music continues to influence government policy in the construction of Indonesia’s national image through the performing arts.

It was with the backdrop of this dilemma that state-sponsored conservatories and academies of Western and traditional Indonesian music were founded in Java and Bali in the 1950s and 60s (similar schools were founded in Sumatra and Sulawesi in the 70s). Each school of traditional music focusses on the music of the region where the school is located. Yet, ideally, the establishment of the schools was also intended to foster the creation of Indonesian ‘national’ music.

Aside from the continuing study of traditional musics, in the 1970s some of the faculty members and students of the schools became the proponents of new music composed on their regional instruments. Along with other Indonesian composers, who received training in the West or in Indonesia, they have performed this music primarily in government-sponsored festivals.

Meanwhile, forms of indigenized Western popular music have continued to increase, despite its restriction in the early period of Indonesian independence. The development of inexpensive audio-cassette recording in the late 1960s has led to greater dissemination of these musics. In addition, new genres have been born, such as the regionally-based Sundanese jaipongan and dangdut (a hybrid of Western rock and Indian film music; see §VIII, 1(v) below). The forces of nationalism, government policy and tourism also bring about new performance contexts, which in turn inevitably shape the aesthetic and the content of music.


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  • E. Scott: An Exact Discovrse of the Subtilties, Fashishions, Pollicies, Religion and Ceremonies of the East Indians, as well Chyneses as Iauans, There Abyding and Dweling (London, 1606/R)
  • F. Valentijn: Oud en Nieuw Oost Indien, 2 (Dordrecht, 1724–6)
  • R. van Goens: ‘Reijsbeschrijving van den weg uijt Samarang nae De Konincklijke Hoofdplaets Mataram Mitsgaders de Zeeden, Gewoonten ende Regeringe van den Sousouhounan Groot Machtichste Koningk van’t Eijlant Java’, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indie, 4 (1856), 307–67
  • G.P. Rouffaer and J.W.Ijzerman, eds.: De Eerste Schipvaart der Nederlanders naar Oost-Indie onder Cornelis de Houtman, 1595–1597, 1 (The Hague, 1915–19)
  • J. Kunst: De toonkunst van Java (The Hague, 1934; Eng. trans., rev. 2/1949as Music in Java, enlarged 3/1973by E.L. Heins)
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  • S. Hardjana, ed.: Enam tahun Pekan Komponis Muda (1979–1985) [Six years of the Young Composers Festival] (Jakarta, 1986)
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  • I. Skog: North Borneo Gongs and the Javanese Gamelan: Studies in Southeast Asian Gong Traditions (Stockholm, 1993)
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  • P. Yampolsky: ‘Forces for Change in the Regional Performing Arts of Indonesia’, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, 151 (1995), 700–25
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  • P. Yampolsky: disc notes, Music of Indonesia 14: Lombok, Kalimantan, Banyumas – Little-known Forms of Gamelan and Wayang, Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40441 (1997)
  • P. Yampolsky: disc notes, Music of Indonesia 19: Music of Maluku – Halmahera, Buru, Kei, Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40476 (1997)

3. Instruments.

  • Philip Yampolsky

The vast and diverse instrumentarium in Indonesia is particularly strong in percussion and flutes, but most of the main categories of instruments are well represented. Trumpets and keyboards are rare in non-European form, while only one harp is reported, and lyres and bagpipes are wholly absent.

The principal surveys and catalogues covering a wide geographical range within Indonesia are Sachs (2/1923/R), Huyser (1928–9), Balfoort (1930–31), Halusa (1938), Ijzerdraat (1954), and Kartomi (1985). Studies with a narrower geographical focus include Kunst’s valuable summary of literary and iconographic sources on Javanese instruments before the coming of Islam (1927, 2/1968); Kaudern (1927), focussing on Central and North Sulawesi; Kunst on Nias (1939), Flores (1942), and Irian Jaya (1967); Shelford (1904) and Grabowsky (1905) on parts of Borneo; and Brandts Buys and Brandts Buys-van Zijp on Madura (1928) and on noisemakers and other folk instruments of Java (1924–33 and 1925–6). Kunst’s Nias book (1939) has particularly useful maps showing the distribution of certain instruments throughout the archipelago.

(i) Idiophones.

Bronze drums were introduced into Indonesia from the Dongson culture of northern Vietnam during the last few centuries bce, perhaps around 200bce (Bellwood, 1985, 2/1997). The drums were played at festivities and rituals. Examples have been found in many parts of the archipelago, particularly in Java, Sumatra and southern Maluku; local manufacture had begun in Bali by the first two centuries ce. In Alor, small forms of these drums were in use in to the 20th century; some (if not all) were manufactured in Gresik, East Java.

Hood (1980) has speculated that the practice of playing kettle-gongs in sets (gong-chimes) derives from the ancient use of bronze drums in the same manner. Be that as it may, gong-chimes with bossed gongs are common in most parts of Indonesia except Irian Jaya. In some cases the gongs are played melodically, whereas in others they provide a repeating rhythmic pattern (see §1(iii)(b) above). The gongs hang from a crossbar, rest in frames, or are hand-held. They are often played in ensembles with larger hanging gongs or drums or both; non-metallic melodic instruments may be added. The famous gamelan orchestras of Java and Bali (also Lombok and South Kalimantan) are the most elaborate Indonesian forms of gong-chime ensemble. In contrast to bossed gongs, flat-gong sets are very rare in Indonesia; perhaps the only example is the gerantung bosi of the Pakpak in North Sumatra.

While instruments with wooden bamboo keys are widespread in Indonesia, keyed metallophones occur almost without exception only in gamelan cultures and are thus restricted to Java, Bali, and their cultural extensions. (In most cases they are played only in gamelan, though in Bali they may also be played on their own in duos or quartets.) There are two types of keyed metallophone: the saron type, with keys resting on cushions over a trough resonator, and the gendèr type, with ‘floating’ keys strung on cords over tube resonators. Instruments of the gendèr type but with only one or two keys suspended over a pot or box resonator are used as gong-substitutes in Java. Cymbals and various small metal percussion instruments are also found mainly in gamelan cultures; an exception is the European iron triangle, which occurs in certain violin-led ensembles (gandrung Banyuwangi in East Java; katreji in Maluku) it is also reported in early kroncong (see §VIII, 1 below).

Wooden and bamboo xylophones are common as solo instruments for private amusement, in xylophone ensembles (Bali, Banyumas), and as members of mixed ensembles with no dominant instrument-type (e.g. gambang kromong in the Jakarta region; Central Javanese gamelan; the Kenyah jatung utang ensemble along with plucked lute; and the Toba Batak gondang hasapi).

Aside from bamboo xylophones, bamboo tubes are struck together for agricultural ritual music (as in senggayung in West Kalimantan), stamped against the ground or other hard surface, and struck with beaters in interlocking rhythms by groups patrolling neighbourhoods at night. The Angklung of Java and Bali is a wooden frame in which two or more bamboo tubes are loosely mounted so as to sound when the frame is shaken; originally non-melodic in function, sets of tuned angklung are now used to play melodies in European idiom (see also §V, 1(ii)(b) below).

Wooden and bamboo ‘slit-drums’ or ‘slit gongs’ are used as signalling instruments, calling people together or sounding an alarm; in Central Javanese gamelan music they are also used to give cues to dancers. Wooden mortars are struck with wooden pestles in interlocking rhythms by women pounding rice or other foodstuffs; they may also be played in virtuoso manner by men in agricultural rites or harvest celebrations (see Lesung). A lithophone played in this way is reported among the Minangkabau. Jew’s harps are found nearly everywhere in bamboo or metal varieties. In Bali and Lombok there are jew’s harp ensembles (plus flute and drums), but for the most part they are played informally. A highly unusual double jew’s harp, with two tongues side-by-side, their tips pointing at each other, is reported for the Kenyah Lepo’ Ma’ut of East Kalimantan by Lawing (1999), who unfortunately does not describe how it is played.

(ii) Membranophones.

The three most common varieties are double-headed drums, often with interlaced heads and conical-, cylindrical-, bellied-, or hourglass-shaped exteriors, while the interior cavity may match the exterior or may have an hourglass shape; single-headed cylindrical, hourglass-shaped or conical drums (the latter sometimes with a flare at the open end); and round frame drums with one or two heads (one is more common).

The double-headed drum-type is prevalent from Sumatra to as far east as Sulawesi and Sumbawa. Drums of this type are the principal variety played with gamelan, where they are usually positioned horizontally and played on both heads with complex technique. In some non-gamelan cultures (e.g. Petalangan in mainland Riau and Toraja in South Sulawesi) they may have two players, one for each head. The single-headed type is less common in western and central Indonesia, though by no means rare (found, for example, in Nias, Mentawai, interior Kalimantan, and West Java); east of Sulawesi and Sumbawa it is the predominant form. In Maluku and Irian Jaya it is often called tifa or a cognate name. The frame-drum type, found all over the country, is closely associated with Islam and probably originated in the Middle East; it is often called rebana. Also associated with Islam (though probably originating in China) is the bedug, usually a large barrel drum with nailed or pegged heads; it is present outside most mosques and is used to announce prayer times.

Drums take a wide range of roles in Indonesia. They dominate certain shamanic ritual musics, during which strings of discrete rhythmic patterns are played on them; in drum-ensembles (typically consisting of frame drums) intricate interlocking rhythms are featured, either alone or accompanying voice. They often provide a beat or simple phrase-marking accompaniment for other instruments and voices (this is a common role for tifa-type drums in Maluku and Irian Jaya) or play semi-autonomous parts, adding rhythmic and timbral interest to melodic lines (as in much gamelan music). In certain ensembles among Toba Batak and other North Sumatran groups, a set of tuned drums of the double-headed type carries the principal melody (doubled by a double reed aerophone); there is also an ensemble of tuned frame drums in Lombok that imitates the interplay of gamelan instruments.

(iii) Aerophones.

Bamboo or wooden flutes of one form or another are found almost everywhere in Indonesia. Probably the most widespread is the end-blown ‘ring flute’ (an external-duct flute with an attached ring at the blowing end); this is especially common in Java, Bali, and Sulawesi. Open, ‘edge-blown’ flutes are played mainly in Sumatra. Internal-duct flutes and ring-stop and screen-stop flutes are found in Sumatra, Sulawesi, and elsewhere, though not often in Java and Bali. All these varieties are often played using the technique of circular breathing. Other flutes of scattered or restricted distribution (most of them now quite rare) are nose flutes, piston or slide flutes, central-hole flutes, and the double- and triple-flutes of central Flores. Panpipes are reported in Irian Jaya, Flores, Timor, and West Java.

Flutes are played most commonly as solo, self-delectative instruments. In West Sumatra and mainland Riau they may also accompany narrative and lyric singing, and they also figure in some Javanese and Balinese gamelan and in other mixed ensembles (e.g. gambang kromong, gondang hasapi, gambuh in Bali, the modern karungut ensemble of Central Kalimantan, tarling in Cirebon, and togal in Halmahera). Among ensembles and genres dominated by flutes, some featuring long flutes (70 cm or longer) may be noted: funeral music of the Kajang of South Sulawesi, for two flutes and two singers; Toraja curing music for four or more flutes; and sacred music for paired flutes on the north coast of Irian Jaya. Other ensembles dominated by (shorter) flutes are the Balinese gong suling, a gamelan imitation, and flute bands established by Christian missionaries in eastern Indonesia. Playing hymns and other tunes in European idiom, these flute bands consist mainly of transverse flutes; for bass tones they may include the ‘blown gong’ described below.

Double-reed conical-bore aerophones are common in northern Sumatra and the Riau islands, in the southern tier from Java to Sumbawa and in South Sulawesi; elsewhere they are rare, though they may occasionally be found in music for martial arts dance (silat, pencak) or in the royal music of local sultanates. There are solo, duo, and vocal-accompaniment uses for the preret in Lombok, but mostly these instruments play in mixed ensembles (e.g ajeng gamelan in West Java, gondang sabangunan and other North Sumatran ensembles, and sronen in Madura).

Single-reed aerophones are more widespread. Clarinets made from rice-stalks, often amplified by a funnel of wound leaf, are found wherever rice is grown. Bamboo and wooden clarinets are reported from Nias, Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Central Java, the islands of Nusa Tenggara, and Kei; some of these are double-clarinets. Unlike the double-reed instruments, the clarinets play mainly solo, in informal contexts, with some exceptions: the Toba Batak sarune na met-met, which plays with gondang hasapi, and the Central Javanese puwi-puwi, which plays in the prajurit music of the Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta.

A mouth-organ consisting of free-reed pipes and an air-chamber was formerly common among Dayak in Kalimantan but is becoming rare; this instrument is pictured in the reliefs on the 9th-century temple at Borobudur. Accordions are a 20th-century addition to Melayu dance-music ensembles; harmoniums, now obsolete, were used in both Christian music and a form of Muslim secular music (orkes harmonium) in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The ‘blown gong’, sometimes used as a gong substitute in Javanese village gamelans and found as well in flute bands in eastern Indonesia, consists of a long, thin, open pipe without fingerholes, which is partially inserted into a larger stopped tube; a stream of air, blown (or hummed) through the smaller tube, causes the air in the larger tube to vibrate. The ‘bamboo tuning fork’ (duri-dana, rere) is an unusual struck aerophone found in the widely separated locations of Nias, Sulawesi, and Sumbawa (for further information on the duri-dana of Nias, see §VI, 4(i) below).

European-style wind bands, sometimes mixed with Indonesian instruments, are found in several regions (see §1(iii)(b) above). All have a European repertory (marches, waltzes, and pop tunes, or, in Christian communities, hymns) and some also play band arrangements of local repertory. In North Sulawesi, local imitations of trumpets, trombones, tubas, etc. have been made out of bamboo, zinc, or copper. Aside from these wind bands, conch trumpets and wooden and bamboo trumpets, end-blown and side-blown, are found almost exclusively in eastern Indonesia (Maluku and Irian Jaya), used mainly for signalling and for ceremonial purposes.

(iv) Chordophones.

A class of instruments sometimes called boat-lutes (after their shallow, flat-, or slightly round-bottomed resonators, often with a prow-like point) is found in the northern tier from Sumatra to Sulawesi and also in the eastern Nusa Tenggara islands. Typically these instruments have two strings, though some have more; they have wooden soundboards, and their resonators may be closed or open at the back. Many of the names of these lutes are cognate (hasapi, kacapi, katapi, kulcapi, kanjapi, konyahpi’, sapi, sapé′, sampeq), though some (belikan, jungga) come from different roots. The Sumatran varieties and some of the Kalimantan ones have no frets, whereas the old Kayan sapé′ from Central Borneo has scalloped frets carved out of the neck, and the Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara forms have (in common with the Philippine kudyapi) high finger-posts carved integrally from the neck and soundboard. These various lutes often play in mixed ensembles; one (or in South Sulawesi, two or more) may accompany solo narrative and lyric singing; and among Kenyah in Kalimantan there is a genre of solo and duo instrumental playing for dance.

A second class of plucked lutes is commonly called Gambus. The instrument is believed to derive from the qanbūs of Hadhramaut (Yemen). Though it has no religious associations in Indonesia, it is considered an essentially Muslim instrument and is found in Muslim communities throughout the country. Although there are many variant forms, the gambus typically has six or seven strings, a skin soundtable, a pear-shaped resonator and a pegbox bent back from the plane of the neck. The instrument accompanies lyric singing and social dance, usually in an ensemble with several frame drums. Instruments modelled on the Middle Eastern ‘ūd are sometimes substituted for gambus.

European plucked lutes are thought to have first come to Indonesia with Portuguese sailors and merchants in the 16th century. Voice- or violin-led string bands have developed using guitars and other European plucked lutes or local approximations of them (banjo, ukulele, mandolin, pizzicato cello, string bass) for rhythmic and harmonic support. Examples are kroncong (Jakarta), gitar los quin (Ujung Pandang), Ambonese string bands and dance-ensembles such as those for yospan (Irian Jaya), togal (Maluku), and bidu (Timor). The musical idiom often mixes European and local elements. Hawaiian guitars may be added to some of these ensembles (e.g. kroncong and Ambonese bands). As described in §1 above, the acoustic guitar accompanies both popular (Western-style) songs and strophic solo singing in local languages. Electric guitars are used in popular music bands playing pop Indonesia, rock, and dangdut.

Spike fiddles are prominent in Sumatra (particularly the northern half), Java, Bali, Central and South Kalimantan, and Sulawesi. Violins on the European model are common among Melayu and affiliated groups, particularly in northern Sumatra, Riau, and in coastal settlements in Kalimantan; they are also important among the Bugis (in South Sulawesi), in Bima (eastern Sumbawa), Timor, and northern Maluku. The spike fiddle seems primarily to accompany narrative and lyric singing, though it also figures in Javanese, Sundanese, and some Balinese gamelan, and in the mixed karungut ensemble of Central Kalimantan. The violin accompanies narrative and lyric singing (rabab pasisie selatan in West Sumatra; biola rawa Mbojo in eastern Sumbawa; biola Aceh) and plays in many mixed ensembles (e.g. gandrung Banyuwangi, the Melayu ronggeng ensemble, various Bugis ensembles and string bands), though never in gamelan. Spike fiddles of another type, the Chinese form with the bow passing between the strings, are found only in the mixed Chinese-Sundanese gambang kromong ensemble in and around Jakarta (and its Chinese-Javanese offshoot in Semarang).

Bamboo tube zithers are common throughout the archipelago. Usually they have only a few strings and are plucked or struck in simple repeating patterns as accompaniment to singing or other instruments, but on Roti in eastern Nusa Tenggara a fully melodic variety, the sasandu, has developed, which may accompany singing or may play pieces from the repertory of the local gong-chime ensemble, along with a single small drum.

In Sunda the board zither kacapi acompanies narrative and lyrical singing, sometimes along with flute or spike fiddle. The Central Javanese board zithers, celempung and siter, are optional members of the gamelan; they also form the nucleus of the itinerant siteran ensemble, which plays the repertory and imitates the texture of gamelan. A board zither said to be a flattened-out version of a tube zither is reported among the Kenyah Lepo’ Ma’ut of East Kalimantan (Lawing, 1999). A keyed board zither, with strings stopped by bars like those of a manual typewriter, is occasionally found among the Bugis and the Minangkabau; the instrument is modelled on the Japanese taishō-goto. Stick zithers, now rare, were prominent in Sulawesi in earlier times and are reported from Sumba and Maluku; they are pictured on Borobudur but are now unknown west of Sulawesi and Sumba. Ground zithers have been reported (as rarities) among the Pakpak in Northern Sumatra and in Java (Brandt Buys and Brandt Buys-van Zijp, 1932), and from Muna and the Tolaki in south-east Sulawesi.

There are harps on Borobudur, but only one has been reported in the 20th century: the four- or five-string engkeratong of the Iban of Borneo (Shelford, 1904).


  • R. Shelford: ‘An Illustrated Catalogue of the Ethnographical Collection of the Sarawak Museum, i: Musical Instruments’, Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, no.40 (1904), 1–59
  • F. Grabowsky: ‘Musikinstrumente der Dajaken Südost-Borneos’, Globus, 37/7 (1905), 102–5
  • C. Sachs: Die Musikinstrumente Indiens und Indonesiens (Berlin and Leipzig, 2/1923/R)
  • J. Brandts Buys and A. Brandts Buys-van Zijp: ‘Snorrepijperijen’, Djawa, 4 (1924), 18–28; 6 (1926), 328–32; 11(1931), 133–46; 12(1932), 50–70; 13(1933), 205–32, 341–71
  • J. Brandts Buys and A. Brandts Buys-van Zijp: ‘Toeters en piepers’, Djawa, 5 (1925), 311–19; 6 (1926), 27–31, 76–82, 318–28
  • W. Kaudern: Ethnographical Studies in Celebes: Results of the Author’s Expedition to Celebes 1917–1920, iii: Musical Instruments in Celebes (Göteborg, 1927)
  • J. Kunst and R. Goris: Hindoe-Javaansche muziekinstrumenten (Batavia, 1927; Eng. trans., 1963, rev. 2/1968as Hindu-Javanese Musical Instruments)
  • J. Brandts Buys and A. Brandts Buys-van Zijp: De toonkunst bij de Madoereezen (Weltevreden, 1928)
  • J. Huyser: ‘Indonesische muziekinstrumenten’, Nederlandsch-Indië Oud en Nieuw, 13 (1928–9), 235–47
  • D. Balfoort: ‘De indonesische instrumenten in het muziekhistorisch museum Scheurleer te ’s-Gravenhage’, Nederlandsch-Indië Oud en Nieuw, 15 (1930–31), 33–43, 153–7, 244–7, 307–19
  • K. Halusa: ‘De musicologische verzameling’, Jaarboek van het Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, 6 (1938), 167–227
  • J. Brandts Buys and A. Brandts Buys-van Zijp: ‘Omtrent de rebab’, Djawa, 19 (1939), 368–78
  • J. Kunst: Music in Nias (Leiden, 1939)
  • J. Kunst: Music in Flores (Leiden, 1942)
  • T. Norlind: ‘Die indonesischen Gambus-Instrumente’, Ethnos, 18/3–4 (1953), 143–54
  • B. Ijzerdraat: Bentara senisuara Indonesia [Marshals of the Indonesian art of sound] (Jakarta, 1954)
  • J. Kunst: Music in New Guinea (The Hague, 1967)
  • R. Schefold: ‘Schlitztrommeln und trommelsprache in Mentawai’, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 98 (1973), 36–72
  • M. Hood: The Evolution of Javanese, i: Music of the Roaring Sea (Wilhelmshaven, 1980)
  • P. Bellwood: Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago (Honolulu, 1985, 2/1997)
  • M. Kartomi: Musical Instruments of Indonesia (Melbourne, 1985)
  • A. Bernet Kempers: The Kettledrums of Southeast Asia (Rotterdam, 1988)
  • D. Lawing: ‘Lagu-lagu dan alat musik Dayak Kenyah Leppo’ Ma’ut’ [Melodies and musical instruments of the Kenyah Leppo’ Ma’ut Dayak], Kebudayaan dan pelestarian alam: penelitian interdisipliner di pedalaman Kalimantan, ed. C. Eghenter and B. Sellato (Jakarta, 1999), 505–21

II. Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa

1. Bali.

  • Lisa Gold
(i) Introduction.

The island of Bali is home to one of the last remaining Hindu cultures that once were widespread in the Indonesian archipelago. Although small (5620 km², population almost 3 million) and close to Java, Bali maintains a strong cultural identity. Nine distinct regions, roughly based on former kingdoms, have fostered the development of many distinct musical traditions and cultural practices due to geographic and political boundaries. The predominent religion, Hindu-Dharma Bali, or Agama Tirtha (holy-water religion), practised by approximately 90% of the Balinese population, is a synthesis of indigenous animistic religion with Saivite-Buddhist traditions of India, which mostly reached Bali via Java. These links are demonstrated by the many languages and literary traditions kept alive in performing arts. Gunung Agung, the largest volcano on the island, is considered the Indian seat of the gods, Mahameru, transported to Bali. The four cardinal directions are orientated towards and away from the spiritually powerful mountain, determining the placement of all ritual activities, including music and dance.

Minority groups include the Sasak, who migrated from the neighbouring island of Lombok and, for the most part, practise a form of Islam. Many live in eastern Bali (which has had the most contact with Lombok, beginning in the 1700s) and maintain many musical practices such as the use of the double-reed aerophone, preret, and wayang Sasak (shadow puppetry accompanied by a bamboo flute ensemble). There is also a substantial Chinese population.

Apart from Hindu-Dharma Bali, other religions include forms of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. Followers of these faiths live completely divorced from Balinese Hindu culture and usually live in individual communities. There is also a substantial Chinese population that practises Confucianism. The Indonesian government’s pancasila policy recognizes only monotheistic religions, thus forcing Balinese Hindus to alter their views on the Hindi Pantheon and marginalizing other religions (such as Confucianism, which has no deity).

The performing arts are an indispensable component of Balinese religious rituals and are promoted, supported, and guarded by Indonesian and Balinese government institutions. Reinforced by the large numbers of tourists they attract, the arts continue to be viewed by the Balinese as one of the most important aspects of their heritage. Music, dance, and theatre are virtually inseparable. Poetry is always sung, and narratives are enacted through music, dance, and shadow puppetry. The many diverse ensembles and theatrical genres are closely linked with literary traditions of different periods; however, innovation is an intrinsic part of Balinese tradition, reflecting adaptability and allowing for individual expression that perpetuates the relevance of Balinese cultural expressions.

Music is exclusively an ensemble tradition, reflecting the communally-organized society. Ensembles, collectively referred to as gamelan (or the Balinese term, gambelan), have historically served specific functions in religious ceremonies and (prior to their demise) in Balinese courts. At least 30 distinct types of ensemble have their own tuning, timbre, repertory size, and function. A standard body of repertory exists in myriad versions and variants, owing to oral transmission and diverse regional styles and practices. Gamelan is mostly performed by men and boys; however, 17th-century manuscripts depict female court musicians, a practice that probably ended with the destruction of the courts in the Dutch conquest. At present there are some women’s gamelan groups and women music students at government arts institutions. Gamelan music thrives outside institutions. Most villages possess communally-organized gamelan groups that perform for village ceremonial functions, some reaching professional status or employing professional musicians from elsewhere to direct and teach the groups.

(a) History.

Contact between Hindu-Javanese and Balinese courts began around the 9th century, with strong cultural exchange beginning in the 11th century (Kadiri period), when the Balinese-born King Erlangga became ruler of East Java. Stories glorifying his life became central to many of the ‘classical’ dance-dramas still performed (calonarang, legong), while some of the oldest Balinese ensembles date from this period. In the mid-14th century the Javanese minister Gajah Madah defeated a Balinese king, causing Bali to become part of Majapahit, Java’s last Hindu empire. When Majapahit fell to the Muslim kingdom of Demak in the late 15th century, many Hindu-Javanese courtiers fled to Bali, where Javanese-modelled courts already existed. Following the fall of Majapahit, the eastern Balinese kingdom of Gelgel (late 14th century to the 17th) is regarded as the pinnacle of Balinese arts, and the origins of most musical traditions are traced to this time.

In many respects, Bali’s cultural development has been independent of Java’s, although elements of Hindu-Javanese culture were adopted in Bali and supported by the courts, including aspects of gamelan, dance, and literature. Bali is seen as a ‘living museum’ of early Indian Sanskrit literature, which is still in use in rituals performed by Balinese Brahman priests. It is also the repository for 10th–15th-century Old Javanese (Kawi) literature, now extinct in Java, but preserved in Bali on palm-leaf manuscripts (lontar) and kept alive through sacred vocal chanting, sung recitation in poetry-reading clubs, and in many theatrical genres such as wayangkulit (shadow puppet theatre; see §(vi) below).

Dutch colonization of Bali, which began in the mid-19th century and spread throughout the island by the early 20th century, caused a shift in patronage from the courts to local villages and the Dutch government. Court gamelan were sold to villages, where many gamelan clubs (sekaha) were formed. This period is recognized as a time when music flourished throughout the island. The Dutch instituted a policy of preservation of Balinese culture and opened Bali to the first Western tourists (see Picard, 1990, 1996). During the 1930s foreign scholars began to study Balinese traditions, among them the Canadian composer Colin McPhee, who conducted extensive research (McPhee, 1966/R).

After Indonesian independence, two government institutions were created that had tremendous impact on the performing arts. The music conservatory Konservatori Karawitan Indonesia (KOKAR), founded in 1960, later became the music high school Sekolah Menengah Karawitan Indonesia (SMKI). In 1967 the dance academy Akademi Seni Tari Indonesia (ASTI) was founded, later to become Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia (STSI), which now encompasses music, dance, theatre, and visual arts. These institutions have played major roles in supporting and reviving performing arts genres all over Bali, as well as introducing ‘standardized’ versions of genres. Performers from these institutions are renowned as some of Bali’s finest and are often sent abroad on diplomatic missions.

(b) Performance contexts.

The Pancayadnya (five ceremonial categories), which comprise all Balinese religious ceremonies, honour the living (manusayadnya, rites of passage including weddings and tooth filings), the dead (pitrayadnya, e.g. cremations), the gods (dewayadnya, e.g. temple ceremonies), sages (resiyadnya) and demons (bhutayadnya). Music plays a powerful role of accompanying ceremonies: gamelan ensembles, genres, and repertories are associated with each category and with functions within each category, depending on, for example, the ensemble’s age, tuning system, timbre, and dynamic range. Furthermore, many large ceremonies contain a sequence of rituals honouring each of the five categories. The choice for any given event is subject to tradition, local preference and to the availability of the ensemble and performers; in general, the older the genre, the more sacred and unchangeable it is.

The ceremonial soundscape comprises a blend of seemingly disparate yet essential musical genres. Often several gamelan play simultaneously, some accompanying sacred ritual dance (rejang) while others accompany dance-dramas or shadow puppetry or play instrumental music in close proximity to sacred vocal chanting, resulting in a sound-ideal of fullness and boisterousness (ramé). Its opposite, sepi (emptiness), is considered dangerous and is aesthetically and spiritually important only once a year on nyepi, a day of purification when no sound is made. Every village possesses several temples that celebrate their anniversaries (odalan, dewayadnya) every 210 days (one Balinese year) with elaborate ceremonies involving music, dance, and theatre.

As a way of protecting the older sacred performing arts from being exploited by tourism, in 1971 a committee of artists, religious specialists, and government officials proposed a classification system, organizing music, dance, and theatre genres into three general categories, subject to regional variation. Wali (sacred) activities are integrated into rituals and take place in the innermost courtyard of the temple or house compound (closest to the sacred mountain) for an audience of gods; babali (ceremonial) activities occur in the middle courtyard, are for an audience of gods and humans and are not integrated into the ceremony, but are parallel to it; and balih-balihan (secular) activities are performed outside the temple or in an outer courtyard and are entertainment for humans. In practice these categories often overlap: the distinction between wali and bebali is sometimes irrelevant, and performance traditions may shift from one category to another (e.g. secular offering dances performed on a balih-balihan secular programme).

The 20th century saw an expansion of performance contexts, in particular with secular performances on proscenium stages. The art centre Werdi Budaya, opened in 1976, is a frequent venue for STSI students and faculty, for tourist performances and for the annual Bali Arts Festival (Pesta Kesenian Bali, instigated in 1979), a competition and exhibition of gamelan, dancers, and artisans from all over the island. The major focus of the Bali Arts Festival is the gamelan festival, which promotes a competitive atmosphere and regional pride among gamelan groups and audience members. These performances are held in ‘battle of the bands’ format, with a gamelan group on either side of the stage. Repertory (which includes instrumental and dance pieces) must fit into the categories established by an official committee each year, and most pieces are newly composed for the occasion. The culmination of the festival (attended by up to 8000 people) involves the sendratari and drama gong dance-drama performances. Sendratari, an acronym of seni, drama, and tari, (art, drama, and dance) is a huge spectacle involving a narrator and hundreds of dancers and musicians. Drama gong is a dance-drama in which the actors speak, accompanied by gamelan gong. Aspects of these forms depart from traditional Balinese theatre and dance in their set scripts, choreographies, and pieces (leaving little room for improvisation) and the playing-out of entire epic narratives in encapsulated form.

(ii) Musical principles.
(a) Tuning systems.

Instruments are tuned in pairs, with one tuned slightly higher than other resulting in acoustic ‘beats’. When played together, the lower (pa)ngumbang (‘exhaler’) and the higher instrument (pa)ngisep (‘inhaler’), create a shimmering timbre, literally breathing life into the sound of the ensemble. There is no standardized tuning. All instruments of an ensemble are tuned together and do not match any other ensemble, giving them a unique character. However, every gongsmith (pandé) has his own conception about particular tuning and the intervals for each type of gamelan that fit into a generalized system. Tuning systems (saih, ‘sequence’) of four, five, six, and seven pitches are named after the type of gamelan with which they are usually associated (e.g. saih gender after the gender wayang ensemble) or the number of pitches (e.g. saih pitu, a sequence of seven).

The terms slendro and pelog, (adopted from Javanese terminology where they describe five-tone and seven-tone tuning systems, respectively), are frequently used to classify scales that were not formerly grouped together but can be made to fit roughly into these two categories. Many gamelan tunings and vocal genres do not fit neatly into either system, however.

The rich modal possibilities inherent in seven-tone ensembles distinguish them from pentatonic gamelan. Modes of five main pitches (known as tekep, ‘covering’ of the holes of the suling flute, or patut, ‘agreement’) employ two extraneous tones (or pamero called bero, ‘false’) for colour and modulation purposes. A revived interest in seven-tone ensembles, such as the court ensemble, semar pagulingan, has instigated the creation of experimental seven-tone gamelan that are capable of producing both slendro and pelog scales such as gamelan semara dahana (or semarandana) and gamelan manikasanti (created by I Wayan Sinti).

Pentatonic tunings are the most prevalent; in the early 20th century, to facilitate the playing of complex figuration (and to avoid leaping over the unused pamero tones) many seven-tone gamelan were melted down and transformed into pentatonic gamelan.

Tuning can convey ritual meaning. The modes produced by the group of rare, seven-tone sacred ensembles have specific correlations with deities. The most prevalent tuning, the pentatonic pelog selisir of gong kebyar and balaganjur, is generally associated with the human and demonic realms. Slendro tuning of gender wayang and gamelan angklung is considered to connote sadness; it is a means of communicating with the spirit world and is used in rites of passage such as tooth filing and cremation ceremonies. Old treatises on music explain that for each pitch there is a corresponding deity, cardinal direction, colour etc.; usually male deities are associated with pelog and their female counterparts with the corresponding scale degrees in slendro, but for most musicians, this philosophy is not part of general musical awareness.

(b) Notation.

Most Balinese music is transmitted orally. Notation is rarely used in the transmission process and never in performance. However, versions of the notational system known as grantangan are used for preserving the skeletal pitches of long compositions. Syllables comprising the pitch notation systems are also used as vocalized mnemonics in teaching. There are several such systems (Table 1 ). The oldest, used in gamelan gambang and other seven-tone sacred ensembles, is derived from sacred vocal music notation in which the vowels of poetry are translated into musical pitches. The vowel sound in each word of text has a corresponding syllable representing a pitch that is played as a tone on a single octave metallophone. At the KOKAR music conservatory, notation systems (known as notasi ding dong and notasi KOKAR) devised in 1960 have become standard; occasionally cipher notation is also used. Drum patterns are also transmitted by rote using a system of mnemonics.

Some examples of pelog grantangan

TABLE 1: Some examples of pelog grantangan

(c) Instruments.

Gamelan are comprised of gongs, metallophones, xylophones, gong-chimes, drums, cymbals, flutes, and spiked fiddles in various combinations (Table 2 ). Materials of construction include bronze, iron, wood, and bamboo. Gongs range in size from small to very large. Most are hung vertically and struck with a padded mallet and provide a framework that marks the form. Others are held horizontally, are struck with a hard mallet and provide secondary punctuation or serve as a time-keeper. Metallophones are in pairs and consist of two types: with keys suspended over bamboo resonators (e.g. gender), and with keys resting on trough resonators (e.g. gangsa jongkok). Each metallophone in a pair is precisely tuned slightly apart from the other to produce acoustic ‘beats’. Gong-chime instruments consist of a row of graduated tuned kettles, which are played either as a solo melodic leading instrument or by several people playing interlocked figuration. Various non-pitched idiophones, such as ceng-ceng (cymbals, large or small) or gentorak (bell tree), complement ensembles. Suling (flutes) are played using circular breathing to produce a continuous sound; the rebab (bowed spike-fiddle) is played only in soft ensembles, with a technique that differs from that of Javanese rebab. Various sizes of two-headed drums (kendang) are played with and without mallets (see also Gamelan, §I, 5, (iv).

a: Gamelan ensembles and instrumentation

TABLE 2a: Gamelan ensembles and instrumentation

Ensemble and tuning

GAMBUH (seven-tone






(7- or 5-tone pelog)


(5-tone pelog: selisir

or tembung)

Relationship to

Panji Malat (Kidung);


tembang in


Colotomic instruments

kempur (medium-size,


kempur komodong

2 gong


hanging gong)





kajar (small horizontal

kemong (small hanging

keyed gong)

kempli (horizonta

klentong (?gong)



kempli (here, two-key

l gong


kelenang (small


bamboo xylophone)

bende (horizontal

horizntal gong)


kenyir (three-key

ponggang (?)


Melody instruments

2–4 suling gambuh

2 gender gede

2 large rindik (bamboo

2 ugal (metallophone)




2 jegogan

rebab (fiddle)

2 gender barangan

2 jegogan (bamboo

2 jublag



4 gangsa pemade

2 jegogan (low-pitched

2 small rindik




4 gangsa kantilan

4 jublag

bamboo xylophone)




4 penyacah

(metallophone, octave

higher than jublag)

4 kantilan



2 gangsa jongkok gede


2 gangsa jongkok

cenik (metallophone)

Secondary melody

suling (flute), rebab





trompong (row of 10

trompong gede


gong kettles)

trompong barangan



Agogic instruments

2 kendang gupek

2 kendang gupek


2 kendang (large

2 kendang (large

(small drum)



Additional percussion

rincik (small cymbals)



ceng-ceng kopyak

ceng-ceng (cymbals)

or rincik (four-key


(large cymbals)


2 kangsi (small


3 gumanak


gentorag (bell tree)

TABLE 2b: Gamelan ensembles and instrumentationn

Ensemble and tuning


ANGKLUNG (4-tone




slendro derived)

saih gender (5-tone

BATEL saih gender (5-


tone slendro)

Relationship to

tembang macapat (pupuh)

accompanies dalang

accompanies dalang in


sung in Balinese by

in wayang parwa or

wayang ramayana or

actors/dancers. Based on

parwa dance drama;

wayang wong dance drama

Panji Malat. Kakawin and

played simultaneously

Malat are sung by noble

in ceremonies with kidung

character; gagendingan

or kakawin

(popular and folksong)

sung by servants and

coarse charcters.

Colotomic instruments

guntang gede (bamboo






guntang kempur (bamboo

(horizontal gong)




guntang cenik (bamboo


guntang kajar (bamboo

idiochord) or kajar

(horizontal gong)



1 or 2 suling

2 jegogan

2 or 4 gender (10-key

2 or 4 gender (10-key

4–7 flutes



Secondary Melody


suling, rebab


8–12 gangsa


reyong (8 gong kettles)

or ‘barbell’

reyong for processions

Agogic instruments

2 kendang

2 kendang (small


Additional percussion

ricik (small cymbals)





Table 2c: Gamelan ensembles and instrumentation

Ensemble and tuning

GAMBANG 7-tone pelog


LUANG (SARON) 7-tone

CARUK 7-tone pelog

(saih gambang)



Relationship to

one note per syllable in

aslo based on kidung

one lontar containing

one note per syllable in the


the Kidung MS


luang pieces (damaged in

Kidung MS corresponds

corresponds to each

volcanic eruption)

to each saron beat;

saron beat

possibly used to

accompany kidung Malat

and Cupak

Colotomic instruments

gong agung


bebended (?gong)


kempul (hanging gong)

Secondary colotomic

gebyog (low-pitch




kelenang (temple only)

kempul (accasionally)


2 saron (metallophone)

2 gangsa (8-key

2 gangsa gantung

saron gede and


gede (metallophone)

saron cenik (metallophone)

saron besar (metallophone)

played by one player

saron kecil (metallophone)

Secondary melody


suling, rebab


4 gambang (xylophone)

2 gucekan

gangsa gantung

caruk (box-resonated

gong (metallophone)

cenik (7-keyed

bamboo xylophone)

inting gede

bamboo saron)


gansa jongkok

inting cenik



gangsa jongkok

penem (metallophone)


nyonyong gede


nyonyong cenik


Gong chimes





Additional percussion




Although there are many varieties of gamelan, most follow similar musical principles; discussion here will use gamelan gong (developed from gamelan gong gede and semar pagulingan) as a model.

(d) Performing practice and musical structure.

All players of a Balinese gamelan work together with extreme precision, held together by a network of leading instruments that provide aural and visual cues. Characteristic features of Balinese music are the rapidity of melodies and rhythms played in close coordination with one another and sudden shifts of tempo and dynamics, from slow, lyrical extended melodies to fast, highly dramatic, short ostinati. The stratified texture in Balinese music generally consists of a slow-moving skeletal melody (pokok) played on the lower, single-octave metallophones (calung, or jublag, ornamented by penyacah metallophones tuned an octave higher), usually in evenly-spaced beats divisible by two. This is punctuated by even lower metallophones (jegogan) and ornamented by a multi-octave, leading metallophone (ugal or giying). Elaboration of this melody in interlocking style occurs on higher metallophones with a two-octave range (gangsa) and a 12-kettle gong-chime played by four musicians (reyong). Another gong-chime (trompong), lower in pitch than the reyong, is played by a soloist as a leading melodic instrument in certain types of pieces. The form of the piece is marked by a group of gongs in graduated sizes with the largest marking the end of each cycle and the smaller ones subdividing the cycle. The ensemble is led by one or two drummers who play interlocking parts on wadon (female, larger, lower in pitch) and lanang (male, smaller, higher in pitch) drums, cueing introductions, tempo, dynamics, transitional passages, endings etc. Over this texture floats a melody played on suling and sometimes rebab.

Most melodies are cyclical and in multiples of two or four, with the stress falling on the final beat of a group (rather than the first beat); sometimes this coincides with a gong. The music played on elaborating instruments is highly syncopated, often juxtaposing three-beat groupings against duple rhythms.

(e) Kotekan.

The gangsa and reyong players play interlocking figuration (kotekan, also called candatan) consisting of two complementary parts, the polos (the basic, main part, usually playing on the beat) and the sangsih (‘differing’, fitting between polos notes). When polos and sangsih are sounded together the composite melody has a faster tempo than any single player could produce, usually four or eight times as fast as the pokok melody. In order to play kotekan the musicians involved must hear their parts in relation to each other rather than as isolated units.

Further timbral distinction between the low, slow-moving parts and the figuration is achieved with the mallets themselves (panggul). The gangsa panggul are hard wooden hammers producing a sharp attack, whereas the lower instruments (penyacah, calung or jublag and jegogan) are struck with padded mallets, producing a softer, warmer sound. The damping technique can be very complex in playing kotekan, as every note struck by the right hand must be damped with the left precisely when the complementary part strikes. Instruments that are played with two panggul, such as reyong, have an even more difficult damping technique, requiring the musician to stop the sound with the mallet after striking without producing another sound.

There is little room for improvisation, since many of the parts are in pairs that are dependent on precise figuration in order to interlock properly. The leading melodic instrument has some leeway for improvisation, but because of its role as leader, it must remain connected to the pokok, anticipating, following, and embellishing.

There are many types of kotekan, from rhythmically simple to highly syncopated. Each type is associated with specific genres, forms, melodies, ensembles, and moods. Some are closely tied to the pokok, reinforcing, surrounding, or anticipating its pitches, while others are independent (ex.1 ); in kebyar compositions these types are often combined.

Ex.1 (a) Kotekan oncang-oncangan/nyog cag; (b) Kotekan ngorot; (c) Kotekan telu (jauk manis); (d) Kotekan empat, reyong for Baris

Augmentation and diminution frequently occur in compositions. When a skeletal melody is played at its ‘basic’ tempo it is known as panca periring, and when played twice as slow it is called wilet; the result is similar to the Javanese irama ratios: as the pokok is played slower, other instruments fill in with their own faster figurations.

Interlocking drum patterns employ a number of strokes specific to genres, gamelan types, and drum size. Drumming styles range from melodic to percussive, and their intricate patterns add a variegated texture to the ongoing ostinati. Panggul (mallet) drumming for the gong gede ensemble is heavy and powerful; drumming for gambuh and palegongan ensembles (ex.2 ) employs delicate hand strokes that ring melodically, while kebyar drumming is a display of rapid virtuoso percussion.

Ex.2 Drum interlocking: Pangecet Lasem (transcr. Michael Tenzer)

(f) Form.

Many compositions have several movements with contrasting gong structures, melodies, and tempi, combining cyclic repetition with linear progression. Likened to parts of the body, pieces often open with the gineman (head), a metrically and rhythmically free introduction played by one or a few instruments and joined by the drums, which cue the entrance of the rest of the ensemble; this is sometimes followed by a kawitan (‘beginning’) section; the main body of the piece (pangawak, ‘body’), is the longest, slowest section; finally, the pangecet (legs and feet) usually consists of a short gong cycle in a fast tempo. Repeating sections of pieces are sometimes linked by non-repeating transitional passages. The basic model of ginemanpangawakpangecet is often expanded to encompass other movements. Usually there is recurring thematic material, giving the composition cohesion.

The cycles, divided and marked by one or more gongs, are associated with particular drum patterns. Forms range from cycles of two beats (often a short ostinato) to 256 beats (extensive melodies). They are closely associated with theatrical and dance genres, even when taken out of their original context and incorporated into multi-sectional kebyar compositions. In theatrical music a single gong cycle may be repeated many times to support the drama; when a new mood or character piece is needed, there is a switch to another melody with a differing gong framework. Pieces with shorter gong cycles accompany highly dramatic or action scenes, articulated by the frequency of gong strokes, whereas long, extended cycles usually accompany calmer scenes or refined character dances.

The repeated cycles are enlivened by angsel, syncopated rhythmic accents or breaks in the melodic figuration, played while the beat and colotomic pattern continue (ex.3 ). These are borrowed from (but not restricted to) dance music, in which movement is tightly coordinated with the gamelan via drum cues. There are many types of angsel rhythms, articulating movement, marking tempo or pitch changes, closing phrases or linking sections, etc. In certain styles of dance (usually accompanied by solo drum) the dancer decides when to initiate an angsel, cueing the drummer, who cues the musicians. Other dances have a set choreography with angsel built into the composition, which are memorized by the musicians and dancers.

Ex.3 (a) Angsel; (b) Angsel (McPhee, 1966, p.177)

Forms are highly contextualized to specific types of gamelan and associated repertories, although repertory is often transferred from one type of gamelan to another in order to fulfil ceremonial and aesthetic functions. The form of a piece is usually named after the genre or melody with which it is most closely associated, even when it is has been transferred to another genre or melody (Table 3 ). Forms are marked by different types of gongs, depending on the instrumentation of the ensemble. In the court ensembles (gambuh, semar pagulingan, and palegongan), the largest gong marking the end of each cycle is the medium-sized kempur, and divisions in the cycle are articulated on kemong (a small hanging gong struck with a hard mallet wrapped with string, also called klentong), kajar (small horizontal gong with a flat boss, held in the lap and struck with a wooden beater), and klenang (the smallest horizontal gong, playing the off-beat). Forms are also distinguished by drum patterns.

Forms range in size and scope from the fast, two-beat batel in gamelan gambuh to lalambatan (‘slow’ music), which are stately, grand pieces played in the temple during the odalan (temple ceremony). Traditional lalambatan pieces are the longest and perhaps most difficult to memorize of all Balinese music. Most have several movements, beginning with a slow, free introduction played on the trompong, moving through many long, slow sections, and ending in a compressed section in a fast tempo. Associated with the huge gamelan gong gede (which has a deep range and timbre), they are commonly played on the standard gamelan gong ensembles with the addition of a group of large, hand-held cymbals (ceng-ceng kopyak) that play interlocking rhythms. Lalambatan compositions are venerated and old but are also frequently adapted to the flashy kebyar style. The cycles are marked by much larger gongs than those of gumbuh-derived ensembles. In gong gede, instead of the kempur there are two large gongs, a male (lanang) and a female (wadon); often only one gong is used in gamelan gong. The cycle may be subdivided by the kempur and the kempli (equivalent to the kajar but larger, with a raised boss).

(iii) Gamelan ensembles.

Palm leaf manuscripts (lontar), bas-reliefs on temples, and stone and copper inscriptions from Java and Bali (some dating back to the 10th century) comprise the evidence for historical study. Two lontar address the subject of music directly: the Prakempa and Aji Gurnita manuscripts (anonymous, probably 19th-century) discuss suara (sound or voice), pelog and slendro tuning systems, and courtly ensembles. Many other lontar also contain useful information about gamelan.

Based on this evidence, Balinese scholars group gamelan and repertory according to certain lineages of ensembles that are linked historically and musically. The many diverse ensembles share fundamental elements and have exerted mutual influences upon each other over time, so it is very difficult to date them precisely. Scholars such as I Nyoman Rembang and I Wayan Sinti group Balinese ensembles chronologically into three rough periods: tua (‘old’, considered to be indigenous Balinese), madya (‘middle’, probably from the Kadiri and Gelgel periods, beginning with the emulation of Hindu-Javanese court life in Balinese courts), and baru (‘new’, beginning with the creation of gong kebyar in 1915; see Gold, 1998).

Theoretically, there is a progression in function of ensembles in these categories analogous to the wali, babali, and balih-balihan categories (see §(i)(c) above). ‘Old’ ensembles are rare (except for gender wayang and angklung), highly sacred, and generally associated with priestliness; ‘middle’ ensembles are revered and ceremonial, associated with courtliness; and ‘new’ ensembles tend to represent secular culture and accessibility to the general public. The specific time periods, narratives, and languages with which the ensembles are associated link them to certain rituals. However, the actual function these ensembles may fulfil in rituals is not fixed but dependent on local preference, availability, and the repertory played. For example, gong gede is often considered wali; gender wayang may be played for babali or balih-balihan activities, and gong kebyar may play sacred lalambatan pieces in the wali context.

Instrumentation is one major distinguishing factor: most ‘old’ ensembles do not include drums, or accord them a colotomic rather than agogic role, whereas in the ‘middle’ category drums are essential for controlling the ensemble and delineating form; and in the ‘new’ category, drums have the additional role of featured soloist. Rebab and suling do not appear in ensembles of the ‘old’ category, whereas they play prominent roles in some ensembles of the ‘middle’ category, perhaps indicating Javanese influence. In the ‘old’ category four sacred ensembles are distinct from other Balinese gamelan due to their materials: gamelan selonding is made of iron and gamelan gambang, luang, and caruk combine bronze with bamboo instruments, resulting in a timbral similarity to some Javanese ensembles. These four are linked in other ways (see below) and are distinct from ‘middle’ and ‘new’ ensembles that show clear influence from either gambuh or gong gede, although they share some musical elements and techniques.

(a) Pre-Hindu Balinese instruments.

Nekara, bronze kettledrums from the Dongson culture (4th century bce to 1st century ce) of southern China, spread to what is now Vietnam (Tonkin and Annam) and are considered the precursor to gamelan. Bali possesses one of the most important specimens in the temple, Pura Penataran Sasih (sasih, ‘moon’), at Pejeng (Intaran) (see Bronze drum).

There are only two examples of Gong beri (bheri) gamelan in south Bali: in Renon and Semawang. It accompanies the rare baris cina (‘Chinese baris’) trance ritual. Featuring a flat bossed gong, the origin of the instrument is the subject of several legends. It is associated with China because of the dance and the design of the gong itself, and is considered to be highly charged with spiritual power (Rai, 1998).

(b) ‘Old’ ensembles.

The four sacred ensembles gambang, selunding, luang (also known as saron), and caruk have some unifying features: they share contextual function and seven-tone tuning; some are associated with Bali Aga (‘original Bali’) communities (villages that resisted Hindu-Javanese culture, predating the Majapahit period); and their repertory (which is preserved in lontar) is linked to vocal melodies of sacred poetry (kidung). Kidung are no longer performed together with instrumental accompaniment (see §(iv) below), but some scholars have attempted to reunite them.

Gamelan gambang. 60 of these rare ensembles are scattered throughout Bali, with 22 in east Bali. This ensemble is often associated with pitrayadnya and dewayadnya ceremonies. Depicted in temple reliefs in the East Javanese temple Pura Penataran (1375), it features the Balinese gambang, which has 14 bamboo keys that are not arranged in an ascending sequence from low to high, but rather in groups of three and four ascending pitches, and is played with two forked mallets, the tips of which span an octave on each mallet (for illustration, see Gambang). The ensemble consists of four gambang, each starting on a different pitch, and one or a pair of large, bronze, seven-keyed saron, tuned an octave apart and played by a single player; some ensembles have two pairs of saron.

Gambang is known for the saron rhythm comprising a 5+3 stress pattern or its reverse. The saron provides the pokok (often kidung-derived), and the gambang play a complex interlocking figuration called oncangan, a term derived from rice-pounding ensembles. The oncangan figuration follows the pokok but is based on an even rhythm. Each tone in the mode has a special oncangan form.

The repertory comprises 50 pieces in some areas, composed in one of seven pentatonic or hexatonic saih, which are linked to melodies (taksu) that accompany the dancing of specific deities and other temple rituals (ex.4 ).

Ex.4 Gambang figuration(McPhee, 1966, p.278)

Gamelan caruk (saron). This extremely rare, small ensemble, found around Karangasem and named after the bamboo-keyed xylophone (caruk or saron), is played by two musicians. One musician plays the pokok in parallel octaves on two bronze, seven-keyed saron tuned an octave apart, while the other doubles or plays simple figuration on the caruk. In some ways it is a simplified form of gamelan gambang and is sometimes substituted for it in pitrayadnya or dewayadnya rituals. For the most part the caruk repertory is shared with that of gambang; however, a few lontar of exclusively caruk pieces do exist.

Gamelan salunding. There are two forms of gamelan salunding (also salonding, salundeng, selonding). One, now extinct, with wooden keys and coconut-shell resonators, is said to have been played by hermits meditating in the forest, whereas the prevalent form of gamelan salunding is a sacred ensemble consisting of two to ten iron-keyed, trough-resonated metallophones. The graceful resonance of iron keys, the absence of drums and gongs, and the frequent slow-tempi are unlike any other gamelan. They are located in Bali Aga villages such as Tenganan and Trunyan, and in several non-Bali Aga communities, mostly in east Bali. Most salunding have their own legend ascribing their creation to a gift from the gods. The gamelan are the abode of the gods during temple ceremonies; in some cases it is forbidden to touch or even to see gamelan salunding when not being played for ritual. Most salunding have a documented ancient history: the set in Selat (near Besakih), for example, was first mentioned in 1181 in edicts (bronze plaques) in Klungkung.

Two eight-keyed gangsa, an octave apart, carry the melody. Figuration is provided by two other metallophones, each played by two musicians. A similar instrument, pitched an octave lower than the lowest gangsa, has an interpunctuating function. Sometimes a kempul and very occasionally a pair of ceng-ceng are added for punctuation. A fixed repertory of sacred pieces is played only for ritual functions. Some of these, called gaguron, may neither be recorded nor even recalled outside performance. Pieces are composed in one of three pentatonic modes. Many of the pieces were taken from the gambang and caruk repertories. Other pieces exist outside of the kidung-related repertory; a few new compositions are sometimes composed at STSI and in Tenganan.

Gamelan luang. This ensemble is associated with pitrayadnya ceremonies in most areas, and with dewayadnya ceremonies in some. Some scholars believe luang to be a source for gamelan gong gede: its double-row bonang (and other features) resemble some archaic Javanese ensembles. The melodic interlocking figuration played on the bonang (also called trompong) are called sekatian, another possible link with the archaic Javanese gamelan sekatan; other similarities include the colotomic function of the kendang and the name of one of the modes (nyura, manyura similar to that of Java.

Luang shares some pieces with the previous three ensembles, but for the most part it has its own repertory. The pieces, known as tembang, exist in seven modes known as jalan (‘ways’, ‘paths’), but usually only about four are in regular use.

Slendro ensembles: gender wayang. This consists of a pair or quartet of ten-keyed metallophones (see Gender) played with a complex two-handed technique. A polos-sangsih pair (doubled at the octave in a quartet), play interlocking figuration in the right hand, set against a slower-moving left-hand melody and resulting in a rapid composite melody and a stratified texture. Sometimes each hand plays a different kotekan, resulting in a more active four-part texture; in slow pieces both hands play in parallel octaves or empat (the interval spanning four keys, approximately a 5th) with delicate grace notes and rubato (ex.5 ). Aesthetically, the ensemble is regarded as an emblem of refinement and complexity. It is considered to be a member of the sacred ensembles category due to age and function. The primary function of this ensemble is in wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), which plays a central role in ceremonial and secular Balinese life (see §(v)(b)). It accompanies the dalang (shadow puppet master), who sings and provides dialogue and puppet movement. Gender wayang is also used to accompany two forms of dance-drama, parwa (Mahabharata stories) and wayang wong (Ramayana stories), and is essential in certain rituals where it is played without wayang.

Ex.5Gender wayang (a) Gending Mesem, accompanies refined character’s weeping song (I Wayan Loceng, transcr. Gold) Gender wayang (b) Angkat-angkatan Seketi (transcr. Gold)

Pieces used in the shadow play are classified according to their function in the drama: purely instrumental pieces, played as the audience gathers (pategak, ‘sitting pieces’), an extended multisectional overture (pamungkah), pieces for action, mood songs, background mood music, special character pieces, ending music, and ritual music. Pieces accompanying action consist of a left-hand ostinato against a right-hand kotekan, which is repeated a number of times, followed by a transitional passage leading to a repetition in another pitch area. The standard repertory is based on pieces accompanying wayang parwa (stories drawn from the Mahabharata); however, the ensemble is also used to accompany stories such as the Ramayana, in which case the ensemble, called batel, is augmented by percussion and gongs shared by the gambuh ensemble. The batel ensemble also accompanies wayang wong (‘human’ Ramayana-based wayang). Pieces from the wayang parwa repertory are also used to accompany tooth filing ceremonies and cremation processions, when they are sometimes played on the tower carrying the corpse to the burning grounds at the Death Temple. The slendro tuning is said to guide the spirit of the deceased to the land of the deified ancestors. Regional and personal variation are expressed in many styles and versions of the repertory (see Gold, 1998).

Gamelan angklung. This ensemble is named after a bamboo shaken idiophone (Angklung) that was formerly part of the ensemble but is now rarely used. It is a delicate ensemble consisting of small, four-key gangsa, reyong with eight kettles, two jegogan, and other instruments. Led by two tiny drums, the four-tone, slendro-derived tuning and the kempur tuned to a pitch outside of the four-tone slendro system give angklung a unique quality that connotes melancholy sweetness to a Balinese audience. It is often performed during cremation rites and temple and house ceremonies. Due to its small size and affordability, it is probably the most prevalent type of ensemble in Bali and a favourite for beginning and children’s gamelan as well as virtuoso professionals. It can also be made portable and played in processions (ex.6 ).

Ex.6 Angklung (McPhee, 1966, p.246)

The repertory includes pieces unique to angklung as well as standard repertory adapted from larger pelog ensembles, such as gong kebyar dance compositions and lalambatan. Characteristic of angklung are pangawak, in which the gangsa play a lyrical melodic line in unison without figuration, often with melodic syncopation, expressing the sweet mood associated with this ensemble, followed by pangecet with kotekan. The complex kotekan characteristic of this somewhat restricted tuning is an example of maximum use of minimal materials. As in gender wayang, phrases and gong cycles are frequently asymmetrical in length with flexibility of form, unlike structures found in larger ensembles such as gamelan gong.

(c) ‘Middle’ ensembles.

Gamelan gambuh. This small ensemble, in which the main melody is carried by four large bamboo suling rather than metallophones, forms the basis for the repertory, forms, and performance practice of pieces played by most later ensembles. Legends claim that gamelan gambuh, played to accompany the gambuh dance drama (see §(v) below), was formerly known as gambelan meladperana (‘cutting to the quick’) and was created by the god of love, Semar, and his spouse Ratih to be played in heaven by divine beings. This ensemble inspired the creation of others, each related to one of the gods of the four quarters: semar haturu or pagulingan (the god of love sleeping); semar patangian (the god of love rising), now known as palegongan; semar palungguhan (the god of love seated), now known as pajogedan; and semar pandirian (the god of love standing), now known as barong. These ensembles have come to represent courtly refinement, glorifying Bali’s Hindu-Javanese heritage and the customs and practices of the Balinese courts of the Gelgel period. The gambuh drumming patterns, musical forms and pokok are carried over in these four ensembles. Gambuh has been revived relatively recently, although interest in it is still marginal and esoteric.

Gambuh compositions are broadly classified into pure music compositions (pategak) and pieces that accompany the gambuh dance-drama (pangiring tari). The repertory is further classified by mode (tekep or patut) and form, corresponding to specific characters and situations. Gambuh suling are end-blown flutes, approximately 90 cm in length with a diameter of about 4 to 5 cm, which require a circular breathing technique resulting in a continuous sound. There are usually four suling, tuned in pairs of pangumbang and pangisep, each with six fingerholes. The pitches, which span a range of about two-and-a-half octaves, vary in timbre depending on the register. An elaboration of the suling melody is played on the rebab (see Table 2 above for full instrumentation).

Gamelan semar pagulingan. The name of this ensemble (Semar, the god of love sleeping) refers to its original performance context: adjacent to the bedchamber of the nobility and played during love-making. The oldest form of this ensemble, in the seven-tone pelog (saih pitu) tuning, was almost extinct during McPhee’s time in the 1930s and has since been revived, but it is still rare. Later semar pagulingan are pentatonic. Much of the seven-tone semar pagulingan repertory, colotomic structures, and kendang patterns is adapted directly from gambuh: although the intervallic and modal systems vary from those of gambuh, the gamelan is tuned around a minor 7th above gambuh, and there are many pieces unique to semar pagulingan. Four modes are generally known, although most semar pagulingan pieces are in tembung and selisir modes.

The melodic leader of the ensemble is the row of tuned horizontal gongs (trompong), played in a delicate, somewhat improvised manner. Other instruments include single-octave gangsa (metallophones), of which there may be three sizes, ornamenting the slower-moving pokok. In certain modes melodies played on the trompong exceed the single-octave range of the gangsa, resulting in octave displacement; when semar pagulingan pieces are adapted for ensembles that have gangsa with double-octave ranges (e.g. gong kebyar) this octave displacement is often preserved to maintain the character of the original piece. The drums are slightly larger than those used in gambuh. The lyrical melodic instruments, suling (smaller in size) and rebab, remain important in this ensemble (see Table 2 for complete ensemble).

Gamelan palegongan, bebarongan, and calonarang. Believed to have developed around the 18th century, the ensemble accompanying the highly popular dance-drama forms legong, barong, and calonarang (see §(v) below) is derived from semar pagulingan. These genres all share the ensemble type, and their name denotes the repertory (e.g. the legong repertory is played on the gamelan palegongan). As it is tuned to a pentatonic selisir or tembung, pieces from the gambuh and semar pagulingan repertory must be adapted. The trompong is replaced by two 13-key gender rambat, on which the leading melody is played, and doubled on two gender barangan tuned one octave higher. The delicate sound of the gender with its two-handed playing technique (here mostly playing in parallel octaves with much use of grace-note passing tones, rather than with a contrapuntal technique) and mallets with disc-shaped ends (as in gender wayang) make this ensemble even lighter-sounding than semar pagulingan. The pieces are multi-sectional, with lively, contrasting tempos and gong-cycle lengths ranging from two beat forms to long, slow pangawak with lyrical and complex melodies played on the gender. Gangsa polos and sangsih play patterns anticipating and surrounding the pokok pitches. Angsel are incorporated into the compositions to articulate the dance movements and mark transitions.

Gamelan palegongan was a favourite of the renowned composer Wayan Lotring, who composed many innovative pieces for this ensemble during the 1930s that are still popular.

Gamelan gong gede (‘great gong’). This rare, stately ensemble is closely connected with the temples and old court ceremonies and is thought to have developed around the same time as gambuh (see Gamelan). The instruments are enormous, with thick, bronze-keyed metallophones, gong-chimes, ceng-ceng kopyak, and huge drums played with mallets (see Table 2 above). The number of musicians required can reach 50. The gangsa jongkok and two pairs of penyacah play a slow-moving melody and are struck with large mallets, giving the music a weighty presence. Smaller versions of gong gede were made for village use by the late 19th century, later developing into the gong kebyar ensemble. This interim form of gamelan is known as gamelan gong, a term that can also be used to refer to the standard gamelan gong kebyar present in many villages.

(d) ‘New’ ensembles.

Gamelan gaguntangan and gamelan paarjaan. From about 1915 to the 1940s, the arja dance-drama (often known as ‘Balinese opera’) was accompanied by a small chamber ensemble known as gamelan gaguntangan. This ensemble, consisting of flutes, various percussion, and two bamboo-zithers (guntang) borrowed some of its drum patterns and form structures from gambuh, with the melodies remaining distinct. The current arja ensemble, consisting of seven to twelve instruments (see Table 2), is similar to that of gambuh, with the addition of the guntang that play primary and secondary punctuation. The large suling gambuh were used in the 1920s, but smaller suling are now used. There are two sizes of four to seven differently-tuned suling that are adaptable to match the singer’s vocal range, in slendro and pelog.

Gamelan gong kebyar. This 20th-century ensemble and musical style developed in north Bali around 1915, when the need arose for instruments that would accommodate virtuoso kotekan at newly increased tempi, with dynamic contrasts and an extended four-octave range (five including the gong). Gong kebyar remains the most popular and ubiquitous ensemble in Bali. Many earlier ensembles were melted down to create gong kebyar with two-octave gangsa to allow for extension of single-octave melodies. The instruments are smaller than those of gong gede, allowing for agility of movement, but much larger than those of semar pagulingan and palegongan, with a louder, stronger timbre. The kebyar drumming style uses large drums played with the hands in rapid, intricate interlocking. The overall timbre of the strokes is less melodic and more percussive than those of gambuh and palegongan. The drums are the most dominant in gong kebyar: often a section of the piece features the two drummers (with the ceng-ceng) displaying their virtuosity. The Reyong features four musicians playing tightly-coordinated interlocking patterns. Several reyong techniques are used: all four players may play a chord of eight pitches on the bosses, a texture and pitch combination that stands apart from most other ensembles (ex.7 ); they may strike the rim of the kettles in percussive unison with the ceng-ceng and drums, or they play melodically on the bosses, employing a number of kotekan techniques.

Ex.7 Reyong chord

The ensemble is named after the kebyar (lit. ‘explosive’) sections of pieces in which all instruments play sudden rhythmic and melodic flourishes in unison that are not tied to a steady beat, covering a wide melodic and dynamic range. Rather than playing in constant stratification, as in the earlier ensembles, different instrument groups play antiphonally at certain points in interlocking or kebyar segments. Prior to kebyar, individual composers were not generally acknowledged, but certain kebyar composers have become known for their pieces and are invited to teach throughout the island. Most kebyar compositions draw from pre-existing forms and techniques for material, reinterpreting it in a new context. Sections played by the entire ensemble in stratification with a steady pulse and gong cycle may resemble musical elements of other forms, drawing on semar pagulingan, palegongan, lalambatan, and theatre music for forms and figuration. Specific kebyar forms known as kreasi baru (‘new creations’) have also developed, marked by three sizes of gongs (gong, kempur, klentong). Many pieces depart from the traditional norms of other ensembles in using asymmetrical gong structures, highly syncopated pokok, and innovative kotekan patterns. Compositional devices imported from other ensembles become known by the ensembles with which they are usually associated, such as gegenderan (when the gangsa section plays a lyrical melody together in imitation of gender) or leluangan (reyong style that imitates the bonang rhythms of gamelan luang). A new category of contemporary compositions (komposisi baru or kontemporer), mostly created at the government arts institutions, experiment with techniques and materials, breaking the conventions of kebyar.

Balaganjur, the marching gamelan (also called bebonangan because the reyong kettles resemble bonang kettles), is often associated with the demons of the earth. The ensemble consists of instruments taken from the gamelan gong and made portable for processions. These include reyong, ceng-ceng kopyak, drums played with mallets, and hanging colotomic and time-keeping gongs. Requiring a high level of interlocking skill, reyong kettles are removed from the rack and held and played individually by members of the procession, producing a complex hocket of four or more pitches. This texture is offset by the clashing cymbal group, also playing interlocking parts; both groups play antiphonally as well as together. There are a variety of forms used for distinct situations. Balaganjur is used for cremation and other processions to instil enthusiasm in the crowd and for exorcism; contemporary ensembles have developed balaganjur to a competitive virtuoso form.

(e) Bamboo ensembles.

The abundance of bamboo growing throughout Bali results in a wide variety of bamboo ensembles comprised of flutes (gong suling), tuned bamboo stamping tubes played by female musicians and derived from rice-pounding (Lesung), bamboo jews harps (genggong) and a variety of ensembles consisting of bamboo xylophones. Other than the sacred bamboo ensembles from the ‘old’ historical category, most bamboo ensembles developed from the ‘middle’ category in the 20th century. The keys of these xylophones are either flat slabs of bamboo suspended or laid over a trough resonator (e.g. gamelan gandrung) or bamboo tubes split lengthwise over half their length and suspended over resonators (e.g. grantang, rindik, and tingklik of joged bumbung and the xylophones of gamelan jegog of west Bali). They may be tuned to slendro- or pelog-derived tunings. Historically, the oldest bamboo ensemble is considered to be gamelan gambang (see §(b) above). Secular ensembles also exist, such as gamelan gandrungan (accompanying the male gandrung dance) or joged pingitan (accompanying its female counterpart), both involving the transfer of gamelan palegongan repertory to bamboo, some time after the inception of legong (see below).

Gamelan pajogedan. Also referred to as joged bumbung (bamboo dance), this ensemble of bamboo xylophones (rindik) is modelled after palegongan and accompanies a social dance form based on legong dance movements, one of the few forms of social dancing between a man and a woman. It is popular, affordable, and abundant in Balinese villages. The joged (dancer), a teenage girl or young woman, of which there are usually several in a troupe, performs some dance excerpts and is then spontaneously joined by a succession of male audience members, either chosen by the dancer or volunteering, who engage in flirtatious dance surrounded by cheering crowds.

Consisting of approximately 12 players, the timbre of this small bamboo ensemble is light and delicate. Because the bamboo sound is not prolonged as in bronze ensembles, damping is not necessary, and in order to sustain the pitch, staccato repeated notes and rapid figuration are required. The leading gender part is played on two large rindik, and ornamentation is provided by smaller rindik tuned an octave higher. The equivalent to the kempur is played on a kempur pulu (or kempur komodong), two thick bamboo slabs suspended over earthen jars and tuned slightly apart, simulating the beating effect of a gong.

Tingklik. Most often played alone or in pairs, this bamboo-keyed instrument is purely for personal entertainment. Similar to gender wayang in employing a two-handed, sometimes contrapuntal technique, the lack of required damping makes this instrument far more accessible than gender wayang because the technique is easier and the compositions simpler. Most tingklik are tuned to slendro (saih gender) and played with mallets with long sticks and rubber-tipped ends. This instrument is easy to construct with readily available materials and is extremely prevalent throughout Bali.

Gamelan jegog. Found only in west Bali, where bamboo grows to an enormous size, each xylophone in this ensemble is made up of eight tubes that may reach three metres in length with a circumference of 60–65 cm; it is struck with mallets and has a powerful, earth-shaking sound. It is tuned to a rare four-tone tuning that may be pelog-derived. Often more than one jegog ensemble play in competition with one another, first alternating and then finally playing together.

Many folk ensembles also exist, including interlocking blown reeds, vocalized gamelan (cekepung or genjek) and wooden cow-bell ensembles (tektekan). Kendang mabarung, restricted to west Bali, includes two huge drums and four-tone pelog-derived angklung.

Many innovative ensembles develop from pre-existing ones, such as the musical accompaniment to the popular form of wayang tantri, which includes a pelog gender quartet and draws on a number of sources. Some of the foremost innovative ensembles becoming widely accepted are gamelan genta pinara pitu (similar to a two-octave, seven-tone semar pagulingan), gamelan semara dahana and manikasanti (see §(ii)(a) above), gamelan mandolin (a Chinese-influenced string ensemble), and adi mredangga (like an expanded balaganjur processional gamelan with 10 to 12 pairs of drums in several sizes, 20 to 30 sets of ceng-ceng kopyak and featuring dancing during the procession). Some of the experimental forms are only accepted in esoteric circles; others become incorporated into Balinese traditional performance contexts, where they are performed alongside centuries-old traditions.

(iv) Vocal genres.

These range from austere sacred chant to highly melismatic, popular Balinese operatic songs. There is a hierarchy of five main, context-specific vocal categories with distinct poetic forms, revered according to age, text, and function.

Sloka in Sanskrit is the oldest chant form in Bali. Restricted to Brahman priests, it is a highly esoteric vocalization of Hindu-Buddhist philosophical-cosmological principles employing five magic syllables with corresponding vocables in very restricted melodies.

Kakawin (wirama), sung in Kawi (Old Javanese), is based on sekar ageng (‘large form’) poetic metres. Preserved in lontar dating from 9th–10th-century Java, the texts are long, often Indian-derived narratives such as the Ramayana, books of Parwa (Mahabharata), and Tantri. Some kakawin were composed in Bali. In reading clubs (pepaosan) and during odalan and rites of passage the esoteric language is paraphrased line by line into vernacular Balinese. Kakawin encompass a 3 to 4 pitch system with a specified number of syllables per line.

Kidung texts and melodies, composed in Javanese metres (sekar madya, ‘middle form’) and considered to be indigenous rather than Indian-derived, are preserved in lontar believed to date from the 16th–17th centuries. Their poetic content is restricted to romantic or historical tales that evoke the last of the East Javanese Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms or mystical or erotic topics, set to a specified syllabic length and vowel sound at phrase endings. The lontar frequently contain musical pitch-notation (grantangan) alongside the text, leading scholars to believe that at one time certain ensembles and a kidung singer performed together. Kidung are usually sung in ritual situations; whole texts are rarely known: instead, people use memorized excerpts from selected poems for ritual purposes. The three most commonly sung are Malat (tales of the Javanese hero, Prince Panji), Wargasari (a mystical journey), and Tantri (didactic tales). Text setting in kidung often obscures the meaning, as words are broken up and embellished in three or four syllabic melodic fragments relatively unrelated to the syntax of the text (ex.8 ).

Ex.8 Kidung Alis-alis Ijo (Wallis, 1980, p.203)

Tembang macapat and geguritan (sekar alit, ‘small form’) are both sung in theatrical forms and are the only forms still being created in Bali. Both are accompanied by instruments that accommodate the tuning of the voice (suling and rebab) and contain through-composed, conjunct melodic stanzas in which the melody is congruent with the text. Tembang macapat are sung in the popular arja dance-drama (see §(v) below); the melodies are highly ornamented and the vocal timbre unique to arja.

Sekar raré (raré, ‘baby’) or lagurakyat (‘popular song’), similar to the Javanese dolanan, is a form of folksong often sung by youth groups or workers for entertainment.

(v) Dance and theatre.

Dance, theatre, and music are linked and classified according to specific historical time periods, genre, ensemble, and context. Dances range from highly sacred (such as the female offering dance, rejang) to secular (e.g. sendratari). In general there has been a tendency to adapt highly sacred dances for more secular contexts such as tourist performances; examples of these are kecak, legong, baris, and topeng (for details of accompanying ensembles, see §(iii) above).

Character types are broadly defined by dance movements, vocal production, costume, headdress, physical body type, and musical accompaniment. Refined characters have small, fluid movements, high, thin voices, and smaller bodies and narrower eyes, while coarse character types have broad, swift, direct, and sudden movements, lower voices, larger bodies, and wider eyes. Further distinction involves whether or not the character speaks, and the language spoken. In topeng (masked dance), the refined characters wear a full mask and do not speak, whereas the comic servants wear half-masks and speak (figs.2 and 3 ); in wayang, nobility speak or sing in Kawi (Old Javanese) and coarse servants paraphrase and translate into the local vernacular Balinese. Characterization is portrayed musically: in general, pieces that accompany refined characters have longer gong cycles, slower tempos, and are higher in pitch. The dramatic situation is also a consideration: shorter cycles accompany agitated, active scenes.

Individual dances are classified according to one of three types: alus (refined), keras (strong), and bebanci (androgynous) for both male and female dance styles; however, within a single dance there are usually sections of all three types.

The vocabulary of dance movements is highly stylized and codified to suit character types. Important movements include agem, the basic stance that defines character, mungkah lawang, opening of the curtain, and seledet, a quick eye movement from side to side, synchronized with gongs. Hand gestures (mudra) are used, perhaps a retention from Indian dance, but with no particular meaning.

The gambuh dance-drama genre enacts the Panji Malat text, written in Kawi and dealing with the adventures of the Javanese hero, Prince Panji. Slower and more fluid than later forms of Balinese dance, the dance style and the Kawi poetry (sung and declaimed in stylized speech) illustrate links between Javanese and Balinese kingdoms before and during the Majapahit period. Gambuh includes the prototypes for many forms of Balinese dance, such as the female attendant to the princess (condong), who plays a prominent role in legong and arja.

Legong is a dance performed by three pre-pubescent girls enacting stories reflecting Bali’s ties to its Hindu-Javanese past. It developed from the sacred trance dance sanghyang, of which there are many versions performed for ritual purposes only. Of the many legong stories (each with its own musical accompaniment) the most common is legong kraton, believed to have been first performed around the turn of the 19th century; it enacts the Lasem story, related to the Panji cycle depicted in gambuh. The performance opens with the condong character performing a non-narrative dance before she is joined by the two legong: the three then enact the story along with a singer-narrator (juru tandak). The dance movements are based on gambuh but are faster, lighter, and with more contrasts. Legong is so popular that most tourist performances are called ‘legong dance’ whether or not legong is actually performed. A complete performance can include many sections and last over an hour, but it is usually shortened.

The barong is a sacred ritual dance enacting the ever-changing balance between divine and demonic forces. Two dancers animate an elaborate costume of a barong, a mythological creature with a mask (of which there are many varieties, such as a wild boar, tiger, or cow). The most prevalent is the barong ket (keket), with a mask with large round eyes and fangs that is held by the dancer in the front part of the costume. The entire creature is about 2·5 metres in length and is covered with long, shaggy hair made of palm fibres; it may have derived from the Chinese lion dance, which developed during the Tang dynasty (7th–10th centuries). The barong is the protector of the Balinese village, and a special repertory of pieces is played to accompany its dances. In another context, the barong enters into the calonarang dance-drama, which enacts the story of Rangda the witch, personification of demonic forces. The masks are highly sacred and possess magical powers; trance frequently occurs, and these dances are often used for exorcism purposes.

Another form influenced by gambuh is the arja dance-drama, often referred to as ‘Balinese opera’ because the characters sing and dance throughout the performance. Its inception may have been instigated by a collaboration of the royal gambuh dancers of the kingdoms of Gianyar and Badung in 1825 for a performance at a royal cremation ceremony in Klungkung. The dancers then sang in Kawi, and the dance movements were based on those of gambuh. A later development of arja was created around the turn of the 20th century as a village form, as the artistic centres shifted from the courts to the villages. This early form of arja consisted primarily of sung melodies without instrumental accompaniment; it was performed by males only and had very little gambuh influence.

Female performers were added in the 1920s, and around the 1940s–60s the dance-drama developed into its present form of arja gede (‘grand arja’). Performances became quite elaborate and would sometimes last all night. As the sendratari dance-drama form rose in popularity arja became less popular, but it is still held in high esteem by professional performers and literati. Because of the use of Balinese language, it is more accessible to the general population than gambuh. Since its inception, special ‘all-star’ arja troupes known as bonarja (bon, ‘invited’) have been assembled by collecting the finest performers from various areas of Bali. There are also village arja troupes (sebunan). The performance context is primarily one of secular entertainment. Until 1965 arja was performed on a kalangan traditional stage area, but by the 1970s the primary performance space became the proscenium stage.

There are usually four to six noble characters and six male and female servants. The structure roughly follows that of gambuh but without juru tandak, allowing for individual improvisation in response to the audience. Like gambuh, arja stories are based on the Panji Malat texts, but the vocal forms sung by soloists (tembang macapat or pupuh), though based on Javanese songs and metres adopted between the 14th and 16th centuries, are newly composed and in Balinese. There are 13 song-types, seven most frequently used. The singing style of arja is highly developed, employing ornamentation techniques such as tremolos and melismas (geregel), slides (iluk-ilukan) and pamero pitches (ex.9 ). The singer improvises upon a set skeletal melody. Other vocal forms such as kakawin are sung by noble characters as a symbol of formality and dignity; folksongs and contemporary Indonesian popular songs are sung by servants and coarse type principals. Moods and feelings are also expressed by scale (both slendro and pelog are used) and melody.

Ex.9 Arja(transcr. Herbst)

The kebyar dance form allowed for dance compositions independent from narrative content. Pieces such as Teruna Jaya were created, depicting the contrasting moods of a youth, based on the legong dance and containing elements of strong male, androgynous, and female styles. In an early kebyar dance created by I Mario, the dancer remains seated throughout (Kebyar Duduk); this became a standard segment of kebyar dance choreographies. His later creation Kebyar Trompong, based on Kebyar Duduk, involved the dancer also playing a trompong solo.

The sacred baris gede dance is a martial processional dance that has been transformed into a solo, secular dance performed by boys, which contains the basis for most male dance forms such as the masked dance form, topeng. In the ceremonial form (topeng pajegan) a single male dancer enacts all parts of a story, changing masks behind a curtain. Topeng involving several actors is also performed. The drama is preceded by character (non-narrative) dances: topeng-keras, depicting a strong character type, topeng tua, depicting an old man, and topeng dalem, a refined king. Topeng stories are Balinese historical chronicles (babad).

Kecak, known as the ‘monkey chant’, was created in the early part of the 20th century and is now a popular form of entertainment for Balinese and tourists. The Indian-derived Ramayana epic is enacted by a group of men representing monkey armies and a few male and female principal dancers. Seated in a circle, the monkey army provides a vocalized form of gamelan by chanting the syllable ‘cak’ (chak) in interlocking parts over a sung melodic line. Similar to legong, kecak draws on elements of the sanghyang ritual.

(vi) Wayang kulit.

The shadow puppet theatre of Bali (wayang kulit) plays a central role in ceremonial and secular Balinese life. It incorporates vocal and instrumental music with sung poetry, artful puppet carving and manipulation, and dance movements, and portrays the many narrative traditions at the core of the Balinese worldview. Performance contexts range from highly sacred wayang lemah (daytime ceremonial wayang in which no puppet screen or lamp is used, and the puppets rest against a line of sacred cotton threads suspended between two sacred saplings) to pure entertainment held in conjunction with odala or life-cycle rites. The most frequently performed stories are taken from the Mahabharata (known as wayang parwa) and Ramayana.

The shadow master (dalang) is both a spiritual practioner and storyteller and a major repository of knowledge of all sorts, as well as being a highly trained musician and singer. Most dalang are men, but there are now some women dalang. The dalang is accompanied by a quartet (sometimes a duo) of gender wayang musicians (see §(iii)(b) above), who draw from a body of dramatic and ritual repertory.

The dalang sits before a cloth screen illuminated by a coconut-oil lamp. The puppets are intricately carved from hide to cast shadows on the screen. The dalang narrates and supplies all character voices covering a wide range of timbres and registers. As in dance, characterization includes alus (refined) and keras (strong) characters, expressed by vocal production, movement, iconography, and eye shape. Coarse characters have larger eyes, deeper voices, a more raspy timbre, and large, jerky movements, while refined characters have narrow eyes, high melodious voices, and smooth, small, and curvy movements. Noble characters speak only in Kawi (Old Javanese), and two pairs of comic servants, one on the right side of the dalang (generally the kingdom of the good characters) and one on the left (generally evil), translate all dialogue into the vocal vernacular Balinese that the audience can understand. These four comic servants (the punakawan or panasar) are the only indigenous Balinese characters not from the original Indian epics and act as mouthpiece of the dalang (for a detailed study of wayang, see Gold, 1998).

Although Mahabharata and Ramayana stories are the most typical, there are many innovative forms of wayang that draw on other narratives and musical accompaniment from dance-drama counterparts. These include wayang gambuh (Panji tales, accompanied by gamelan gambuh), wayang Calonarang (stories of Rangda and Barong accompanied by semar pagulingan or gamelan batel), wayang Cupak (indigenous Cupak tales, accompanied by batel), wayang arja (Panji tales, developed in 1976 by I Made Sija of Bona, accompanied by gamelan arja or various experimental ensembles), and wayang Sasak (Islamic tales performed by the Sasak population and accompanied by a suling ensemble similar to gambuh). There are two rare but important dance-drama forms based on wayang: wayang wong (‘human puppets’, featuring Ramayana stories, accompanied by batel) and parwa (also danced by humans, featuring Mahabharata stories and gender wayang quartet or batel).

Many contemporary experimental works reflect the interest in reaffirming traditional Balinese culture and village life in the face of a quickly changing Bali. Drawing on sacred vocal chant, everyday village sounds, modern and ancient themes exploring Indian and Balinese heritage, as well as elements of Western music and dance, these multimedia productions reflect a new self-consciousness of the arts, which co-exists with a thriving traditional peforming arts culture well integrated into Balinese culture.


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  • R. Schumacher: ‘Aji Gurnita: eine balinesische Musiklehre’, Jb für musikalische Volks- und Völkerkunde, 12 (1985), 13–49
  • P.A. Wolbers: ‘Gandrung and Angklung from Banyuwangi: Remnants of a Past Shared with Bali’, AsM, 18/1 (1986), 71–90
  • T. Seebass: ‘A Note on Kebyar in Modern Bali’, Orbis Musicae, 9 (1986–7), 103–21
  • D. Mack: ‘Balinesische Musik im Unterricht, Sekundarstufe II’, Unterrichtshilfen zum Lehrplan Musik: aussereuropäische Musik, ed. V. Funk and R. Schanz (Mainz, 1987)
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  • D. Harnish: ‘The Preret of the Lombok Balinese: Transformation and Continuity within a Sacred Tradition’, Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, 8 (1990), 201–20
  • M. Koichi: ‘Balinese Mouthharps: genggong and ngo’, Koukin Journal, 1 (1990), 18–19
  • W. Vitale: ‘Kotekan: the Technique of Interlocking Parts in Balinese Music’, Balungan, 4/2 (1990), 2–16
  • N. Gray: ‘Sulendra: an Example of petegak in the Balinese gender wayang Repertory’, British Journal of Ethnomusicology, 1 (1991), 1–16
  • B. Heimark: Gender wayang as a Microcosm of Balinese Culture (thesis, UCLA, 1991)
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  • M.B. Bakan: Balinese kreasi baleganjur: an Ethnography of Musical Experience (diss., UCLA, 1993)
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  • I W. Rai: Balinese Gamelan Gong Beri (Denpasar, 1998)
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Dance, theatre and wayang
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  • B. de Zoete and W. Spies: Dance Drama in Bali (London, 1938, 2/1958/R)
  • J. Belo: Bali: Rangda and Barong (New York, 1949/R)
  • I M. Bandem: Panji Characterization in the Gambuh Dance Drama (thesis, UCLA, 1972)
  • I M. Bandem: Wayang Wong in Contemporary Bali (diss., Wesleyan U., 1980)
  • I M. Bandem and F.E. deBoer: Kaja and Kelod: Balinese Dance in Transition (New York, 1981, 2/1995)
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2. Lombok.

  • Tilman Seebass

This small island is situated east of Bali and west of Sumbawa in the Indonesian archipelago. Together with Sumbawa it forms the province Nusa Tenggara Barat. Its area is about 5435 km² and its population close to three million. The north of the island rises to the elevation of 3726 metres (Gunung Rinjani) and has a narrow and humid coast, while the central belt (where most of the population lives) consists of fertile lowlands that are fairly dry but permit rice cultivation. The south is hilly, arid, and almost uninhabited.

The majority of the population are Sasak, with a Balinese minority. The Boda and the Sasak Wetu Telu have maintained older ways of life, living far from the lines of communication on the northern coast, in the mountains and in the southern hills. But even in the most inaccessible places their culture shows traces of contact with the neighbouring islands and the Balinese minority. In general, in the East of the island, features found among other Muslim people in Indonesia are more prominent.

Judging from the close relationship between the Sasak language and western Sumbawanese, it is probable that contact between the two areas existed until the end of the first millennium ce. During the centuries of Hindu-Javanese domination in the archipelago, Lombok came in contact with the Javanese courts. A hinduized kingdom in Central-Lombok with the capital Pamatan was destroyed by a colossal eruption of the Rinjani in 1257 that caused a change of climate and disasters around the globe. In the 16th century, the Gelgel dynasty of Bali exerted political and cultural influence, the western part of Lombok receiving the surplus of overpopulated Bali. From the 17th century onwards, the Balinese and the Islamic rulers of Mataram (Java) and Makasar (Sulawesi) battled for influence. In the 18th century the rajas of Karangasem in east Bali subjugated the local rulers and set up court in Cakra Negara, which flourished until the late 19th century, supporting an important library and various gamelan ensembles. In 1894 the Dutch government took over, resulting in the mass suicide of the Balinese court, after which the musical tradition of the Balinese in Lombok continued only in the villages. Family contacts brought Sasak servants to Bali, where they now form a minority in the district of Karangasem. In the late 19th century, orthodox Islam (hostile to non-Islamic ceremonies) began to spread on the island, its followers calling themselves the Waktu Lima; the religious and political power of its followers has gradually increased. In the late 1980s, governmental authorities began to build hotels and the infrastructure for tourism on the Island mostly along the scarcely populated Southwestern beaches, and to artificially make the island not only attractive for surfers but also for ‘cultural’ tourism.

Up to the end of World War II only two short articles (Goris, 1936, and Soedijono and Hooykaas, 1941) and two recordings by the Beka company (1928) were produced. Other information is scattered in publications by geographers, biologists, and scholars of literature. In 1972 a team of Indonesian and Western musicologists undertook a survey tour and documented every major musical genre of the island (Seebass and others, 1976); this has been followed by research of a more monographic character in selected locations (Harnish, Shimeda, and Wacana). A literate tradition for parts of the vocal music, wayang, and dance drama is reflected in the Kirtya Library in Singaraja (Buleleng), Bali, which houses almost 500 Sasak lontars (see Pigeaud, 1958, II, 970–72, and Marrison, 1994), and in the Lombok-Collection at the Leiden University Library (Pigeaud, 1968, II, 252–320).

(i) Music of the Sasak.

At the core of Sasak instrumental music is a small ensemble consisting of a pair of large cylindrical drums played with sticks (gendang beleq), a number of large pairs of bronze cymbals (ceng-ceng and jamprang, with a diameter of 30 cm), two pairs of gong kettles sitting on a small rack (réong, also klenteng, klenong and barong setengkok), a small flat hanging gong (oncer), and a larger gong; if the occasion requires it, a small flute is added. The large drums and the small flat gong are unique to Lombok and give the ensemble its name, gendang beleq or oncer. This ensemble, or rather type of ensemble, is basic to a number of rituals involving dance. Processional use occurs during wedding rituals, funerals, feasts at shrines and temples when sacred cloths are woven, and in connection with official receptions or warfare. Oncer is also used in theatrical performances and in the 1930s was observed in connection with healing ceremonies. The melodic role is secondary; sound and cyclical process are dominated by pulse and syncopated rhythms on the one hand and the dense texture of reongan on the other. The size of the ensemble varies from place to place. In the decades after the dissolution of Balinese rule many gamelan instruments found their way to Sasak villages. This led to new combinations of instruments and the development of hybrids, which sometimes resulted in new musical genres. A derivative of oncer is a larger ensemble called tawaq tawaq. This ensemble is led by two barrel drums; the number of reong and cymbals is increased, and the top part of each pair of cymbals is mounted on a lance decorated with a small banner. A unique feature that, again, gives the ensemble its name, is a medium-sized hanging gong with an extremely large rim, called tawaq tawaq. The occasions for performance are the same as for oncer.

The tawaq tawaq ensemble is related to the rebana ensemble; here the gong kettles are replaced by tuned frame drums (rebana) played with a small stick, and large cylindrical drums replace the suspended gongs; the cymbals are reduced to one small kecek (placed on a rack). The rebana ensemble is favoured by the Waktu Lima. The idea of using tuned drums for playing interlocking patterns is an acculturation from orthodox Muslims in North Sumatra, but the structural organization of the ensemble is the same as tawaq tawaq and oncer; tawaq tawaq and rebana also share a repertory of tunes.

Typical for Lombok is the ubiquitous use of the preret, the double-reed aerophone common among Muslim people in Indonesia and elsewhere by the name of sarune, serune, etc. (It is even adopted by the Balinese in Lombok.) The preret is used solo or in instrumental ensembles. A traditional one is kamput (or preret), where a preret and a suling (duct flute) play together the melody in many repeats; a jedur (frame drum) and cymbals provide the pulse and the gendang, the rhythmical ornamentation.

In addition to these older, widely distributed Sasak ensembles and genres, there are also newer traditions. The kelenang ensemble performs the Balinese gong kebyar repertory but consists of several gong kemodong, metallophones with two iron keys of slightly different pitches, which are suspended over wooden soundboxes and struck with a soft beater. A remote Sasak village in the south-east mixes some gamelan instruments (possibly from the semar pagulingan ensemble) with Sasak instruments and vocals; a similar change and reduction of a (formerly Balinese) gong gedé ensemble has been found in Sembalun.

Research into the island’s vocal music has not yet been undertaken, although already van Eck (1875) mentions it. The Balinese communities cultivated the genres they had brought from Bali, but the vocal music of the Sasak is a more complicated matter. There exists a body of Sasak literature written on lontar (palm-leaf manuscripts) and belonging to the category of geguritan (tembang macapat); but pantun (the ubiquitous Malay quatrain) and other metres are also known. The Sasak use geguritan in two ways: in rituals performing solo or with the accompaniment of gendang beleq, as witnessed by Shimeda (1991, p.133) in Sembalun; and at secular occasions as cepung (cekepung), a sophisticated male entertainment that takes place when gathering over a gourd full of palm wine in the evening and reciting the ‘Monyeh’ story (see van Eerde, 1906). The performance requires a lontar reader and a translator, a practice used also in Bali for kakawin, there called pepaosan; the two performers are joined by an instrumentalist with a large, long flute and occasionally by a rebab player and a chorus of singers. Reading and translating alternate with sections in which the chorus sings gamelan pieces in glossolalic fashion (gamelan mulut) imitating a number of instruments and simultaneously performing a sitting dance. Cepung is also known in East Bali and could have its roots in the same ritual practice as the Balinese kecak, i.e. sanghyang. The research team of 1972 (Seebass and others, 1976) witnessed a performance in a village where the topic of the two singers was a complaint against the government for neglecting their remote and arid area and not providing them with much-needed wells. This genre, as well as solo and choral singing, belongs to the non-literary vocal traditions of tandak and lawas (see Seebass and others, p.50).

The genre gilokaq (gicilokaq) shows the influence of overseas contacts with the Bugis, Makasarese, and, more generally, Malay traders and seafarers. Pantun are the textual base, sung by a lead singer and followers to the accompaniment of indigenous guitars (gambus, penting, or mandulin), indigenous violins, rebana (or jedur), kecek (or copeq), and gendang. This ensemble, together with the rebana ensemble, is used to accompany rudat dance and performs as well on national holidays. The occasion and the use of Indonesian texts reflect the influence of the pan-Indonesian movement.

Due to the strong presence of the electronic media and Islamic doctrine, casual music-making is on the verge of disappearing, except where tourism has created a new demand. Traces of it are found in the xylophone music, serdong and grantang, in group rice-pounding with interlocking patterns, and the playing of the rice straw (gendola) and of two types of jew’s harp made from palm rib and sounded by pulling (genggong) or plucking (selober). Under the influence of tourism and through the cultivation of a pan-Indonesian type of formalized performance, genggong is not only played in the traditional manner (by pairing two instruments) but also in orchestral formations with the addition of small suling (flute), guntang (a percussive, one-string tube zither), and kecek.

The musical practices of the Waktu Lima and the Wetu Telu cannot be completely separated from each other. The extent of musical activity in a village depends on the attitudes of local religious authority and on the demand of cultural presentations of music and dance for tourists. Because it was never tied to pre-Islamic rituals, rebana is the most accepted ensemble among the orthodox; wayang performances with appropriate plots are also permitted.

(ii) Music of the Balinese.

Until the destruction of the Balinese court in Cakra Negara, a number of gamelan in pelog-like tuning existed in Lombok. Some of them have survived. But most have been broken up and their instruments sold or incorporated in Sasak ensembles of small size in remote places such as Sembalun (a ‘gamelan gong’ consisting of five instruments and used for masked dancing), or Rembitan (a gandrung ensemble with singers, gongs, cymbals, flutes, preret, metallophones, and drums) and Baru (a jurujeng ensemble, with similar instruments to the gandrung ensemble, for a traditional temple festival of the Boda). As in Bali, the traditional Balinese society in Lombok has a well-defined set of musical genres tied to the various rituals (some described in Harnish, 2006). For temple festivals, rites of passage, funerals, dance-drama, courtly entertainment, and warfare the most important ensemble was the gamelan gong gedé. When played in situ the gamelan was completed with two kendang (pukulan, i.e. played with sticks), metallophones (gangsa jongkok), in pairs and four sizes, one or two trompong (gong-chime), a pair of jègog (large metallophones with tube resonators), and the set of rhythmic and colotomic instruments. In its processional version it contained only the latter, i.e. a few pairs of reong, several pairs of large ceng-ceng, and hanging gongs in various sizes. A Dutch survey of the crafts in Indonesia, published in 1931, mentions the existence of gong smiths, and this finding has been corroborated in recent times.

Whereas on Bali the spread of kebyar (‘to burst open’) style took place in the 1920s and 30s, its spread was less accelerated among the Balinese in Lombok. Although they added a number of gangsa (gantung, metallophones) and rincik (cymbals) to the gamelan for occasional kebyar entertainment, this was not done at the expense of melting down old instruments. Still, when changing musical styles, instruments are switched instead of mixing old types with newer ones, as in Bali. Kebyar style has also entered the Sasak repertory in the kelenang ensemble.

The use of gender wayang for the performance of shadow play has also been documented. So far no data have been collected in Lombok on the types of vocal music current in Bali, although it must have been common (see the lontar kidung dan wawiletan with some musical notation in the Lombok collection housed in the Leiden University Library, Or. 5025). Nothing is known either about the survival in Lombok of the heptatonic ritual instrumental genres of Bali. Here, evidence of their use in the 19th century is provided by the lontar Pupuh gending gambang, which survives in the Kirtya Library in Singaraja (Ms. 2329 (IIIc)). The manuscript contains 14 pieces with kidung (middle-Balinese vocal genre) texts to be sung with the accompaniment of gambang ensemble (featuring four wooden xylophones), three of which are not found in Balinese sources in Bali. This single manuscript compares with almost 100 music lontar surviving in Bali.

It is possible that the village tradition of heptatonic ensembles (saron, gambang, salunding, gong luang) so common on Bali was never popular among the Balinese on Lombok, who have their own ritual music: the solo performance of the preret (double-reed aerophone) at temple festivals. In Bali the preret is an extremely rare occurrence; apparently the Lombok Balinese took it over from the Wetu Telu, with whom they share many rituals.

(iii) Wayang.

The most tangible evidence for pre-Islamic contacts with Java is the existence of a Sasak version of the shadow play. The style of the puppets is more realistic than in Java but not as realistic as in Bali, and they are comparatively small in size. This suggests contact with the Javanese courts in the Majapahit period or earlier, i.e. before the elaborate stylization of human representations under Islamic influence. Among the most popular plots used today is the Serat Menak, which relates the adventures of Amir Hamzah and his successful conversion of enemies to Islam. Goris (1936) also reported Sasak stories (gubahan Sasak). Both Sasak and Balinese perform wayang Sasak. The music is unique, with no close relative in Bali or Java. The ensemble lacks the metallophones common in Javanese and Balinese ensembles accompanying forms of wayang and can only be compared with the Balinese wayang gambuh, with which it shares the combination of long vertical flute and spike fiddle, a pair of drums, a suspended gong, small cymbals on a rack, and two or three small gong kettles. The structure of the music is, however, not based on the Balinese heptatonic modes and colotomic tabuh forms; instead the mode is pentatonic and strongly hierarchical, with a few nuclear tones ornamented by many secondary pitches. The protracted colotomy typical of Balinese gambuh is absent; rather, the instruments responsible for rhythm and tempo (two drums and the kecek) develop a dense web, rich in syncopations and at a fast pace, while the musical sections are distinct through rhythmic patterns.

(iv) Dance.

Although a number of scholars have mentioned a variety of dances, here, too, substantial research has not yet been undertaken. The combination of processional drumming with dancing seems to be frequent (for example in the genres telek and sesatang), and the use of lances and shields indicates their relation to preparations for war or initiation (such as in the dances oncer and perisean). Almost nothing is known about the dances connected with temple festivals. Another category includes geroh and gandrung, the flirtatious public dances of a single female with a series of males who buy the right to join her with a small fee, a genre which is also common in Bali (under the term joged) and Banjuwangi, East Java. Modern solo dancing (kecimol) also takes place with the accompaniment of popular music of the cilokaq ensemble. Trance dances with the oncer ensemble and sitting dances (with cepung) have also been observed.

3. Sumbawa.

  • Tilman Seebass

Sumbawa was formerly thinly populated (about 300,000 people) and counts now about a million inhabitants, partly due to immigration and Indonesian resettlement of Balinese. Together with Lombok it forms the province of Nusa Tenggara Barat. Anthropologically and linguistically the western and central parts of the island are closely related to the Sasak peoples of Lombok, but the musical ties are not particularly close. Linguistically the Western part, called Sumbawa besar, is close to the Sasak, the central area Dompu to the languages in Sulawesi and the East with Bima related to the Eastern neighbours in Flores. Wacana (1988) groups the cultural traditions of Dompu and Bima together.

Gamelan and shadow play have not reached Sumbawa because of its distance from Indo-Javanese and Indo-Balinese spheres of influence. Although the island is mentioned in the list of countries ruled by Majapahit and although a dynastic connection to Bali existed at one time, Sumbawa’s history, language and culture has been shaped by relations to the Makasar and Bugis peoples of South Sulawesi. The conquest through the Makassarese between 1618 and 1626 led to a compulsory conversion to Islam. As a result of orthodox Islamic doctrines, and in contrast to its western and eastern neighbours, no significant instrumental genres seem to have developed. As it is only in recent surveys by Indonesians that preliminary musical data have been unearthed, a detailed account of its music can not yet be given.

The list of musical instruments is headed by the rebana drum (in two sizes, the large rebana kebo and the small rebana ode), followed by the double-reed aerophones bagandang and serune. These instruments are most typical for Islamic areas and occur on other islands as well. Other instruments include the rice stalk double-reed aerophone, suling, and the most Westerly type of the East Indonesian bamboo tube zither, the four-string genang air. The two inner strings of the genang air are placed above the soundhole and connected with a piece of bamboo; the right hand beats the open end of the tube while the left hand plucks the outer strings or beats the inner ones. The large Islamic mosque drum and barrel-shaped drums as well as the slit-drum and pounded rice trough are also found. Contacts with traders from Sulawesi and the greater archipelago also brought them the eight string gambo, a plucked guitar, and the biola.

Sumbawa has a particularly rich tradition of vocal music, of which the textual aspect has received some attention, the musical one hardly any. Responsorial and group singing are common. Lawas, a poetic genre consisting of three lines with eight syllables each, is performed solo, among two singers, or under the name saketa with choir (gero). It is also performed with instrumental accompaniment under various names, for example sakeco and langko, which are accompanied by rebana, bagandang, and serune. The occasions for lawas are many and range from poetic exchange among lovers, mocking and jesting, to social criticism and the accompaniment of work (herding, harvesting, rice-pounding, etc.). The melodies (ulan) are grouped into female and male. As has been often stated, the scales and modes of vocal music in Indonesia are one of the most understudied subjects. In Sumbawa they can differ greatly from the pentatonic scales and approach even the chromatic. Another important genre is badiya, epic recitation with the accompaniment of the tube zither. In the Bima region, Yampolsky (1998) recorded two examples of ballad singing with pantun stanzas to the accompaniment of biola (biola rawa Mbojo).

The feudal structures with kerajaans and sultanats knew courtly ceremonies with music and dance for reception, acclamation, and rites of passage. Some have survived, among them the ded or baded, a special vocal genre connected to ancestor worship, performed with dancing and occasionally with the rhythmical accompaniment of idiophones. Other dances are the perisean, a ritual duel between two young men with leather shields and sticks, the mpisi donggo, performed at funerals to the accompaniment of singing, and for traditional ceremonies, bao daya, pakon, and gerok (Mantja, 1984, 45–7).


and other resources

  • R. van Eck: ‘Schetsen van het eiland Lombok. Uit schriftelijke bescheiden en mondelinge berichten zamengestellt’, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 22 (1875), 311–62
  • J.C. van Eerde: ‘Aanteekeningen over de Bodja’s von Lombok’, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 43 (1901), 290–310
  • J.C. van Eerde: ‘De toetoer Monjèh op Lombok’, Bijdragen tot de Taal, Land- en Volkenkunde, 59 (1906), 17–109
  • W.L. Vogelesang: ‘Eenige aanteekningen betreffende de Sasaks op Lombok’, Koloniaal Tijdschrift, 11 (1922), 260–306
  • R. Goris: ‘Aanteekeningen over Oost Lombok’, Tijdschrift voor de indische taal-, land- en volkenkunde, 76 (1936), 196–248
  • Mededeelingen van de Kirtya-Liefrink-van der Tuuk, 16 (1941) = Djawa, 21(1941) [contains several articles and bibliography by C. Hooykaas]
  • G.Th. Pigeaud: Literature of Java, 3 vols (The Hague, 1968)
  • T. Seebass and others: The Music of Lombok: a First Survey (Berne, 1976)
  • J. Ecklund: Marriage, Seaworms and Song: Ritualized Responses to Cultural Change in Sasak Life (diss., Cornell U., 1977)
  • L. Mantja: Sumbawa pada masa dulu: suatu tinjauan sejarah (Surabaya, 1984), 33–41, 45–7
  • I.G.K. Ardhana and others: Sastra lisan Sumbawa (Denpasar, 1985)
  • H.L. Wacana: Sejarah daerah nusa tenggara barat (Mataram, 1988), 35–6, 74–6
  • A. Leemann: Internal and external factors of socio-cultural and socio-economic dynamics in Lombok (Zürich, 1989)
  • T. Kartikasari, ed.: Upacara tradisional Sorong-serah dan nyodol dalam adat perkawinan Sasak di Lombok (Jakarta, 1991)
  • T. Shimeda: ‘What Makes People Affected? A Preliminary Report on Music Activities in Sembalun, Lombok, Indonesia’, Temple Festival in Bali: Report of the Group in Indonesia (Tanimura Team) (Osaka, 1991), 129–39
  • D. Harnish: ‘The Performance, Context and Meaning of Balinese Music in Lombok’, Gedenkschrift Hans Oesch (Winterthur, 1992), 29–58
  • G.F. Marrison: The literature of the Sasak of Lombok: a survey of Javanese and Sasak texts, 2 vols. (Hull, 1994)
  • D. Rappoport: ‘Du repérage musical au travail de terrain ethnomusicologique de l’Indonésie’, Cahiers de musiques traditionelles, 8 (1995), 13–32
  • M. Hitchcock: Islam and Identity in eastern Indonesia (Hull, 1996)
  • R.D. Larasati: ‘Gandrung di Lombok Barat: sebuah expresi simbolis komunitas Sasak’, Seni pertunjukan Indonesia, 7 (1996), 14–25
  • G.E. Marrison: ‘Sumbawa besar’, Indonesia Circle, 68 (1996), 75–86
  • D. Harnish: ‘Nusa Tenggara Barat’, Southeast Asia, T. Miller and S. Williams, eds. (New York and London, 1998), 762–85 [Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, 4]
  • T. Cooper: ‘Litters of honor: the jaran, buraq and singa barong of Lombok’, Indonesia and the Malay world, 29 (2001), 99–112
  • D. Harnish: Bridges to the ancestors (Honolulu, 2006)


  • Monjéh Tjepoeng Sasak Lombok, Beka B 15619-28189 and 15619-28190 (1928)
  • Soeling; Monjéh Tjepoeng Sasak Lombok, Beka B 15636-28245 (1928)
  • Panji in Lombok I: a Cross-Section of the Instrumental Music, coll. and ed. T. Seebass, Bärenreiter BM 30 SL 2560 (1977) [with commentary and photographs]
  • Panji in Lombok II: Kabar Alus – Good News, coll. and ed. T. Seebass, Bärenreiter BM 30 SL 2564 (1977) [with commentary and photographs, featuring the rebana, tawa’- tawa’, and kelenang ensembles]
  • Gilokaq Music of Lombok, perf. Al-Mashar and the Pusaka Group ‘Putra Sasak Asli’, King Record KICC 5178 (1994)
  • Lombok, Kalimantan, Banyumas: Little-known Forms of Gamelan and Wayang (tracks 1–3), coll. and ed. P. Yampolsky, Smithsonian Folkways LC 9628 (Music of Indonesia, 14) (1996)
  • Bali: Balinese music of Lombok, coll. and ed. D. Harnish, Auvidis/Unesco D 8272 (1997)
  • Be not afraid to strike the gong: the music of Lombok, coll. and ed. Ch. Basile, Indonesian Arts Society, IAS 5 (1998)
  • Music from the Southeast: Sumbawa, Sumba, Timor (tracks 1 and 2), coll. and ed. P. Yampolsky, Smithsonian Folkways LC 9628 (Music of Indonesia, 16) (1998)

III. Central Java

  • Benjamin Brinner

The central portion of the island of Java, where wide, fertile lowland valleys lie between several large, active volcanoes, became the first centre of Javanese political and cultural power well over 1000 years ago. Explosive growth from the early 19th century to the mid-20th has made this one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Today most of some 60 million ethnic Javanese reside in Central Java alongside a significant Chinese minority. Islam is the religion of the vast majority of Javanese, many of whom also maintain significant animist and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs and practices. Various Christian sects have made converts mainly in the cities. While urban centres have developed around royal courts and elsewhere, the population remains predominantly rural and agrarian, connected to the cities through a complex patchwork of territorial and political allegiances. Extensive social stratification fostered by Javanese nobility is still evident in use of linguistic levels and deferential behaviour.

The music and practices associated with Central Javanese Gamelan, an ensemble of varying composition usually including numerous metallophones and gongs as well as other instruments, are the main topic of this entry. From the late 20th century other types of music have been performed and consumed in Central Java, yet while certain types of popular musics may receive great exposure (see §VIII, 1 below), gamelan music (karawitan) continues to constitute the distinctively Javanese medium of musical expression.

1. History.

Little is known of music in early Java. Hood (1980) has speculated on the derivation of Javanese gongs and playing styles from Dongson bronze drums of mainland South-east Asia around 200 bce, though the transition from cast drums to forged gongs remains unclear. Indian influence, which lasted from the 5th to the 10th centuries ce, has not left obvious traces in the music but is central to literature and theatre, where the pre-eminent narratives are the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The term ‘gamelan’ does not appear until much later, but it has been argued that gendhing, used frequently from the 9th century, meant ensemble, not composition as it now does, and that gong was used similarly (Becker, 1993, pp.31–5). Early literary sources, dating mainly from the period when Javanese culture centred in East Java (11th–15th centuries), include numerous brief descriptions of music played for war, celebrations, and rituals at the Hindu-Javanese court of Majapahit, centre of a large empire. Terracotta figurines of that period depict not only instruments that are familiar but also some that have continued to be used in Bali but not in Java (such as two small gongs mounted on either end of a pole and a keyed instrument played with two forked beaters), as well as some that have left no direct descendants (such as lutes). Because Bali was under the rule of Majapahit and because Javanese nobility are believed to have fled to Bali when Majapahit fell to Muslim kingdoms from the north coast of Java around 1500, it is widely presumed that archaic aspects of musical instruments and practice maintained in Bali today are closely related to the music of Majapahit.

Little musical evidence survives from the centuries following the fall of Majapahit, although some court instruments still in use are believed to date from that period. Following a tumultuous succession of coastal kingdoms, the centre of power shifted back to Central Java, where Sultan Agung founded a new empire in the 17th century. Reports by early Dutch colonial figures, such as Van Goens, ambassador to Sultan Agung’s court in 1656, give little detail but indicate the existence of a variety of ensembles, including a loud one with gongs, cymbals, and drums, as well as ensembles featuring singing and some softer instruments. In this period Chinese and Europeans entered the area in numbers, with the Dutch gradually gaining control of Javanese territory and Chinese providing both middlemen and labourers. In the next centuries the Chinese minority patronized Javanese performing arts as well as Chinese forms and syncretic combinations. The 200 years of Dutch colonial presence (with a brief British interregnum during the Napoleonic wars) have also affected the arts in complex ways not immediately discernible (see Sumarsam, 1995). The Dutch-imposed treaty of Giyanti split Central Java in 1755 into two kingdoms with rival courts (kraton) located in Yogyakarta and Surakarta (also known as Solo). Further rivalries led to the creation of a minor court in each of these cities: the Paku Alaman in Yogyakarta and the Mangkunegaran in Surakarta.

By the 19th century many composition titles known today were already recorded in court manuscripts such as the famous Serat Centhini, and there is reason to believe that there has also been substantial musical continuity. Pélog and sléndro ensembles may not yet have been combined into one large gamelan, but most of the instruments known today were included in each, and the two were united in the now standard sléndro-pélog gamelan later in the century. The number of kenong (horizontally-suspended bossed gong) and kempul (vertically-suspended bossed gong) has since grown, a few instruments (such as the gambang gangsa, a multi-octave metallophone) have dropped out of use, and at least one, the gendèr panerus, has been added (about 1850). Current forms of dance and theatre can also be traced to this time, though considerable change has occurred.

From the middle of the 19th century to World War II, there was tremendous activity in all performing arts. The four courts marshalled large numbers of musicians, dancers, and dalang (shadow puppeteers), vying with one another (perhaps in lieu of warfare, which the Dutch suppressed) by presenting numerous spectacular performances and sponsoring creation of new genres and compositions. Attribution of works to rulers began to give way to naming actual composers and choreographers; various village practices, such as particular dances and drumming styles, were adopted and adapted at the courts. Court practices also spread to villages and urban performers through schools for dance, wayang (shadow play), and music established by the courts in Surakarta and Yogyakarta, as well as through radio broadcasts, which began in the 1920s. Vocal compositions proliferated, and innovation mainly involved creating parallels to existing forms (similar activity may have occurred earlier, but probably not to such a degree). Activity in the performing arts ended with the Japanese occupation (1942–5) and the subsequent struggle for Indonesian independence from Dutch rule (1945–9).

As the new Indonesian republic replaced both colonial rule and the feudal system embedded within it, the royal courts lost much of their wealth and ability to maintain large numbers of musicians and other performers. Many found new homes at the state radio stations in Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Some went to teach at the state-established conservatories (Konservatori Karawitan in Surakarta, 1951; Konservatori Tari Indonesia, Yogyakarta, 1961) and later the academies of the arts, ASKI (Akademi Seni Karawitan Indonesia, Surakarta, 1964) and ASTI (Akademi Seni Tari Indonesia, Yogyakarta, 1963), maintaining some of the dominance of court practice. These state schools fostered creative work alongside documentation and preservation of older practices. Beginning in the 1970s compositional activity has ranged from rearrangement of traditional elements to radical departures, including the development of new instruments (see Suwardi [Soewardi], Al(oysius)). As these schools took in students and instructors from other parts of Indonesia and adopted a pluralistic curriculum that included other Indonesian traditions (particularly Balinese and Sundanese), a broader spectrum of instruments and idioms became available, and composers at these institutions entered a pan-Indonesian arena of intellectual and artistic discourse.

Alongside this academy-centred activity, musical innovation was led in the post-independence decades by figures such as Kanjeng Raden Tumenggung Wasitodiningrat and Ki Nartosabdho. This has involved considerable mixing of genres and styles, so that regional and genre distinctions have been blurred. The breakdown of regional distinctions was also hastened by the rapid spread of cheap cassettes from the 1970s onward, most recordings featuring Solonese style. The most popular dhalang now appear to have the greatest influence over musical change as they promote their own compositions and compete for an audience by introducing new elements (such as cymbals and snare drums) or other types of popular entertainment into wayang kulit. Non-traditional instruments such as electric bass have been added to the gamelan for the campursari (‘mixed essence’) genre. In recent decades the characteristic smoothness of Javanese music has been disrupted by sudden contrasts of tempo and dynamics.

Gamelan has long been a potent icon of royal power, both because of the spiritual power vested in royal regalia (pusaka) and because of the expense and exclusivity of such instruments. The courts maintain numerous old sets of instruments; gamelan instruments, compositions, and dances have been tools of diplomacy for several centuries at least, exchanged as gifts at marriages joining the royal families of not only Central Java but also of Madura. Political connections also brought Javanese musical instruments and practices to Sunda, West Java and Banjarmasin, Sulawesi. In post-colonial and post-feudal times the Indonesian government has spread arts diplomacy to many parts of the world through gifts of gamelan and frequent missions by performance troupes, including many from Central Java. These are some of the ways in which the government has assumed some of the roles of the royal courts as arts patrons; its establishment of performing arts academies, staffed at first by former court performers, is another, as is the mandate given these institutions to record and preserve previously restricted royal repertory.

2. Musicians.

Javanese of all social classes play gamelan, but aristocrats and members of other élites rarely perform professionally; music and dance are seen as training for achieving refinement and harmony. Professional musicians are predominantly male, but female singers (Pesindhèn) stand out as the most visible, audible, and highly paid performers. Women also play all of the instruments of the gamelan, but with the exception of gendèr players (Weiss, 1993), they usually do so in gender-segregated amateur groups. Remuneration for performance is usually quite low for all but drummers and female singers; only musicians who perform regularly in popular shadow-play troupes and those who manage to find a position in the government bureaucracy, teaching in the schools or performing in the radio station ensembles, are able to make a living as musicians.

Formal musical study was uncommon until the mid-20th century. Despite the spread of institutionalized teaching, musicians continue to learn from many sources through repeated exposure and attempts at imitation. Since most musicians do not own instruments, learning and practicing are inherently social activities, requiring access to a set of instruments and involvement in a group situation. Sitting in and around the gamelan in performance is widely accepted from earliest childhood. The incorporation within a gamelan of roles of gradated difficulty enables beginners to participate alongside far more capable musicians. Most musicians gain competence on all of the simpler instruments; many can also play at least some of the complex ones. It is particularly common to learn from older relatives, who may demonstrate or correct but rarely teach systematically. Cassette recordings have facilitated and altered the process of imitation from the 1970s by offering a broad array of stylistic resources and enabling exact, unlimited repetition of a model for imitation.

The establishment of performing arts schools has changed education processes by offering students systematic training in gamelan, dance, and puppetry, though many musicians continue to learn informally. Students at these institutions develop a broader competence than other musicians because they learn several different styles of Javanese gamelan as well as music from other parts of Indonesia (principally Bali and West Java). Use of notation and a more verbalized, analytical approach to musical practice also distinguish this training. Since students from these institutions often teach gamelan in general schools, their standardized versions of performance practice and repertory are affecting the mainstream, diminishing but not eliminating regional and individual stylistic diversity.

Javanese royal courts and lesser noble houses maintained numerous musicians, dancer-actors, and puppeteers. In the heyday of the Kraton, the major palace of Surakarta, seven different groups of musicians were part of its many-tiered bureaucracy, including those associated with the crown prince and the prime minister. Musicians moved through an explicit system of ranks linked to particular instruments of the gamelan, with a few musicians at the apex of this system attaining noble rank. Members of the aristocracy often studied music and dance but were far more likely to dance than to play gamelan in court performances. Today a small number of musicians perform for court occasions and radio broadcasts from the palace (similar complexity and subsequent decline occurred at the Kraton of Yogyakarta). Smaller versions of these organizations developed at the Mangkunegaran and Paku Alaman, the minor courts of Surakarta and Yogyakarta.

The gamelan musicians at the government’s radio stations in Surakarta and Yogyakarta have been highly influential, spreading their playing styles and repertory farther afield than most other groups through frequent broadcasts and numerous commercial recordings. The only non-governmental groups to approach such distribution have been those associated with the most influential shadow-puppet masters (dhalang), Ki Nartosabdho and Ki Anom Suroto.

There are numerous other professional and semi-professional gamelan groups, some associated with a particular dhalang and others with municipal or educational institutions. The spectrum of experience and ability shades off into amateur groups linked to schools, banks, government offices, and other institutions that tend to serve a social function, but may also provide music for the sponsoring institution’s celebrations. Other performance opportunities include regional competitions and radio broadcasts on public and private stations.

3. Instruments and ensembles.

Gamelan instruments are tuned to two systems (laras): pentatonic sléndro and heptatonic pélog. Pitches are commonly represented by kepatihan notation, with 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 for sléndro and 1 to 7 for pélog (superscript and subscript dots indicate upper and lower octaves, respectively). Tuning varies considerably from one gamelan to the next, both in absolute pitch and in relative size of intervals, engendering considerable scholarly debate over the theory and aesthetics of tuning. Further complexity results from stretching of octaves on fixed pitch instruments, singers’ and rebab (spike fiddle) players’ individual intonations, and the varying relationship between the two halves of a sléndro-pélog gamelan: some sets coincide (tumbuk) on pitch 6, others on 1, 2, or 5 (Table 4 ). Certain gamelan sets are valued for their particular tunings and may be models for other sets. The gendèr (14-key metallophone) is usually used as a standard for tuning the rest of the gamelan.

Comparison of some sléndro and pélog tunings

Table 4: Comparison of some sléndro and pélog tunings

Instrumentation is flexible: ‘complete’ gamelan may vary greatly in the number of saron (metallophone, fig.5a ), kempul (vertically suspended bossed gong), kenong (horizontally suspended bossed gong) and gong. Yet this hardly affects performance practice and repertory. Likewise, the quality of the instruments, ranging from old, beautifully forged and tuned bronze to cheaper brass and iron, affects the overall sound but not the choice of repertory or performance practice. On the other hand, the availability of only one tuning restricts the choice of repertory, although many sléndro pieces may be played on a pélog ensemble. Two variant ensembles are sufficiently different to warrant specific terms: first, the small gamelan gadhon, which features the softer panerusan (elaborating) instruments rebab (spike fiddle, fig.4 ), gendèr, gendèr panerus (small 14-key metallophone), gambang (wooden xylophone), suling (bamboo duct flute), and siter or celempung (zithers) as well as some of the basic instruments including kendhang (drum), slenthem (low-pitched metallophone), some sort of gong, and occasionally other colotomic instruments; second, in soran or bonangan performance the bonang (gong-chime, fig.5b ) and saron predominate and the soft instruments are lacking. These two subsets may also be heard as alternating textures within a performance by a full ensemble: the loud instruments come to the sonic foreground at certain points (usually beginnings, fast transitions, and some endings) and in certain pieces (particularly the shorter forms), while the softer, more complex sound of panerusan emerges in slower tempi and longer pieces.

Certain royal ensembles present different (and possibly earlier) approaches to instrumentation. Gamelan monggang (see Gamelan), kodhok ngorèk, and carabalèn all feature gongs and gong chimes in different sizes and combinations. They are reserved for ceremonial occasions and have a small repertory of pieces specific to each ensemble. Only the ceremonial gamelan sekatèn overlaps significantly with the common gamelan in instrument types and repertory (though not in performing practice; see §6 below).

4. Fundamentals of gamelan music.

Javanese gamelan music is renowned for its complex texture consisting of many layers that differ in register, speed, timbre, and playing idiom. With few exceptions, the faster the part the higher the register. Faster parts relate to slower ones by powers of two except for the complex and often unmetred rhythms of the vocal, rebab, and suling melodies. Heterophony and polyphony are equally unsatisfactory descriptions of gamelan texture, which is characterized both by considerable independence and by extensive melodic derivation of one part from another.

Various functional divisions of the gamelan have been proposed. While all are problematic, partly because instruments may fulfil more than one function, the following functions are useful: a) demarcation of progress through time; b) basic melody; c) melodic elaboration; and d) rhythmic elaboration and control of tempo.

Binary and cyclical organisation are fundamental to Javanese musical structure: most pieces are based on cycles whose length is a power of two (particularly 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128). These may, in theory, be repeated endlessly; in practice, only the shortest pieces are repeated numerous times. Cycles are absent from certain song-based genres such as sulukan (which also lack a metre) and palaran, in which the phrases are of uneven and unpredictable length. Conceptual stress is also binary: in a four-beat gatra, the fundamental unit of Javanese music, the fourth is the strongest, the second is next in emphasis, and the first and third beats are considered weak. This end-weighted pattern of relative stress results from the convergence of various parts on particular beats rather than dynamic accents played by any one musician. Despite the prevalence of cyclical organization, linear temporality is evident on many levels: within cyclical structures, in the progressions within medleys of compositions, and in the overall sequence of pieces in a performance.

Cyclical Javanese forms are defined by cycle length and by the colotomic pattern articulating this cycle and its subdivisions. This pattern consists of a hierarchical sequence of strokes on gongs of varying shape, timbre, and register. Three types of gong are used in all colotomic patterns: the end is marked by a large hanging gong (gong ageng) or, in the shortest cycles, by a slightly smaller and higher pitched gong suwukan; the kenong (distinguished from the big gongs by horizontal suspension, shape, a clear, ringing timbre, and relatively high pitch) marks the middle and end of the cycle and usually the quarter and three-quarter points; the kethuk (horizontally suspended like the kenong but much smaller) is used to mark further subdivisions (Table 5 ). Its characteristic dull timbre is further differentiated from the kenong and gong by playing technique: a damped stroke or rapid series of strokes.

Colotomic structures of Central Javanese gendhingin the Solonese tradition

TABLE 5: Colotomic structures of Central Javanese gendhing in the Solonese tradition

Other colotomic instruments include kempul, kempyang, engkok, kemong, and kemanak. The kempul (a medium-sized hanging gong sounding in the octave between gong ageng and kenong) is not played in long cycles but marks the point midway between kenong strokes in cycles of short and medium length (8 to 32 beats) and is hierarchically more important than kenong in very short cycles (1 to 4 beats), sounding on every second kenong stroke. The kempyang (a small, high-pitched, horizontally suspended gong or pair of gongs) and engkok and kemong (a pair of small, high-pitched, hanging gongs less common than the kempyang and limited to sléndro gamelan) mark smaller subdivisions in certain pieces, flanking the kethuk strokes. In certain court dances a pair of kemanak (small, banana-shaped slit gongs) are played in alternation by two musicians to mark the smallest subdivisions of the cycle.

Irama, another fundamental aspect of temporal organization, denotes not only a given tempo level but a particular rhythmic ratio between the beat and the faster-moving parts. Binary subdivision reigns here too: in a fast irama the saron peking (or saron panerus, a high-pitched metallophone), bonang barung (gong-chime), and gendèr are played twice as fast as the saron melody, whereas in slower irama this ratio shifts to 4:1, then 8:1 and finally 16:1. This is accomplished by extreme expansion of the melody rather than by doubling the speed of the elaborating parts: the duration of a cycle depends not only on its length in beats but on the irama at which it is played. Virtually every cyclical gamelan piece can be played in at least two irama, and some in all five. Change from one irama to another is usually gradual, a steady acceleration leading to the next level of contraction or a retard leading to expansion; more limited tempo changes are possible without changing irama. Changes are highly significant, cueing the end of a piece or a transition to the next section, for example. Finally, there are often fundamental tempo differences between performance contexts; for example, in a given irama theatrical music tends to be played faster than non-theatrical music.

Javanese music is now notated with ciphers ranging from 1 to 7, but no hierarchy is implied by these numbers; some pieces have a clear tonal centre, many others do not. Heptatonic pélog scale and pentatonic sléndro are mutually exclusive in traditional practice. In some sléndro pieces rebab and vocal parts overlay pélog-like intervallic patterns, a practice known as barang miring. Many pélog pieces use a five-note subset of pélog: elaborating instruments such as gendèr and gambang exist in versions that are tuned either to 1–2–3–5–6 or 2–3–5–6–7.

Melodic organization is subject to the constraints of pathet, roughly translatable as ‘mode’. Pathet is both a classification system and a system governing melodic choices (see Mode, §V, 4, (ii). As a classification system it is applied to repertory and limits the pieces that can be played at a given point in a performance or joined together in a medley. As a system of melodic choices, pathet affects composition and musicians’ semi-improvisatory elaborations of the melodic essence of a piece.

The nature of this melodic essence has generated extensive debate and numerous attempts to pin down the most important or characteristic strand among the simultaneous manifestations of this essence. One candidate, the balungan (skeleton), is the relatively simple multi-octave melody played on the saron (within its one-octave range), from which some of the other parts can, in fact, be derived; the rebab melody is another central strand, while vocal melodies are clearly the source for some compositions (Susilo, 1989 and Sumarsam, 1995), and some musicians claim that all composition is vocally derived. But musicians and scholars also postulate an unplayed conceptual melody that has been named lagu (lit. ‘melody’; Sutton, 1979) or ‘inner melody’ (Sumarsam, 1984) or even balungan, giving that term a second meaning (Supanggah, 1988; see Perlman, 1994 for detailed discussion of this topic).

The conceptual melody and the most wide-ranging melodic parts (rebab, gambang, vocals) have an ambitus of 2·5 octaves. Other instruments, such as the gendèr and the bonang, have slightly smaller melodic ranges, whereas the balungan-playing instruments (various saron and slenthem) are limited to about one octave, which leads to characteristic ways of compressing the melody (ex.10 ).

Ex.10 Melodic compression

Differences of register are tremendously important: on multi-octave instruments it is crucial that musicians know the appropriate register for a given phrase. Many pieces have high-register sections designated ngelik or lik. Contrasts between low and medium register are also significant in many compositions, although no term specifically designates sections in these registers. There is considerable variety in the shaping of Javanese melodies, but certain characteristic contours recur with great frequency. That contour is a key element in Javanese musicians’ conceptualization of melody is evident in the ease with which musicians transpose melodies from one tuning to another and from one scale step to another, often altering the intervallic content of a melody considerably.

The densest and sparsest strands in gamelan texture can be characterized as elaborations and abstractions, respectively, of some central melody. Traditionally, Javanese composers have not orchestrated pieces because they can rely on competent musicians to produce elaborations and abstractions for a given melody following the idiomatic constraints associated with particular instruments or vocal roles. Instead, composers have specified a form and pathet, composed a balungan to fit that form and perhaps transmitted a conception of the melodic flow of the piece through the rebab melody, in some cases also specifying a choral melody.

Garapan (‘cultivation’) is the creation of an idiomatic realization of the essence of a piece. For instruments such as saron peking, bonang, and bonang panerus (high-pitched gong chime) this can be a relatively straightforward doubling of pairs of notes from the balungan involving anticipation (ex.11 ). Formulaic abstractions and elaborations may also be played on the larger saron. Garapan for the more complex parts requires a thorough knowledge of the patterns associated with a particular instrument, the conceptual melody of the piece and familiarity with analogous pieces, as well as an understanding of the constraints of pathet and other aspects of performance practice, such as irama and drumming styles. Basic patterns of elaboration (cèngkok) are conceptualized as abstractions that can generate infinite variations (wiletan, ex.12 ).

Ex.11 Anticipation of the balungan

Ex.12 Variations of a singlegendèr cèngkok

A cèngkok is goal-orientated, characterized by the pitch on which it ends (sèlèh), pathet, starting pitch, and register. Most cèngkok can be transposed, but modal identity may change. Transfer of patterns from sléndro to pélog is particularly common. There are some parallels between instruments (and vocals) although idiomatic characteristics will almost always generate some distinctiveness (ex.13 ).

Ex.13 Idiomatic differences and similarities

Realization of a piece through selection of appropriate cèngkok is not thoroughly formulaic. While sèlèh tend to occur at the end of each gatra and most cèngkok are therefore four beats long, many instances demand different interpretations. Furthermore, the idioms of some instruments are more formulaic than others. Some strikingly idiosyncratic passages for rebab, gendèr, pesindhèn, and sometimes kendhang are designated pamijèn (‘singular’) and must be learnt specifically from other musicians.

In many cases competent musicians can perform a piece they have never heard by following the lead musicians and choosing corresponding cèngkok; the idiomatic time lag between rebab melody and sindhènan, for example, affords the pesindhèn time to follow the rebab and other key instruments. Likewise, players of instruments such as gendèr panerus and siter can repeat static patterns while deducing the approaching sèlèh from other musicians’ parts. Garapan also involves expansion and contraction of patterns by a factor of two in order to adapt to different irama (ex.14 ).

Ex.14 Expansion of a cèngkok

A variety of Javanese musical forms, differing greatly in length and performance practice, derives from various contractions or expansions of a few basic colotomic structures, some regular and symmetrical and others irregular. The length of the cycle in regular forms is between 8 and 256, consisting of four (or, in ketawang, and ketawang gendhing, two) subsections of equal length, each ending with a kenong stroke and hence termed kenongan. This pervasive structural symmetry is broken in only a few pieces. Longer forms are distinguished by the number and density of kethuk strokes per kenongan (see Table 5 above). A further distinction may be made between the shorter ones (lancaran, ketawang and ladrang) in which the kenongan is no longer than eight beats and is subdivided by a kempul stroke, and the longer mérong and inggah forms, which have kenongan of 16, 32, or 64 beats and do not include kempul (Solonese terminology is used here; the Yogyanese equivalent of inggah is dhawah).

The irregular gendhing lampahan forms have much denser colotomic structures with phrases of varying length and differ in performing practice. For instance, they begin with a brief drum solo rather than the melodic introductions (buka) of colotomically regular forms. They also tend to have special ending phrases (suwuk) that can be played at various points in the course of the piece, unlike colotomically regular pieces that must be played through to the end of the cycle. This distinction is particularly significant in theatrical accompaniment.

Mérong and inggah sections are not usually performed as separate entities, but are played in relatively fixed pairs to constitute gendhing, the longer compositions in the Central Javanese repertory. Some inggah sections are firmly bound to a particular mérong, whereas others may be ‘borrowed’ to play with another mérong. Gendhing may also have transitional sections (umpak inggah) played between the mérong and inggah or sesegan sections played as a rapid conclusion after the inggah.

A gamelan composition may also extend beyond a single cycle if its melody spans two or more repetitions of a single colotomic structure; or the melody may be expanded and altered for different irama. Many pieces feature the distinctive, high-register lik or ngelik section that contrasts with the basic section of the piece, sometimes called umpak. The lik may be an integral part of the piece, played at every iteration, or an auxiliary section that is played once or not at all, depending on circumstances and the leaders’ decisions.

Irregularly structured gendhing lampahan (‘walking pieces’) are far less numerous than the regularly structured pieces but are played with great frequency, particularly in theatre to accompany movement such as battle and travel. Three types are recognized in Solonese practice: ayak-ayakan, srepegan, and sampak (Yogyanese usage differs; see Table 6 ); some gendhing lampahan have lik sections.

A more radical contrast to gendhing is found in unaccompanied song (see §5 below) and in sulukan, a genre of short, unmetrical pieces played on a small subset of the gamelan (Table 7 ). There are three types of sulukan: pathetan (Yogyanese lagon), sendhon, and ada-ada; these are sung in theatrical performances by the narrator to express a mood (calmness, upset, and anger, respectively). Gong, kenong, and kempul add punctuation, which is connected loosely to vocal phrase endings rather than being bound to a particular colotomic framework. In non-theatrical contexts only pathetan are commonly performed, usually without vocal or gongs.

TABLE 7: Instrumentation for Sulukan (Solonese style)













TABLE 6: Comparison of Solonese and Yogyanese

Gendhing lampahan

Balungan beat per

Solonese Term

Yogyanese Term













Sampak gara-gara

After Sutton 1991, p.30.

These contrasting attitudes towards musical time and form are combined in gendhing kemanak and palaran (Yogyanese rambangan). Gendhing kemanak accompany certain female court dances and involve a sparse texture of colotomic parts and drum with choral singing that is rhythmically defined but only occasionally aligns metrically with the colotomic structure. Palaran, performed by a solo singer and most of the instruments of the gamelan, are based on a rhythmically free vocal melody set to the short colotomic pattern of srepegan, but with flexible phrase lengths determined by singer and drummer.

Performance practice varies considerably according to the form of a composition, affecting orchestration, volume, playing style, tempo, irama, and other aspects of timing. The mérong section of a gendhing, for example, is almost invariably begun in irama tanggung, slowing to irama dadi within the first 20 beats or so, then remaining there until the leading musicians decide to move on to the inggah. This transition is cued by an acceleration, returning to irama tanggung, and then a retardation as the end of the mérong or transitional cycle is reached. There is more variety in the performance of inggah, which are generally more lively in character than the calm mérong. This difference in character may be evident in the drumming style, the choice of irama and tempo, the addition of interlocking handclapping by the male chorus, and generally more rhythmically active elaboration such as interlocking bonang parts (ex.15 ) or more complex gendèr playing. Traditionally, orchestration has not been specified: various groups of instruments and voices shift in and out of the sonic foreground with changes in irama and drumming style.

Ex.15 Interlocking bonangparts

The drummer determines much of the sequence by controlling irama and by choosing particular drum patterns (ex.16 ). On the largest drum, kendhang gendhing, sparse patterns are played with little variation. Consisting of particular sequences of low- and medium-pitched strokes (dah and dhung or thung, respectively) played with the right hand, these patterns are linked directly to musical forms; a complete pattern corresponds to one gong cycle. Light filler strokes played with either hand regulate tempo, and a short, simple pattern, varied only to mark ends of phrases, may be added on the smallest drum, ketipung, by the main drummer or a second musician. Other drum patterns, chiefly for the smaller forms such as ladrang, involve interlocking strokes on large and small drums. The most ornate drumming, with much greater individual variation, is played on a medium-size drum, the ciblon (Yogyanese batangan), for concert and dance music, or the slightly larger, lower-pitched kendhang sabet for theatre. A large vocabulary of drum strokes is used to create a rapid, lively, and supple flow of great rhythmic complexity.

Ex.16 Drum patterns and colotomic structures

Certain forms may have more than one drumming pattern. The drummer’s choice, depending to some extent on context and the desired mood, will affect the way other musicians play. For instance, ciblon drumming generally calls for interlocking (imbal) of large and small bonang as well as more ornate playing on instruments such as the gendèr. Special patterns are played to end a piece or cue a transition.

Some of the most subtle and crucial aspects of Javanese musical performance involve deviations from metronomic time. The beat is most frequently stretched approaching the end of a cycle, involving a complex interaction that is not solely under the drummer’s control.

5. Regional styles and repertory.

Intense awareness of regional traditions is prevalent in Java, as in other parts of Indonesia. Distinctive artistic traditions have developed in various parts of Central Java with commonly recognized traditions linked to each of the four royal courts, the coastal city of Semarang (a tradition that has been largely displaced by Surakarta style), and various rural regions such as Wonogiri, Klaten, and Boyolali, the most distinctive being that of Banyumas, an area lying on the border of West Java. There is considerable mixing with neighbouring performing arts traditions in border areas such as Cirebon in the north-west.

Regional diversity is conceived to be characterized by distinctive playing styles, repertory, and other aspects of musical practice. Drumming, bonang playing, saron elaboration techniques, and vocal styles tend to differ most dramatically. Repertory also varies, with certain compositions specific to a given area and others existing in several regional variants (ex.17 ). Many differences are difficult to pin down, but significant issues of local and regional identity persist (Sutton, 1991). Heightened awareness of regional differences feeds both conservative and innovative attitudes towards the arts, leading both to calls for stylistic purity and to extensive borrowing.

Ex.17 Three regional versions of balungan for Gendhing Bondhèt

Rather than a global Javanese musical repertory there are numerous repertories, defined by socio-geographical distinctions, performance context or musical structure. These overlap and relate to one another in other ways. Likewise, repertory size is difficult to measure, owing to varying inclusions and exclusions as well as pervasive variation. Some pieces are very specifically defined with titles and relatively fixed musical content. Many are more loosely defined. One large, well-known collection (Mloyowidodo, 1977) contains well over 1000 discrete items from the Solonese (i.e. from Surakarta) repertory; yet even for this stylistic region it is incomplete, lacking gendhing lampahan, sulukan, other primarily theatrical music, some ceremonial pieces, and various lighter pieces, not to mention hundreds of more recent compositions. Pieces are rarely linked to specific composers, and even the work of living composers may be played widely without acknowledgment. Attribution to a single composer can be problematic, since compositional activity can involve rearrangement of existing elements or additions of new texts or vocal melodies to existing pieces.

Singing is an integral part of the Javanese poetic system. Over the past 1000 years the majority of Javanese writing has been cast in poetic verse meant to be sung rather than read silently. Poetic metres include Sanskrit-based sekar ageng (‘large song/poem’) derived from India and indigenous macapat metres. Each is associated with particular melody types and performance practices enabling knowledgeable singers to ‘recite’ any text composed in one of these metres. Macapat and sekar ageng can be sung unaccompanied in various contexts, including gamelan performances, in which they substitute for the introduction to a gamelan composition (bawa) or are inserted in a break in the middle of a piece. The melodies of macapat and sekar ageng vary with context and performance genre, ranging from syllabic recitation to highly ornate and melismatic settings and from ametrical to strictly metrical.

Macapat are also commonly incorporated into various gamelan genres. At one extreme are pieces termed gendhing sekar and palaran, in which the macapat-derived vocal melody determines the melodic content of the other parts. In many other pieces singers may add vocal lines as part of the instrumental texture. Interchangeability of texts is the rule, with specifically composed texts being much rarer; exceptions include some court dances and the light repertory of dolanan, gamelan settings of children’s songs.

Purely instrumental music includes ceremonial gendhing bonang, featuring the bonang and the louder instruments, which may be played on a regular gamelan and the more restricted repertory of ceremonial ensembles such as gamelan kodhok ngorèk and sekatèn. In addition, various pieces, particularly ladrang and lancaran, may be performed soran (in loud style without vocal and panerusan instruments), depending on context or available ensemble.

Gendhing, the most numerous genre, are characterized and classified by tuning, ‘mode’ (pathet), form, and sometimes by drum pattern. Musicians of the Surakarta and Yogyakarta traditions differ among themselves over the details of these distinctions, but the principles are similar. Tripartite classifications predominate, often on the basis of large, medium, and small ‘sizes’ of musical forms. As with poetic metres, the modifiers alit, tengahan, and ageng refer to gradations of size (small, medium, and large, respectively), although in both cases the distinctions are not clear-cut. The full title of a piece usually includes significant information about its form and/or performance practice.

Pathet pairs

Modal identity is one of the most fundamental characteristics of a piece. While some pieces, such as Ladrang Sobrang, exhibit characteristics of two or more pathet, each piece has a ‘home’ pathet. This constrains musicians’ interpretations and where they will place the piece in the performance (see §6(i) below). Piece types are not evenly distributed across the six main pathet of the Central Javanese modal system. There are some general parallels between corresponding pathet in the sléndro and pélog systems (Table 8 ), such as a preponderance of longer, more serious pieces in pélog lima and sléndro nem, whereas male choral singing is far more common in the other pathet. There are also some important differences between the two tunings. Sléndro pieces are commonly performed in pélog, but the reverse is not true. Furthermore, the transformation of pieces does not necessarily follow the pairing of pathet that otherwise obtains: a piece in sléndro manyura may be transferred to pélog nem or pélog barang, with strikingly different results. Distinctions between pélog lima and pélog nem are sufficiently problematic to cause considerable differences of opinion over classification of pieces. In Yogyakarta this is sometimes solved by describing both categories as pathet bem.

TABLE 8: Pathet Pairs















Night performances of klenèngan or wayang follow this order, theoretically apportioning a third of the time to each pathet in sléndro or to each pair if both tunings are used. In theory, morning klenèngan would use the third pathet, then the second, and end in the third while afternoon klenèngan use only the third pathet

Pieces are further distinguished, albeit less systematically, according to mood or character. The three fundamental categories are regu (majestic, solemn character), pernès (lighter, more playful, even coquettish character), and gecul (comic character). Pieces in the last category sometimes include the word gecul in their titles and may feature some transgression of the conventions that inform most of the repertory.

6. Performance contexts.

Javanese gamelan is commonly performed in a variety of contexts; there can be considerable overlap in performance settings, patronage, and musical repertory. Many aspects of performance practice, as well as some items of repertory, are context-specific, but even these may be ‘borrowed’ (e.g. transferred from a dance genre to a theatrical performance of some sort). Performers tend to be keenly aware of the original contexts of musical items and practices and differ in their readiness to accept or promulgate such borrowings.

Performance does not usually take place in a concert hall on a proscenium stage, although such settings do exist now at government radio stations and institutions such as the SMKI (Sekolah Menengah Karawitan Indonesia) conservatory high school in Surakarta. Rather, the more traditional setting is a pendhapa, a square or rectangular structure with raised floor and peaked roof supported on numerous columns. One side may be attached to the verandah of a building, while the other sides are open. Musicians and audience traditionally sit on the floor, though chairs have come into use for the audience in some circumstances. Dance and theatre performances generally draw much larger audiences, with the uninvited often standing on the ground outside the pendhapa. Such structures were a standard element of traditional aristocratic architecture and are particularly large and numerous in Javanese palaces. Traditional village houses lack such opulent structures but often have a panelled front wall that can be removed, enabling hundreds of people to hear and see the performance that takes place under the pendhapa-like roof of the front room. In other situations, temporary structures are erected with a raised platform for the performers, often occupying an alley next to the celebrants’ house. More intimate performances may be held inside a house.

Most performances are sponsored to celebrate a particular occasion, such as a birth, a circumcision, a wedding, independence day, the beginning of the Javanese year, or some other important event or anniversary. People also sponsor performances to mark their wétonan (a commemoration of a birthday that recurs every 35 days), to fulfill a vow or to ward off evil. Sponsors may be individuals or corporate entities such as a bank, a whole village, or a government institution. Sponsors not only hire the performers but provide them (and, in some cases, the audience) with food. Invitations are often issued, but the uninvited are rarely excluded and may be numerous, particularly if the performers are well known. Very few events require the purchase of tickets. The Javanese courts sponsor many performances to mark auspicious days, though the number of such performances has decreased greatly in recent years. The wétonan of the reigning sultan or prince in each court is marked by a live broadcast on state radio. Other radio broadcasts originate from studios where the traditional etiquette of performance is greatly altered.

The most prominent use of gamelan for a religious occasion is the nearly continual playing of the massive gamelan sekatèn in the courtyard of the main mosques in Yogyakarta and Surakarta to mark the birth of the prophet each year. The invention of various aspects of gamelan and wayang are attributed to the Wali, the saints who spread Islam in Java, but there is no close relation with Muslim institutions, and gamelan performance does not usually intersect with Muslim religious practice, though some terbangan genres (featuring terbang frame drum and vocals) share melodies with the standard gamelan repertory (see below). However, gamelan instruments, compositions, and music theory have all been implicated in mystical beliefs linked to Sufism and Tantrism (Sastrapustaka, 1984 and Becker, 1993); certain pieces are believed to be spiritually powerful (even dangerous), and gamelan performance is sometimes used for meditation. Alongside the attributions to Muslim saints other origin myths link the creation of gamelan to Hindu gods and legendary Javanese figures (see Hood, 1970). The goddess of the South Seas, Nyai Rara Kidul, figures prominently in beliefs about certain sacred dances and musical compositions. Gamelan is an important element in certain rituals such as sacred dances performed annually at the major palaces or purification ceremonies involving special shadow play (ruwatan). Gamelan has occasionally been played in Javanese churches. New masses and individual pieces have been composed, and existing gamelan compositions have been adapted for Christian use, first in the Catholic Church and later in Protestant churches.

(i) Klenèngan.

These performances may he held independently or, in the case of a major celebration, in conjunction with other performances. The duration ranges from a few hours during the day or evening to an entire night. Audience demeanour may range from formal attention or silent meditation to muted conversation and enthusiastic participation in rhythmic handclapping.

In Solonese practice, compositions are performed according to a pathet order that is linked to time of day (see Table 5 above). When a full gamelan is available both tunings are used in alternation, combining the pélog and sléndro pathet sequences: a piece is played in pélog lima, followed by another in sléndro nem; this may be repeated or the musicians may then play in pélog nem and so on.

In klenèngan it is more common to link several pieces together in an unbroken medley than to play individual pieces. The construction of these medleys is often spontaneous, though some are well-known sequences. Generally a medley begins with a gendhing, though this may be preceded by a pathetan and a bawa (solo song). Pieces in shorter forms are appended after the gendhing: ladrang, ketawang, and ayak-ayakan are all common choices. The later portion of a medley will often consist of a srepegan with palaran interspersed. It is also common to include lighter, vocal-centred genres such as dolanan and langgam (kroncong-style songs in Javanese language and tunings) towards the end of a medley. While the rules for combining pieces are not explicit, certain principles of contrast and compatibility are widely observable in addition to the progression from longer to shorter colotomic structures: for example, a piece performed with lively drumming, interlocking bonang, and handclapping will often be contrasted with a slower, more serene piece such as a ketawang; compatibility requires that pieces belong to the same pathet and that they share a gong tone, though a piece may be adjusted to fit the latter requirement. Linearity is fundamental to the overall progression: with the exception of certain selingan (insertion of one piece in the middle of another), compositions earlier in the medley are not returned to. Cycles are also interrupted by the performance of andhegan, in which the drummer cues the entire ensemble to stop at a certain point in the cycle, allowing one of the pesindhèn to sing a solo (ranging from a single phrase to an entire independent song) before the instrumentalists resume performance.

(ii) Theatre.

There is little theatre and no dance without music in Central Java, and this almost always involves some sort of gamelan. Indeed, dramatic, choreographic, and musical elements are so thoroughly integrated in some types of performance that they defy simple classification. However, the less thoroughly dramatic genres are generally referred to as dance (beksan (Javanese) or tari (Indonesian)), whereas the names of many theatrical genres include the word wayang.

Dramatic performances most commonly draw on the Indian-derived Mahabharata and Ramayana cycles with some characters and episodes invented in Java. Some genres are associated with the indigenous Panji cycle, semi-historical plots particularly from the fabled Majapahit period, and Middle Eastern tales.

Plays involve well-known main characters and a host of stock characters, both defined by a matrix of classifications and conventions. One dimension of this matrix is a continuum from refined (halus) to coarse (kasar). The categories of men, women, gods, and ogres form another dimension. These are differentiated by conventions of iconography (of puppets’ or actors’ body type and costume), type of voice, speech patterns, stance, and movement. One category deserves particular mention: the punakawan, comical servants who speak the commoner’s language and often refer to contemporary events, although some of them have divine aspects. These figures, a Javanese invention dating back at least 1000 years, take a central role in most theatrical performances, mediating mythical and contemporary life.

Most Central Javanese dramatic genres involve a narrator, usually termed dhalang, whose role ranges from full control over all aspects of the performance in the shadow play to brief declamation in genres such as langen driya. (Only a few women practise the hereditary art of the dhalang.) Some genres involve substantial improvisation in many aspects of the performance, whereas others are scripted, choreographed, and provided with a fixed sequence of musical pieces (although musicians still have flexibility). A specialized theatrical language is utilized in most performances, and older forms of Javanese are also incorporated, particularly in narration. Careful attention is given to status-differentiated speech levels.

The musical element of these dramatic genres is fully integrated with the other performance conventions. Almost without exception, pieces are drawn from a general stock, distinguished by associations with particular dramatic settings and functions. There is substantial overlap between the musical repertories of different dramatic genres. Similarly, the system of transformations used to adapt these pieces to specific dramatic needs is common to most Javanese dramatic genres. Music serves to accompany and enhance movement, set a scene, create a mood, and articulate the structure of the performance, framing the beginning and the end as well as marking important junctures in between. The pathet sequence (see Table 5) is fundamental to the shadow play and underlies most other theatrical genres. The drummer fills a crucial role in all of these genres and plays in a style that differs markedly from other gamelan drumming. In addition to controlling tempo and dynamics, the drummer transmits numerous cues and provides ‘sound effects’, amplifying puppet or actor movements with drumstrokes.

Shadow play is the most common type of theatrical performance, and wayang kulit purwa is the most common genre of shadow play, defined by its portrayal of episodes from the Mahabharata or new episodes linked to that cycle (or, more rarely, episodes from the Ramayana). The dhalang is in complete control of the performance, choosing and developing the plot, narrating, providing all the dialogue and manipulating the puppets, as well as choosing the musical accompaniment and directing most aspects of the music. The dhalang is expected to entertain and to educate, lacing the dialogue and narration with comedy and moral precepts.

Until the 1930s the traditional instrumentation for wayang kulit purwa consisted of a small sléndro gamelan that, in addition to the softer elaborating instruments, slenthem and kendhang, included cymbals (kecèr), only a few saron, kenong, kempul, and gong, without any bonang. Since then, under the influence of wayang wong (dance-drama), a full gamelan in both tunings has become the norm. Dhalang often add Western percussion to emphasize puppet movement and Sundanese jaipongan drumming for certain puppet dances.

Performances traditionally begin in the evening and last about nine hours, ending near dawn. Abbreviated performances, some as short as an hour, have been developed from the 1950s onwards. All full performances and many abbreviated ones are based on a structure of three ‘acts’, each with its own internal structure of scenes, its own symbolic position in the progress of the play and its own repertory drawn from one of the three pathet sléndro. With the advent of double gamelan, pieces in pélog have also been incorporated. The importance of music in delineating this structure is evident in the fact that each act is named after its musical mode.

The traditional repertory comprises hundreds of pieces grouped in several large categories: gendhing, gendhing lampahan, sulukan, and dolanan. These pieces are used to set a scene (gendhing), to accompany and represent movement (gendhing lampahan), to convey a mood or emotion (sulukan), to demarcate the performance structure (a variety of pieces), to entertain the audience (dolanan and other light pieces), and as background to narration. Certain pieces are identified with particular characters.

Most performances are unrehearsed and depend on an intricate set of conventions for their success. The network of interacting performers centres on the dhalang, whose cues are relayed to leading members of the ensemble, principally the drummer but also the rebab, gendèr, and bonang players and the female singers who mediate between the dhalang and the rest of the ensemble. There is a complex system of cues and responses that is directly linked to the dramatic and musical structures: a particular cue is meaningful only with respect to a given context and will evoke a different response if it is produced in another part of a piece or of the play. The dhalang communicates via song, verbal cues, puppet placement, and various rhythms tapped with a wooden mallet (cempala) on the wooden box (kothak) or a set of overlapping bronze plates (kecrèk) hung on the box.

Other forms of puppet theatre are rarely performed. Wayang gedhog, for example, paralleled the wayang purwa in most respects but utilized a pélog gamelan to portray stories from the Panji cycle and had a more rigid plot structure and selection of musical repertory. Rod puppets (wayang golèk) have been used mainly in areas closer to West Java, where they constitute the main theatrical medium (see §V, 1(viii) below).

Theatre forms featuring human actor-dancers rather than puppets include wayang wong, kethoprak, topèng, langen driya, and langen mandra wanara. Perhaps the most important of these is wayang wong, which exists in two varieties, one a venerable court spectacle in the round and the other a popular off-shoot developed for the proscenium stage at the end of the 19th century. Both depict episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, but the court form is fully scripted and choreographed, features a large cast and intricate costumes and requires intensive rehearsal. The popular wayang wong panggung is improvised on the basis of a skeletal story line. It is closely linked to the shadow play, sharing plots, characters, and most of its repertory and performing conventions with wayang kulit purwa. While it is clearly derivative it has also influenced wayang kulit, most notably in the use of a full double gamelan. It differs in its relative brevity: performances last two to four hours, certain scenes are omitted, and shorter musical compositions are favoured. The division of labour also differs: the dhalang in wayang wong still controls the overall flow of the performance, linking the action to the music with narrative and cues, but the actors take on all of the improvised dialogue, some of which is sung to gamelan accompaniment (Susilo, 1987).

Kethoprak (folk theatre) developed in the 20th century and depicts historical and legendary plots; it is similar in many ways to wayang wong but involves less music. Wayang topèng, a theatrical form based on masked dance, also involves a dhalang who narrates and guides the actions. Representing the indigenous Javanese Panji tales, it had a long history in Java as a popular genre, performed by wandering troupes with a very small gamelan wherever an open space and a potential audience were to be found, but it is now very rare aside from brief excerpts that continue to be performed as individual dances, often in forms that underwent court stylization. Langen mandra wanara and langen driya are esoteric court forms rarely seen outside the palace walls and hardly performed today even within them. Developed in the late 19th century in Yogyakarta and Surakarta respectively, they employ fully scripted texts, composed in macapat metres. Dialogue is sung, unlike the other forms of theatre, which involve extensive speech.

(iii) Dance.

Gamelan accompanies a wide variety of dance genres developed in the royal courts, towns and villages. Some dances (jogèd or beksan) are explicitly narrative and closely related to theatrical genres, whereas others are more abstract, lyrical, or sensual, fulfilling ritual needs or providing secular entertainment. Underlying Javanese classifications of dance are distinctions of gender, social status, performance settings, and function. Female dances include the restricted court forms bedhaya, danced by seven or nine women, and srimpi dances for four women, as well as golèk and gambyong, secular dances that originated outside the courts but were reworked there and are widely performed today, either solo or by a group of women. Bedhaya and srimpi dances and dancers have served as royal symbols for centuries; ascension of a new king necessitated creation of new choreographies, often reworking existing gendhing as accompaniment. At the other end of the social scale are the taledhèk or ronggèng, itinerant dancers who travelled with small bands of musicians, dancing with men from the audience; such dancing is thought to be the source of some of the more refined female dancing and the drumming that accompanies it. A related phenomenon is tayuban, a centuries-old form of entertainment in which men take turns dancing with professional female dancers. Choreographed male dances include wirèng (warrior dances, fig.6 ) and pethilan, battle scenes from theatrical plots. Mixed-gender choreographies tend to be dramatic in nature, directly related to theatrical genres. The dance drama (sendratari), a mid-20th-century invention in which narration is mainly danced without dialogue, is the site of ongoing innovation, building largely on the norms of traditional Javanese dance and theatre, unlike more radical choreographies by figures such as Bagong Kussadiarjo or Sardono Kusuma, who combine Javanese elements with various other styles and approaches to dance in far more eclectic mixes.

Character types similar to those of theatre are performed in dance. In female and refined male characters, the feet are kept close to each other and to the floor, with hands and arms also defining spaces close to the body and eyes downcast. Strong male types, by contrast, stand with legs spread wide and arms stretched straight out, and carve out larger spaces with legs and arms lifted high. Court dances may employ complex choreographies with highly symbolic, asymmetrical formations of dancers.

Most dances are accompanied by full gamelan. The most notable exceptions are those bedhaya dances accompanied by gendhing kemanak, pieces involving a choral melody, sparse drumming, and a colotomic structure in which the kemanak figure prominently. In every genre, dance and music are tightly integrated: choreographic sequences generally align with colotomic structures and drum patterns. While many choreographies and musical accompaniments are set, the more overtly dramatic dances are usually quite flexible, requiring close coordination between dancers and musicians, mediated by a drummer. In some cases, a dance master cues the dancers by playing rhythms on a wooden slit drum (keprak) and, for battles, bronze concussion plates (kecèr).

Drumming for stately court dances consists of fixed patterns played on the large and small kendhang. Dramatic dances and those derived from itinerant female dances require the ciblon (batangan), on which far more complex patterns are played. These patterns, which are open to substantial improvisation, are closely associated with particular movement patterns from which many take their names.

7. Non-gamelan genres.

Siteran denotes a small ensemble consisting of as many as three different sizes of siter (zither). The players generally sing as well and may be joined by a drummer, a pesindhèn, and even a keyed gong substitute. Cokèkan is similar but may include a gendèr, slenthem, and suling. These small, portable ensembles are usually itinerant, stopping to play wherever they might catch an audience. They share much of the repertory of the gamelan (with an emphasis on the lighter, vocal-centred pieces) and often comprise skilled musicians, unlike the common guitar- and tambourine-playing beggars (ngamèn) who are paid not to play.

The terbang, a drum whose ‘frame’ curves inward like a bowl without a bottom, is associated with Islam and a variety of performance genres, often with singing and other instruments. Laras madya involves performance of macapat by solo male voice leading to choral singing with terbang, kendhang, and kemanak. Santi swara designates a similar ensemble performance of Islamic texts. In slawatan, portions of the Qur’an are sung to similar instrumental accompaniment with seated dancing. Other Muslim genres with clear Middle Eastern origins, such as gambus and qasidah (see §VIII, 1 below), are practised in Central Java as in many other parts of Indonesia.

Jaran kepang, like réyog and èbèg in other parts of Java, is a rural genre performed by hobby-horse riders who go into trance to the accompaniment of the double-reed selomprèt (oboe), kendhang, gongs, and saron. Sometimes a set of Angklung (bamboo slide rattles) are added. Another rural music, lesungan, which consists of interlocking rhythms beaten on a hollowed tree trunk (Lesung), is played during eclipses to scare off the demon believed to be swallowing the sun. It is also played in the palace by six women to ward off spirits during the preparation of ceremonial rice mountains (gunungan) for the court-sponsored processions (grebeg) that take place three times a year and was used to accompany kethoprak plays in the 1920s together with suling.

The Central Javanese public is exposed to Sundanese and Balinese gamelan music (much more than to music of other parts of Indonesia) through live performances at festivals, instruction at conservatories and academies, and television. Western art music (see §VIII, 2 below) is taught at the Akademi Musik Indonesia in Yogyakarta and has a history dating back to colonial times, when it was practised not only by Dutch colonials but by special groups of musicians employed by the Javanese courts (see §I, 2(ii) above).

8. Research.

Javanese and Dutch writers began to create a body of scholarship on Javanese music and related arts in the late 19th century. Poetic treatises by leading 19th-century Solonese court musicians such as Serat titi asri (Gunasentika II, 1925) or Serat sastramiruda (Kusumadilaga, 1981) gave way to prose works, often more technical in approach (e.g. Djakoeb and Wignjaroemeksa, 1913). Groneman, a Dutch doctor at the Yogyanese court who published an early monograph (1890), was followed by other Dutch writers, the most prolific and authoritative being Jaap Kunst (whose work extended beyond the colonial period). This colonial period of intense cultural interchange not only affected the performing arts and the scholarship about these arts but also changed fundamental attitudes towards the place and value of gamelan, wayang, and dance (see Sumarsam, 1995).

One result was the development of various notational systems, including the cipher kepatihan notation that now predominates. At first the primary aim was archival, but later instructional purposes were also served. Collections of general gamelan repertory (e.g. Mloyowidodo, 1977) and various specialized repertories are numerous; these usually indicate only the balungan and colotomic parts. Vocal collections are also common. Any of the other parts can be notated, often with the addition of various symbols, but such notation is found almost exclusively in the pedagogical and analytical publications produced by and for the performing arts schools established in the decades following Indonesia’s independence in 1945.

Post-independence Javanese writing about gamelan has included theoretical treatises such as Pengetahuan karawitan by leading theorist Martopangrawit (1984), pedagogical material, and writings about the meaning of gamelan (Sastrapustaka, 1984). Analogous writings about wayang and dance often include substantial information on the associated musical practice, and there are numerous collections of wayang pieces, especially the songs of dhalang. Most of the authors have been performers. More recently, several prominent Javanese scholars have written theses for advanced degrees in ethnomusicology at foreign institutions, and the faculty and students of STSI (formerly ASKI) in Surakarta have produced studies documenting genres or personal styles of leading musicians and analysing performance practice. Little research has been undertaken by either Javanese or foreign scholars on genres not related to gamelan.

Foreign scholarship on Javanese music developed outside of Indonesia largely due to Jaap Kunst, through his writings and his students, particularly Ki Mantle Hood and Ernst Heins. It has grown exponentially since the 1970s, with numerous Americans and contributors from the Netherlands, Great Britain, and other countries.


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  • R. Supanggah: ‘Balungan’, Balungan, 3/2 (1988), 2–10 [Indonesian orig. pubd. Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 1/1(1990), 115–36]
  • H. Susilo: ‘The Logogenesis of Gendhing Lampah’, Progress Reports in Ethnomusicology, 2/5 (1989), 1–17
  • R. Vetter: ‘Animism, Hinduism, Islam and the West: Fusion in Musical and Visual Symbolism in a Javanese Ceremony’, Progress Reports in Ethnomusicology, 2/4 (1989), 1–12
  • R. Vetter: ‘A Retrospect on a Century of Gamelan Tone Measurements’, EthM, 33 (1989), 217–28
  • B. Brinner: ‘At the Border of Sound and Silence: the Use and Function of Pathetan in Javanese Gamelan’, AsM, 21/1 (1989–90), 1–34
  • S. Astono: Pengenalan terhadap cengkok cengkok siteran [Concerning cengkok for siter] (Surakarta, 1990)
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Music in Nineteenth-Century Java: a Precursor to the Twentieth Century’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 21/1 (1990), 1–34
  • Sugimin: Kendangan karawitan Yogyakarta versi Bapak Projsoduirjo [Drumming for Yogyakarta-style karawitan: Bapak Projsoduirjo’s version] (Surakarta, 1991)
  • Suraji: Onang-onang: gendhing kethuk 2 kerep minggah 4: sebuah tinjauan tentang garap, fungsi serta struktur musikalnya [The gendhing Onang-onang … an observation regarding garap, function and musical structure] (Surakarta, 1991)
  • Sutiknowati: Kendangan ciblon versi Panuju Atmosunarto [Ciblon drumming: Panuju Atmosunarto’s version] (Surakarta, 1991)
  • R.A. Sutton: Traditions of Gamelan Music in Java: Musical Pluralism and Regional Identity (Cambridge, 1991)
  • D. Wong and R.T.A. Lysloff: ‘Threshold to the Sacred: the Overture in Thai and Javanese Ritual Performance’, EthM, 35 (1991), 315–48
  • The Music of K.R.T. Wasitodiningrat, CMP Records CD 3007 (1992)
  • B. Arps: Tembang in Two Traditions: Performance and Interpretation of Javanese Literature (London, 1992)
  • Sumarsam: Historical Contexts and Theories of Javanese Music (diss., Cornell U., 1992)
  • J. Becker: Gamelan Stories: Tantrism, Islam and Aesthetics in Central Java (Tempe, AZ, 1993)
  • B. Brinner: ‘A Musical Time Capsule from Java’, JAMS, 46/2 (1993), 221–60
  • B. Brinner: ‘Freedom and Formulaity in the suling Playing of Bapak Tarnopangrawit’, AsM, 24/2 (1993), 1–38
  • R.A. Sutton: Variation in Central Javanese Gamelan Music: Dynamics of a Steady State (DeKalb, IL, 1993)
  • S. Weiss: ‘Gender and gendèr: Gender Ideology and the Female gendèr Player in Central Java’, Rediscovering the Muses: Women’s Musical Traditions, ed. K. Marshall (Boston, 1993), 21–48
  • N.I. Cooper: The Sirens of Java: Gender Ideologies, Mythologies and Practice in Central Java (diss., U. of Hawaii, 1994)
  • M. Perlman: Unplayed Melodies: Music Theory in Postcolonial Java (diss., Wesleyan U., 1994)
  • B. Brinner: ‘Cultural Matrices and Innovation in Central Javanese Performing Arts’, EthM, 29 (1995), 433–56
  • B. Brinner: Knowing Music, Making Music: the Theory of Competence and Interaction in Javanese Gamelan (Chicago, 1995)
  • Sumarsam: Gamelan: Cultural Interaction and Musical Development in Central Java (Chicago, 1995)
  • Rebab and Female Singing of Central Javanese Gamelan, King Record KICC-5211 (1996)
  • M. Perlman and C.L. Krumhansl: ‘An Experimental Study of Internal Interval Standards in Javanese and Western Musicians’, Music Perception, 14/2 (1996), 95–116
  • R.A. Sutton: ‘Interpreting Electronic Sound Technology in the Contemporary Javanese Soundscape’, EthM, 40 (1996), 249–68
  • M. Perlman: ‘Conflicting Interpretations: Indigenous Analysis and Historical Change in Central Javanese Music’, AsM, 28/1 (1997), 115–40
  • S.P. Walton: Heavenly Nymphs and Earthly Delights: Javanese Female Singers, their Music and their Lives (diss., U. of Michigan, 1997)
Dance and theatre
  • T.B. van Lelyveld: De Javaansche danskunst (Amsterdam, 1931)
  • T. Pigeaud: Javaanse volksvertoningen (Batavia, 1938)
  • Soedarsono: ‘Classical Javanese Dance: History and Characterization’, EthM, 13 (1969), 498–506
  • J.R. Brandon, ed.: On Thrones of Gold: Three Javanese Shadow Plays (Cambridge, MA, 1970)
  • E. Heins: ‘Cueing the Gamelan in Javanese Wayang Kulit’, Indonesia, no.9 (1970), 101–27
  • A. Becker: ‘Text-Building, Epistemology and Aesthetics in Javanese Shadow Theater’, The Imagination of Reality: Essays in Southeast Asian Coherence Systems: Ann Arbor 1974, ed. A.L. Becker and A.A. Yengoyan (Norwood, NJ, 1979), 211–43
  • Sastrakartika: Serat Kridhwayangga, pakem beksa (Jakarta, 1979) [written in 1925]
  • R. Schumacher: Die Suluk-Gesänge des Dalang im Schattenspiel Zentraljavas (Salzburg, 1980)
  • E.C. Van Ness and S. Prawirohardjo: Javanese Wayang Kulit (Singapore, 1980)
  • S. Morgan and L.J.Sears, eds.: Aesthetic Tradition and Cultural Transition in Java and Bali (Madison, WI, 1984) [incl. Sumarsam: ‘Gamelan Music and the Javanese Wayang Kulit’, 105–16; H. Susilo: ‘Wayang Wong Panggung: its Social Context, Technique and Music’, 117–61; and R. Vetter: ‘Poetic, Musical and Dramatic Structures in a Langen Mandra Wanara Performance’, 163–208]
  • V.M.C. van Groenendael: The Dalang Behind the Wayang (Dordrecht, 1985)
  • Java: ‘Langen Mandra Wanara’: Opéra de Danuredjo VII, Ocora C559014 and 15 (1987)
  • W. Keeler: Javanese Shadow Plays, Javanese Selves (Princeton, 1987)
  • H. Susilo: ‘Improvisation in Wayang Wong Panggung: Creativity within Cultural Constraints’, YTM, 19 (1987), 1–11
  • C. Brakel-Papenhuijzen: The Sacred Bedhaya Dances of the Kratons of Surakarta and Yogyakarta (Voorburg, 1988)
  • R.T.A. Lysloff: ‘Non-Puppets and Non-Gamelan: Wayang Parody in Banyumas’, EthM, 34 (1990), 19–35
  • R.T.A. Lysloff: Shrikandhi Dances Lènggèr: a Performance of Shadow-Puppet Theater in Banyumas (West Central Java) (diss., U. of Michigan, 1990)
  • Soedarsono: Wayang Wong: the State Ritual Dance Drama in the Court of Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta, 1990)
  • B. Brinner: ‘Performer Interaction in a New Form of Javanese Wayang’, Essays on Southeast Asian Performing Arts: Local Manifestations and Cross-Cultural Implications, ed. K. Foley (Berkeley, 1992), 96–114
  • Bedhaya Duradasih: Court Music of Kraton Surakarta II, King Record KICC-5193 (1995)
  • C. Brakel-Papenhuijzen: Classical Javanese Dance: the Surakarta Tradition and its Terminology (Leiden, 1995)
Collections of notation and instructional manuals
  • Djakoeb and Wignjaroemeksa: Lajang anjoeroepaké pratikelé bab sinaoe naboeh sarto panggawéné gamelan [Book about learning and making the gamelan] (Batawi, 1913)
  • Buku piwulangan nabuh gamelan [Book of instruction in gamelan playing], ed. Komisi Pasinaon Nabuh Gamelan (Surakarta, 1924–5)
  • K.H. Déwantara and M.N. Najawirangka: Kawruh gending Djawa [Knowledge of Javanese gendhing] (Solo, 1936)
  • M.N. Nojowirongko: Serat tuntunan padhalangan [Guide to the art of shadow puppetry] (Ngajogjakarta, 1954)
  • Mlojowidodo: Karawitan wajang gedog [Music of wayang gedog] (Surakarta, 1964)
  • R.L. Martopangrawit: Titilaras kendangan [Drum notation] (Surakarta, 1972)
  • R.L. Martopangrawit: Titilaras cengkok-cengkok genderan dengan wiletannya [Notation of gendèr cèngkok with variations] (Surakarta, 1973–6)
  • R.L. Martopangrawit: Titilaras gending dan sindenan bedaya-srimpi Kraton Surakarta [Notation of pieces and vocal parts for bedhaya-srimpi dances of the Kraton Surakarta] (Surakarta, 1975)
  • S. Hastanto, R. Supanggah, and Rustopo: Data-data balungan gending-gending iringan pedalangan/pakeliran wayang kulit purwa gaya Surakarta [Information on the melodies of gendhing accompanying the dhalang in wayang kulit purwa Surakarta-style] (Surakarta, 1976)
  • K. Sukardi and S. Sukidjo: Gending-gending Jawa gaya Yogyakarta [Javanese gendhing, Yogyakarta-style], 1–2 (Surakarta, 1976)
  • S. Sukidjo and Dibyomardowo: Gending-gending Jawa gaya Yogyakarta [Javanese gendhing, Yogyakarta-style], 3 (Surakarta, 1976)
  • R.N. Mloyowidodo: Gending-gending Jawa gaya Surakarta [Javanese gendhing, Surakarta-style] (Surakarta, 1977)
  • G. Sri Hastjarjo: Macapat (Surakarta, 1979–80)
  • R.N.S. Probohardjono: ‘Serat sulukan sléndro’ [Songs of the dhalang, in sléndro], Karawitan: Source Readings in Javanese Gamelan and Vocal Music, 1, ed. J. Becker and A. Feinstein (Ann Arbor, 1984), 439–523 [Javanese orig. pubd. Surakarta, 7/1966]
  • T.S. Suparno: Sindenan andegan Nyi Bei Mardusari [Vocal andhegan melodies of Nyi Bei Mardusari] (Surakarta, 1985)
  • Suratman: Gending-gending dolanan anak-anak di Surakarta [Dolanan pieces of Surakarta] (Surakarta, 1986)
  • Sumarsam: ‘Introduction to Ciblon Drumming in Javanese Gamelan’, Karawitan: Source Readings in Javanese Gamelan and Vocal Music, 2, ed. J. Becker and A. Feinstein (Ann Arbor, 1987), 171–203
  • Waluyo: Dokumentasi bawa gawan gendhing Bapak Sastro Tugiyo [Documentation of bawa for gendhing from Bapak Sastro Tugiyo] (Surakarta, 1991)
  • S. Harta: Garap bonang gaya Yogyakarta versi S. Sudarman [Garap for bonang, Yogyakarta-style: S. Sudarman’s version] (Surakarta, 1992)
  • I. Kurniatun: Garap sindenan ayak-ayak laras sléndro cèngkok Nyi Supadmi [Garap of pesindhèn for ayak-ayakan in sléndro, Nyi Supadmi’s patterns] (Surakarta, 1992)
  • Sukamso: Garap rebab, kendhang, gendèr, dan vokal dalam Gendhing Bondhet [Garap for rebab, kendhang, gendèr, and vocals in Gendhing Bondhet] (Surakarta 1992)

IV. East Java

1. Introduction.

  • Michael Crawford

The traditional music and dance of East Java Province (Propinsi Jawa Timur, which also includes the island of Madura) is chiefly that of three peoples: Javanese, Madurese, and Osinger. A fourth group, the Tenggerese, living in the Tengger mountain range east of Malang, speak a dialect of Javanese but, unlike the Javanese, Madurese, and Osinger, subscribe to a syncretic religion based on Buddhist, Hindu, and pre-Hindu beliefs. In their practice of religion and their ritual music they resemble the people of the eastern Balinese village Tenganan. Both groups have remained somewhat aloof from the societies around them, but the Tenggerese are rapidly undergoing acculturation, many having already adopted standard Javanese speech, Javanese art forms (including gamelan), and Islam.

Gamelan instruments and musical principles are common to all these peoples, though in other respects their music and speech are very different. Among the three main peoples gamelan and other ensembles are divided into two styles that may be called halus (‘refined’) and kasar (‘coarse’, ‘strong’; i.e. folk style), each having three distinct variants. The halus styles can be classified as Central Javanese (from Yogyakarta and Surakarta), East Javanese (Surabaya, Majakerta), and Madurese (Sumenep, Pamekasan); the kasar styles are East Javanese (Panaraga, Jombang), Madurese (Pamekasan, Bandawasa), and Osinger (Banyuwangi).

In describing the music of East Java an arbitrary division of the province can be made into western and eastern halves on either side of Malang. Central Javanese gamelan halus and priyayi (‘aristocratic’) culture in general predominate to the west. In cities as disparate as Bojonegoro, Kediri, and Madiun, professional musicians (whether immigrants from Central Java or native East Javanese) consciously adopt Yogyanese or Solonese musical idioms. Certain styles of kasar ensembles occur in villages. The halus and kasar ensembles found to the east differ in instrumentation, playing styles, and mode from these found elsewhere in Java. Gamelan asli jawa timur (‘indigenous East Javanese’ gamelan halus) centre on the Surabaya–Majakerta area. They are characterized by playing styles rather than instrumentation, and are often called gamelan Surabaya to distinguish them from the Central Javanese variety.

Many Madurese live along the coast of East Java, from Surabaya to the Blambangan peninsula and the inland communities of Bandawasa and Jember. In these areas Madurese kasar ensembles are very popular. On Madura, Sumenep (the kraton or court city) and Pamekasan (the capital city) are centres of Madurese gamelan halus, which have the same basic instrumental ensemble as the Javanese. The styles of playing are related to that of gamelan Surabaya (discussed below), and the repertory includes many indigenous gendhing (compositions) with songs in the Madurese language.

The Osinger live in the Banyuwangi area. Their kasar ensembles, partly derived from Bali, are a source of local pride, some of their songs having been absorbed into the repertory of gamelan Surabaya. Javanese in Banyuwangi have cultivated Yogyanese, Solonese and Surabaya gamelan styles (and sometimes a curious mixture of the three), which accompany performances of theatrical genres such as kethoprak, wayang kulit, wayang wong, and ludruk.

2. ‘Gamelan halus’ (classical traditions).

Traditional and newer gendhing from the repertories of Surabaya–Majakerta gamelan are becoming increasingly popular in Central Java and throughout East Java and Madura. This is partly due to the spread of ludruk, a contemporary melodramatic form of theatre that combines song, dance, and comic sketches performed by female impersonators and other actors. Although it is regarded as vulgar (i.e. not halus) by the Javanese priyayi (aristocrats), ludruk is popular among all ethnic groups in Central and East Java. One performance may often contain comic sketches and songs in Javanese, Madurese, and Indonesian languages.

The asli (indigenous) gamelan halus tradition has two aspects: the new, practised in metropolitan Surabaya, and the old, practised in the Majakerta Regency, formerly the seat of the famous Majapahit kingdom. Mutual influence between the two forms has now narrowed stylistic differences to the extent that the following descriptions, based on village practices in Majakerta, also apply generally to Surabaya.

East Javanese and Central Javanese gamelan have certain general similarities. They both have a standard basic repertory of gendhing and ensembles with a variable number of instruments, in which some instruments are used for the skeleton or nuclear melody, others for elaboration, and others for the colotomic pattern; and in both styles the principles of stratification (the ‘layered’ arrangement of these elements of the composition) are similar. But the styles are different in that East Javanese gamelan have a more vigorous style, sudden extremes in dynamic levels, more disjunct motion in the improvisations of the elaborating instruments, and relatively free drumming patterns. They make frequent use of imbal technique (rapid interlocking by two players in one octave) and frequent and extended use of pancer technique (inserting a note between each of the main notes of a basic melody), including double pancer; and there is an additional, indigenous repertory of gendhing and an indigenous pathet (‘modal’) system.

(i) Pathet.
  • Michael Crawford

Table 9: Sléndro pathet system as used in the East Javanese gamelan asli Jawa Timur

Sléndro pathet

Usual cadential formula

Preferred finalis

Dominant of

Cadential support

or gong tone







(Central Javanese: něm)






(Central Javanese: sanga)






(Central Javanese: manyura)






(Central Javanese: no equivalent)

In the music for the gamelan asli jawa timur, sléndro-scale pathet are the principal vehicles of indigenous gendhing as well as for wayang kulit (shadow play) and ludruk theatre. Pélog-scale pathet are popular in certain areas (e.g. Malang) especially among gamelan musicians of the Radio Republik Indonesia in Surabaya. Despite continuing controversies over the exact nature of East Javanese pathet and their differences from central Javanese pathet, Javanese musicians and theorists apparently agree about the nature of sléndro pathet; the comparison is shown in Table 9 .

(ii) Wayang kulit.
  • Michael Crawford

During a wayang kulit performance in the Majakerta Regency, the four pathet occur in sequence (times are approximate): sléndro pathet sepuluh (7.30–10.00 p.m.), followed by sléndro pathet wolu (10 p.m.–1 a.m.), sléndro pathet sanga (1–3.30 a.m.), and sléndro pathet serang (3.30–5 a.m.).

The night begins with several instrumental gendhing in pathet sepuluh called gendhing bonang, which are dominated by the gong-chimes bonang barung and bonang panerus. The gendhing bonang are in the kasar (‘strong’) style and, being played in a specially vigorous manner, create a joyous atmosphere and a sense of heightened anticipation. They are followed by one or more gendhing rebab, in which the dhalang (puppeteer) plays the rebab (spike fiddle); these are always in halus (‘soft’) style and provide a quiet, relaxed atmosphere in which the delicate melodies of the rebab and other instruments can be heard.

Another change in atmosphere immediately follows with a series of dances by ludruk actors, whose colourful, elaborate costumes include long shawls and ankle jingles. The gamelan ensemble often accompanies some of the most popular ludruk dances with gendhing in pathet other than pathet sepuluh; after the dances, gendhing in pathet sepuluh return and continue until the end of the first part of the wayang night is signalled by the ayak-ayakan (a gendhing used to mark changes in mood, pathet or story).

The jejer (opening scene of the wayang) begins with another gendhing rebab, now in pathet wolu. The dhalang assigns the rebab to another musician and ascends the stage to prepare the puppets for the opening scene. The gendhing rebab continues softly for 20 minutes or more, while the dhalang introduces the chief puppets to the audience and, through narration and puppets’ dialogues, lays the groundwork for the story that follows (which is not fully revealed to the audience until rather late in the pathet wolu section). From then the wayang performance is fundamentally the same as that of Central Java.

(iii) Pancer technique.
  • Michael Crawford

Four main episodes of gendhing Endra (sléndro pathet sepuluh), showing use of pancer 1

Used rather conservatively in Central Javanese gamelan, pancer technique has been developed to a remarkably high degree in East Javanese gamelan of the Majakerta Regency, where it is used systematically in almost all gendhing. Any note may serve as pancer, the general rule being that the pancer note in a given pathet is the one that is not part of its cadential formula (see Table 9). Sléndro tone 6, when used as a pancer note, normally occurs in panthet serang thus replacing the usual pancer 2. A gendhing performed with pancer sections has four main episodes. The fixed melody is played first relatively fast (irama seseg), then in a moderate tempo (irama lamba), and is followed by a statement of the abstracted, or skeletal melody in moderately slow tempo (also irama lamba), with pancer lamba (single pancer) between each note of the skeletal melody in the pattern rest–pancer–rest–skeletal-melody note. Finally the skeletal melody is played very slowly (irama rangkep), with pancer rangkep (double pancer) between each note, in the pattern pancer–rest–pancer–skeletal-melody note (Tables 10 and 11 ). The use of single and double pancer greatly extends the skeletal melody, with the result that a gendhing such as gendhing Endra in Table 10, with only eight skeletal notes, lasts from 12 minutes to 20 or more in performance, depending on how many repetitions the players make in each of the four sections.

Table 10: Four main episodes of gendhing Endra (sléndro pathet sepuluh), showing use of pancer 1

(m = 60)









Fixed melody









(played twice)




(m = 45)

Skeletal melody









with pancěr lamba










(m = 45)









Skeletal melody









with pancěr rangkěp




T - ṭuk; P - kěmpul; N - kěnong; G - gong; m - metric unit

The cadential formula is seen here as PNPN, the accented strokes as 6525 (the finalis 5 replacing the usual 2; in contour closest to the standard 6532). Bracketed numbers in fixed melody episode indicate alternative tones occuring only in the lamba and rangkep episodes.

Italic numbers represent the skeletal melody (as in 2nd episode); spaces between each group of four symbol are used in Javanese numerical notation to facilitate reading - they do not indicate breaks in the music.

Table 11: Four main episodes of gendhing Gandakusuma (sléndro pathet wolu), showing use of pancěr 3

(m = 60)









Fixed melody









(played twice)


(m = 45)

Skeletal melody









with pancěr lamba










(m = 30)









Skeletal melody









with pancěr rangkěp




T - ṭuk; P - kěmpul; N - kěnong; G - gong; m - metric unit

The cadential formula is seen here as 2165 in the final TPTN (G).

Italic numbers represent the skeletal melody; spaces between each group of four symbols are used in Javanese numerical notation to facilitate reading - they do not indicate breaks in the music.

The great extension of the skeletal melody by pancer provides the ultimate test in elaboration for players of the gendèr (metallophone), gambang (xylophone), rebab (spike fiddle), and celempung (plucked zither). The fastest moving parts (played on gambang, celempung, and gendèr panerus) have up to 64 beats between each skeletal-melody note in pancer rangkep. In the same context the gendèr barung player must perform highly complex elaborations within the framework of 32 moderately quick beats.

3. ‘Gamelan kasar’ (folk traditions).

  • Philip Yampolsky
(i) Saronen and reyog.
  • Michael Crawford

In the most widespread type of kasar ensemble in East Java and Madura the saronen (Indonesian selompret: wooden oboe) is the principal, or only, melodic instrument. In East Java these ensembles are called gamelan saronen or gamelan tetet; in Madura they are called saronen. The constitution of such ensembles varies greatly, but they generally contain at least one saronen, one kethuk bine (large gong), one kethuk lake (small gong), one kendhang bine (double-headed drum), one kendhang lake, and one gong (using Madurese terminology, in which bine means female, or the larger instrument, and lake male, or the smaller instrument).

The small ensembles of Java that accompany trance dance-dramas known as prajuritan are related to the saronen ensemble. The prajuritan story is based on the mythical battle fought in the 15th century between the leaders of the Majapahit and Blambangan kingdoms. Prajuritan and the related but less refined jathilan are common in East and Central Java.

In the reyog folk drama, a type of jathilan famous in the Panaraga Regency of East Java, barongan (a mythical monster with a tiger-like head surrounded by peacock feathers) enters into combat with several knights and their followers, who ride on hobby horses (in modern performances the followers are young boys dressed in women’s clothes). The participants often number 20 or more, with several hundred spectators.

According to local government sources, in the mid-1970s there were approximately 170 reyog organizations in the Panaraga Regency, and because of the immense appeal of reyog the atmosphere of a performance is always ramai (Madurese ramme), a term with a wide range of meanings; its positive connotations are busy, crowded, noisy, and, by extension, cheerful. Musicians in certain reyog groups drink substantial amounts of a local whisky to help them attain a ramai mood, necessary for a successful performance.

The standard modern reyog ensemble (see Gamelan) consists of a selompret (oboe), two angklung (the bamboo shaken idiophone, not the Osinger type), a kethuk (small gong), a kenong (high-pitched gong), a kempul (suspended gong), a kendhang (double-headed drum), a tipung (ketipung, small double-headed drum), and sometimes one or more terbang (frame drum).

The music of all ensembles of the saronen type (including reyog) is highly repetitive, presumably to help participants attain a state of trance, and is played at a consistently fast tempo in strict duple or quadruple metre. There is little syncopation except occasionally in the saronen (oboe) line, which moves freely over the steady, driving beats of the kendhang and the ostinatos of the kethuk. The saronen is usually played within an octave compass but is capable of a wider compass; tuning is highly variable.

In jombang, an ensemble of the saronen type combines with the bumbung (Madurese serbung) to produce a remarkable texture. The bumbung, a ‘blown gong’, is a vessel flute made of two bamboo segments, a thin, open blowing-tube held inside a much larger block closed at the bottom by a node. The bumbung has a deep, rich fundamental, as well as 5th and octave. The musicians sometimes replace the saronen with the siter, a small celempung that has a more delicate sound.

(ii) Music of the Osinger.
  • Michael Crawford

The Osinger (Orang Osing) of the Banyuwangi Regency trace their history to the Blambangan Kingdom, which ruled much of East Java during the 15th and 16th centuries. Despite some assimilation with Javanese and Madurese peoples, the Osinger still speak a dialect (Bahasa Osing) of which much is unintelligible to a speaker of standard Javanese. The main elements of Osinger traditional music and dance are two unusual ensembles, gandrung and angklung, both of which use types of sléndro tuning. Gandrung is a professional troupe of six adult male instrumentalists and one young, unmarried female dancer-singer; they perform for important all-night social functions, such as wedding receptions. Angklung is an amateur organization of young men that performs at less formal occasions, such as carnivals and contests, or simply for recreation. The number of players and types of instrument vary widely.

The term gandrung can refer to the organization as a whole or specifically to the dancer-singer. The tradition of gandrung is handed down within the family, and the daughter of a well-known gandrung nearly always becomes a gandrung herself, remaining so until marriage. Gandrung means enchanted or enamoured, and the older gandrung songs are love-songs. Many early 20th-century songs, however, deal with poverty, injustice, and oppression. Padha nonton (‘All people bear witness’), one of the most famous gandrung songs, is sometimes said to be a protest against colonialism. The gandrung ensemble consists of two violins (of Western type, with viola tuning), called biola in Osinger dialect; a set of two drums (kendhang and ketipung, both double-headed) played by a single drummer; two kenong (inverted gongs, tuned in 5ths), or one kenong and one kethuk (small inverted gong, one player); one triangle, called kloncing in Osinger dialect; and one gong agung.

Gandrung performances typically begin after sunset and last all night. After a brief instrumental medley of traditional gandrung songs the gandrung herself enters. Her costume includes a long, beautifully designed batik skirt, a cloth under-vest, a leather breastplate, and a close-fitting, helmet-like headdress. The breastplate and the headdress are elaborately decorated in gold leaf. The gandrung begins by singing a slow song accompanied initially only by the biola (which are held on the players’ chests) and occasionally punctuated by the gong agung. Her singing voice is constricted, and has a narrow range in a medium tessitura.

In the first section of the introductory song the vocal line is very sustained, as is the drone-like accompaniment of the biola, and the metre is free. The biola players freely imitate the melodic phrases of the gandrung. At the end of a long phrase the gandrung singer pauses briefly, while the biola improvise an interlude based on the melodic contours of the preceding phrase or phrases.

The section that follows has a definite duple or quadruple metre. As the gandrung continues to sing, the kendhang and ketipung enter, after which the kenong enter and establish a regular ostinato. When the kloncing finally enters there is a slight increase in tempo and in dynamics. Frequent comic and flirtatious comments interjected by the kloncing player mark the beginning of the evening’s gaiety. The social aspects of the gandrung performance begin with the dance of invitation. Like the initial song, the initial dance is performed by the gandrung alone and is also slow and formal. This is perhaps the most refined dance of the evening, for as the evening wears on and the atmosphere becomes more festive, the gandrung and the musicians become more relaxed and consequently freer in their performances. Having ended the dance, the gandrung offers her scarf to a man among the spectators who must then dance with her. In return for this honour he places a small sum of money in a receptacle near the gamelan after his dance. A similar procedure continues throughout the night.

The gandrung and her partner (the latter often called ngibing: ‘follower’) often create comic dances together. If he is at all adventurous the ngibing improvises rather unrefined dance movements, ostensibly trying to imitate faithfully the gandrung’s movements but usually producing a parody of them. The gandrung in turn imitates the ngibing, and the comic effect of a parody of a parody is heightened when the gandrung keeps a perfectly straight face while imitating the deliberately or unintentionally awkward movements of the ngibing.

Gandrung dance movements are less clearly defined than movements in Central Javanese tledhek and srimpi (see §III, 6(iii) above). Gandrung movements are freely improvised in accordance with the nature of the song: thus the movements for a serious song such as Padha nonton are different from those of Jaran goyang (‘Swaying horse’), which derives from the kasar jathilan tradition. In Jaran goyang the swaying movements of the gandrung are nevertheless often subtle, but the ngibing often acts the rider and horse simultaneously, consequently whipping himself.

Osinger gandrung is related to the joged of Bali and its formerly popular Balinese variant, also called gandrung, in which a boy served as the gandrung dancer-singer. I Wajan Rindi, a star pupil of the famous dancer Mario, performed gandrung in the early 1940s, and in the 1970s (living in Denpasar) was one of the last gandrung of Bali. The seblang, the predecessor of the Osinger gandrung, is a religious dance with elements of trance, related to the Balinese sang hyang. It is performed as an offering in celebration of a successful rice harvest; the movements are said to imitate farmers harvesting rice.

A Madurese version of gandrung formerly existed in eastern Madura. It followed the Osinger tradition in its use of the female gandrung but included two saronen (oboes) in place of the biola.

Though some young Javanese and Osinger now consider the gandrung genre old-fashioned and have little interest in it, the Osinger as a whole remain proud of their gandrung, and there are probably enough young Osinger with sufficient interest to continue the tradition. Young and old Osinger compose new songs, which are usually quickly absorbed into the repertories of both gandrung and angklung. The newer songs express pride in Indonesia and in Banyuwangi in particular.

The Banyuwangi angklung is a xylophone consisting of 12 to 14 bamboo tubes cut on the slant at the top and closed by a node at the bottom. The tubes are held on a slant in a wooden frame by a cord running through them. The frame is loosely hinged to a simple stand, and can be easily adjusted to the comfort of the individual player. Two long wooden or bamboo sticks, ending in soft but unpadded discs, serve as mallets. A similar instrument once existed in the Majakerta Regency. The closest relative (in proximity as well as in form) is now the garantang of Bali. The Osinger have two traditions of angklung: cara lama (‘old style’), formerly called bali-balian (‘in the Balinese manner’), and cara baru (‘new style’). Both are now called angklung Banyuwangi. Though the cara baru is the principal vehicle of the newer songs and modern experimentation, both styles are popular among the younger people.

The bali-balian consists of one or two pairs of angklung, one pair of slenthem, two pairs of saron barung, two pairs of saron panerus, one kendhang, one or two suling (end-blown flutes), and one gong agung. The Banyuwangi slenthem resembles a huge saron, with keys lying flat above a trough in which resonating tubes are concealed. Its keys are made of iron, as are the keys of the saron. The bali-balian repertory includes traditional instrumental tunes of Banyuwangi, instrumental adaptations of gandrung songs and a small number of gendhing from Central and East Javanese gamelan. The principal function of bali-balian is to test the abilities of young players by means of a contest, called angklung caruk (caruk: ‘struggle’, ‘contest’). During the contest (which is always between ensembles rather than individuals) members of the two ensembles, seated at their respective instruments, face one another. The challenging ensemble begins by playing a traditional angklung tune, or a short medley of tunes. The other group then follows with the same tune or tunes, attempting to surpass its rival’s performance in virtuosity, precision, and imagination. The contest continues in a similar manner for two hours or more; it is carried out in a spirit of fun and in a relaxed atmosphere, with occasional breaks for tea or coffee and snacks.

An angklung tune in the old style begins with an introduction on the angklung consisting of the pathetan, a brief, freely improvised section suggesting the tune’s modal flavour (the term comes from gamelan halus), and the buka, the tune’s brief stereotyped introduction in fixed rhythms but with an indefinite metre (this term also comes from gamelan halus). The kendhang enters towards the end of the buka and establishes tempo. The buka ends with gong agung punctuation, which announces the beginning of the main section, in which the remaining instruments enter. A simple statement of the melody on the slenthem is duplicated on the angklung, saron barung, and saron panerus, and variations are played on the suling.

This section is then repeated and followed by elaborate improvisations on the angklung and suling and rapidly played imbal on the saron. After angklung interludes there is a return to the main section, the tempo being faster in the final repetition. The basic variation technique for the novice angklung player is melodic duplication (ex.18 ), similar to rincik style in the Balinese gamelan pejogedan. Young players, however, rapidly depart from simple melodic duplication to develop their own styles. As angklung are normally played in pairs, the more advanced player usually teaches the novice more complicated melodic patterns and ostinatos. If both players of a pair are experienced, they may depart from the melody entirely. Ex.19 , derived from a performance of the new style of angklung Banyuwangi, shows two sets of angklung ostinatos in cross-rhythms against the vocal line. The ostinatos are based on a simple rhythmic pattern and its derivatives, as shown in ex.20 . The basic rhythm (see ex.3a above) is common to many saronen and jathilan ensembles and the ancient gamelan kodhok ngorèk.

Ex.18 Basic variation technique of angklung style; transcr. M. Crawford

Ex.19 New style of angklung Banyuwangi; transcr. M. Crawford

Ex.20 Rhythmic patterns of angklungostinatos; transcr. M. Crawford

The new style of angklung ensemble (angklung Banyuwangi) differs from the old style in three fundamental ways: it is a smaller, more intimate ensemble, it uses a singer, and it accompanies dance. It consists of at least one pair of angklung, a suling, a kloncing, a gong agung, and a male or female singer. An ensemble of this kind plays adaptations of pieces in the bali-balian repertory and newly composed songs; the old and new types of ensemble share a similar style, and ideas are often exchanged. Some musicians belong to both new and old clubs.

Modern experiments have produced some unique ensembles, including one in which the angklung has dual tuning. The Angklung Dwilaras club (Sanskrit dwi: ‘two’; laras: ‘tuning’) constructed angklung, each with two sets of bamboo tubes, one in sléndro, the other in pélog, placed on either side of the frame. Since the frame is loosely hinged to the stand, the tuning of the instrument can be changed simply by turning the frame over. Other recent experiments include large ensembles with up to eight pairs of angklung, four to six suling, a set of bonang (bonang barung and bonang panerus), and up to ten slit-drums of various sizes. These experimental groups add another genre, cara modern, to Osinger music.


and other resources

  • J. Brandts Buys and A. Brandts Buys-van Zijp: ‘Over muziek in het Banjoewangische’, Djawa, 6 (1926), 205–28
  • J. Jasper: ‘Tengger en de Tenggereezen’, Djawa, 6 (1926), 185–92; 7 (1927), 23–37, 217–31, 291–304; 8(1928), 5–27
  • J. Scholte: ‘Gandroeng van Banjoewangi’, Djawa, 7 (1927), 144–53
  • J. Brandts Buys and A. Brandts Buys-van Zijp: ‘De toonkunst bij de Madoereezen’, Djawa, 8/3–6 (1928), 1–290
  • T. Pigeaud: Javaanse volksvertoningen (Batavia, 1938)
  • J. Peacock: Rites of Modernization: Symbolic and Social Aspects of Indonesian Proletarian Drama (Chicago, 1968)
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Performance, Music and Meaning of Reyog Ponorogo’, Indonesia, no.22 (1976), 85–130
  • S. Timoer: Reog di Jawa Timur [East Javanese reyog] (Jakarta, 1978–9)
  • S. Murgiyanto and A. Munardi: Topeng Malang: Pertunjukan dramatari tradisional di daerah kabupaten Malang [Topeng malang: performance of traditional dance-drama in the Malang region] (Jakarta, 1979–80)
  • S. Timoer: Topeng dhalang di Jawa Timur [East Javanese topeng dhalang] (Jakarta, 1979–80)
  • P. Wolbers: ‘Gandrung and Angklung from Banyuwangi: Remnants of a Past Shared with Bali’, AsM, 18 (1986), 71–90
  • R. Hefner: ‘The Politics of Popular Art: Tayuban Dance and Culture Change in East Java’, Indonesia, no.43 (1987), 75–94
  • P. Wolbers: ‘Account of an Angklung Caruk, July 28, 1985’, Indonesia, no.43 (1987), 66–74
  • S. Timoer: Serat wewaton padhalangan Jawi wetanan [Basics of East Javanese puppetry] (Jakarta, 1988)
  • S. Murgiyanto and A. Munardi: Seblang dan gandrung: dua bentuk tari tradisi di Banyuwangi [Seblang and gandrung: two forms of traditional dance from Banyuwangi] (Jakarta, 1990–91)
  • Music of Madura, coll. J. Body and Y. Sukarno, Ode 1381 (1991)
  • Songs Before Dawn: Gandrung Banyuwangi, coll. P. Yampolsky, Smithsonian Folkways SF 40055 (1991) [incl. notes by P. Yampolsky]
  • R. Supanggah: ‘Musik gandrung Banyuwangi: laporan survey’, [The music of gandrung Banyuwangi: survey report], Seni [Yogyakarta], 1 (1991), 29–42
  • R. Sutton: Traditions of Gamelan Music in Java: Musical Pluralism and Regional Identity (Cambridge, 1991)
  • B. Arps: Tembang in Two Traditions: Performance and Interpretation of Javanese Literature (London, 1992)
  • S. Hutomo: Pantun kentrung (Jakarta, 1993)
  • Z. Mistortoify: ‘Tabbhuan thukthuk dalam konteks pesta rakyat (kesenian) karapan sapi Madura’ [Tabbhuan thukthuk in the context of karapan sapi folk (art) festival of Madura], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 4 (1993), 90–121
  • R. Sutton: ‘Semang and Seblang: Thoughts on Music, Dance, and the Sacred in Central and East Java’, Performance in Java and Bali, ed. B. Arps (London, 1993), 121–43
  • P. Wolbers: ‘The Seblang and its Music: Aspects of an East Javanese Fertility Rite’, Performance in Java and Bali, ed. B. Arps (London, 1993), 34–46
  • Indonésie-Madura: musique savante, rec. 1982, coll. A. Jakfar, Ocora 560083 (1995)
  • H. Bouvier: La matière des emotions: les arts du temps et du spectacle dans la société madouraise (Indonésie) (Paris, 1995)
  • A. Kusmayati: ‘Peddug, seni pertunjukan dalam upacara rokat pandhaba di Madura’ [Peddug, artistic performance in the rokat pandhaba ceremony of Madura], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 7 (1996), 1–13
  • Jemblung and related narrative traditions of Java, coll. J. Body and Y. Sukarno, Pan 2048 (1997)

V. West Java

  • Simon Cook

1. Sunda.

(i) Introduction.

The Sundanese people inhabit the mountainous province of West Java. They are the second most populous ethnic group in the whole of Indonesia, after the Javanese, who originate from Central and Eastern Java. Sundanese language and culture, although related to Javanese, are quite distinct.

While more overtly Muslim than the Javanese, many Sundanese maintain customs and beliefs rooted in older religions. Sundanese language and manners range from highly refined and formalized to vulgar and ribald; such contrasts are reflected in the performing arts, ranging from the exquisite melancholy of courtly poetry sung in tembang Sunda to rhythms squeezed from the armpits of ngajibrut street entertainers.

Ceremonies and celebrations are the most frequent occasions for musical performance. Music, dance, and theatre can be for ritual, entertainment, or both. Hajat are festive receptions most typically given to celebrate a wedding or circumcision and may include a wide range of performing arts, such as nyawér, ritual advice sung unaccompanied by an older person, and upacara adat (‘traditional ceremony’), comprising the various processions and rituals that make up the wedding ceremony and often including song texts, arrangements of pieces for gamelan degung or kacapi (zithers), and elements of choreography specially created for the occasion. Later in the proceedings guests may be entertained by anything from the courtly tembang Sunda or gamelan degung, to brash jaipongan dancing and karaoke ballads. Lavish hajat finish with an all-night wayang golék (rod puppet) performance.

The Sundanese performing arts comprise a dynamic oral tradition in which experiment has always been a vital factor. The most conservative musicians pride themselves on the innovations they have introduced and on preserving intact the tradition they have inherited, without apparent contradiction. Some of the most ‘classical’ genres, such as gamelan degung and tembang Sunda, are little more than a century old and have changed fundamentally in the last 50 years. To remain in work, performers must follow artistic fashion. Mass communications create new megastars among singers, wayang puppeteers, and entertainers, and give the fashions they set a particular potency. The ubiquity of sound amplification (sometimes even used in domestic rehearsals) has transformed vocal technique and brought soloists to the foreground of ensembles.

Many genres give the performers considerable freedom to improvise. Even when melodies and instrumental figuration are fairly standardized, fine musicians cultivate their own subtle but distinctive variations. While the composers of the older repertory remain anonymous contributors to a group ethic, in more recent years individual composers have gained high profiles. Music is leaving the public domain to become the intellectual property of individuals, who expect recognition and commercial reward; the situation is further complicated when, as often happens, ‘new’ pieces are based on old repertory.

Young performers learn primarily through informal methods, such as being around when it happens, rather than through formal teaching. Many performers come from a family (or a community) of performers. The government-run SMKI and STSI offer courses in the performing arts at secondary and university level: here academics with high social status coexist rather uneasily with artists who have acquired their skills ‘naturally’ (seniman alam). At the same time, a growing number of young Sundanese musicians learn new repertory from commercial cassette recordings or from recordings they themselves have made with cheap cassette recorders. Few women have the opportunity of becoming serious instrumentalists or puppeteers (although there have been some notable exceptions); their usual roles are as vocalists and dancers.

(ii) Genres and ensembles.
(a) Vocal music.

The casual listener to contemporary Sundanese music will be struck forcefully by the predominance of female solo singing. Before sound amplification, gamelan ensembles were predominantly instrumental; however, there is now a tendency for the instruments to provide standardized figurations as a backdrop for the voice, rather than play a melodic role. Similarly, the repertory performed is changing: rather than playing the larger, more complex melodic pieces (sekar ageung), simpler structures based on a framework of pitches (sekar alit) are substituted, which are more appropriate for accompaniment.

Nevertheless, singing (unaccompanied, or in smaller ensembles) has always been an important element in Sundanese music. In Sunda the written word implies melody. The chanting of Qur’anic texts (pangajian) is learned in childhood and becomes a regular part of daily life. This is prayer, not music; nevertheless, text is realized through a melody that has been learned orally. A comparable process occurs in Sundanese poetry in one of the 17 pupuh, the verse forms brought from Java in the Mataram period (late 16th century to mid-18th). Traditionally, these would never be read silently but always sung to the melody associated with a particular pupuh, a style called wawacan (‘reading’).

The basic wawacan melodies are simple and syllabic, though texts can also be ‘read’ with more complex melismatic melodies. Beluk, Ciawian, and Cigawiran are some of the more elaborate vocal genres in which pupuh texts are sung unaccompanied. They are now rarely performed, unlike the accompanied sung poetry of tembang Sunda Cianjuran.

(b) Village music.

The rural Sundanese had a huge array of instrumental genres for ritual and entertainment. Typically, sets of percussion instruments of different pitches would be played in interlocking repetitive rhythms by several players. Many of these genres have fallen into disuse as modern rural life changes, but some of the instruments have been absorbed into more modern, urban genres. Formerly, ritual use would often focus on harvest ceremonies for the rice goddess Nyi Pohaci.

Bamboo is easily obtained outside the cities and is used to make a wide variety of Sundanese instruments. These include the karinding, a jew’s harp cut from a strip of bamboo, and the keprak, a bamboo tube split along part of its length, which produces a buzz of rising pitch when struck.

The celempung is a tube zither made from a large closed length of bamboo in which two strips of bark are cut away while remaining attached at both ends. Wooden wedges between the strip and the tube turn the strip into a ‘string’ that can be struck in imitation of kendang, the barrel drums of gamelan. Bamboo celempung are now rare: modern versions use weighted strips of rubber stretched over wooden boxes and are played by street musicians.

Both Calung and Angklung work on the same principle. A tube of bamboo is cut away, so that one end produces a pitch when struck and the other provides matching resonance by enclosing a column of air (fig.7 ). A set of these tubes, usually tuned to saléndro (see §(iii) below) comprises a calung. Holes are cut at the nodes of the tubes so that they can be suspended from string or wooden cross-pieces and struck with wooden beaters. When strung, they are either slung across a bamboo frame and played like a xylophone (calung gambang), or suspended like a hammock from the player’s waist to a convenient tree and played from one end (calung rantay); such instruments were used in rice-growing rituals. Modern calung ensembles have four sets of different sizes on hand-held cross-pieces (calung jingjing). The performers sing, dance and clown around while playing interlocking patterns and fast melodic lines.

Tuned bamboo in calung and angklung construction


In angklung, two or three tubes are held loosely in rattan frames. When the frame is shaken, the tubes (generally tuned an octave apart) produce a tremolo sound. Angklung sets are still used by the ‘Baduy’ people of Kanékés (and other rural communities) to accompany ceremonial dancing during rice-planting. The angklung buncis ensemble combines nine angklung with Tarompet (oboe), Kendang (double-headed barrel drums), and gong; it is used in ceremonies in honour of Nyi Pohaci or in circumcision parades. Formerly, angklung were usually tuned to saléndro. Since independence, angklung in Western tuning have been extensively used in state music education. Since one player can comfortably manipulate only two or three notes, they are played on the same principle as hand-bells.

Lisung, a hollowed-out log for stamping rice (see Lesung), is played with poles as a slit drum in the fertility ceremony known as gondang. The interlocking structure of the music is dictated by the necessity of taking turns to bring the heavy stamping poles down on the rice. The sides of the trough are struck in faster patterns by smaller sticks to decorate the rhythm. Dogdog are a set of long, single-headed cylindrical drums of different sizes held in the crook of the arm, one to each player. Together with angklung, tarompét, kendang, and gong, dogdog accompanies réog. This folk entertainment combines songs, dance, story-telling, and horseplay. Rebana or terebang are a set of shallow frame drums used to accompany songs of Islamic content. The bedug or bajidor is a very large double-headed cylindrical drum often found in mosques, which is used as a signal for Islamic occasions, such as the beginning of the fast. At the end of the fasting month, bedug are played loud, fast, and long. In the genre adu bedug, drummers vie with each other to play the most interesting and exciting rhythms.

Non-percussion instruments also play an important role in rural Sundanese music. Jentréng tarawangsa is a harvest ceremony still performed in the Sumedang area, in which women dance while offerings are made to appease Nyi Pohaci. It is accompanied by a small, boat-shaped zither called kacapi jentréng and a fiddle constructed around a boat-shaped resonator, called the tarawangsa or ngék-ngék. Like the hull of traditional boats (parahu), the body of both instruments is dug out from a log. More modern kacapi parahu are much larger and constructed from separate planks.

In the epic narrative genre carita pantun, a bard (invariably male, often blind) accompanies himself on a kacapi while singing, narrating, and providing the dialogue and sound effects. The vocal style is high-pitched and penetrating. Performances, which last all night, would normally be part of a hajat celebration. Pantun performances can also be used to ngaruat: bestow ritual blessing or exorcism on a person, house, or venture, etc. There are no young pantun performers, and the tradition is in steep decline.

(c) Tembang Sunda.

Unlike many of the village genres mentioned above, the accompanied vocal genre tembang Sunda (also known as Cianjuran or mamaos) is thriving, especially as a prestigious pastime among the urban élite. It developed as an aristocratic entertainment at the court of Cianjur in the late 19th century and has roots in the carios pantun tradition, the sung poetry of wawacan, and the gamelan repertories. The solo singing is low-pitched, highly ornamented, melancholy, and introvert. The songs in free rhythm (mamaos) may be sung by male or female soloists and are accompanied by a kacapi parahu (boat-shaped zither) with 18 brass strings and the suling tembang, a long six-hole duct flute of bamboo. The mamaos songs fall into four categories: papantunan and jejemplangan (which are taken from the epic narrative carita pantun and always in the pélog degung tuning), rarancagan (the bulk of the repertory), and kakawén (taken from the mood of songs of the dalang in wayang).

Panambih, the metrical songs that conclude a suite of mamaos songs, are normally only sung by women. Many panambih derive from the gamelan repertories. In panambih, the ensemble is joined by one or two kacapi rincik, smaller zithers that are pitched an octave higher. Tembang Sunda commonly uses three tunings: pélog degung, sorog, and saléndro (see §(iii) below). With songs in the saléndro tuning, the suling is replaced by the rebab, a two-string spike fiddle normally associated with gamelan saléndro. These metrical panambih songs are performed without singing in the genre kacapi suling.

(d) Kacapian.

This term is used to embrace a range of different vocal genres accompanied by a zither. They differ from tembang Sunda in being the domain of ordinary people, as opposed to the élite. Also, instead of the kacapi parahu, the kacapi siter is used, a smaller zither of box-like shape, with 20 steel strings and a brilliant sound. It is played by street musicians (usually male, often blind), who accompany themselves singing metrical songs in a high register with yodelling inflection and simpler ornaments than tembang. A similar style of accompaniment and singing is found in janaka Sunda, an entertainment that generally includes hilarious lyrics and dialogue with a second singer.

The kacapi siter is a useful instrument for domestic music making in providing a complete accompaniment on its own; it is also used in kawih, songs in which the accompaniment has a regular beat and even metre in which it may also be joined by gong, kendang, and either suling or rebab. Celempungan is the performance of songs from the gamelan repertory using female and male singers, rebab, two kacapi, gong, and kendang, the latter having replaced the celempung, the bamboo tube zither that gave the ensemble its name.

The influential composer and teacher Koko Koswara created a new virtuoso style of kacapi siter playing to accompany his popular kawih compositions, which features rapid figuration and runs, dramatic dynamic effects, and complex arrangements; this style is widely taught in state schools.

(e) Gamelan ensembles.

Bronze is considered to be the best material for making the metal parts of gamelan instruments. Gong smithing is in decline in West Java, and the most highly-prized new instruments are often forged in Central Java, then tuned to suit Sundanese taste. Brass and iron gamelan are very common, as these materials are cheap and easy to tune.

Gamelan saléndro and pélog. Gamelan saléndro (named for its saléndro tuning) originally came to Sunda from Central Java (see Table 12 for instrumentation). Gamelan saléndro is used to accompany wayang golék (rod puppet theatre) and, in common with gamelan pélog, is also used to accompany dance. Gamelan pélog (with the same instrumentation as gamelan saléndro but in a different tuning) also originated from Central Java. It is now rarely heard in Sunda; sometimes gamelan degung (see below) is used as a substitute. Some of the top dalang (wayang golék puppeteers) now use gamelan selap, which combines both saléndro and pélog tunings on elongated instruments. Occasionally gamelan degung is used to perform gamelan pélog repertory.

Table 12. Instrumentation of gamelan saléndro

Sundanese name



Pitched gong of approximately 70 cm diameter


Gong of 40 cm diameter


low-pitched six kettle gong-chime


medium-pitched ten kettle gong-chime


high-pitched ten kettle gong-chime


low-pitched one octave metallophone


medium-pitched one octave metallophones (two)


high-pitched one octave metallophone


four octave xylophone


barrel drums (one large, two small)


two-string spike fiddle

juru kawih

female singer


juru alok

male singer

Kliningan is the performance of gamelan saléndro pieces without dance or puppets. The term is said to derive from the name of a metallophone resembling the Javanese gendèr (with the keys supported by nails, rather than string), which is now defunct. Kliningan was once popular at hajat but has now been largely replaced either by the popular social dance jaipongan or the more prestigious gamelan degung.

In fast, loud pieces for gamelan saléndro, the melodic lead is shared by saron and bonang. In slow, quiet pieces, it is taken by the rebab and gambang (xylophone), who most closely shadow and cue the sindén (female singer, often the wife of the dalang or one of the gamelan musicians). Until the mid-20th century, gamelan saléndro did not often include a sindén, with the gamelan musicians themselves singing or contributing interlocking rhythmic cries (senggak). Beginning in the 1960s, the sindén, as the only females on stage, started to become the focus of musical and sexual attention, even upstaging the dalang at wayang golék.

Gamelan has also changed musically to accommodate the sindén. Loud, adventurous melodic lines on saron or bonang are no longer considered appropriate, as they would obscure the singer; instead, the gamelan ripples quietly in standardized interlocking patterns. Uneven amplification often renders the gamelan totally inaudible in performance.

The rhythmic lead is taken by the kendang player, who provides cues for starting and stopping, changing tempo, or making a transition. In dance or wayang, the kendang player drums patterns that directly reflect the mood and movement. The largest kendang is set at an angle, with the rim of the largest head resting on the floor, so that the player can raise the pitch by applying pressure on the drum head with his heel. Within broad constraints, the individual kendang player has considerable scope for musical variation and subtlety. After the jaipongan craze of the 1980s, many drummers transferred the kendang jaipong style into other musical contexts, such as wayang and gamelan degung, despite the protests of conservatives.

Gamelan degung. This small ensemble, found only in Sunda, is said to derive from goong rénténg, a small ritual ensemble that is now rare. Gamelan degung was originally found only in the palaces of the traditional rulers until after independence, when it was gradually popularized. It has fewer instruments than gamelan saléndro, but they have a wider range. The instruments used for the classical repertory (degung klasik) are listed in Table 13 ; for more modern repertory, the following instruments may be added: kempul (small gong), gambang, rebab (replacing the suling), two saron barung (one octave metallophones playing interlocking figuration), and kacapi siter. Gamelan degung is tuned to the pélog degung scale (see §(iii) below).

In degung klasik, the bonang is the melodic leader, playing elaborate melodies that other instruments paraphrase or decorate. The bonang is also in rhythmic control: here the kendang contributes sparse patterns played with a stick (ditakol), which do little to affect the tempo. Degung klasik melodies often have phrases of uneven length, rather than the usual four-square metre of most gamelan music. There was no singing in gamelan degung until the 1960s, when the influential ensemble of Radio Republik Indonesia in Bandung added a female chorus, following the contour of the bonang melody.

In the more recent degung kawih style, by contrast, the gamelan degung provides a bland and regular accompaniment for the female vocal soloist. Her melody, shadowed and occasionally taken over by the suling, provides the musical focus. The bonang plays in octaves or in simple interlocking figuration with the panerus (cémprés). On the kendang (here the rhythmic leader) elaborate patterns are played with the hands (ditepak). Sometimes as a novelty degung kawih is performed by women (though never the suling or kendang).

Gamelan degung is sometimes used to play pieces from the classical repertory of gamelan pélog, with gambang and rebab. It has also become a vehicle for commercially-successful music such as the works of the pop Sunda composer Nano S(uratno), and its near-diatonic tuning lends it to combination with Western instruments. Nevertheless, with its aristocratic origins, it is still deemed socially more prestigious than gamelan saléndro.

Table 13. Instrumentation of gamelan degung

Sundanese name



Pitched gong of approximately 70 cm



low-pitched six kettle gong-chime (one



medium-pitched, 14 kettle, single row

gong-chime (two-and-a-half octaves)

cémprés (panerus)

two-and-a-half octave metallophone


two-and-a-half octave metallophone of

slightly higher pitch than cémprés (the

ranges overlap)


barrel drums (one large, two small)

suling degung

short four-hole bamboo duct flute

(iii) Instrumental tunings.

Most Sundanese music is based on pentatonic scales. The most commonly used are saléndro, pélog degung, and sorog (or madénda). Some of these scales can be used in combination, especially in vocal music.

Traditionally, the different steps of the scale have names that are used across the various tunings. Some of the more common note names are presented in fig.8 .

Names and ciphers for a saron (small metallophone) in either the saléndro or the pélog degung tuning

Oxford Illustrators

For convenience, musicians refer to the scale steps by the numbers 1 to 5, from high to low. The musical terms high (luhur) and low (handap) are often used by Sundanese instrumentalists to mean the opposite of what they mean in the West. In notation, subscript dots under ciphers indicate a higher octave (in the Western sense); a plus sign after a cipher lowers a note while a minus sign raises it.

(a) Saléndro.

This scale consists of five roughly equal intervals of around 240 cents each (see Table 14 for Western approximation of saléndro pitches). Exact tunings vary and are often demonstrably unequidistant if measured objectively. Nevertheless, saléndro is generally perceived by Sundanese musicians as consisting of equidistant (padantara) intervals. This is demonstrated by the way both gamelan and kacapi players, when accompanying voices of limited range, sometimes transpose music down one pitch without needing to retune their instruments.

(b) Pélog degung.

This scale consists of five unequal intervals. Each gamelan degung may have its own slight variation in tuning, but in general the scale might be represented as in Table 14.

(c) Sorog.

Gamelan tunings and their Western approximations

In the course of a complete tembang Sunda session, the kacapi (zither) will be tuned first to pélog degung, then sorog, and finally saléndro. These three tunings are also common in other musical styles featuring kacapi. The sorog (or madénda) scale is closely related to pélog degung (see Table 14 ).

Table 14. Gamelan tunings and their Western approximations


5 = C ↓ or B ↑

4 = D

3 = E

2 = G↓ or F♯↑

1 = A


5 = B

4 = C

3 =D

2 = F♯

1 = G

Sorog (Madenda)

5 = B

4 = C

3– = E

2 = F♯

1 = G

↓and ↑ indicate pitches slightly lowered and raised, respectively

A kacapi tuned to the pélog degung scale can be quickly returned to sorog by sharpening all the panelu (3) strings by a whole tone. With gamelan degung it has become common practice to expand the repertory by having an alternate set of keys and pots tuned to the note panelu sorog (3-), enabling the musicians to retune the degung to sorog by physically removing and replacing all the panelu (3).

(iv) Pitch.

The overall pitch of different gamelan tunings varies slightly, within the range of approximately a semitone above or below the tunings illustrated. The pitch of kacapi tunings can vary much more radically, depending on the musical style and the singer’s capabilities. Over the last 50 years the pitch chosen by tembang Sunda singers has lowered by about a 4th.

Sundanese musicians define pitch by the length in centimetres of the suling tembang required to play at a particular pitch: a suling of about 55 cm will produce a barang (1) of A♭; 57 cm will give barang (1) of G; and 61 cm will give barang (1) of F.

(v) Notation.

This plays an unimportant role in the dissemination of Sundanese music. However, the Sundanese music theorist Raden Machjar Angga Koesoemadinata (Pa Machjar) devised a system for referring to the notes by syllables (usually notated as numbers), which has gained wide acceptance among academically-trained musicians over the last 50 years. The syllables and corresponding numbers (from high to low) are da (1)–mi (2)–na (3)–ti (4)–la (5).

In the saléndro and pélog degung tunings, daminatila corresponds to barang (1)–loloran (2)–panelu (3)–bem (4)–singgul (5). In tunings of the sorog type, daminatila is transposed, so barang (1) no longer corresponds to da (1); see Table 15 .

This practice obscures the essential intervallic difference between pélog degung and sorog, in so far as the intervals natila are not the same in both tunings. Daminatila can become confusing in melodies that modulate frequently, and when it is not clear whether ciphers refer to traditional names or to daminatila; it is most useful as a convenient oral shorthand.


Table 15. daminatila notation

(vi) Form.

Most Sundanese forms are cyclical. On reaching the final note (in gamelan marked by a gong), a piece can be repeated from the beginning any number of times, until an ending or a transition to another piece is made. Sundanese pieces fall into two broad types: sekar alit (‘small songs’), which are based on a framework of notes, and sekar ageung (‘large songs’), which are based on a melodic line.

(a) Sekar alit.

These are the most frequently performed songs and consist of one or more gong phrases, defined by a rhythm on the kempul (P) and goong (G), illustrated in Ex.21.

Table 16: Formal structures of sekar alit

The hierarchy of destination pitches on which sekar alit are based is called patokan or kenongan. The most important destination pitch is marked by the goong (G), while the second most important is the pitch at mid-point of the gong phrase, called kenong (N). Next in importance is the pivot note played in between the goong and kenong notes, called pancer (c).

The various destination pitches are realized in a number of ways by the different instruments. Some play patterns that anticipate the next destination pitch, whereas others may reiterate the previous one. In ex.21 , Sorong Dayung (which can be played in either saléndro or pélog), the goong pitch (G) is barang (1), the kenong pitch (N) is panelu (3) and the pancer (c) is loloran (2). The two saron anticipate each destination pitch with interlocking parts that combine as runs, while the bonang anticipates and reiterates the goong and kenong parts, treating the pancer as a passing note; other instruments realize the patokan with their own characteristic patterns.

Ex.21 Sorung Dayung (sekar alit)

Sekar alit can be played at different levels of expansion, called wilet, a concept similar to irama in Javanese gamelan. If a gong phrase in sawilet (‘one’ wilet) lasts eight beats, then a gong phrase in dua wilet (‘two’ wilet) lasts 16 beats, and one in opat wilet (‘four’ wilet) lasts 32. In the dua wilet expansion the patokan may be dilipetkeun, literally ‘folded over’. In opat wilet the patokan sometimes follows the vocal melody, rather than being a literal expansion of dua wilet.

(b) Sekar ageung.

In this form each instrument plays its own characteristic elaboration or simplification of the melody. In gamelan saléndro or pélog, the melody is most clearly stated by the singers, rebab, and gambang. In gamelan degung it is carried by the bonang, which also controls the tempo and transitions (usurping the kendang). The sekar ageung of degung sometimes have a strikingly irregular metrical structure: while in gamelan all phrases are eight beats long, in degung other phrase lengths also occur.

(c) Mamaos and kakawén.

Another type of formal structure is found in the mamaos songs of tembang Sunda and the kakawén songs of wayang. These songs are sung in free rhythm, and the phrase lengths are not determined by a steady beat. In some mamaos and kakawén the accompaniment played by kacapi or gamelan is equally free; the accompanists listen to the cadences in the vocal part and tie in their part with the destination pitches. In other songs the accompaniment consists of patterns with a beat, which are repeated as often as is necessary to fit the vocal part (ex.22 ).

Ex.22 Liwung Jaya, rarancagan song, pélog degung tuning (first phrase)

(vii) Melody.
(a) Kawih and sénggol.

The sekar alit forms usually accompany melodies carried by the singer and rebab (or suling). Although some sekar alit are only used for one specific melody, the more common ones can accompany any number of improvisations and pre-existing melodies. Such melodies are called kawih. In gamelan the kawih is largely improvised; provided she ties in with the destination pitches, the singer can be very creative in her use of ornament, melodic contour, rhythm, text, and even tuning system. In tembang Sunda the kawih melodies are fixed.

The vocalist, suling, and rebab players have considerable rhythmic freedom in interpreting their melody. Although kawih melodies are broadly metrical, often with octo-syllabic texts that reinforce the eight-beat metre of the accompaniment, the timing always subtly side-steps the regular beat. The melody usually reaches the destination pitch at the end of a phrase before the accompaniment does.

The term sénggol can be used to refer to a melodic line, a particular turn of phrase or just the flavour of an ornament. Great attention is paid to the finest details of ornamentation, for they determine the style of sénggol. Tembang Sunda aficionados will mercilessly heckle a singer who uses a slide or grace note considered more appropriate to gamelan.

(b) Vocal scales.

Kawih melodies are rich in notes that lie outside the pentatonic scale played by the accompanying instruments. In pieces in the pélog degung and sorog tunings such excursions are generally confined to single notes or passing turns of phrase, referred to as modulasi, from the Dutch for ‘modulation’ (ex.23 ).

Ex.23 Excerpt from Dareuda, kawih melody illustrating the use of notes outside the pélog degung scale (these are marked with *)

In pieces in saléndro, the vocalist and rebab player often superimpose melodies in sorog. The saléndro accompaniment (on gamelan or kacapi) and the sorog melody generally share three destination pitches. Many sekar alit are based on combinations of the saléndro notes 4–2–1. The kawih would then use the sorog scale 4-3+-2-1-5+. In the accompaniment the saléndro note 5 or 3 would be treated as a pancer, a pivotal note in an unstressed position. The contrast between saléndro and sorog pitches gives the melody great expressive power. In pieces based on saléndro 4-3-1, the kawih would use 4-3-2+-1-5+. The kawih for a more complex piece such as Rénggong Gancang, based on the saléndro pitches 3-(4)-2-(1), alternates between these two sorog scales.

Sekar alit based on 4-2-1 may also accompany kawih in the pélog scale 4-3--2-1-5-, while those based on 4-3-1 may use the pélog scale 4-3-2--1-5-. These scales are summarized with Western approximations in Table 16 .

Table 16: Some of the sorog and pélog scales found in the kawih melodies of pieces in saléndro

destination pitches (saléndro):







approximate Western equivalent







sorog scale in kawih:











approximate western equivalent











pélog scale in kawih:











approximate Western equivalent











(viii) Dance and theatre.
(a) Martial art and dance.

The martial art penca silat (or maén po) is popular in Sunda. It is accompanied by two drummers, who play interlocking rhythms on large kendang, together with a tarompét (oboe) and a small gong. The kendang rhythms correspond closely to the movement. A similar ensemble, with an amplified female singer and additional percussion, accompanies the circumcision parade sisingaan, in which a small boy sits on a life-sized replica of a lion and is carried shoulder high.

Ketuk tilu was a flirtatious open-air dance in which ronggéng (female entertainers) sang and danced, accompanied by one kendang player, rebab, kecrék (small metal plates clashed rhythmically with a beater), gong, and ketuk, a set of three small gongs. Male dancers would pay the ronggéng to dance with them. Because some ronggéng also worked as prostitutes, this genre has fallen into disrepute, but respectable stage versions are sometimes still performed. Musically the ketuk tilu repertory is rich, featuring vertiginous tempo changes and a wide variety of scales. Many ketuk tilu melodies have been arranged and absorbed into the gamelan saléndro and gamelan degung repertories.

Dancing was an important social accomplishment among the aristocracy before independence. At a tayuban (dance party) dancers took turns, selecting the next person to come forward by placing a scarf on his neck. The choreography was spontaneous, and the kendang player would accompany the movement. By the mid-20th century, less flexible choreographies in the same style were created and termed ibing keurseus (‘course dance’, i.e. learnt through a course of lessons). In the 1950s R. Tjetje Somantri was the first of a series of choreographers to create new dances that used a wider vocabulary of movements and were intended for stage performance. This kreasi baru style often relies on striking costumes and may depict animals or actions, such as the tari merak (peacock dance), tari kupu-kupu (butterfly), tari céndrawasih (bird of paradise), and tari tenun (weaving). Séndratari, large-scale narrative choreographies, are sometimes staged.

Since 1980 the most popular dance form has been jaipongan, developed by Gugum Gumbira. He combined dynamic movements from ketuk tilu and penca silat with the daring and dynamic jaipong style of the drummer Suwanda from Karawang, using small, shrill kendang. As well as being a stage performance, jaipongan has replaced tayuban and ketuk tilu as a social dance. The ensemble is dominated by the drummer, singer, and amplifier. Gugum Gumbira owns the cassette company Jugala, and his jaipongan tapes have been important in disseminating and standardizing this genre, often replacing live music. Through the 1990s the jaipongan craze lessened, but it is still commonly performed, especially at rural hajat.

(b) Theatre.

Sandiwara is a Sundanese theatre genre that combines spoken dialogue and gamelan saléndro. Since the advent of television it has become virtually defunct. More often performed is gending karésmén (Sundanese opera), which combines singing, acting, dance, and narration with plots usually taken from Sundanese legends. Gending karésmén have been composed in a variety of musical styles; those produced by the academic establishment are often in the kawih style of Koko Koswara, while others draw on the tembang Sunda or gamelan degung repertories. The music usually consists of arrangements of existing pieces, or parts of pieces.

Wayang golék purwa (rod puppet theatre) is the most important Sundanese theatre form, based on stories from the Ramayana and Mahabarata epics that have been adapted to include Sundanese characters. Wayang is an expensive venture and has to be sponsored by a wealthy individual or institution. It is usually staged as part of the celebrations of a marriage, circumcision, momentous occasion, or anniversary. The general public is normally free to crowd round and watch, and the stage is a magnet for milling hawkers, food sellers, fortune-tellers, tricycle and motorcycle taxi riders, and others to ply their trades. Performances usually happen outdoors, beginning in the evening and continuing into the small hours.

The dalang (or puppeteer) sits cross-legged at the front of a square, covered stage. Mounted horizontally in front of him are two soft banana tree trunks, into which the spike at the bottom of the central rod of the puppets can be planted. To his left is the large wooden chest in which the puppets are carried to the performance. He cues the gamelan saléndro at his back by knocking on the chest with a heavy round piece of wood (campala). Suspended loosely together on the side of the chest are several metal plates, the kecrék, which produce loud, percussive sound effects during fight scenes. Single-handedly, the dalang manipulates the puppets in fights, dances, and slapstick, provides the different voices and narration (including archaic language in the formal scenes), sings the kakawén (mood songs), improvises jokes, and directs the ensemble through rhythmic and verbal cues, for up to eight hours without script, score, or stretching his legs.

The kendang player is the musical link between dalang and gamelan, playing dance patterns, making vicious sound effects, or signalling a transition or the end of a gong phrase to match the movement or action. The gamelan players lend vocal support, laughing at jokes, heckling the bad characters, and answering rhetorical questions. Wayang golék operates at many levels: as sheer entertainment, as philosophical and religious teaching, and as a means of promoting government programmes such as family planning, social satire, benediction, or exorcism.


and other resources

  • GEWMiv (‘Sunda’; S. Williams)
  • R.M.A. Koesoemadinata: Ilmu seni raras: ilmu musik Indonesia asli [Knowledge of the art of sound: knowledge of traditional Indonesian music] (Bandung, 1969)
  • I. Natapradja: Karawitan Sunda [Sundanese gamelan] (diss., UCLA, 1971)
  • M.L. Harrell: The Music of the Gamelan Degung of West Java (diss., UCLA, 1974)
  • M.L. Harrell: ‘Some Aspects of Sundanese music’, Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, 2/2 (1975), 81–101
  • E.L. Heins: Goong renteng: Aspects of Orchestral Music in a Sundanese Village (diss., U. of Amsterdam, 1977)
  • C. Falk: ‘The Tarawangsa: a Bowed Instrument from West Java’, Studies in Indonesian music, ed. M.J. Kartomi (Clayton, Victoria, 1978), 45–103
  • K. Foley: The Sundanese Wayang Golek: the Rod Puppet Theatre of West Java (diss., U. of Hawaii, 1979)
  • J. Hugh-Jones: ‘Karawitan Sunda, Tradition Newly Writ: a Survey of Sundanese Music Since Independence’, Recorded Sound, no.82 (1982), 19–34
  • R.E. Baier: Si Duriat Keueung: the Sundanese Angklung Ensemble of West Java, Indonesia (thesis, Wesleyan U., 1986)
  • P. Manuel and R. Baier: ‘Jaipongan: Indigenous Popular Music of West Java’, AsM, 18/1 (1986), 91–110
  • R.A. Stahl: Transformations in Kacapi Suling Music (diss., U. of California, Santa Cruz, 1987)
  • P. Buurman: Wayang Golek: the Entrancing World of Classical Javanese Puppet Theatre (Oxford, 1988)
  • S.C. DeVale: ‘Gong Forging in Bogor, West Java: the Process Through its Soundscape’, Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology, 5 (1989), 89–123
  • R.M. Fryer: Sundanese Theory and Practice in the Performance of Gamelan in Bandung, West Java (diss., Queen’s U. of Belfast, 1989)
  • W. van Zanten: Sundanese Music in the Cianjuran Style: Anthropological and Musicological Aspects of Tembang Sunda (Dordrecht, 1989)
  • A. Weintraub: The Music of Pantun Sunda: an Epic Narrative Tradition of West Java, Indonesia (thesis, U. of Hawaii, 1990)
  • S. Williams: ‘Current Developments in Sundanese Popular Music’, AsM, 21/2 (1990), 105–36
  • S. Williams: The Urbanization of Tembang Sunda (diss., U. of Washington, 1990)
  • S. Cook: Guide to Sundanese Music (Bandung, 1992)
  • S. Cook: ‘Parallel Versions of Tembang Sunda Melodies in Different Tunings’, Oideion, 1 (1993), 55–84
  • A. Weintraub: ‘Theory in Institutional Pedagogy and “Theory in Practice” for Sundanese Gamelan Music’, EthM, 37 (1993), 29–39
  • W. van Zanten: ‘Notation of Music: Theory and Practice in West Java’, Oideion, 2 (1995), 209–34
  • R. Swindells: Flexible Formulaity: Aspects of Ornamentation and Melodic Embellishment on the Sundanese Suling of West Java (thesis, City U., 1996)
  • A. Weintraub: Constructing the Popular: Superstars, Performance and Cultural Authority in Sundanese Wayang Golek Purwa of West Java, Indonesia (diss., U. of California, Berkeley, 1997)


  • Tonggeret, perf. I. Hadidjah, rec. 1979–96, Nonesuch 9 79173-2 (1987)
  • The Sound of Sunda, perf. E. Komariah, Y. Wiradiredja, GlobeStyle CDORB 060 (1990)
  • Indonesia: Music from West Java/Indonésie: musique de l’ouest de Java, rec. 1970, Auvidis Unesco D 8041 (1992)
  • Tembang Sunda, perf. I. Widawati with Linkungan Seni Malati Ida, Inedit W 260056 (1994)
  • Java - pays sunda: musiques savantes, 1: Musique et chants classiques, coll. J. Brunet, rec. 1973, Ocora C 580064 (1995)
  • Java - Sunda: musiques savantes, 2: L’art du gamelan degung, coll. J. Brunet, rec. 1972–3, Ocora C 560097 (1996)
  • Java - Sunda: musiques savantes, 3: Les grands gamelans du cour, Ocora C 560098 (1996)
  • Nano S: the Great Master of Sunda Music, King Record KICC 5212 (1996)

2. Cirebon.

  • Matthew Isaac Cohen

This cultural area of the western Javanese littoral includes (but is not limited to) the municipality and regency of Cirebon and adjacent regencies. A recent population estimate of Cirebonese was five million. The region has a distinctive dialect of Javanese (Cirebon Javanese) and a historical tradition dating back to the late 15th century, when the port-polity of Cirebon was founded as an Islamic sultanate. During the 16th century, Cirebon functioned as a minor point in the Asia-Africa oceanic trading nexus, as well as an important centre for Islamic mysticism and the arts. ‘Cirebon’ is believed to be etymologically derived from an Old Javanese word meaning ‘mixture’. Its lively performing arts, including music, reflect and shape an ethos that is openly and consciously hybrid in orientation. Many artistic idioms and forms are unique to the area, whereas others are related to genres found in the Sundanese highlands to the south and elsewhere in Java.

Music making, as in much of Java, is often linked to theatre, dance and processions. Performing ensembles are almost inevitably rurally based, and although the city of Cirebon’s royal courts act as occasional sponsors, the vast majority of performances occur in the densely populated towns and villages outside the major cities of the coastal plain, in conjunction with individual rites of passage (weddings, circumcisions) and communal celebrations (e.g. harvest festivals). Music is rarely written down, prompting improvisation; only structure and melodic contour are (relatively) fixed. Few genres are purely instrumental; nearly all involve singing or chanting of some sort.

There are two major variants of gamelan, Java’s ubiquitous gong-chime ensemble – one tuned to a pentatonic scale known as prawa, the other to the heptatonic pélog tuning. A sacred pélog set in the Kanoman royal court reputedly dates to 1520. Prawa is used primarily to accompany shadow puppet theatre (wayang kulit) and mask-dance (topèng), whereas pélog ensembles usually accompany rod puppet theatre (wayang golèk cepak), social dance (tayuban, pèsta) and costume drama (sandiwara, masres). The number of musicians ranges from 6 to 15, playing a variety of metallophones, drums, and gongs, as well as singing. (Busking genres, such as the horse trance dance known as jaran lumping and the itinerant monkey show known as topèng kethèk, employ reduced gamelan ensembles of three or so musicians.) The introduction of sound amplification in the 1950s has contributed to the increased prominence of the female vocalist (pesindhèn) in gamelan. Performances featuring gamelan inevitably present classical standards as well as the latest popular songs, requested by audience members. Male spectators, viscerally aroused by lively drumming, frequently dance during shows.

A variety of genres feature frame drums (rebana, terbang, genjring), including genjring, qasidah, gembyung, and brai. The frame drum is conceived of as an Islamic instrument, and texts sung to the accompaniment of frame-drumming are often in Arabic or treat religious subjects. Genjring, which now incorporates electric guitars and gongs, is the best known of these genres. Genjring ensembles commonly accompany circumcision processions, as well as an acrobatic display (genjring akrobat) inspired by the European circuses that began touring Java in 1848.

A number of rare genres, including trance dances known as sintren and lais, as well as a processional genre known as réyog that formerly featured clowning and folk dramatics, were traditionally accompanied by buyung, resonant earthenware jars struck on the lip of their necks. Busking mummers costumed as ogres (wéwéan) are accompanied typically by a single drum. Sliding bamboo rattles (angklung) are associated with a singular ritual dance known as angklung Bungko. The practice of unaccompanied singing of poetic literature in Cirebon Javanese (bujanggaan or macaan, the poor man’s alternative to sponsoring costly theatrical troupes) has largely disappeared, along with a number of other minor performance genres, since the advent of tape recorder rental services catering to entertainment needs in the 1970s.

Cirebonese music changed greatly during the course of the 20th century. A nascent version of the comic operetta form today known as tarling (an amalgam of gitar and suling, the two most prominent instruments in its musical ensemble) was created by Sugra (1921–99) in 1933. Tarling was originally a purely musical form, featuring both guitar and impromptu gamelan instruments, with traces of jazz harmony and kroncong ballad singing (see §VIII, 1 below). In subsequent years, tarling incorporated story-telling, clowning, and drama. Dangdut, a pan-Indonesian musical genre inspired partially by Indian film music, had a huge impact on the musical life of Cirebon starting around 1977. It was not long before dangdut infused nearly all of Cirebon’s musical genres, spawning numerous hybrid forms such as tarling dangdut (the generic name for Cirebonese popular music). Sundanese jaipongan dance music has also been influential; since the 1980s, mastery of the jaipongan idiom has been requisite for drummers in gamelan ensembles. The latest significant generic development has been the inception of organ tunggal (solo synthesizer) around 1996, an enormously popular musical concert form with a pared-down dangdut ensemble (often a solo keyboard player) and several singer-dancers.

The audiocassette industry had great prominence from 1972 until around 2000. Recordings of both classical and popular musical idioms, as well as dramatic forms, were widely consumed: popular music albums with lyrics in Cirebon Javanese produced by companies based in Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, and Cirebon sold up to 100,000 copies. Popular music gets much play on local radio, and popular music videos became increasingly visible on provincial and national television starting in the 1990s, contributing to the superstar status of vocalists such as Itih S. The digital revolution has brought about a mushrooming of music studios in shopping malls and private homes. Video compact discs and DVDs have today largely displaced audiocassettes; as elsewhere in the world, music is transmitted by file sharing and Bluetooth transfers. Younger people in both urban and rural areas are increasingly interested in band (pop/rock) music.

Music making is seasonal work. There are few performances during the rainy season, for example, and as certain months are considered more auspicious than others for holding ritual celebrations, the frequency of performances varies greatly. Most musicians supplement their income by trading, farming, or home industry. During the nights of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, villages thrum to the sounds of obrog-obrogan, musical processionals combining both strictly amateur and highly professional musicians. These roving ensembles nominally wake up sleeping villagers for the prefast meal but also provide entertainment for the masses and vital training for musicians. Many musical genres are represented.

Composer-lyricists of tarling dangdut songs are sometimes tarling producer-actors, such as the late Yoyo Suwaryo (1957–2000). Some popular songs, such as the now-classic tarling tune Warung Pojok (‘Corner cafe’) by H. Adul Adjib (1942–2011), are favorites of the whole nation. Composers writing in other idioms tend to be less recognized for their efforts.


  • GEWM, iv (‘Cirebon’; E. Suanda)
  • J. Kunst and C.J.A. Kunst van Wely: ‘Over Toonschalen en Instrumenten van West-Java’, Djawa, 3 (1924), 24–40
  • M.J. Kartomi: Matjapat Songs in Central and West Java (Canberra, 1973)
  • M. Wright: The Music Culture of Cirebon (diss., UCLA, 1978)
  • E. Suanda: ‘The Social Context of Cirebonese Performing Artists’, AsM, 13/l (1981), 27–42
  • P.R. Abdurachman: Cerbon (Jakarta, 1982)
  • E. Suanda: ‘Cirebonese Topeng and Wayang of the Present Day’ AsM, 16/2 (1985), 84–120
  • M.I. Cohen: Demon Abduction: a Wayang Ritual Drama from West Java (Jakarta, 1998)
  • M.I. Cohen: ‘The Incantation of Semar Smiles: a Tarling Musical Drama by Pepen Effendi’, Asian Theatre Journal, 16 (1999), 139–93
  • M.I. Cohen: ‘“Multiculturalism” and performance in colonial Cirebon’, The Indonesian Town Revisited, ed. P.J.M. Nas (Berlin, 2002), 348–73
  • H. Spiller: Gamelan: the Traditional Sounds of Indonesia (Santa Barbara, Denver, and Oxford, 2004)
  • M.I. Cohen: ‘The Arts of Cirebon’, Seleh Notes, 12/2 (2005), 6–10
  • R. Grauer: Rasinah: the Enchanted Mask (New York, 2006)
  • S. Bader: ‘Dancing Bodies on Stage: Negotiating Nyawer Encounters at Dangdut and Tarling Dangdut Performances’, West Java, Indonesia and the Malay World, 39 (2011), 333–55
  • M.I. Cohen: ‘Brai in Performance: Devotion and Art in Java’, Divine Inspiration: Music and Islam in Indonesia, ed. D. Harnish and A.K. Rasmussen (Oxford, 2011), 132–60

VI. Sumatra

  • Marc Perlman

Sumatra is one of the largest islands of the Indonesian archipelago. The Barisan mountain range runs the length of the island, dividing the mangrove forests, peat and freshwater swamps, and tropical forests of the east from the narrow coastal region of the west. Culturally, Sumatra’s dozens of ethnic groups present a picture of great diversity. For over 1000 years, small-scale forest-dwelling or nomadic societies have co-existed with kingdoms, often trade-based and situated on the coasts. Since ancient times, Sumatra’s strategic position in the Asian sea lanes brought it into contact with traders from India, the Middle East, and China, whose religions and cultures have marked its societies. More recently, the presence of the Portuguese in the Straits of Malacca (from 1511) and incursions by the British and Dutch in the 19th century introduced Christianity and Western cultural and musical influences.

Ethnomusicological research on Sumatran music has yet to do full justice to this diversity. Much research has focussed on the most populous province, North Sumatra, with important studies on the traditions of West Sumatra and to a lesser extent on those of Riau. Far less is known about music in the southern provinces (Jambi, South Sumatra, Bengkulu, and Lampung); hence for most Sumatran ethnic groups no detailed ethnomusicological studies have been published. Given such a wealth of musical variety and a dearth of documentation, this article presents a broad overview of styles and instruments, then focusses on a few of the better-documented traditions. Studies of traditions not mentioned in the text are listed in the bibliography, while Kartomi (GEWM, iv) summarizes much unpublished research on Sumatran music.

1. Overview.

Music in Sumatra reflects the island’s long history of migration and trade, both internally and with other areas of Indonesia and Asia. It is tempting to divide Sumatran music into historical strata corresponding to major periods of foreign influence, such as pre-Islamic, Islamic, and European-influenced genres. However, this is not a reliable guide to either the sound of a musical genre or its socio-cultural context. Music for the Melayu (Malay) zapin dance, for example, is associated with Arab influence and is sometimes played on the ‘ūd lute, yet some of its core repertory sounds no less Western than some of the so-called European-influenced Melayu music and is surrounded by magical beliefs like the so-called indigenous genres. The korps musik brass bands of the Toba Batak play Western hymns, yet they are integrated into the ritual oratory and communal dancing of Toba ceremonial precisely like the gondang sabangunan ensemble. In the Melayu ronggeng tradition, nominally classified as part of the post-Portuguese stratum, European-type diatonicism co-exists with Chinese-sounding pentatonicism and augmented 2nd tetrachords of the hijaz type (see Mode, §V, 2).

Rather than privilege historical origin as the key classificatory feature, the following commonalities may be noted.

(a) Choral singing is often performed by single-sex groups (usually male). In Muslim societies it is often tied to Islamic devotional themes (e.g. Melayu marhaban, Minangkabau indang, Gayo saman, and Nias hoho).

(b) Laments (Toba andung, Gayo sebuku, Alas tangis dillo, Nias fabölösi) are sung at funerals, by the bride at weddings or by mediums to communicate with the spirit world.

(c) Percussion-dominated ensembles range from a rack of gong-kettles played by one to three people, through to larger ensembles with drums and/or hanging gongs, which can also include aerophones. Common sub-types include the family of gong-kettle ensembles exemplified by the Minangkabau talempong, the Melinting (Lampung) kulintang, and the Abung tabuhan, often played by women. These tuned, bossed kettles, played in interlocking fashion, are usually made of brass or bronze, though among the Alas of Aceh sardine cans may be pressed into service. Often the musicians distinguish a nominally invariable ostinato part (sometimes called penyelalu) from a more variable part (peningkah). The drums of the drum-based ensembles are also played in interlocking fashion by several musicians, though in some cases a single musician plays melodically on the entire set. In many cases the repertory of both kinds of ensemble can also be played (or at least practised) on a solo xylophone.

(d) Flutes (usually rim-blown or end-blown) sometimes accompany singing and are often associated with narrative poetry, love-magic, or laments (e.g. the Toba sordam, the Minangkabau saluang sirompak, the Nias zigu, and the Petalangan sempelong).

(e) Entertainment music, often accompanying social dances, sometimes combines hand drums with violins and accordions (and more recently, amplified instruments).

(f) Song texts often take the form of pantun, stanzas (usually ABAB rhyming quatrains) known under various names in many Indonesian languages. They consist of two equal sections: the first (sampiran) generally makes an impersonal statement, often a description of nature, while the second (isi), rhyming with the first and sometimes syntactically parallel to it, may contain a first-person statement of feelings, an address to the listener or a moral exhortation or reflection on life.

These categories omit more than they include. Not only are there many unique instruments and various ensembles unclassifiable under the foregoing rubrics (the Nias bamboo buzzer, duri-dana, the Mandailing earth-zither, gordang tano, the Minangkabau giant lithophone, alu bakatentong), but this schema ignores the musical practices of the more-or-less distinct immigrant communities of Chinese, Indians, and Javanese. The influence of the latter can be seen in the presence of Javanese folk theatre (ketoprak dor) in North Sumatra and the hobby-horse trance dances (kuda kepang) found there and also among the Rejang of Bengkulu.

2. Selected musical cultures and regions.

(i) Batak.

These seven North Sumatran groups (Toba, Karo, Simalungun, Pakpak (Dairi), Angkola, and Mandailing) have related but distinct languages, customs and traditional arts. The Batak groups are divided by religion (the Mandailing are Islamic, the Toba Christian) and to some extent by language (Toba and Karo in particular are mutually unintelligible), though they share a principle of social organization based on exogamous patrilineal clans.

Music plays an important role in life-cycle ceremonies; indeed, the word for ‘ceremony’ (gondang in Toba, gendang in Karo) is also a central musical term, meaning drum, ensemble, and musical composition. The central ceremonial activity is a series of dances (Toba tortor; Karo landek) by several groups of dancers, each usually representing a clan with a definite relationship to the host or some other kind of corporate group (e.g. church, youth-group). Musicians are necessary to accompany the dancing, but they are also considered to be intermediaries between the celebrants and the Creator. The dancing is often preceded by a sort of musical prayer, the ritual sounding of a medley of several compositions (or fragments thereof) played without pause (e.g. the Toba si pitu gondang or the Simalungun gonrang parahot).

(a) Toba.

The gondang sabangunan, an ensemble of drums, oboes, and gongs, is the most prestigious accompaniment for Toba ceremonies. Originally heard only at major life-cycle ceremonies held outdoors and lasting for several days, it now accompanies more modest, indoor events as well. The gongs (ogung), two suspended and two held against the players’ laps or chests, maintain a rhythmic ostinato. At least one player of the sarune bolon (double-reed aerophone) is essential. The gordang, a large, low-pitched, single-headed drum, maintains a rhythmic ostinato, and the hesek-hesek (a broken hoe blade or a beer bottle) keeps a steady beat. The taganing drum-chime, a set of five tuned drums played with sticks, sometimes plays a similar rhythmic role, but it can also follow the melodic line of the sarune. The five principal pitches of the sarune vary from one instrument to another but are roughly comparable to the first five tones of a diatonic scale. They are mapped onto the more expansive range of the taganing, whose five tones are separated by intervals closer to Western 4ths, major 3rds and minor 3rds. Hence a gondang composition played in this fashion presents two simultaneous melodic lines of near-identical contour but highly contrasting pitch content.

The taganing player’s choice of rhythmic ostinato versus melody seems to be determined by a variety of factors; some gondang do not permit melodic playing, while some ceremonial performance contexts demand rhythmic ostinato. However, as melodic playing is considered more virtuoso, there may be a tendency for it to be applied to increasing numbers of gondang.

The gondang hasapi ensemble features one or more hasapi (two-string lutes) and sarune etek (small clarinets); other instruments, such as the garantung (xylophone) and sulim (transverse flute), may also be used. Its repertory is identical to that of the gondang sabangunan. Indeed, when several hasapi are present, those that play the melody (as opposed to a constant rhythmic strumming) are distinguished by the term hasapi taganing. Considered to be the proper accompaniment for smaller indoor ceremonies, the gondang hasapi ensemble has in fact been replaced for most public purposes by the more prestigious ‘outdoor’ ensemble, gondang sabangunan. The gondang hasapi ensemble remains in use for curing ceremonies and plays an important role in the worship of the Parmalim sect.

Uning-uningan refers to the entertainment music performed by the expanded gondang hasapi ensemble. Although it may include light-hearted pieces from the ceremonial repertory, most of its music comes from Opera Batak, the popular Batak theatre associated with Tilhang Gultom (1896–1970). Some of the melodies stay within the five-tone range of the gondang hasapi, but most uning-uningan use the full ambitus of the Western major scale.

Toba gondang compositions can be analytically classified into two broad categories: paired-phrase and motivic. Paired-phrase gondang consist of a sequence of phrases, each of which is played twice (e.g. AABBCCDDEE). Usually each phrase lasts an even number of gong-cycles and is typically composed of two similar sub-phrases. Motivic gondang, by contrast, consist of a sequence of very short motifs, perhaps two or four beats long. Each motif is repeated several times before proceeding to the next. The number of repetitions is not precisely fixed: when a large gondang hasapi ensemble performs one of these gondang, there is sometimes a ‘tug-of-war’ between the players who move quickly from one motif to the next and those who wish to linger over each one.

In a ceremonial context, each round of dancing is introduced by a speech on behalf of the clan represented. In their role as patoruson (intermediaries who convey human speech to God), musicians interact with the orator, punctuating his prayers with rhythmic flourishes. Each speech ends with a request for the musicians to play a composition (gondang). This request may be explicit, highly allusive, or even cryptic; it is part of the musicians’ skill to intuit or deduce the proper piece. Possibly as a result of this practice, the association of titles with gondang is highly variable among Toba musicians.

The Lutheran missionaries who converted the Toba in the 1860s also introduced brass bands to play hymns, and by the 1920s there were enough Toba musicians experienced with these instruments to form their own bands (korps musik). Now sometimes augmented by drum kit, electric guitars, and keyboards, these remain popular in the Balige and Laguboti areas, where they often replace the gondang sabangunan at life-cycle ceremonies. The traditional oratory is unchanged but is now punctuated by guitar riffs or synthesizer glissandos instead of the taganing rhythmic flourishes. The orator continues to request gondang compositions in the usual way, but the band responds with hymns or folk tunes.

Laments (andung) are sung by both men and women. Primarily used to mourn the dead, they are also sung while herding, courting, working in the fields or before tapping palm-wine. The number of people singing laments at a funeral is a measure of the prestige of the deceased. Some people are respected for their ability at andung; these have mastered the special vocabulary of the lament (about 500 items), can recount the life of the deceased and are thought to have experienced much suffering.

The rim-blown bamboo sordam flute is attributed magical attractive powers, and its two main uses depend on this belief. The datu ritual specialist plays the melodies of andung laments upon it to summon spirits. Similarly, young men seeking to bewitch a girl use it for love magic: the sound of the sordam, played in the fields at night, will wake the desired girl and force her to seek the player.

(b) Karo.

The gendang lima sedalanen ensemble is the major musical accompaniment for Karo ceremonies. In striking contrast to the equivalent Toba ensemble, its instruments range in size from the small to the tiny. A saruné (oboe) about 25 cm long carries the melody, punctuated by strokes on two hanging gongs, while rhythmic backing is provided by two double-headed drums, gendang singindungi and gendang singanaki. These thin drums are held by the players’ feet against their thighs and played with short bulbous sticks. On the gendang singanaki (which plays a rhythmic ostinato) is mounted the gerantung, a miniscule drum about 13 cm long. The lead drum, gendang singindungi, plays virtuoso variations. The skin is stretched on a ring-shaped frame deliberately lashed loosely onto the drum’s wooden body; this allows the drum strokes to modify the tension of the head, and hence the pitch produced. Rim shot strokes, in striking both the skin and the frame, leave the tension unmodified; strokes on the skin alone pull on the frame, reducing the tension and lowering the pitch. By combining these strokes, a skilful player can produce an extended downward glissando.

The kulcapi two-string lute was until recently used only by storytellers, for ceremonial purifications, or to appease the spirits. It was not played with drums but with the keteng-keteng, a bamboo idiochord zither. Over the past few decades the kulcapi has taken over the repertory of the gendang lima sedalanen; it is often used to accompany life-cycle ceremonies as well as the social dances for unmarried youths associated with harvest festivals (guro-guro aron).

The rim-blown surdam flute is used by storytellers, by the guru belin (spirit medium, healer) to summon back a patient’s wandering spirit (raleng tendi) and by young men to enchant girls.

Like the Toba tradition, the Karo repertory contains both compositions with fixed melodies and motif-based pieces. The perkolong-kolong songs of professional singers belong to the former category, except for the best-known example of the genre, Simalungun Rayat, which is also played by the ceremonial gendang lima sedalanen ensemble.

(c) Mandailing and Angkola.

All Mandailing ceremonial ensembles include drums, large and small gongs, cymbals, single-reed sarune aerophones, and an optional vocal part. The gordang sambilan, using nine tall drums, is the largest and most prestigious. It is played only on special occasions: for the wedding of a village chief’s daughter, for example, or to bring rain during a drought. It is installed in a special pavilion and ‘inaugurated’ by the highest ritual authority before it may be played. The drums are mounted so that the drumheads are at or near eye-level, and the players stand while playing. The drummers often dance to their interlocking rhythms; special offerings are prepared to prevent them from falling into trance. Playing the jangat (lowest-pitched drum) demonstrates not only musical skill but also leadership potential: the vigour and confidence with which the drummer beats out cross-rhythms demonstrates the force of his personality and earns him respect.

Smaller and less prestigious ensembles with ceremonial functions are the gordang lima and gondang dua (also called gondang boru), featuring five and two drums respectively. The gondang bulu is a bamboo idiochord zither, used for practising the music of the gondang and gordang ensembles and to accompany girls practising tortor (dances).

(d) Simalungun.

The two major ceremonial ensembles both use large and small gongs, the double-reed sarunei bolon, and optional cymbals, but are distinguished by the number of drums: the gonrang sidua-dua employs two, the gonrang sipitu-pitu (also called gonrang bolon), seven. As with the Mandailing, the larger ensemble is associated with larger ceremonies, though there are exceptions. For example, at a royal funeral the huda-huda masked dances must be accompanied not by the prestigious gonrang bolon but by a modified gonrang sidua-dua ensemble, to reinforce the humorous effect of the dancing.

To a great extent repertory is common to both ensembles and also to the seven-key garantung xylophone, which can be used to practise the gonrang repertory.

(e) Pakpak (Dairi).

Similar to the Mandailing and Simalungun, ceremonial ensembles among the Pakpak (Dairi) exist in different sizes, appropriate to different-sized events. The chief distinguishing factor is the number of drums: the use of two, five, seven, or nine drums defines the different types of genderang ensemble (suspended and hand-held bossed gongs and cymbals are common to all). Cognate to the Toba and Simalungun garantung xylophones is the kalondang xylophone, sometimes played with the kucapi lute.

Unique to the Pakpak is the gerantung, an ensemble of four flat gongs played melodically by a single player and accompanied by a set of bossed gongs. Also notable is the botul, a horizontal rack of five to nine small knobbed gongs, to which cymbals and three suspended gongs are added to form an ensemble of the same name. This, North Sumatra’s only gong-chime ensemble, is found only where Pakpak territory borders on Karo or Toba areas. It is played to accompany self-defence dances. It is like the talempong gong-kettle ensemble, though its curious name has not been explained; Van der Tuuk, whose definition of garantung fits the modern Pakpak instrument and not the Toba, lists botul as the ‘true’ variety of gerantung (B1861, p.384).

(ii) Melayu.

Defining a Melayu (Malay) ethnic identity is not straightforward, since the various criteria that have been proposed sometimes conflict. Confessional and cultural criteria, according to which a Melayu is someone who professes Islam, speaks Malay and holds to Malay customs, are especially attractive to those close to the institutions of spiritual and temporal authority. Genealogical criteria are attractive to the common people, especially those of island Riau, some of whom do not even profess Islam. The historical use of Malay as a trade language throughout the archipelago and the spread of Islam made it relatively easy for people to identify as Melayu, in the cultural sense. The following examples illustrate two highly contrasting Melayu societies; the Petalangan of the Riau forests have a clear genealogical claim to Melayu descent, whereas the Melayu of the east coast of North Sumatra include descendants of several ethnic groups, and many of these musicians are Karo, Banjarese, Javanese, Sundanese, or Minangkabau by genealogy.

(a) Petalangan.

This group of about 20,000 forest-dwelling swidden agriculturalists lives around the Kampar river in the interior of Riau and was once affiliated with the Melayu kingdom of Pelalawan. Their vocal music includes epic songs (nyanyi panjang) and songs used in the honey-gathering ceremony (menumbai sialang). Notable among their instruments are the sempelong (flute), gambang (xylophone), calempung (gong-chime), gondang (drums), and particularly the ketobung (shamanic drum).

The rim-blown bamboo sempelong flute is associated with love-magic. A sempelong especially equipped with magical attractive powers (sempelong pitunang) is made by boring each of the fingerholes after the death of a child. The sound produced by these holes represents the crying of the dead children, which is thought to waken the maternal instincts of the girl the player wants to bewitch. Even played without seductive intent, the sempelong was considered dangerous: men were forbidden to play it near cultivated rice-fields, since someone else’s wife might hear it and be tempted.

The gong-chime (calempung) and xylophone (gambang) share repertory. Each can be played by a single player or by two players in penyelalu-peningkah fashion. They may also be added to the silat ensemble, which features a pair of double-headed drums (gondang) playing interlocking rhythms also in the penyelalu-peningkah style.

Essential to the belian healing ritual is the double-headed ketobung drum. Unlike the paired drums of the silat ensemble, only one ketobung is used, played by two people: one sounds the penyelalu part on one head with bare hands, and the other produces the peningkah part on the other head with a cane beater. The ketobung, which symbolizes the human body as well as the ‘tree of life’, can be made only by specialists versed in esoteric knowledge and is used only in shamanic rituals. It accompanies the various stages of the shaman’s ascent to the invisible realm with specific rhythmic patterns (50 in all).

(b) The Melayu of North Sumatra.

Those on the east coast have some genres similar to those of the Petalangan (for example the gambang xylophone played by one or two women), but their most distinctive tradition, shaped by the polyglot, multicultural history of the region, is that of the ronggeng, the professional female singer-dancer who dances on demand with men from the audience and exchanges sung verses with them.

Ronggeng songs are accompanied by an ensemble of violin and one or more frame drums; nowadays an accordion is also added, whereas the suspended gong, previously common, is becoming rare. The melodies can be categorized into four groups, based on the rhythmic pattern (rentak) that accompanies them; in order of increasing tempo, they are senandung, mak inang, lagu dua, and patam-patam. Patam-patam is an instrumental form associated with self-defence movements, but the other genres all use pantun as song texts. These are the so-called original or authentic (asli) Melayu forms, but professional ronggeng must be prepared to sing whatever tunes the male guests request, so many of them can also sing Javanese, Sundanese, Toba, Karo, and Indian songs in the original languages.

The ronggeng repertory is often described as indebted to European influence, possibly because of the presence of the violin, the diatonicism of many of the melodies, the use of Western tonality terminology by musicians and the current use of chordal accompaniments. It is clear, however, that Western musical concepts (for example, tonal analysis) are of limited value in understanding this repertory. Indeed, many musicians are as well-versed in the theory of maqām (known as hawa among the Melayu) as they are in the nomenclature of Western tonality.

Most songs can be divided into two parts, one or both of which are repeated; in senandung they are termed the ujung and the refrain or pecah (the term pecah or pecahan is more commonly used to refer to the lagu rentak, the fast-tempo dance tune that follows the senandung in a medley). Often, though not invariably, this bipartite melodic structure corresponds with that of the pantun: the sampiran is sung to the ujung, and the isi is sung to the pecah. Some songs also have a senter, a section the text of which lies outside the pantun structure. It may be an invariable refrain or a two-line pantun-like verse; in either case, the name of the song is usually worked into its text.

The contrast between symmetrical phrasing and motivic construction noted for Batak music is also present in Melayu music. All of the slow and moderate tempo songs are made up of fixed-length phrases, but some fast-tempo dances consist of a series of short motifs repeated ad lib. In one case, patam-patam, this may derive from Batak traditions (patam-patam is also the name of a repertory item in Karo music). However, other types such as the dance tune Pulosari do not draw on the Batak tradition in their musical style. Whereas today Pulosari is commonly played in a fixed arrangement by the composer Lily Suheiry, it was originally a sequence of eight to nine short motifs, each corresponding to a dance step, played in no set order and with each repeated and embellished as needed; only the opening and closing phrases were fixed.

The role of Western musical influence on the formation of the ronggeng repertory may be difficult to determine precisely, but its latter-day presence is well documented. The cosmopolitan plantation society of the east coast supported dance bands, and the Delische Kunstkring (founded 1912) brought Italian opera and the Budapest String Quartet to Medan. The Melayu rulers also supported Western music: the Sultan of Langkat had a palace orchestra boasting 20 violins, led by a Singapore-trained musician, while the band of the Sultan of Serdang (complete with trumpets, clarinets, and bass drum) toured as far as Aceh. Melayu musicians entertained at Medan hotels, where they found Melayu melodies could be set to the beat of foxtrots, tangos, and other popular dances.

The music most Indonesians commonly identify as Melayu is dangdut, which until the 1980s was associated chiefly with the urban lower classes. Dangdut groups are known as orkes Melayu, but Melayu musicians consider it a musical descendant of only one specific sub-type of Melayu music: calti, an Indian-influenced genre imported to Sumatra around the turn of the 20th century.

(iii) The islands of Nias and Mentawai.
(a) Nias.

In contrast to Batak societies, the most prestigious genres of ceremonial music in Nias are entirely vocal. Hoho, the most important of these, is performed at wedding feasts, funerals, war dances, and other public occasions by a male chorus consisting of one or two song leaders (sondröro) and 4 to 24 chorus members. The sondröro (most of whom belong to the nobility) must have a broad knowledge of Nias customs and oral history, a gift for effective storytelling, and must be able creatively to rearrange traditional material and adapt new material appropriate to the performance circumstances. Hoho is sung in a significantly higher register than most other Nias vocal genres.

Notable among Nias instruments is the duri-dana, a bamboo tuning-fork. This idiophone-aerophone is 30–60 cm long and played in pairs, with one held in each hand; the long prongs of the forks are struck alternately against the bony part of the player’s knee. The pitches of the two instruments of a pair are separated by a semitone, tone, or minor 3rd. Covering the fingerholes on each instrument lowers its pitch by a major 3rd, giving the player access to four pitches. The duri-dana is played for personal amusement, sometimes accompanied by the end-blown bamboo flute, zigu.

(b) Mentawai.

Music here also relies relatively little on instruments. The tudukkat, a wooden clapperless bell, is kept in each clan house. It can be played for amusement but also functions as a signalling device, using a system of speech surrogacy in which each of its three tones represents certain vowels. Most musical activity, however, takes the form of songs (urai). These encompass dance songs (urai turuk), songs of longing (urai pagalangan), and songs of the sikerei ritual practitioners (urai kerei). The latter may only be sung within a ritual context. Some of these songs praise the sikerei spirit familiar; others are used to summon back the wandering spirit of a sick person, to placate animal spirits or for other curative purposes.

(iv) Minangkabau.

West Sumatra, the homeland of the Minangkabau people, is divided geographically and culturally into two regions, the pasisie (coastal plains) and the darek (highlands).

Traditional Minangkabau instrumental music includes several varieties of gong-kettle ensemble, ranging from the gandang aguang (which includes large hanging gongs and double-headed drums) to portable ensembles used for processions. Generically known as talempong, these ensembles fall into two types. In the talempong duduak the gong-kettles are arranged on a rack, where they can be played by a single seated musician (or two, in penyelalu-peningkah formation). This form, strongly associated with women, is now rare, but the hand-held talempong pacik is still commonly used for occasions such as weddings, circumcision ceremonies, and randai dance-theatre performances. The kettles (usually six) are played by three or four musicians; players are limited to a repeated one- or two-note figure that they may vary, producing a bright, rhythmically-active figuration. There is also a third, modernized form of talempong: the choreographer Achiar Adam tuned it to the Western scale and gave it Melayu-style melodies to accompany his stage arrangements of traditional dances.

There are several forms of vocal music, including religious genres (such as salawat dulang) and narrative ones (kaba such as sijobang, dendang Pauah, and rabab Pariaman; see Music of Indonesia, vi (F1994) and xii (F1996) for examples). Of special interest is the tradition of dendang songs accompanied by the rabab bowed lute or by various types of flute. In the highland areas the instrument most often used for this purpose is a five-tone rim-blown flute, the saluang darek, played with circular breathing (salisiah angok). There is no standard tuning; its five tones fit into an approximate 5th, more or less equally spaced. Recently, the state music academy in Padang Panjang has tried to tune saluang to the first five tones of the Western major scale.

Both men and women sing dendang, though not in chorus: it is almost entirely a solo art. Dendang do not have fixed lyrics; the singer is free to choose or invent pantun. The saluang follows the vocal line heterophonically, sometimes providing interludes while the singers pause. Dendang melodies associated with the highlands remain within the saluang five-tone range, but dendang of the coastal plains are heptatonic; when one of the latter ascends beyond the flute’s highest tone, the saluang sustains its highest pitch. Dendang can be categorized by the tonal focus of their melodies, but probably the most culturally salient associations of the tunes are geographic and affective. Dendang, even those known throughout West Sumatra, are linked to specific localities; indeed, many of their titles are simply place-names. More generally, the tunes are classified by their emotional content into free-metre ‘sad’ tunes (often called ratok, laments) and fixed-metre ‘cheerful’ ones.

An evening’s entertainment, consisting of dendang sung by a singer and accompanied by musicians specially engaged for the purpose (or playing as street musicians) is called bagurau (a general term covering all performances or gatherings for pleasure). Bagurau can be held for various traditional ceremonies but also for fund-raising, and in some public places one finds informal bagurau sessions with singers and musicians playing for tips. Audience members are often involved in these sessions as the object of singers’ flirtatious lyrics, but they can also play a more active role by passing notes to the singers and asking for certain messages (directed at other audience members) to be incorporated in their pantun.

(v) Aceh.

The three major ethnic groups are the Acehnese of the coastal lowlands and the Gayo and Alas of the central mountains; the languages of the latter two groups are related to that of the Karo.

(a) Acehnese.

The arts of the lowland dwellers include the now-rare geurimpheng, performed by a row of seated men who sing and play rapai frame drums, with choreographed movements of the arms and upper torso. The biola Aceh genre is a quasi-theatrical amusement featuring a solo violin, sometimes accompanied by rapai. Two singer-dancers act out humorous skits of family life and sing love songs; the violin player (the director) may also sing.

The best-known Acehnese art, however, is the men’s dance seudati and its related female form, seudati inong or laweut. Seudati is performed by eight men, accompanied by their own singing and that of two or more aneuk syahi (singers). There is no instrumental accompaniment, but the dancers produce their own rhythms by snapping their fingers and slapping their chests just below the ribcage. In recent decades, the dancers have worn long-sleeved undershirts to lend a crisp, loud attack to the body-slaps.

Seudati is usually performed as a competition between two groups (seudati tunang). The groups are judged on precision of ensemble, volume of hand-slaps and on the wit of their ripostes. The lyrics for seudati are said to have originally been religious, though some of the words have become so garbled as to be incomprehensible. Romantic poetry is mixed with topical references to local grandees or to the host for the evening; the New Order government also encouraged seudati singers to promote government programmes such as family planning.

A complete seudati performance has seven sections. The first two, the saleum and saleum rakan, are greetings, performed by each of the competing groups in turn. The core of the performance is the subsequent sequence of five sections (bak saman, saman, kisah, syahi panyang, and lanië) performed by one of the groups, then answered by a similar sequence from its rival. The lanië closing section is accompanied by folksongs, or even by popular songs; the dancers may mime to the words of the song.

The last three verses of each section are performed double-tempo, as a signal for the ending. Each section stops suddenly as the dancers freeze in tableaux; there is then a brief pause before the dance continues.

(b) Gayo.

Inhabiting the highlands of central and south-eastern Aceh, the Gayo can be divided into two cultural and linguistic sub-groups, the Gayo Lut of the Lake Tawar region and the Gayo Lues (their neighbours 160 kilometres to the south). The performing arts of these two groups are represented here by the discussion of didong and saman, respectively.

Didong is a contest of solo and choral song, performed by two all-male (sometimes all-female) groups who accompany themselves with handclaps and percussive slaps on small square cushions. Before the 1940s traditional melodies were used to present texts elaborating Gayo cultural values or riddles referring to Gayo customs. After the Indonesian Revolution, however, new themes emerged (e.g. narratives of personal experience or historical events, patriotic or romantic poems), and individualized melodies were composed to fit the more complex prosody of these texts. The competitive element of didong, previously expressed as rivalry between villages, was then generalized to the larger political competition between Bukit and Cik, the two precolonial domains of Gayo Lut.

Saman is a competitive performance by 15 or more men kneeling in a tightly-packed row, which combines song, hand gestures and head and torso movements. There is no instrumental accompaniment: the rhythms are emphasized by handclaps, fingersnaps, and handslaps on the thighs and chest.

The history of saman is obscure, but its sung repetitions of the name of Allah suggest an origin in the ratib, a group form of zikir (the chanting of the names of God, the Confession of Faith, or praises to the Prophet). As performed by Sufi mystical brotherhoods for hours or even days on end and accompanied by nodding movements of the head, ratib could induce ecstatic states. In 19th-century Aceh a boisterous ratib Samman was practised (possibly related to the form known by the same name in early 18th-century Medina); the modern saman may have developed as a semi-secular version of this ratib. In pre-colonial Gayoland, saman songs concentrated on Islamic themes, and its performers were often seekers of magical power. After the Dutch conquest in 1904, saman, seen as preparation for Holy War, was discouraged. It was eventually revived as an entertainment performed by the young, with the religious texts replaced by romantic verses.

There are three elements in a saman performance: lagu (hand gestures), jangin (song), and body movement. Of the three, lagu are central. Each village has its own repertory of traditional, named gestures (over 130 of them have been documented), and more are being created. The basic gesture (lagu selalu) places the right hand on the left thigh, shifting it to the right thigh and back again, then striking the chest three times. Every group develops its own lagu geriyet (virtuoso gestures) in their ongoing efforts to confound their competitors.


and other resources

A: General
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  • E.M. von Hornbostel: ‘Über die Musik der Kubu’, Abhandlungen zur vergleichenden Musikwissenschaft von A.J. Ellis, J.P.N. Land, C. Stumpf, O. Abraham und E.M. von Hornbostel aus den Jahren 1885–1908 (Munich, 1922), 361–77
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  • M. Kartomi: On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments (Chicago, 1990)
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B: Batak
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  • L. Moore: A Survey of the Instrumental Music of the Pakpak Dairi of North Sumatra (thesis, Monash U., 1979)
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  • M. Kartomi: ‘Dualism in Unity: the Ceremonial Music of the Mandailing Raja Tradition’, AsM, 12/2 (1981), 74–108
  • M. Kartomi: ‘“Lovely when Heard from Afar”: Mandailing Ideas of Musical Beauty’, Five Essays on the Indonesian Arts (Melbourne, 1981), 1–16
  • A. Simon: ‘Functional Changes in Batak Traditional Music and its Role in Modern Indonesian Society’, AsM, 15/2 (1984), 58–66
  • L. Moore: Songs of the Pakpak of North Sumatra (diss., Monash U., 1985)
  • S.D. Purba: Musik Tradisional Simalungun [Traditional Simalungun music] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1985)
  • A. Simon: ‘The Terminology of Batak Instrumental Music in Northern Sumatra’, YTM, 17 (1985), 113–45
  • B.M. Pasaribu: Taganing Batak Toba: suatu kajian dalam konteks gondang sabangunan [The taganing of the Toba Batak: a study in the context of gondang sabangunan] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1986)
  • M. Purba: Sarune bolon Simalungun: suatu analisa penyajian melodi oleh tiga musisi [The Simalungun sarune bolon: a melodic analysis of the performances of three musicians] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1986)
  • Ambroncius: Studi gerantung ensembel gong Pakpak-Dairi [A study of the gerantung gong ensemble of the Pakpak-Dairi] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • J. Hutagalung: Fungsi ensembel gondang sabangunan dalam masyarakat gereja Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) Pasar Melintang Medan [The function of the gondang sabangunan ensemble in the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church community, Pasar Melintang, Medan] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • R.O. Hutajulu: Analisis struktural musik vokal pada opera Batak: dengan pusat perhatian pada karya Tilhang Gultom [A structural analysis of vocal music in opera Batak: with particular attention to the work of Tilhang Gultom] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • T. Naiborhu: Odong-odong sebagai musik vokal Pakpak di desa Kecupak Kecamatan Salak-Dairi [Odong-odong: Pakpak vocal music from Kecupak village in the subdistrict of Salak-Dairi] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • R. Rumiyanti: Studi deskriptif pemakaian alat musik surdam bagi guru dalam pengobatan tradisional Karo [Descriptive study of the use of the musical instrument surdam by healers in traditional Karo medicine] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • E. Simangunsong: Fungsi musik gondang sabangunan dalam upacara ritual parmalim sipaha sada di desa Lumban Gambiri Kecamatan Silaen [The musical function of gondang sabangunan in the parmalim sipaha sada ritual ceremony of Lumban Gambiri village, Silaen] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • S. Siregar: Studi deskriptif organologis alat music gondang bulu pada masyarakat Mandailing [A descriptive organological study of the gondang bulu in Mandailing society] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • R. Carle: Die Opera Batak (Berlin, 1990)
  • N.R. Gultom: Suatu studi deskriptif dan musikologis upacara gondang saem di desa Paraduan [A descriptive and musicological study of the gondang saem ceremony in Paraduan village] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1990)
  • Irwansyah: Analisis komparatif bentuk (penggarapan) dan teknik permainan dari sebuah gondang (komposisi lagu) yang disajikan oleh Tujuh Partaganing [Comparative analysis of the form (penggarapan) and performance technique of a gondang (melodic composition) performed by seven taganing players] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1990)
  • Parlindungan: Studi tekstual onang-onang dalam upacara adat mangongkal holi pada masyarakat Batak Angkola di desa Arse Julu Kecamatan Sipirok [A textual study of onang-onang in the traditional ceremony mangongkal holi of the Angkola Batak community of Arse Julu village, Sipirok] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1990)
  • R. Siagian: ‘Gordang sambilan: ensambel musik adat orang Mandailing di Tapanuli Selatan’ [Gordang sambilan: traditional ensemble music of the Mandailing people of south Tapanuli], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 1 (1990), 76–95
  • J. Silaen: Studi konteks dan analisa morphologis andung di desa Lumban Tambak Kecamatan Silaen [Contextual study and morphological analysis of andung in Lumban Tambak village, Silaen] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1990)
  • M. Purba: ‘Mangido gondang di dalam penyajian musik gondang sabangunan pada masyarakat Batak Toba’ [Mangido gondang in the performance of gondang sabangunan in Toba Batak society], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 2 (1991), 134–63
  • B.M. Pasaribu: ‘Taganing Batak Toba: suatu analisis struktural dan stratifikasi sosial’ [Taganing of the Toba Batak: an analysis of structure and social stratification], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 3 (1992), 1–20
  • A. Simon: ‘Gondang, Gods, and Ancestors: Religious Implications of Batak Ceremonial Music’, YTM, 25 (1993), 81–8
  • J. Bangun: Perilaku sosial dan gaya penyajian repertoar guro-guro aron pada masyarakat Karo: studi kasus analisis komparatif musikologis gendang patam-patam oleh tiga instrumen pembawa melodi [Social behaviour and performance style of the guro-guro aron of Karo society: an analytical, comparative and musicological case study of gendang patam-patam by three melody-carrying instruments] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1994)
  • U. Kozok: Die Klageliedtradition der Batak Nordsumatras (diss., U. of Hamburg, 1994)
  • Y. Okazaki: Music Identity and Religious Change among the Toba Batak People of North Sumatra (diss., UCLA, 1994)
  • R.O. Hutajulu: ‘Tourism’s Impact on Toba Batak Ceremony’, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land-, en volkenkunde, 151 (1995), 639–55
  • S.D. Purba: ‘Penggunaan, fungsi dan perkembangan nyanyian rakyat Simalungun bagi masyarakat pendukungnya’ [The use, function and development of Simalungun folksong for its culture bearers] Laporan pelaksanaan temu ilmiah dan Festival MSPI 94 tanggal 1–3 Desember 1994 di Maumere, Flores (Surakarta, 1995), 144–69
C: Melayu
  • D. Goldsworthy: ‘Honey-Collecting Ceremonies on the East Coast of North Sumatra’, Studies in Indonesian Music, ed. M. Kartomi (Clayton, Victoria, 1978), 1–44
  • D. Goldsworthy: Melayu Music of North Sumatra: Continuities and Change (diss., Monash U., 1979)
  • D. Goldsworthy: ‘The Dancing Fish Trap (lukah menari): a Spirit-Invocation Song and a Spirit-Possession “Dance” from North Sumatra’, Musicology Australia, 9 (1986), 12–28
  • Fadlin: Studi deskriptif konstruksi dan dasar-dasar pola ritem gendang Melayu Sumatera Timur [A descriptive study of the construction and principles of rhythmic patterning in gendang Melayu of East Sumatra] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1988)
  • V. Wee: ‘Material Dependence and Symbolic Independence: Constructions of Melayu Ethnicity in Island Riau, Indonesia’, Ethnic Diversity and the Control of Natural Resources in Southeast Asia, ed. T.A. Rambo, K. Gillogly and K.L. Hutterer (Ann Arbor, 1988), 197–226
  • M. Takari: Kesenian hadrah pada kebudayaan etnis Melayu Deli Serdang dan Asahan: studi deskriptif musikal [The art of hadrah in the ethnic Melayu cultures Deli Serdang and Asahan: a descriptive musical study] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1990)
  • A. Turner: ‘Belian as a Symbol of Cosmic Reunification’, Metaphor: a Musical Dimension, ed. J.C. Kassler (Sydney, 1991), 121–46
  • M.A.M. Nor: Zapin: Folk Dance of the Malay World (Singapore, 1993)
  • A. Turner: ‘Ekologi kebudayaan musik masyarakat Melayu “Petalangan” di Riau’ [Musical cultural ecology of the Melayn Petalangan community of Riau], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 4 (1993), 158–84
D: Minangkabau
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Tiger-Capturing Music in Minangkabau, West Sumatra’, Sumatra Research Bulletin, 2/1 (1972), 24–41
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Minangkabau Musical Culture: the Contemporary Scene and Recent Attempts at its Modernization’, What is Modern Indonesian Culture?, ed. G. Davis (Madison, WI, 1979), 19–36
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Randai Theatre in West Sumatra’, Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 15/1 (1981), 1–44
  • N. Phillips: Sijobang: Sung Narrative Poetry of West Sumatra (Cambridge, 1981)
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Muslim Music in West Sumatran Culture’, World of Music, 28/3 (1986), 13–32
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Tabut, a Shia Ritual Transplanted from India to Sumatra’, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Indonesia, ed. D.P. Chandler and M.C. Ricklefs (Monash, 1986), 141–62
  • M.A.M. Nor: Randai Dance of Minangkabau Sumatra with Labanotation Scores (Kuala Lumpur, 1986)
  • M. Martamin: Laporan penelitian dendang Minangkabau (suatu analisis dari segi karakter musiknya) [A report of research on Minangkabau dendang] (Padang Panjang, 1988)
  • Hajizar: Studi tekstual dan musikologis kesenian tradisional Minangkabau sijobang: kaba anggun nan tungga magek jabang [Textual and musicological study of the traditional Minangkabau art, sijobang] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1989)
  • Wimbrayardi: Analisis ritem musik adok pengiring tari Tan Bentan [A rhythmical analysis of adok music accompanying the dance of Tan Bentan] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1989)
  • B.A. Adam: ‘Talempong: musik tradisi Minangkabau’ [Talempong: traditional Minangkabau musik], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 1 (1990), 53–75
  • G. Yunus: Studi deskriptif gaya penyajian dendang singgalang dalam tradisi pertunjukan saluang dendang di Luhak nan Tigo Minangkabau Sumatera Barat [Descriptive study of the style of performing dendang singgalang in the traditional performance saluang dendang of Luhak nan Tigo, Minangkabau, West Sumatra] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1990)
  • M.I. Ilyas: Hoerijah Adam: barabah yang terbang tak kembali (Padang, 1991)
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Dabuih in West Sumatra: a Synthesis of Muslim and Pre-Muslim Ceremony and Musical Style’, Archipel, no. 41 (1991), 33–52
  • G. Yunus: ‘Status seni pertunjukan tradisional dalam pandangan masyarakat Minangkabau’ [The status of traditional performing arts in Minangkabau society], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 3 (1992), 21–40
  • Suryadi, ed.: Dendang pauah: cerita orang Lubuk Sikaping (Jakarta, 1993)
E: Nias, Mentawai, and Aceh
  • C. Snouck Hurgronje: The Achehnese (Leiden, 1906)
  • J. Kunst: Music in Nias (Leiden, 1939)
  • R. Schefold: ‘Schlitztrommeln und Trommelsprache in Mentawai’, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 98 (1973), 36–72
  • M.J. Melalatoa: Didong: kesenian tradisional Gayo [Didong: a traditional Gayo art] (Jakarta, 1982)
  • A. Turner: Duri-dana Music and Hoho Songs in South Nias (thesis, Monash U., 1982)
  • Ensiklopedia musik dan tari daerah Propinsi Daerah Istimewa Aceh [Encyclopedia of the music and dance of the Special Region of Aceh] (Banda Aceh, 1986–7)
  • M. Patton: Traditional Music in South Nias, Indonesia with Emphasis upon Hoho: Voices of the Ancestors (thesis, U. of Hawaii, 1987)
  • J.R. Bowen: Sumatran Politics and Poetics: Gayo History, 1900–1989 (New Haven, CT, 1991)
  • Hanefi: Studi deskriptif dan musikologis urai kerei dalam upacara pabettei di Madobag, P[ulau] Siberut, Mentawai [Descriptive and musicological study of urai kerei in the pabettei ceremony of Madobag, Siberut island, Mentawei] (thesis, U. of North Sumatra, 1992)
  • M. Kartomi: ‘Experience-Near and Experience-Distant Perceptions of the Dabōih Ritual in Aceh, Sumatra’, Von der vielfalt musikalischer Kultur: Festschrift für Josef Kuckertz zur Vollendung des 60. Lebensjahres (Salzburg, 1992), 247–60
  • Hanefi: ‘Urai kerei di pulau Siberut Mentawai’ [Urai kerei of Siberut island, Mentawei], Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia, 4 (1993), 139–57
F: Recordings
  • Batak Music, coll. P. Pedersen and T.P. Siagian, Folkways F-4357 (1976)
  • The Mandailing People of Sumatra, coll. M. Kartomi, Bärenreiter Musicaphon BM 30 SL2567 (1983)
  • The Angkola People of Sumatra, coll. M. Kartomi, Bärenreiter Musicaphon BM 30 SL2568 (1983)
  • Gondang Toba: Instrumentalmusik der Toba-Batak, coll. A. Simon, Museum Collection Berlin MC 12 (1984)
  • Gendang Karo, coll. A. Simon, Museum Collection Berlin MC 13 (1987)
  • Batak of North Sumatra, New Albion Records NA 046 CD (1992)
  • Music of Indonesia, coll. P. Yampolsky, 4: Music of Nias and North Sumatra, Smithsonian Folkways SF-40420 (1992); 6: Night Music of West Sumatra, Smithsonian Folkways SF-40422 (1994); 7: Music from the Forests of Riau and Mentawai, Smithsonian Folkways SF-40423 (1995); 11: Melayu Music of Sumatra and the Riau Islands, Smithsonian Folkways SF-40427 (1996); 12: Gongs and Vocal Music from Sumatra, Smithsonian Folkways SF-40428 (1996)
  • Nias: Epic Songs and Instrumental Music, coll. E. Heins, PAN Records 2014CD (1995)
  • Sumatra: musiques des Batak, Inedit W260061 (1995)

VII. Outer islands

1. Kalimantan.

  • Virginia Gorlinski
(i) Introduction.

While sparsely populated at just over 8 million, the 535,000 square kilometres of Indonesian Borneo are home to hundreds of ethnic groups with distinct languages, customs, and traditions. The coastal areas and lowland plains are populated largely by Malay-speaking Muslims of local descent. Some of the larger Malay groups include the Samba in the west, Banjar in the south, and Kutai and Bulungan in the eastern regions. A significant Madurese population is present in coastal West Kalimantan, while Buginese from Sulawesi have long been established along the island’s eastern shores. Substantial Chinese communities exist in virtually every major city, and the Indonesian government’s recent transmigration programmes have also brought many Javanese families.

The interior regions of the island are inhabited by numerous groups, usually collectively designated as ‘Dayak’ by coastal dwellers of Kalimantan, Indonesians from other islands, and the Indonesian government itself. Among the most prominent of these groups are the Mualang (who are sometimes considered a sub-division of the Iban people) and the Kantu’ of West Kalimantan; the Ngaju, Ot Danum, and Ma’anyan of Central Kalimantan; and the Kayan, Kenyah, Modang, Punan, and Kerayan of the eastern province. South Kalimantan is largely Malay. Among the non-Chinese coastal populations, Islam is the dominant religion. Chinese communities usually adhere to Christianity or Buddhism. Many of the peoples living in or originating from the island’s interior are Christian, although some groups maintain religious practices that are unique to, and rooted historically in, their own communities.

The extraordinary linguistic and cultural diversity of Kalimantan allows only the broadest of generalizations when discussing a single topic such as music. Further complicating matters is the fundamental lack of documentation, both contemporary and historical, of musical practices in this region. Many early writers, moreover, were apparently unaware of the significance of ethnic differences, and in detailed descriptions of musical activities there are often no references to specific ethnic groups. Further, the musical situation has certainly changed since the 1970s, not to mention the 19th century; consequently, many residents of Kalimantan may not even have heard of the instruments or vocal forms once attributed to their people. The musical profile presented here, then, is necessarily largely historical.

(ii) Instruments and instrumental music.

Idiophones are among the most plentiful and varied of the instruments of Kalimantan. Individual bamboo percussion tubes appear to be more characteristic of non-Malay peoples of the interior regions (e.g. Kayan, Kenyah), where they have been linked to specific phases of the rice cycle. A number of Kalimantan groups have maintained xylophone traditions. Coastal Malays played a wooden gambang without accompaniment, sometimes to accompany singing. Some peoples of the interior kept suspended log xylophones in their rice fields, primarily for signalling and warding off pests. Over the past few decades, Kenyah communities of East Kalimantan have developed a small, portable xylophone (jatungutang) for use as dance accompaniment. Idioglot jew’s harps (e.g. Kayan tong, Kenyah uding, Iban ruding sulu) have been documented in most parts of the island; those without a string (for plucking) enjoyed a wider distribution. Most jew’s harps are made of bamboo or palm-wood, although some peoples of West Kalimantan, such as the Mualang, used heteroglot metal varieties. Playing the jew’s harp has been a women’s activity among some interior groups; especially when played by both men and women, the jew’s harp has often been associated with courtship.

Various types of gongs are found throughout the coastal and upland areas of all four Kalimantan provinces. Malay coastal communities, as well as some of the non-Malay peoples of the inland regions, have used gong-chime ensembles to accompany ritual and recreational dance, agricultural festivities, shamanic activities, and theatrical performances. The gemurung ensemble of the Kantu’ of West Kalimantan features a single row of gongs, which resembles the kulintang of the southern Philippines. Similar traditions include the kangkanung ensemble of the Ngaju of Central Kalimantan and the Tunjung klentangan of the eastern province. Gamelan ensembles similar to those found in Java – and usually imported from that island – are present in most of the larger coastal cities. The more elaborate ensembles were usually owned and maintained by the former sultanates (e.g. Kutai, Berau). In South Kalimantan, the Banjar Malays have performed Javanese-influenced shadow-puppet plays with gamelan accompaniment.

Gong-chimes have not been common among the groups living in the most mountainous areas of Kalimantan. Moreover, gongs and the structure of gong music have not held as central a position in these communities as they have among coastal peoples and the populations of the islands of Java and Bali to the west. In the highlands, the striking of hanging gongs in ensemble has usually been restricted to specific ritual circumstances. Purely recreational music has not typically involved gongs or been based on the same structural principles. Unlike the gamelan orchestras of the Malays, highland gongs have not usually been tuned to specific pitches. When combining instruments in ensemble, pitch contrast has been of primary sonic importance. Kin-relations have also been significant in determining which instruments will be played together, since the instruments have normally been collected from several households. The overall size and composition of a group of instruments in the upland stratified societies has typically depended on the social status of the individual for whom the ritual was to be held. Gongs themselves, whether used as sound instruments, stools, pedestals for dance, ritual paraphernalia, payment, or decoration, served as symbols of rank and status in many of these communities.

In contrast to the idiophones, the membranophones of Kalimantan exhibit comparatively little structural variety. The predominant means of securing and tightening the skins of the drums, regardless of body shape, is through cord and belt lacing with wedge bracing. Large, single-headed conical drums have been documented primarily among the Modang (tewung), Kenyah (jatung), and Kayan (tuvung), of the interior of East Kalimantan. A principal function of such drums has been to signal village emergencies, death, or meetings, with different rhythms indicating the particular circumstances. Drums have also been used for certain rituals and ritual dances, sometimes sounded together with hanging gongs or other idiophones. While the Tunjung and Benuaq of the eastern interior have employed double-headed drums in their gong ensembles, such drums have tended to be more common in the coastal regions. Among the Malay groups, these have usually been part of the gamelan orchestra. Double-headed drums have also figured prominently in the mixed ensembles accompanying various Malay folkdances known as jepen. Most drums are played by men, but some of the goblet-shaped drums of the western and north-western regions have been played by women in shamanic activities, often accompanied by drums of various types. Frame drums have been played alone and in ensemble to accompany song and Muslim recitation among the Malay populations.

Tube zithers, spike lutes, and necked box lutes appear to be the most common chordophones. The Kenyah, Kayan, and Punan of the interior highlands have been known for their plucked tube zithers with three to six strings. Generally associated with women in these communities, the tube zither has been played alone or in ensemble for entertainment or to accompany dance. Some of the Iban-related groups of West Kalimantan have also used tube zithers, which were usually played by women. Coastal Malays make little use of plucked tube zithers. Bowed spike lutes, on the other hand, have been quite prevalent in these societies. Two-string models have been played together with a zither as dance music in some of the Malay communities. Similarly, two-string instruments have been played by some of the Iban peoples of the western region, but one-string versions have also been popular, as has been the case among most other non-Malay groups of the lower-lying areas.

The plucked box lute, usually with a short neck, is associated with many of the non-Malay, inland peoples of Kalimantan. With some exceptions, most of these instruments are known as sapé′ or a closely related linguistic cognate. Older varieties of these lutes had two strings, but three or four are now preferred by many players. The frets, typically placed under one string only, have changed from fixed to movable in Kenyah and Kayan communities, and have increased in number from three to 16 on some more recent models. The sapé′ has been strongly bound to recreational dancing in most communities, but older two-string lutes were also closely associated with shamanic activity. Men have been the sole performers of the instrument in some societies, but women have been prominent players in others. Coastal Malays do not use the sapé′. However, the Gambus, a bowl lute of Middle Eastern origin, has been played with gongs and drums for dancing in some Muslim areas.

Perhaps on account of its organological uniqueness, the gourd-and-bamboo mouth organ (Kayan Keledi, keredi; Kenyah kediré′) has received the most attention of all aerophones in Kalimantan. Whereas other forms of reed instruments are relatively rare, mouth organs have historically been prominent among a number of peoples of the mountainous interior, including the Kenyah, Kayan, and Punan. Iban-related groups the north-western area and similar groups living inland in the northern part of East Kalimantan have also cultivated mouth organ traditions. The instrument has been used variously to accompany ritual and recreational dance, to accompany singing, aid in courtship and provide personal entertainment. Its players have usually been men. Coastal Malay populations do not appear to have used mouth organs, but a single-reed instrument played in ensemble with a gong has been reported in South Kalimantan.

End-blown flutes are scattered widely throughout the island. Both internal and external ducts are common. Nose flutes have been encountered among many of the inland groups, but this instrument is evidently foreign to most coastal populations. The sound of a flute has often been associated with mourning, especially among peoples of the interior. In some communities, the death lament was said to have been performed on the flute, its sounds imitating the quality and words of the human voice. Side-blown flutes have not been common in Kalimantan until relatively recently. Among the Kenyah of East Kalimantan these instruments were said to have been introduced for use in Christian church services.

Of the instruments and ensembles that are tuned, various types of pentatonic scale (with and without semitones) have predominated. Some traditions have employed different pentatonic units (or suggestions thereof) in adjacent registers on a single instrument: many Kayan and Kenyah plucked lute (Kayan: sapé′) melodies, for instance, employ semitones in the lower registers but use an anhemitonic tuning in the upper registers. There has also been a tendency among these groups and others in the highland regions towards homogenous ensembles of melodic instruments; formerly it would have been unlikely that a reed instrument (e.g. a mouth organ) would be combined in an ensemble with a lute and a xylophone. Non-melodic or non-tuned instruments, however, have often been used in heterogeneous ensembles (e.g. gongs with drums). Until recently, vocal and instrumental musics have been mutually exclusive among some interior groups. A cappella singing, particularly with soloist and chorus alternating in responsorial style, has been common especially in non-Malay communities. In contrast to the situation in many of the inland societies, heterogeneous ensembles including both melodic and non-melodic instruments have been an ongoing part of coastal Malay music, accompanying the performance of pantun verses and other vocal forms.

(iii) Vocal performance.

Compared to the instrumental repertory in some areas, the vocal repertory is both more diverse and certainly more abundant. Specific songs have been integral components of rituals connected with agriculture, headhunting or warfare, shamanic or other religious activity, and death. There has also been a large repertory intended primarily for entertainment, including songs for courtship, work, and drinking rice wine, as well as songs to accompany recreational dancing. Long narrative pieces, some taking several nights to perform in their entirety, are deeply rooted in the musical traditions of many communities. Some of these have ritual associations, whereas others are essentially recreational. Their subjects range from genealogical accounts to war stories (of both the human and spirit worlds) and the journey of the departed soul to the land of the dead.

Among the most salient vocal forms in the Malay areas have been pantun singing, forms associated with the wayang kulit (shadow play), Qur’anic recitations, and a great array of songs performed in the context of jepen folkdance. Women have been the foremost performers of jepen songs in some Malay societies, often accompanying themselves on frame drums while men dance before them. Although some songs may be performed by either men or women, many songs of the interior groups have often been quite strongly gender-specific, rendering it inappropriate in most circumstances for men to perform repertory that has been specifically associated with women and vice versa. In some Iban societies of lower-lying areas, as well as the highlands settled by the Kenyah, both men and women are expected to perform the death lament (Iban sabak; Kenyah tidau), although women are the preferred vocalists. While in this case men sing a piece that is associated with women, the opposite case has rarely been evident.

In coastal Malay areas as well as the non-Malay inlands, singing has also been integral to the activities of the ritual healer or shaman. Indeed, the terms for ‘shaman’ and ‘singing’ appear to be etymologically related both within and between many languages of Kalimantan. Some groups of the central regions, such as the Kenyah, have maintained that the language of song (ipet) is itself of spiritual origin. As such, ipet is quite distinct from ordinary speech and is rarely wholly intelligible to audiences. Kenyah song, whether recreational or ritual, usually contains a great density of archaic terms, words that are more common in other Borneo dialects or languages, linguistically meaningless words and syllables, and morphologically altered lexical items. Furthermore, the language of song or spirits is usually rich in often obscure metaphors. This is not only the case among the Kenyah but also among many other societies of Kalimantan; interpretation or translation of vocal performances is highly problematic.

(iv) New directions.

Many changes have taken place since much of the literature on musical traditions of Kalimantan was produced. National initiatives to promote regional arts have sometimes led to new syntheses of music and movement. Heterogeneous combinations of Western instruments, or sometimes Western and local instruments, have in some societies replaced the older homogeneous dance ensembles. Tunings have also been adjusted in many cases to correspond more closely to the Western diatonic scale. Because the language of song is so intimately entwined with indigenous belief systems, religious conversion has rendered performance of some repertory inappropriate. Schooling, too, has not only redirected young peoples’ interests and values, but the necessity of boarding has often also physically removed them from the musical environments of their home communities. Especially in rural areas, children are no longer exposed to the musics of their parents and grandparents to the same degree, and the conduit of oral tradition has been ruptured. Nevertheless, as any staged or unstaged cultural performance reveals, changes in values, beliefs, and environments inevitably elicit creative responses.


and other resources

  • GEWM (‘Borneo: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan’; P. Matusky)
  • A.W. Nieuwenhuis: Quer durch Borneo (Leiden, 1904–7)
  • H.H. Juynboll: Borneo: Katalog des ethnographischen Reichmuseums, 3 (Leiden, 1910–32)
  • M.P. Prosper: ‘Muziekinstrumenten der Dajaks’, Onze Missiën en Oost- en West-Indië, 7 (1924), 17–25
  • J.M. Elshout: De Kenja-Dajaks uit het Apo-Kajangebied (The Hague, 1926)
  • H.F. Tillema: ‘Uit Apo-Kajan: Muziekinstrumenten (de Kediree)’, Tropisch Nederland, 6 (1933–4), 234–6, 249–51
  • A.D. Galvin: ‘Five Sorts of Sarawak and Kalimantan Kenyah Song’, Sarawak Museum Journal, 10 (1961), 501–10
  • A.D. Galvin: ‘Mamat Chants and Ceremonies, Long Moh’, Sarawak Museum Journal, 16 (1968), 235–48
  • Memperkenalkan kesenian daerah Kalimantan Timur [Introducing the regional arts of East Kalimantan] (Samarinda, 1972) [pubn of Missi Kesenian Daerah Propinsi Kalimantan Timur]
  • Musique Dayak, coll. P. Ivanoff, Collection Musée de l’Homme, Disques Vogue LDM 30108 (1972)
  • Brunei Delegation: ‘A Short Survey of Brunei Gulintangan Orchestra’, Traditional Drama and Music of Southeast Asia, ed. M.T. bin Osman (Kuala Lumpur, 1974), 198–308
  • Naskah sejarah seni budaya Kalimantan Timur [Document of the history of the cultural arts of East Kalimantan] (Samarinda, 1977) [pubn of Kantor Wilayah Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Propinsi Kalimantan Timur and Institut Keguruan dan Ilmu Pendidikan Samarinda]
  • P.M. Kedit: ‘Sambe (Sape)’, Asian Musics in an Asian Perspective, ed. F. Koizumi and others (Tokyo, 1977), 42–7
  • Ensiklopedi musik dan tari daerah Kalimantan Timur [Encyclopedia of the regional music and dance of East Kalimantan] (Jakarta, 1978) [pubn of Proyek Penelitian dan Pencatatan Kebudayaan Daerah]
  • J. Maceda: ‘Report of a Music Workshop in East Kalimantan’, Borneo Research Bulletin, 10 (1978), 82–103
  • N. Revel-Macdonald: ‘La danse des hudoq (Kalimantan-Tumur)’, Objets et Mondes, 18/1–2 (1978), 31–44
  • The Music of the Kenyah and Modang in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, coll. J. Maceda, I M. Bandem and N. Revel-Macdonald, U. of the Philippines (1979)
  • N. Revel-Macdonald: ‘Masks in Kalimantan Timur’, World of Music, 23/3 (1981), 52–6
  • S. Lii′ Long and A.J. Ding Ngo: Syair Lawe′ (Yogyakarta, 1984)
  • Ensiklopedi musik Indonesia [Encyclopedia of Indonesian music] (Jakarta, 1985) [pubn of Proyek Inventarisasi dan Dokumentasi Kebudayaan Daerah]
  • Ensiklopedi musik dan tari daerah Kalimantan Tengah [Encyclopedia of the regional music and dance of Central Kalimantan] (Jakarta, 1986) [pubn of Proyek Penelitian dan Pencatatan Kebudayaan Daerah 1977/1978]
  • Ensiklopedi musik dan tari daerah Kalimantan Selatan [Encyclopedia of the regional music and dance of South Kalimantan] (Banjarmasin, 1986) [pubn of Proyek Penelitian dan Pencatatan Kebudayaan Daerah 1978/1979]
  • V.K. Gorlinski: ‘Some Insights into the Art of Sapé′ Playing’, Sarawak Museum Journal, 39 (1988), 77–104
  • V.K. Gorlinski: ‘Pangpagaq: Religious and Social Significance of a Traditional Kenyah Music-Dance Form’, Sarawak Museum Journal, 40/61 (1989), 279–301 [special issue]
  • V.K. Gorlinski: The Sampéq of East Kalimantan, Indonesia: a Case Study of the Recreational Music Tradition (thesis, U. of Hawaii, Manoa, 1989)
  • B.J.L. Sellato: Hornbill and Dragon: Kalimantan, Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei (Jakarta, 1989)
  • The JVC Video Anthology of World Music and Dance: Southeast Asia, videotape, ed. F. Tomoaki (Tokyo, 1990) [incl. booklet]
  • G.N. Appell: ‘Guide to the Varieties of Oral Literature in Borneo’, Borneo Research Bulletin, 22 (1990), 98–113
  • V.K. Gorlinski: ‘Gongs among the Kenyah Uma’ Jalan: Past and Present Position of an Instrumental Tradition’, YTM, 26 (1994), 81–99
  • The Kenyah of Kalimantan (Indonesia), coll. V.K. Gorlinski, Cantate/Musicaphon M52576 (1995)
  • Music of Indonesia, 13: Kalimantan Strings, coll. P. Yampolsky, Smithsonian Folkways SF 40429 (1998); 17: Kalimantan: Dayak Ritual and Festival Music, SFW 40444 (1998)

    For further bibliography see Brunei and malaysia, §§II–III .

2. Maluku.

  • Margaret J. Kartomi

Many musical forms in the province of Maluku (the Moluccas) can be linked to Christian and Muslim rites as well as spiritual practices that predate the arrival of Islam in the 15th century and Christianity in the 16th. Sacred and secular music and dance of the Muslim north contrast with church and secular music of the mainly Christian central and south-east regions. The ancestral rituals of the Alifuru people living on the ‘mother island’, Seram, are widely believed to represent the original Maluku cultural forms. Ensembles comprising totobuang (bronze gong-chimes) and single-headed varieties of tifa or tipa (drums) of many shapes and sizes are found all over Maluku (fig.20 ). In Muslim communities, frame drums (rebana, rabana) and small two-headed drums (marwas) often supplement the tifa. Indigenous flutes, multiple-reed aerophones, jew’s harps, and bowed and plucked string instruments as well as instruments of European and Middle Eastern origin are widely distributed. More than three centuries of Protestant Dutch rule resulted in extensive musical change. Current artistic initiatives are mainly led by the New Order government and involve the adaptation of traditional art forms. Malukan folksongs and international popular songs are broadcast in the media and performed at celebrations.

B. de A. Silva, maker of tifa in Soya Diatas village, Ambon, 1989

photo by H. Kartomi
(i) Central Maluku (Kabupaten Maluku Tengah).

On Seram Island the Alifuru people still practise rituals based on the traditional beliefs of the Patasiwa and Patalima social and kinship groups, which contrast with those of the coastal Christian and Muslim villagers. Kahua, the main ritual feast of the Huaulu of northern Seram, is traditionally associated with head-hunting practices. In western Seram, the Hitam sub-group of the Patasiwa performs mixed-gender night dances (maro), and during the day men perform vigorous cakalele dances in battle dress. Choral sewa are performed by the people and soso healing rituals by shamans. On the island of Buru Alifuru men play tifa, but both men and women perform night-time lego and asoi responsorial songs. The totobuang kawat (bamboo zither) and viol (bowed viola-like instruments) with two (Tidore island) or three (Ternate island) strings are also widely played. The main traditional ceremony on Banda island involves cakalele dancing. In some parts of central Maluku, musicians play double-row gong-chimes (totobuang) and xylophones (tatabuhan kayu), usually with tifa, rebana, and gong, and sing pantun (two-couplet quatrains) in work contexts and at night-time celebrations. A performance of the autochthonous magic bamboo dance (bambu gila), described by van Hoëvell in 1875, was recorded in the Muslim village of Hitu on Ambon Island by Kartomi in 1991. Local officials promote modernized performances of this dance, which features male dancers entering a state of trance as they bounce poles up and down to tifa accompaniment (fig.21 ). European-influenced central Malukan folkdances are still performed by elderly couples and Ambonese children, including the quadrille-inspired katreji dances developed in the Dutch military camps. Christian vocal music includes psalm- (mazmur) and hymn-singing (tahlil) with the accompaniment of bamboo flutes and double-tube bamboo wind instruments (gumbang). Orchestras of locally made side-blown flutes (fig.22 ) play church music. European music adopted in central Maluku from the 17th century influenced the development of the repertory of indigenous Malukan folksongs that are performed throughout modern Indonesia. Ambonese folksongs (lagu Ambon or lagu Maluku) are accompanied by a kroncong (small guitar) and other plucked string instruments or by a Hawaiian-style band of banjos, ukeleles, guitars (acoustic and/or electric), Hawaiian guitar, and drum kit. The Ambonese kroncong has now been supplemented or replaced by guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, banjos, violin or flute, and tifa.

Male dancers performing the bambu gila dance in Hitu village, Ambon, December 1989

photo by H. Kartomi

Bamboo flute orchestra playing at a church service in Waai, Ambon, December 1989

photo by H. Kartomi
(ii) South-east Maluku (Kabupaten Maluku Tenggara).

Inhabitants of the Kai archipelago (Kepulauan Kai) in south-east Maluku are of Malay descent, whereas those of the Aru archipelago (east of Kai) are predominantly Melanesian. The Kai performing arts are maintained in Catholic church services through the singing of Christian texts in a traditional style and the inclusion of suling bambu ensembles, usually comprised of two gongs, tifa, and a bamboo flute (sawarngil). There are 52 known types of dance in Kai, including the tiwa nam, a fan dance performed by adolescent girls. Unaccompanied refrain singing serves as the basis of the songs (sekar). Muslim music consists of devotional singing (zamrah or hadrat) and social dance (tari sawat). In the Aru island network, most villages have developed their own repertory of songs (didi). Dalair dances are accompanied by tifa (titir), gong (daldala), jew’s harp (berimbak), and conch-shell (tapur). In the Tanimbar archipelago, ancestral ceremonies (tnabar) have been combined with Catholic and Protestant practices. In the sub-regions of southern Tanimbar the two ethnic groups Suku Yaru and Suku Timur Lau practise two sets of alliance customs with similar songs and dances. In the early 20th century the church fathers forbade ceremonial dance and music, and much of the repertory has been lost. However, the church now allows villagers to celebrate harvests by dancing and singing around ritual objects and performing Christianized versions of traditional music. Whole communities still widely practise the round dance on ceremonial occasions. In the tnabar lilike, requests for bridewealth are made while the women dance and sing to tifa accompaniment (fig.23 ), whereas in the tnabar falolin each female dancer and drummer wears bird-of-paradise feather headdresses and inherited ornaments (fig.24 ). The ceremony tnabar rdadar mangwate prepares the soul of a deceased Tanimbar person for the journey to Selu island after death. Elders use a large ancient stone in the shape of a boat as their meeting place; a model ancestral boat is used for a church altar in Ololit Lama village. Dancers stand in an open, boat-shaped circle in order of precedence determined by the arrival of each family founder in the village. Females play the tival ulu (‘front drums’) while males play the tival muri (‘back drums’) and a large three-legged drum (nfeffik babal); the lead singer (kual) stands at the back of the circle of dancers.

Tifa accompaniment to tnabar lilike, a traditional ceremonial dance performed in Sifnana village, Tanimbar, 1989

photo by H. Kartomi

Tnabar falolin, performed in Olilit Lama village, Tanimbar, 1989

photo by H. Kartomi
(iii) North Maluku (Kabupaten Maluku Utara).

As a result of the lucrative European-Malukan spice trade centred on the four palaces on Ternate, Tidore, Bacan, and Jailolo islands beginning in the 16th century, Portuguese-influenced music and dance forms were superimposed on the existing performing arts. Until the mid-15th century and the acceptance of Islam, the people of North Maluku adhered to local ancestral beliefs. Syncretic art forms developed, combining elements from local, southern European, and Middle Eastern styles. Malay dances such as samroh, dana-dana, and japin, which show Middle-Eastern influence in both the movements and the music, are still performed. Male martial dances and dances by ladies-in-waiting in the four courts were largely shaped by the sultan’s political, economic, and cultural needs. Today ronggeng social dancing is accompanied by sung melodies doubled on the filutu (bamboo duct flute). Sometimes a gambus (pear-shaped lute), two pairs of double-headed marwas drums, and a male or female singer (sometimes both) substitute for the filutu ensemble; at other times electric guitars, rebana, and a Western drum kit are used. In the Ternate palace the serious martial dances (hasa or soya-soya) are performed by one or two men of the highest military rank (kapita). The male protocol dances (cakalele) feature vigorous hopping and jumping movements. Archaic female court dances (lego-lego) performed by the sultana’s ladies-in-waiting have been re-choreographed by government-organized troupes in Ternate and Tidore as part of their politically motivated revival. Muslim rituals used in life-crisis ceremonies include male salewat songs and girls’ devotional dances (samroh, tari dana, japin), in which a Middle East-influenced melody (often with maqām-like tonal material and an Arabic, or Arabic-derived text) with gambus, tifa, and rabana accompaniment is repeated many times. Under the present Sultan of Ternate, the badansa set of group martial dances has been revived. Bronze ensembles (called kulintang or kolintang in the Muslim palace of Ternate and jalanpong in the former Tidore palace) have existed in North Maluku for centuries. Containing a set of eight horizontal gongs called momo, a vertical gong (saragi), a double-headed drum (baka-baka), a set of four tifa podo (short drums), a triangle (besi tiga hoek), and a pair of locally made cymbals (dabi-dabi or cik), kulintang have been replaced to a degree by ensembles combining local and European instruments. A spectacular royal ceremony, the kololokie, is held whenever the Ternate volcano threatens to erupt; the sultan encircles the island in a flagship, on which the cikamomo bum (an ensemble of gong-chime, gong, drums, triangle, and cymbals) is playing.


  • GEWM (‘Maluku’, M.J. Kartomi)
  • F. Valentijn: ‘Beschrijvinge van Amboina’, Oud en Nieuw Oost Indiën, ii, iv, vi (Dordrecht, 1724–6)
  • A.R. Wallace: The Malay Archipelago (London, 2/1869/R)
  • G.W.W.C. Baron von Hoëvell: Ambon en meer bepaaldelijk de Oeliasers, geografisch, ethnographisch, politisch en historisch (Dordrecht, 1875)
  • W. Joest: ‘Malayische Lieder und Tänze aus Ambon und den Uliase (Molukken)’, International Archives of Ethnography, 5 (1892), 1–34
  • G.J. Nieuwenhuis: ‘Über der Tanz in Niederländisch-Indièn’, Beiträge zur Ethnologie des Malaiischen Archipels (Leiden, 1916)
  • J.F. Snellemann: ‘Muziek en Muziekinstrumenten’, Encyclopedie van Nederlandsch Oost-Indië (The Hague, 2/1918)
  • O.D. Tauern: Patasiwa und Patalima vom Molukkeneiland Seram und seinen Bewohnern (Leipzig, 1918)
  • F.A.E. Wouden: Sociale structuurtypen in de Groote Oost (Leiden, 1935; Eng. trans., 1968, as Types of Social Structure in Eastern Indonesia)
  • P. Drabbe: Het leven van den Tanembarées: ethnographische studie over het Tanembaréesche volk (Leiden, 1940)
  • J. Kunst: Een en ander over de muziek en den dans op de Kei-eilanden (Amsterdam, 1945)
  • F.L. Cooley: ‘Altar and Throne in Central Moluccan Societies’, Indonesia, 1 (1966), 135–56
  • P. Abdurachman: ‘Moluccan Responses to the First Intrusions of the West’, Dynamics of Indonesian History, ed. H. Soebadio and C.A. du Marchie Sarvas (Amsterdam, 1978), 161–8
  • E. Heins and G. van Wengen: ‘Maluku (Molukken)’, Südostasien, ed. P. Collaer, Musikgeschichte in Bildern, 1/3 (Leipzig, 1979), 142
  • J. Molana: ‘Molukse muziek door de Eeuwen Heen’, Marinjo, no.15 (1981), 9–11
  • C. Gieben, R. Heijnen and A. Sapuletej: Muziek en dans spelletjes en kinderliedjes van de Molukken (Hoevelaken, 1984)
  • Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, 146 (1990) [incl. articles by J.W. Ajawaila, C. Barraud, T. van Dijk and N. de Jonge, J.D.M. Platenkamp, V. Valeri]
  • R. Chauvell: Nationalists, Soldiers and Separatists: the Ambonese Islands from Colonialism to Revolt, 1890–1950 (Leiden, 1990)
  • T. Kenji and J. Siegel: ‘Invincible Kitsch or As Tourists in the Age of Des Alwi’, Indonesia, 50 (1990), 61–76
  • L.Y. Andaya: ‘Local Trade Networks in Maluku in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries’, Cakalele: Maluku Research Journal, 2/2 (1991), 71–96
  • C. Barraud: ‘Wife-Givers as Ancestors and Ultimate Values in the Kei Islands’, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, 147 (1991), 193–225
  • S. McKinnon: From a Shattered Sun: Hierarchy, Gender and Alliance in the Tanimbar Islands (Madison, WI, 1991)
  • M.J. Kartomi: ‘Appropriation of Music and Dance in Contemporary Ternate and Tidore’, SMA, 26 (1992), 85–95
  • L.Y. Andaya: The World of Maluku: Eastern Indonesia in the Early Modern Period (Honolulu, 1993)
  • M.J. Kartomi: ‘Revival of Feudal Music, Dance and Ritual in the Former Spice Islands of Ternate and Tidore’, Culture and Society in New Order Indonesia, ed. V. Hooker (Oxford, 1993), 184–211
  • M.J. Kartomi: ‘Is Maluku Still Musicological terra incognita? An Overview of the Music-Cultures of the Province of Maluku’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 25 (1994), 141–71

3. Nusa Tenggara Timur (the Eastern Lesser Sundas).

  • Christopher Basile

East of Sumbawa lie the two island arcs that comprise the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur: the northern arc of Komodo, Flores, Solor, and Alor, and the southern arc of Sumba, Savu, Roti, and west Timor (East Timor, the former Portuguese colony that was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975, and which won independence from Indonesia in 1999, is not included here). Nusa Tenggara Timur has a predominantly Christian population of about four million, living mainly on the larger islands of Flores, Sumba, and the western half of Timor.

(i) Flores.

By conservative reckoning Flores is home to five different ethnolinguistic groups, but some instruments, such as plucked bamboo idiochord tube zithers, struck bamboo idiochords, xylophones, and gong and drum ensembles, occur across the island. In the Lamaholot region of east Flores two or more singers sustain intervals that approximate major and minor 2nds in worksongs, clan epic songs and songs for house dedication and harvest thanksgiving. Song often accompanies dance, as in the hama dance featuring sung genealogies and local history. Vocal music in Sikka in east central Flores includes both choral and solo song: a male soloist sometimes participates in a responsorial performance, accompanied harmonically by a mixed chorus.

In Ende-Lio in central Flores the most prominent musical event is gawi, a circle dance led by male dancers that occurs as part of rituals concerning agricultural cycles, harvest thanksgiving, and fertility. Wedding celebrations in central Flores feature a nuptial duet called feko genda involving a side-blown flute and a frame drum; warriors dances and major community ceremonies and celebrations are accompanied by the nggo lamba gong and barrel-drum ensemble.

The people of Ngada in west central Flores possess a variety of end-blown flutes that may be played solo or in ensemble, sometimes accompanied by bamboo stamping tubes (thobo). The foi doa is a pair of flutes with a single mouthpiece, while the foi dogo is a triple flute, with the middle pipe acting as a drone. The foi mere (foi pai) is an indirectly blown bass flute that is unique to the Ngada region and only rarely heard. Flutes of all types in Ngada are only played while the rice is ripening; after the harvest they are prohibited until the next planting season. The regional vocal style features part-singing and has been compared with song of the central highlands of Irian Jaya (Kunst, 1946). Laba go (‘drum and gong’) ensembles comprise five gongs and a Florinese version of a European side drum called laba or tambur. The todagu ensemble features rhythmically complex music on bamboo slit-drums (toda, usually four divided among three players) and two high, narrow drums called laba toda. Other drums played in Ngada include the laba dera, a squat, single-headed hand drum, and the laba wai, a single-headed drum played with sticks. Because of its magical potency, drumming in Ngada is prohibited outside feast days.

Traditional villages in the Manggarai region in west Flores are arranged circularly, with a large ceremonial drum house (mbaru gendang) near the centre; these drums are played to ensure the approval of the ancestors when arable fields are allotted to village farmers. Gongs are played to accompany main caci, a type of competitive whip-duelling. After these duels, a lengthy vocal performance (mbata) may occur as part of a ritual predicting the coming agricultural cycle. Manggarai mbata songs are sung by a male soloist accompanied responsorially by a male, female, or mixed chorus, with men and women singing in parallel intervals, sometimes accompanied by drums and gongs. Vocal style in some areas of Manggarai incorporates a kind of yodelling; formerly singers would sit on opposite hillsides and compete with one another across the narrow ravines.

(ii) Roti.

The predominant medium and symbol of music culture in Roti is the sasandu, a ten- or eleven-string tube zither with a palm leaf resonator usually played to accompany song. As a society, the Rotinese highly value the skilful manipulation of language exemplified in song. A ritual language form (bini) reserved for proverbs, poetry, and song is the salient feature of song accompanied by sasandu, and it is primarily by their knowledge of bini and their ability to use it creatively that singers are judged. Rotinese myths and oral history indicate the importance of the sasandu in the Rotinese structuring of reality, placing the origin of the instrument alongside the origins of marriage, exogamy, mourning, and death.

As an instrumental form the sasandu has much in common with the meko gong ensemble. They share a common repertory, with the tuning of the nine meko corresponding to the nine lowest strings of the sasandu. In addition, the sasandu is always accompanied by a small drum, or by tapping the instrument with a stick, to produce rhythmic patterns like those played on the large labu drum that accompanies the meko group. Meko ensembles comprise nine (or sometimes ten) bossed gongs, made of either iron or imported bronze, and a labu drum. They are played at weddings, wakes, house-dedication ceremonies, and other gatherings, often accompanying dance. The nine meko are divided into four groups; from largest to smallest in size they are the ina (three), nggasa (two), leko (two), and ana (two). If a tenth meko is added it extends the upper range of the ensemble. With its brash and bold style, the meko ensemble provides a sharp contrast to the relatively quiet and introspective sasandu.

Some Rotinese pitched and rhythmic expressive sound forms are not considered as ‘music’ by the Rotinese, such as the sung accompaniment to the circle dance (e’ea), led by a manahelo (chanter) and answered by the other dancers in chorus, and invocations chanted in strict ritual language accompanied by a single labu drum (bapa). The only Rotinese musical form not directly associated with traditional Rotinese music is the sasando biola, a diatonic and expanded version of the sasandu, used to play church hymns and non-Rotinese folk and popular songs. Its tuning and arrangement of pitches vary, but most instruments have between 24 to 39 strings and can play in two diatonic keys over a range of about three octaves. Some sasando biola players use a wooden box as a resonator rather than the traditional lontar leaf, and there is also a sasando biola listrik (electric sasando biola), which is played through an amplifier.

(iii) Savu.

Traditional life is governed by a lunar calendar that prohibits ceremonial music and dance during part of the year. This period of ritual silence ends with the harvest and the lively sound of the padoa circle dance. Participants attach small baskets filled with mung beans to their ankles to accompany their singing; when the season of ritual padoa dancing ends, these baskets of beans are stored until the following year when their contents are planted as seed.

For several weeks the singing and bean-basket percussion of the padoa dancers is the only ritual music allowed until the namangngu (gongs) and dere (drum) are played, the date depending on the ceremonial calendar. A complete namangngu group comprises seven gongs, a set of cymbals (wo paheli), and a drum (dere). Pieces typically begin with the two small gongs (leko), followed by the two medium gongs (wo peibho abho) and finally the three largest gongs (didala ae, didala iki, and gaha).

Other Savunese musical instruments include the tebe wooden jew’s harp, the hekido four-hole bamboo ring flute, and the ketadu (‘that which satisfies’) family of instruments. The ketadu haba tube zither with palm-leaf resonator is very similar to the Rotinese sasandu, but with eight metal strings rather than the ten or eleven found in Roti and with a different playing style and repertory. The distinguishing feature of both these tube zithers is their leaf resonator, which reflects the central place of the lontar palm in the lives of these two eastern Indonesian peoples. The ketadu mara is a trough xylophone with nine wooden keys played with sticks made from lontar branches. The instrument called simply ketadu is a two-string boat lute similar to the Sumbanese jungga. Unlike the namangngu, these instruments are usually played by soloists in relatively informal situations.

(iv) Sumba.

This island was the last in Indonesia to maintain a pagan majority, and music in Sumba is primarily sacred, with followers of the traditional ways praying and singing to spirits and sacred objects collectively known as marapu, of which musical instruments are among the most important. Singing and dancing occur most often in the feasting months after the rice harvest (July to September), when people gather in the ancestral villages. As the rains approach in October and November there is a period of ritual silence, and music-making is taboo until the ceremonies held to welcome the new agricultural year in February or March.

In east Sumba gongs are played with a drum (lamba), whereas in west Sumba a similar drum (bendu) is used along with a hanging drum (bapa) and sometimes a hand drum (deliro). Whether played in mourning or rejoicing, the sound of the gong ensemble is always augmented by the cries of the men (kayaka) and the piercing, sustained ululation of the women (kakalaku). In east Sumba gong pieces usually begin with the two large katala gongs, which are hung next to each other with the larger gong on the player’s right. Next, the two medium-sized nggaha gongs enter, with the larger suspended above the smaller. Finally the two small gongs (kabolulu and paranjangu) complete the ensemble along with the lamba drum.

The upright drum (bendu) is the primary ritual actor in yaigho, an all-night singing ceremony held in response to some form of affliction, when a song is sung to the spirit inside the drum. The song tells of the origins of the drum, how it was carved from a piece of driftwood and given the shapely form of a young woman. The first drum made was covered with the skin of a sacrificed slave girl whose spirit is believed to continue to live there, although nowadays the skin is made from the hide of a buffalo calf. The drum’s song transposes her story of suffering to provide a model for the origins of the shamanistic power to cure; it is the drum that acts as the shaman rather than the singer. The bendu is played with sticks by a seated player, accompanied by an assistant who beats a horizontal drum (diliro) with his hands. Inside the house, gongs are hung from roof rafters near the front veranda and beaten rhythmically to accompany the singer’s words.

Woleko is a more elaborate ceremony; a stand of five gongs is erected outside the house to thank the spirits for their assistance, and buffalo are sacrificed to feed them. At a woleko, the singing includes a series of long pieces ‘sung to the dancing ground’ (lodo nataro) where male and female dancers face each other, the men charging forward with spears, shields, and bush knives towards the women, who tremble and flutter their hands.

Music is the required accompaniment to any form of large-scale collective work. Singers must be invited (and paid) at gatherings to drag the large wooden pillars that become house posts, to thatch the high roofs of ancestral cult houses and to incite the several hundred people who drag large stones to the villages, where they are made into megalithic graves. Stone-dragging songs (bengo) are the longest and most elaborate of the work songs (lodo paghili), describing the stone as a bride who travels across the water to meet her intended husband in the ancestral village.

Love and recreational songs (lavitti) are often sung without musical accompaniment but can be accompanied by one-string fiddle (dungga roro) or two-string lute (dungga); the tunes can also be repeated on the nose flute (poghi). Recreational songs are also sometimes accompanied by a bamboo jew’s harp (nggunggi) or a four-hole bamboo flute (kapika or taleli). As part of preparations for the yearly calendrical ceremonies and pasola jousting contests, teasing courtship songs called kawoking are sung along the beaches of the west coast of Sumba.

(v) West Timor.

The Atoni are the main inhabitants of West Timor. Although most are Christian, traditional ceremonial life centred on the ancestral spirits continues, with music and dance playing a vital role. Atoni society is arranged patrilineally, but only women perform in the ritually significant sene tufu (gong and drum) ensemble. This is usually played to accompany dance, with the dancers sometimes attaching bano (bracelets with metal jangles) or te oh (bracelets with leaf baskets containing sand) to their ankles to augment the sound of the gongs and drum. A sene tufu ensemble consists of six gongs (sene) and one single-headed drum (tufu). The six sene are divided among three players, with one woman playing the two largest kbolo gongs, one the two medium-sized ote and the other the two small tetun.

Atoni songs sung in informal gatherings are often improvised and narrate actual events; performers are usually male. Koa is a type of song in which the singer rhythmically speaks the text to musical accompaniment, a style that younger Atoni compare with rap. The main accompanying instrument is the leku (also pisu or bijol), a fretless lute with four strings (often made from rubber bands), strummed in a strong, rhythmic style. In a typical Atoni ensemble, one or more leku provide the chordal accompaniment for heterophonic playing of heo (viola), feku (wood ocarina) and bobi (end-blown bamboo flute). Portuguese-derived instruments may also be included in the Atoni ensemble, such as the simaku transverse flute, the kili comb and tissue kazoo, and the gitar (guitar). Atoni solo instruments are less frequently heard at social gatherings and include sene hauh (trough xylophone), sene kaka (six-string bamboo idiochord), knobe besi (jew’s harp), knobe oh (wooden jew’s harp, similar to the Balinese genggong), and knobe kbetas (musical bow), believed by the Atoni to be their oldest musical instrument.


  • GEWM (‘Nusa Tenggara Timur’, C. Basile and J. Hoskins)
  • J. Kunst: Music in Flores (Leiden, 1942)
  • J. Kunst: Muziek en dans in de buitengewesten (Leiden, 1946); Eng. trans. in Indonesian Music and Dance: Traditional Music and its Interaction with the West, ed. M. Frijn and others (Amsterdam, 1994), 173–204
  • J. Kunst: Kulturhistorische Beziehungen zwischen dem Balkan und Indonesien (Amsterdam, 1953; Eng. trans., 1954, 2/1960)
  • J.J. Fox: ‘Semantic Parallelism in Rotinese Ritual Language’, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, 127 (1971), 215–55
  • J.J. Fox: Harvest of the Palm: Ecological Change in Eastern Indonesia (Cambridge, MA, 1977)
  • J.J. Fox: ‘The Ceremonial System of Savu’, The Imagination of Reality: Essays in Southeast Asian Coherence Systems: Ann Arbor 1974, ed. A.L. Becker and A.A. Yengoyan (Norwood, NJ, 1979), 145–73
  • M.J. Adams: ‘Instruments and Songs of Sumba, Indonesia: a Preliminary Survey’, AsM, 13 (1981), 73–83
  • D. Hicks: ‘Art and Religion on Timor’, Islands and Ancestors: Indigenous Styles of Southeast Asia, ed. J.P. Barbier and D. Newton (New York, 1988), 138–51
  • J. Hoskins: ‘The Drum is the Shaman, the Spear Guides his Voice’, Social Sciences Medicine, 27 (1988), 819–28
  • J. Hoskins: The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History and Exchange (Berkeley, 1993)

4. Sulawesi.

  • R. Anderson Sutton
(i) Introduction.

The island of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes), consisting of long peninsulas extending outward from a mountainous central core, is home to roughly 13 million people and close to 60 distinct languages. The linguist Noorduyn has identified four language groups in the north and its neighbouring islands (Sangiric, Minahasan, Gorontalo-Mongondic, and Tomini: 20 languages), two groups in the central region, eastern peninsula, and its neighbouring islands (Kaili-Pamona and Saluan: 12 languages), two groups in the south-eastern peninsula, eastern-central region, and south-eastern islands (Bungku-Mori and Muna-Buton: 18 languages), and one in the south-western peninsula (South Sulawesi: eight languages). In 1964 the island was divided into four provinces: South Sulawesi, South-east Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi. Islam is the dominant religion in most lowland communities, whereas Christianity has gained many followers in some of the central highland regions, Manado, and surrounding areas in the north. Other systems of belief survive to various degrees throughout most of the island. The city of Ujung Pandang (known formerly as Makasar (Makassar)) in South Sulawesi, has served as an important trade centre since at least the early 1500s, resulting in the introduction of many varieties of musical instruments and practices (Chinese, Javanese, Malay, Arabic, and European). The Dutch presence was strongest in the Minahasa region, where Dutch songs remain popular.

Throughout the island, the powerful forces of the global music industry and Jakarta-based popular music are evident, from the tapes and CDs sold in cassette stores and broadcasts on radio and television, to the music played by guitar-strumming youth. Along with popular music from outside the island a number of Sulawesi musicians also perform popular music in local languages (pop daerah), usually with electric and electronic instrumental accompaniment and in popular dangdut or langgam kroncong styles (see §VIII, 1 below for discussion of these genres). Popular songs in local languages have been recorded since the late 1930s, when the Chinese-Makasarese musician Hoo Eng Djie sang with a small ensemble that combined violin and clarinet with indigenous gongs and frame drums. Local cassette production began in 1975 with a broad range of local genres, but the music resembling Jakarta-based popular styles has proven to be the most successful commercially. Local radio and television stations broadcast a moderate amount of music from Sulawesi, but very little music that does not incorporate Western instruments and scales. Much local popular music and the VCDs that now constitute the main medium of dissemination are produced in Jakarta, with instrumental tracks provided by musicians of various ethnic backgrounds, who play for many different local pop music genres, not only those of Sulawesi (Hicken, 2009).

No comprehensive study of music in Sulawesi has been published since Kaudern’s description of musical instruments in 1927. Holt’s study (1939) describes dances of South Sulawesi, with modest data on musical accompaniment. Recent work with substantial music content has mostly consisted of detailed studies by anthropologists (especially Atkinson, 1989 and George, 1996) and inventories and short reports published in Indonesia (especially the works of Lathief, Mangemba, Najamuddin, and Pat[t]adungan), with most of the latter concerning South Sulawesi, home of the Bugis and Makasarese (Sulawesi’s largest ethnic groups) and the Toraja (the best-known group in the scholarly and tourist literature). Yet it is possible to make some general remarks on Sulawesi’s music. Double-headed drums and instruments of bamboo (flutes and various idiophones) are especially widespread. Metal knobbed gongs are found in some ensembles, mostly in lowland coastal regions, but are less prominent than on other Indonesian islands. Vocal music ranges from the lyric and narrative song of the southern peninsulas accompanied by lute or spike fiddle to the pulsating choral music of the central highlands and the diatonic songs of the north.

(ii) Instruments.

A great variety of idiophones are found in Sulawesi, mostly used as accompaniment for dance ritual or for informal entertainment: cymbals (kancing, sia-sia), concussion slats and castanets (dadalo, talontalod), concussion plaques (anak beccing, anak baccing), rattles (alosu, arumpigi, batutu, tiwolu), fringed bamboo idiophones (sia-sia, lae-lae, lea-lea, parappasa), metal gongs (gong gentung, jong, dengkang, padaling, tawa-tawa, ndengu-ndengu), metal gong-chimes (kolintang tambaga, kolintang wasei, kannong-kannong, katto-katto), slit-gongs (kattok-kattok, mbalolo, tetengkoren), rice blocks (balendo, assung, Lesung), trough xylophones (tennong, calong, latou-tou, katou), frame xylophones (kolintang), metal key idiophones (ganang), percussion tubes (pong-pong, kakula, kalung-kalung), two-tongue bamboo buzzing wands (rere, pore, tonggobi, sasasaheng, jarumbing, polopalo, alalo, ore-ore nggae), and jew’s harps (genggong, karombi, oli, ore-ore mbondu, alingen).

Membranophones, again used mostly to accompany dance and ritual, include kettledrums (rabana), single-headed cylindrical drums (ganda, tiwal, towahu), double-headed cylindrical (kanda, gimba), and barrel drums (ganrang, genrang, gandang, gendang) and frame drums (marwas, rabana, Rebana), as well as a few hourglass drums (kunti), drums with feet (karatu) and rattle (kamaru) drums. Drums are often accorded special ritual status and given offerings, comparable to metal gongs in Java and Bali.

Song (without dance) is usually accompanied by chordophones. Plucked bar zithers (kantung, kandile, sosanru) and plucked and struck bamboo idiochord tube zithers (salude, kalembosan, anthu-anthunga, sattung, ganrang bulo) were widely distributed throughout central and northern Sulawesi, with some varieties also occurring in the south (ganrang bulo), although the bar zither has mostly fallen into disuse. Plucked boat-shaped lutes (kacapi, kacaping, kecapi, kusapi, kabosi), sometimes with elaborate filigree carving protruding past the tuning pegs, occur primarily in the south-western and south-eastern peninsulas and usually accompany lyric or narrative solo singing. The Middle Eastern-derived bowl lute (Gambus, gambusu’) is found in southern and northern lowland areas. Spike fiddles (arababu, arabu, raba, geso-geso, gesok-kesok, gesong-gesong, kesok-kesok, tabolok, kere-kere gallang), with one or two strings and a coconut-shell or heart-shaped resonator, occur throughout the island, in both upland and lowland areas, and often accompany narrative singing.

Most popular of the aerophones are the many varieties of vertical bamboo flute with external duct (suling, suling lembang, suling lampe, suling ponco’, suling balio, suling bonde, suling deata, susulingen, tualing). Reed aerophones are limited mainly to the south, from the rice-stalk ‘paddy pipe’ and idioglot reedpipe (sikunru, pupai, leleo) to the conical-bore oboe (puik-puik), clarinet (keke-keke, banci-banci, basing-basing), and double clarinet (basing-basing, bacing-pacing). Other aerophones include transverse flutes (bansi, Suling), conch trumpets (bia, pontuang), bamboo trumpets (tambolo, bonto, pompang, korno), and metal aerophones (tubalos, sola, remifa, overton, saksopon).

(iii) Genres and ensembles.

Sulawesi maintains a variety of distinctive local genres, mostly involving small ensembles. In lowland South Sulawesi, the best-known dances are accompanied by one or more double-headed barrel drums, usually with oboe and/or gong. The slow and graceful movements of the Makasarese female ensemble dance pakarena are accompanied by two double-headed barrel drums (ganrang) played with fast interlocking patterns, one oboe (puik-puik) playing a continuous melody (with circular breathing), a single metal gong and a bamboo slit-gong (kattok-kattok), and sometimes also iron concussion plaques (anak baccing), and a fringed bamboo idiophone (lea-lea, parappasa). The contrast between the subdued dance and exuberant music is often interpreted locally to represent essential gender differences. A similar ensemble, but with slower drumming and without bamboo slit-gong, accompanies Bugis transvestite priests (bissu), who sometimes play narrow bamboo rattles (alosu, arumpigi) as they dance. Formerly prominent in ritual life as keepers of the royal regalia, the bissu perform for various ceremonies including weddings. Many other dances in lowland South Sulawesi (e.g. Bugis female dances pajoge’ and paraga, Mandar female dance pattuddu, Konjo/Makasarese male dance pabatte passapu) are also accompanied by a pair of interlocking drums, usually with gong and sometimes additional idiophones: fringed bamboo idiophones (sia sia, lae-lae, lea-lea), cymbals (kancing), and concussion plaques (anak baccing). Duple metre predominates, but triple-metre drumming accompanies local varieties of martial arts (mancak, mencak). The Makasarese ganrang bulo is named after the bamboo idiochord played by the dancers, who are usually accompanied by boat lute (kacaping) and sometimes violin (biola) with frame drum (rabana). It is often performed by children playing bamboo castanets and singers accompanying themselves on kacaping, without bamboo idiochord. Ensembles of kacaping or kecapi and bamboo flute (suling), developed in the 1960s and called sinfoni kecapi, accompany local diatonic songs and, with drum added, often accompany the dances choreographed for stage performance by pioneering dancer-musician Andi Nurhani Sapada and her students. More recently, innovative musicians and choreographers, such as A. Halilintar Lathief, Syamsul Qamar, and Sirajuddin Dg. Bantang, have combined various instruments of South Sulawesi into unique ensembles playing a mix of traditional and experimental music.

Sinrilik and massurek present long narratives of local heroes and history in lyric prose and narrow-range melody, often accompanied by spike fiddle (for sinrilik) or kecapi (for massurek). Other vocal music often involves versified exchange between two or more singers (sisila-sila, batti’-batti’), usually accompanied by kacaping, kecapi, or gambus. Several ensembles combine Western and local instruments, such as the Bugis kecapi-biola (with boat-shaped lute and violin) and Makasarese orkes parambang (orkes rambang-rambang, orkes turiolo). The orkes parambang presents locally composed songs, mostly in Western diatonic scales and duple metre and accompanied by violin, frame drums (rabana), hanging gong, a pair of horizontally mounted gongs (kannong-kannong) and sometimes clarinet, trumpet, mandolin, guitar, or suling. Closely resembling the langgam and keroncong known elsewhere in Indonesia is the Makasarese losquin, with guitar and sometimes a few other Western-derived chordophones providing harmonic accompaniment. Many of South Sulawesi’s diatonic songs can be played in several different styles, and some are thought to exhibit Chinese and Arabic as well as Western influence. Arabic influence is also evident in the widespread use of frame drums, particularly in the qasidah vocal ensemble (see §VIII, 1 below), whose repertory includes songs with Arabic texts.

Vocal music predominates among the Toraja in upland South Sulawesi. Pulsating responsorial and antiphonal singing – dondi’ (seated mixed chorus) and badong (male round-dance chorus) – is heard at Torajan funerals. At fertility (bua’) and purification (bugi’ and maro) rites, male and female choruses also perform, in some cases with flute or drum accompaniment. Choral music is mostly in duple and sometimes triple metre. Flute ensembles (suling bonde, suling lembang, suling deata) and fiddle ensembles (geso-geso) also perform for purification rituals. A wind ensemble dating from late colonial times is referred to as pompang, after the many buzzed-lip bamboo aerophones that make up the core of the ensemble, complemented by bamboo flutes and drums. Pompang ensembles perform diatonic pieces with basic Western harmonies in a hymn style introduced by Christian missionaries. Some dances, such as the well-known female pagellu’, are accompanied by a double-headed barrel drum (gandang) played simultaneously by two or more drummers, with one of the dancers standing on the body of the drum. Music similar to that of the Toraja is also found in highland areas to the west (Mamasa and upland Mamuju).

In South-east Sulawesi, as in South Sulawesi, drum and gong ensembles used to accompany ritual dances such as the melulo rice-harvest dance (drum and three gongs) and the modinggu rice-pounding dance (drum, gong, gong-chime, rice-block, and pestle) of the Kolaka peoples. Drumming also accompanies Islamic maulid ceremonies of the Wolio people. The Wolio also practise narrative singing of local histories (kabanti), as well as songs accompanied by bowl lute (gambusu’). Other instruments include bamboo idiochords (dimba-dimba), bamboo buzzing wands (ore-ore nggae), the bamboo jew’s harp of the Kolaka people (ore-ore mbondu), the kapupurapi bamboo aerophone with small tongues and four holes, played for courting, the three-key wooden xylophone (katou) of the Muna people, and the spike fiddle (raba) of the Wolio. Many other instruments were reported in the early 20th century by Kaudern, including bamboo buzzing wands, single-headed drums, boat-shaped lutes, bamboo flutes, and double clarinets.

Musical ensembles in Central Sulawesi include purely vocal groups, small instrumental groups consisting of one or more drums with several other instruments (gongs, flutes, or cymbals), and vocal-instrumental groups, often performing songs in Western scales with guitar accompaniment. Many of these ensembles accompany shamanic and other rituals, in which drumming is usually considered a crucial element for efficacy (e.g. those of the Kulawi and Wana). The Kulawi rego is a round-dance in which the chorus of dancers provide the musical accompaniment. In one major variety, men and women alternate in close formation, with each man placing his arm over the shoulder of the woman to his left, a practice suppressed by both Christian and Muslim authorities but recently undergoing revival as part of wider efforts by the Indonesian government to promote regional arts. Western-influenced diatonic singing and guitar playing has replaced indigenous forms of accompaniment for some ritual and secular dances, such as the Kaili dero. Most music represented in available literature and recordings is in duple metre, but some major genres, including the Kulawi rego, employ triple metre.

Several distinctive ensemble types have developed in North Sulawesi, performing Dutch, Western, and Western-influenced Indonesian songs as well as local songs in diatonic scales; these include the bamboo-brass band (musik bambu seng) and the xylophone ensemble (kolintang, kulintang). Musik bambu seng developed from ensembles of bamboo flutes and horns (known as korno or tenor) in the mid-19th century. Drums were added in the 1920s together with different registers of ‘brass’ instruments (tubalos, sola, remifa), which were made mostly of zinc (seng) in the 1930s and 40s and often of copper by the 1960s; sometimes saxophones and clarinets were also included (Boonzajer, 1992). Current ensembles are largely metal, but they retain the bamboo korno and are pitched between B and D. Kolintang ensembles, with several registers of diatonically tuned xylophones played in a standing position, have spread from North Sulawesi to many other parts of Indonesia and are especially popular among Dharma Wanita groups (made up of the wives of civil servants). Experiments with the bamboo buzzing wand (polopalo) of the Gorontalo have resulted in large ensembles and even the construction of a two-octave polopalo, with each chromatic tone of the Western scale sounded by one wand. At Sam Ratulangi University, W.J. Waworeontoe developed the sumisingka ensemble, a pot pourri of North Sulawesian indigenous instruments (bamboo flutes, slit-gongs, concussion slats, and drums) intended to fulfil the function of Western-influenced drum-bands, but at the same time to be clearly identifiable as from North Sulawesi. Western-derived wind band music is also prominent in the Toraja highlands of South Sulawesi, where it is known as pompang and consists primarily of bamboo flutes in different registers, with some buzzed-lip aerophones.


  • W. Kaudern: Ethnological Studies in Celebes: Results of the Author’s Expedition to Celebes 1917–1920, 3: Musical Instruments in Celebes; 4: Games and Dances in Celebes (Göteborg, 1927)
  • J. Kunst: Muziek en dans in de Buitengewesten (Leiden, 1946); Eng. trans., in Indonesian Music and Dance: Traditional Music and its Interaction with the West, ed. M. Frijn and others (Amsterdam, 1994), 173–204
Central and Southeast Sulawesi
  • B. Soelarto and S.I. Albiladiyah: Adat Istiadat dan Kesenian Orang Kulawi di Sulawesi Tengah [Customs, traditions and arts of the Kulawi people of Central Sulawesi] (Jakarta, c1975)
  • Kesenian di daerah Wuna (Kabupaten Muna) [Arts of the Wuna region] (Kendari, 1979–80) [pubn of Proyek Pengembangan Kesenian Sulawesi Tenggara]
  • A.M. Zahari: Memperkenalkan kesenian rakyat tradisional Wolio [Introducing the traditional folk arts of the Wolio] (Kendari, 1980)
  • M. Atkinson: The Art and Politics of Wana Shamanship (Berkeley, 1989)
  • Soepanto, A.A. Hafied and S. Kutoyo: Ny. Andi Nurhani Sapada (Jakarta, 1991)
  • L.V. Aragon: ‘Revised Rituals in Central Sulawesi: the Maintenance of Traditional Cosmological Concepts in the Face of Allegiance to World Religion’, Anthropological Forum, 6 (1992), 371–84
South Sulawesi
  • C. Holt: Dance Quest in Celebres (Paris, 1939/R)
  • H. van der Veen: The Sa’dan Toradja Chant for the Deceased (Leiden, 1966)
  • C.S. Pattadungan: ‘Suling Lembang’, ‘Ma’Badong di Tana Toraja’, ‘Pompang’, Musika, no.2 (1973), 53–6, 57–60, 61–70
  • L.E. Sumaryo: ‘Beberapa catatan mengenai musik dan tari di daerah Bugis (Sulawesi Selatan)’ [Some remarks on music and dance in the Bugis (South Sulawesi) region], Musika, no.2 (1973), 71–95
  • H.A. Mattulada: Bugis-Makassar (Jakarta, 1974)
  • J. Koubi: ‘La première fête funéraire chez les Toraja Sa’dan’, Archipel (1975), 105–19
  • A.N. Sapada: Tari kreasi baru Sulawesi Selatan [New dances in South Sulawesi] (Ujung Pandang, 1975)
  • J. Koubi and C. Pelras: disc notes, Les musiques de Célèbes, Indonésie: musiques toradja et bugis, Anthologie de la Musique des Peuples AMP 2906 (1976)
  • H.D. Mangemba: Ensiklopedi musik dan tari daerah Sulawesi Selatan [Encyclopedia of music and dance in the South Sulawesi region] (Ujung Pandang, 1978)
  • C.S. Patadungan: Musik, tari dan drama tradisional daerah Sulawesi Selatan [Traditional music, dance and drama of South Sulawesi] (Ujung Pandang, 1979)
  • H. van der Veen: Overleveringen en zangen der Zuid-Toradja’s (The Hague, 1979)
  • G. Hamonic: “‘Mallawolo”: chants bugis pour la sacralisation des anciens princes de Célèbes-Sud’, Archipel, 19 (1980), 43–79
  • A.H. Lathief: Alat-alat musik tradisional Sulawesi Selatan [Traditional musical instruments of South Sulawesi] (Yogyakarta, 1980)
  • M.J. Kartomi: ‘His Skyward Path the Rainbow Is: Funeral Music of the Sa’dan Toraja in South Sulawesi’, Hemisphere, 25 (1981), 303–9
  • M. Nadjamuddin: Tari tradisional Sulawesi Selatan [Traditional dance of South Sulawesi] (Ujung Pandang, 1982)
  • G. Hamonic and C. Salmon: ‘La vie littéraire et artistique des chinois peranakan de Makassar (1935–1950)’, Archipel, 26 (1983), 143–78
  • A.H. Lathief: Tari-tarian daerah Bugis [Dances of the Bugis region] (Yogyakarta, 1983)
  • M. Nadjamuddin: Pengetahuan karawitan daerah Sulawesi Selatan [Knowledge about gamelan in South Sulawesi] (Jakarta, 1983)
  • G. Hamonic: Le langage des dieux; cultes et pouvoirs pre-Islamiques en pays Bugis, Célèbes-Sud, Indonésie (Paris, 1987)
  • M.J. Kartomi: ‘Ritual Music and Dance: Contact and Change in the Lowlands of South Sulawesi’, Yazhou yishu jie/Festival of Asian Arts, 12 (1989), 30–35
  • K.M. George: ‘Felling a Song with a New Ax: Writing and the Reshaping of Ritual Song Performance in Upland Sulawesi’, Journal of American Folklore, 102/407 (1990), 3–23
  • A. Arief and H.Zainuddin, eds.: Sinrilikna Kappalak Tallumbatua [The sung narrative of the three ships] (Jakarta, 1993)
  • K.M. George: ‘Music-Making, Ritual, and Gender in a Southeast Asian Hill Society’, EthM, 37 (1993), 1–27
  • A.H. Lathief: Kecapi (Ujung Pandang, 1994)
  • Indonésie, Toraja: funérailles et fêtes de fécondité/Indonesia, Toraja, Funerals and Fertility Feasts, coll. D. Rappaport, Le chant du Monde CNR 2741004 (1995)
  • A.H. Lathief and N. Sumiani: Pakkarena: sebuah bentuk tari tradisi Makassar [Pakkarena: a type of traditional Makassar dance] (Jakarta, 1995)
  • R.A. Sutton: ‘Performing Arts and Cultural Politics in South Sulawesi’, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land-en volkenkunde, 151 (1995), 672–99
  • K.M. George: Showing Signs of Violence: the Cultural Politics of a Twentieth-Century Headhunting Ritual (Berkeley, 1996)
  • R.A. Sutton: ‘From Ritual Enactment to Stage Entertainment: Andi Nurhani Sapada and the Aestheticization of South Sulawesi’s Music and Dance, 1940s to 1970s’, AsM, 29/2 (1998), 1–30
  • R.A. Sutton: Calling Back the Spirit: Music, Dance, and Cultural Politics in Lowland South Sulawesi (Oxford, 2002)
  • D. Rappoport: ‘Ritual Music and Christianization in the Toraja Highlands, Sulawesi’, EthM, 48/3 (2004), 378–404
  • R.A. Sutton: ‘Tradition Serving Modernity? The Musical Lives of a Makassarese Drummer’, AsM, 37/1 (2006), 1–23
  • A. Hicken: Slankers Tongkonan Blues: Toraja (Eastern Indonesia) Songs in a Disjunctive Mediascape (diss., U. of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009)
  • D. Rappoport: Chants de la terre aux trios sangs: musiques rituelles des Toraja de l’ile de Sulawesi (Indonésie) [Songs from the Thrice-Blooded Land: Ritual Music of the Toraja (Sulawesi, Indonesia)] (Paris, 2011)
North Sulawesi and Gorontalo
  • E.H. Ruauw: Kolintang (Jakarta, 1971)
  • H.T.L. Ticoalu and others: Ensiklopedi musik dan tari daerah Sulawesi Utara [Encyclopedia of music and dance in the North Sulawesi region] (Manado, 1978)
  • Inventarisasi dan dokumentasi kesenian daerah Sulawesi Utara [Inventory and documentation of the arts of the North Sulawesi region] (Jakarta, 1980) [pubn of Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan]
  • R. Palada: Petunjuk téknis pengembangan polopalo menjadi alat musik tradisional Gorontalo (Sulawesi Utara) [Technical instructions on the developing of the polopalo as a traditional Gorontalo musical instrument] (Jakarta, 1982)
  • Kumpulan lagu-lagu daerah Sulawesi Utara: dalam rangka revitalisasi kesenian yang hampir punah [Collection of melodies from North Sulawesi: in the framework of the revitalization of arts that are almost extinct] (Manado, 1984) [pubn of Proyek Pengembangan Kesenian Sulawesi Utara]
  • A.W.J. Uno: Polopalo, kesenian tradisional Gorontalo [The polopalo, a traditional Gorontalo art] (Bandung, 1986)
  • R. Boonzajer: ‘The Minahassa Bamboo Brass Bands’, Brass Bulletin, no.77 (1992), 38–47
  • J.H. Munger: Nostalgia for Modernity: Brass Bands and the Making of Minahasa, Indonesia (diss., U. of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008)

VIII. Pan-Indonesian musical developments

1. Popular music.

  • Philip Yampolsky

The various forms of popular music (and, to a lesser extent, Islamic and Christian religious music) are the only kinds of music disseminated and accepted throughout Indonesia (see §I, 1, above). More than any other form, popular music crosses regional, ethnic and religious boundaries, and it can thus be considered the country’s only ‘national’ music.

(i) 1890–1918.

Before the 20th century, the only musics in Indonesia (then the Netherlands Indies) that crossed regional and ethnolinguistic boundaries were Islamic religious music and Qur’anic chant (the latter not, from the strict Islamic viewpoint, considered as ‘music’) and, to a much lesser extent, European marches, waltzes, operetta tunes, and light classical music. These European genres, sung in European languages, appealed to the Dutch colonial administrators, to the most Westernized of the native aristocracy and to Eurasians favouring the European side of their dual heritage. The emergence, at the turn of the century, of popular music sung in Melayu (Malay), the lingua franca of the colony and the basis of the modern Indonesian language, was fostered by two developments: the rise of commercial urban theatre and the advent of commercial recording.

Commercial Melayu-language theatre is thought to have originated in the Malay peninsula (Camoens, 1982; Tan, 1993) and to have spread in the 1890s to Java (initially Surabaya and Batavia (Jakarta)), where it was variously called stambul, komedi stambul, bangsawan, and opera. Stambul was eclectic in its stories and music, drawing on Dutch, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Malay, and local Indonesian (mainly Batavian) sources. The music was performed by a small ensemble: rebab and violin according to one early report (van Maurik); violin, flute, and guitar according to another (Knaap). It is likely that other instruments were added. By the early 20th century the orchestra could include piano and European instruments, but it never extended to gamelan instruments or others regarded as essentially indigenous.

In the 1890s, the music for stambul was apparently derived mainly from European sources: opera, operetta, and popular song. At least by 1910, a number of melodies perceived as Indonesian had been added to the repertory as vehicles for sung narration and monologue. These Indonesian melodies were of two classes: stambul and kroncong (keroncong). European in idiom, stambul melodies were identified by number: stambul satu (one), stambul dua (two) etc., reaching at least nine. They were presumably associated with specific scene-types or emotional states that occurred regularly in stambul plays.

Before World War I, kroncong melodies were also European in idiom, though later they became Indonesianized. The roots of kroncong lie in Portuguese songs and instruments brought to Indonesia in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Presumably introduced by Portuguese traders and sailors, they were perpetuated by mixed-race descendants of the Portuguese and by the ‘Black Portuguese’ or Mardijkers, descendants of Asian and African slaves owned and then freed by the Portuguese. The principal Mardijker settlements were in Batavia and Ambon (Abdurachman, 1975).

By the late 19th century the Mardijkers had intermarried with Eurasians and Indonesians and had largely disappeared as a distinct group. Kroncong was by then an urban folk music, associated primarily with Eurasians in Batavia and other large cities. For the most part Eurasians were closer in lifestyle, income, and social status to inlanders or pribumi (‘natives’) than to full-blood Europeans, and kroncong was a lower-class music, though its adoption by the stambul theatre and the recording industry enhanced its status.

According to Manusama (1919) there were, strictly speaking, only two kroncong melodies: Kroncong Moresco, in major tonality, and Prounga or Kroncong Bandan, in minor tonality (others that are often grouped with them, e.g. Nina Bobo and Kafrinyo, are not titled ‘kroncong’). He asserted that these melodies were Portuguese in origin. Singers used them as vehicles for memorized or improvised quatrains called pantun. The accompaniment was variable. A strummed lute is always mentioned: a guitar or the small lute called kroncong, which resembles the ukulele or the Portuguese cavaquinho. It is often assumed that the kroncong genre takes its name from the kroncong lute, but Seebass (1997) suggests that the terminology went in the other direction. Other instruments could be added, including violin, European flute, and perhaps a frame drum.

The first commercial recordings of Indonesian musicians were made in Singapore by the Gramophone Company in 1903. About two-thirds of the titles recorded then are in European languages; the rest, including two kroncong and three stambul, are in Melayu. By the time of the Gramophone Company’s next trips, in 1909 and 1910, kroncong and stambul (recorded in Batavia, Yogyakarta and Semarang) had become much more prominent. Gramophone records of kroncong, stambul, and European operetta tunes, marches, and waltzes were also issued in this pre-war period by other European companies and by Indonesian-Chinese entrepreneurs in Batavia and Surabaya.

(ii) 1920–42.

In this period, ending with the Japanese occupation of Indonesia and the collapse of Dutch colonial control, popular music was no longer dependent on the pre-war European forms, but rather upon the newer popular songs and dance-music of the United States and Europe: tangos, foxtrots, rumbas, blues, and swing (Möller, 1987). Gramophone records purveyed countless imported and newly composed tunes, almost all of them sung in Melayu, with the exception of the ‘Hawaiian’ song genre, which was sung in English. Instrumentation and idiom were those of Western popular music of the time; for convenience these various forms will be termed ‘Western-model’ popular music.

The only indigenous song forms prominent in the popular music of the 1920s and 30s were kroncong and, to a lesser extent, stambul. Kroncong Bandan or Prounga vanished, leaving one melody (Moresco) for the entire kroncong genre; but recordings show that after the war the harmonic rhythm of kroncong slowed to half the pre-war speed, permitting greater variation in the realization of that melody, so that the single melody became a melody-type, a chord-sequence over which many melodies could be set. Table 17 outlines the basic sequence, ignoring standard optional substitutions (such as I–I–IV–V–I–I–IV–V instead of I–I–I–I–I–I–I–I).

Basic kroncong chord sequence with phrases of the vocal melody indicated above the chord symbols.

Table 17: Basic kroncong chord sequence with phrases of the vocal melody indicated above the chord symbols.

During a period of 10 or 15 years beginning in the late 1920s, the characteristic kroncong ensemble and performance idiom developed: a flowing vocal (or violin) melody is decorated by a rapid interlocking figuration of upper-register plucked lutes (e.g. ukulele and mandolin), with a ‘walking’ guitar line occupying the middle register and animated pizzicato cello in the lower register suggesting drumming. Although the melodic-harmonic base is Western, the stratified texture of this string band evokes the organization of Javanese gamelan music and Sundanese kacapi-suling (zither and bamboo flute genre), and it is a crucial element in creating the ‘Indonesian’ quality of kroncong. Songs using the kroncong chord sequence were also recorded during this period in non-stratified idioms (i.e. those of European dance music); such recordings were described as krontjong tango, krontjong rumba, etc.

As the commercial theatre abandoned the sung narration and monologue typical of stambul in favour of spoken dialogue with inserted production numbers and ‘cabaret’ entr’actes, the function of numbered stambul melodies died out; however, songs using these melodies or their chord sequences (particularly that of stambul dua) were still heard.

Probably very near the end of this pre-World War II period, a variety of Melayu-language popular song emerged that was perceived to be related to kroncong but did not use the traditional kroncong form; instead it used AABA melodic form and chord sequences typical of ordinary Euro-American popular songs. This new form came to be known (after the war if not before) as langgam kroncong (Table 18 ). During and after the war langgam kroncong were performed in the stratified idiom that had developed for kroncong; this was probably the case before the war as well, but evidence has not yet surfaced to prove this. The famous song Bengawan Solo, composed by Gesang Martohartono in 1940, is an example of a langgam kroncong.

Langgam kroncong structure

Table 18: Langgam kroncong structure

In the late 1930s, Western-model songs were recorded in Arabic and in several Indonesian languages other than the lingua franca: Acehnese, ‘Batak’ (i.e. Toba), Karo, Minangkabau, and Makasar. There were also two genres of Islamic popular music not modelled on Western forms: orkes harmonium, the nucleus of which was harmonium, violin and vocal, usually sung in Arabic; and orkes gambus, consisting of violin(s), Gambus (wooden pear-shaped lute), and vocal (in Arabic or Melayu), plus other optional instruments (guitar, mandolin, cello, string bass, and percussion). These used a largely Middle Eastern idiom, though European melodic influence and even a ‘crooning’ vocal style were sometimes present in gambus songs (see Orkes).

(iii) 1942–9.

Japanese soldiers invaded Indonesia at the beginning of 1942; in March of that year they achieved control of the colony and expelled the Dutch. The years of military occupation that followed, though a period of hardship for most Indonesians, were stimulating for popular music. The Japanese banned forms of music and dance that were obviously Western in origin or association. Suddenly the whole repertory of tangos, foxtrots, jazz, Hawaiian music, and the like was off-limits; this led to intensive composition in the kroncong and langgam kroncong forms. During the four-year revolution that followed the proclamation of independence in 1945, these forms (along with marches and military songs) remained dominant in popular music. After independence was achieved, many of the songs of the 1940s (and, by extension, the stratified kroncong idiom in which they were performed) became imbued with nostalgia for the heroism, excitement, and dedication of the revolution. These songs, sometimes expressing patriotic sentiments and sometimes depicting romance shadowed by war and privation, now constitute a distinct repertory known as lagu perjuangan (‘songs of the struggle’).

(iv) 1950–65.

After the revolution, explicit imitation of Western popular music re-emerged in Indonesia under the name hiburan (‘entertainment’). Mexican and Latin American traits such as the cha cha cha rhythm and the inclusion of maracas and bongos were in vogue. Also during this period the idea of targeting adolescents as a principal market for the consumption of entertainment took hold in Indonesia. ‘Smooth’ American youth-market singers (e.g. Connie Francis, Pat Boone) became popular and were imitated by Indonesian singers. The government, working through the national radio network Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) and its record-producing affiliate, Lokananta, attempted to counter this tendency by national promotion of kroncong and a new genre known as hiburan daerah (‘regional entertainment’). The lyrics of hiburan daerah were in regional languages, sometimes sung to melodies from local traditions or, more often, to newly composed melodies; the arrangements were in Western (often Latin-inflected) idioms and were played by cocktail-lounge combos. The hope was that use of a musical lingua franca could overcome the inevitable parochiality of the regional languages. Performers were based in Jakarta, not in the regions. The genre was largely supported by government subsidy, though the Minangkabau style of hiburan daerah (from West Sumatra) enjoyed independent commercial success as well.

Langgam kroncong structure

In this period, the distinction between kroncong asli (‘true’ kroncong, as shown in Table 18) and langgam kroncong (Table 19 ) largely disappeared; anything played in the stratified kroncong idiom and using the kroncong string-band instrumentation (sometimes augmented by transverse flute or piano) was considered kroncong. Kroncong was supported and subsidized by the government, similar to hiburan daerah but with the difference that kroncong actually had a wide and enthusiastic audience. In the 1950s the harmonic rhythm of kroncong slowed again, as it had after World War I: the typical tempo of the chords became four times slower than it had been in the earliest recordings. A compensating complication of melody and figuration also occurred: melodies became more florid and chromatic, and the middle and upper strata doubled or quadrupled in rhythmic density.

In the 1950s the idiom and instrumentation of kroncong were applied to a new repertory of songs in langgam form, sung in Javanese and using a minor scale in tempered tuning to approximate a Javanese pélog scale. One of the most prolific composers of these langgam Jawa was Andjar Any (b 1936); one of the best-known singers was Waldjinah.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, guitar bands imitating the Everly Brothers, the Beatles, and similar groups sprang up. In his 1959 Independence Day address, President Sukarno disparaged Western popular music and its Indonesian imitations as ‘ngak-ngik-ngok’ music; although this lacked the legal force of a ban, it was taken as such by government officials. Indonesian singers continued, however, to perform Western songs and Indonesian songs in Western style, to the government’s increasing displeasure. In 1965 the government went as far as putting a popular group, Koes Bersaudara, in prison, but they were released a month later in the wake of the murderous turmoil that brought down Sukarno.

A separate stream of popular music in this period stemmed from Indian and Malaysian film music and popular songs. Indonesian-language songs were recorded using melodic and stylistic inflections from Hindi film songs; one of the most popular of these was Boneka dari India, a hit of the late 1950s. Malaysian songs shared some of these Indian inflections but also had a generalized ‘Melayu’ quality that was believed to be indigenous to the east coast of Sumatra as well as peninsular Malaysia. In fact, the connection of Malaysian film and popular music of the 1950s to the lagu Melayu asli of Sumatra is very tenuous. The East Javanese singer Effendi (also known as Said Effendi) became famous as a singer of Melayu songs in the manner of the Malaysian star P. Ramlee. These two styles, Indian and Malaysian, coalesced in the mid- and late 1960s to become the source of the popular and influential Indonesian genre dangdut.

The orkes harmonium died out during the upheavals of the 1940s. Gambus (the music of the orkes gambus, not the plucked lute itself) survived but lost whatever European traits it had, becoming more demonstratively Arabic in character and hence symbolic of Islam, although the song lyrics do not necessarily have any explicit religious content.

(v) 1965 to the late 1990s.

Dangdut emerged as the music of the urban lower class, at first in Jakarta and later in other cities as well. As most of the urban poor were (and are) Muslim, the frame of reference in dangdut lyrics was popular Islam, but the songs were not explicitly religious in the early phase. Instead they tended to be flirtatious or to refer conventionally to poverty and misfortune. At first the musical idiom was precisely the mix of Indian and Malaysian film song traits mentioned above. The dangdut ensemble was called a ‘Melayu orchestra’ (orkes Melayu); this term persists even today. (It is hard to make any clear connection between dangdut and the music of the Melayu ethnic group; more likely ‘Melayu’ here means the Melayu- or Indonesian-speaking urban poor, as distinguished from Javanese speakers and other immigrants to Jakarta, who were perceived as having their own music, different from dangdut.) A prominent feature was tablā-like drumming with a characteristic rhythm in which a low sound just before the strong beat is followed by a heavy, higher-pitched sound on the strong beat; this rhythm can be imitated in syllables as ‘dang-DUT’ and has been plausibly suggested as the source of the genre’s name.

In the early 1970s, Oma (later Rhoma) Irama (b 1947), the star who was to dominate dangdut for the next 25 years, became prominent. Rhoma instituted several important innovations: he reduced the Indian and Malaysian elements in dangdut, replacing them with inflections from the Middle East and, more pervasively, American rock music, and he broadened and deepened the content of lyrics. Instead of the coy dialogues and conventional laments of early dangdut songs (including those sung by Oma Irama and his first singing partner, Elvy Sukaesih), Rhoma introduced explicit social protest of a rather general but, by Indonesian standards, biting sort: e.g. ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’. For a period in the 1980s, at the height of his popularity, he was banned from television (at that time entirely government-controlled) because of the sting of such criticism. From the mid-1970s on, Rhoma also began to insert Islamic religious messages into his songs.

In the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, dangdut retained its status as the music of the urban poor. In later years, however, it became more glamorous, and its stars became extremely wealthy. Rhoma himself joined the ruling political party, and the element of social protest in his songs virtually disappeared. Despite the religious messages favoured by Rhoma, the genre is predominantly secular. Musically, there are two streams: one, deriving from Rhoma, has a large component of rock; the other, exemplified by singers such as Mansyur S., continues to reflect the genre’s origins in Indian film music. Dangdut reaches its widest audience through recordings, films, and broadcast media, all emanating almost exclusively from Jakarta. The superstars also perform in live extravaganzas, and there are countless local bands, unknown outside their own districts, that perform for regional night fairs and local celebrations.

Aside from dangdut, the other principal category of Indonesian popular music after 1965 is music in the styles and idioms of Western youth-orientated popular music, sung in Indonesian (this category has no comprehensive name in Indonesia). With the accession of the Suharto government (the ‘New Order’), official disapproval of Western and Western-influenced music abated, and from then on Western-model music has followed the trends of mainstream American and European popular music, albeit with a time-lag. The most commercially successful variety is known as pop Indonesia, which draws on sweet, slick, and generally non-confrontational varieties of Western popular music. Other categories are known by English names (rock, punk rock, country, disco, rap), although the musical correspondence to their Western counterparts is not always exact. As with dangdut, the Western-model musics are disseminated mainly through commercial media rather than live performance, and the centre of production and distribution is Jakarta.

The Western-model genres have always been largely the property of comparatively affluent or educated youth, particularly those aspiring to elements of the lifestyle believed to be characteristic of Europe and America (dangdut, which originally belonged to the urban poor, has also become acceptable to these more upscale groups). The principal theme of pop lyrics is romantic love; despite occasional censure from official sources, one of the most common types of pop love song is the lagu cengeng (‘weepy song’; see Yampolsky, 1989). The anger and intentional outrageousness typical of some rock music in the West is also found, somewhat muted, in Indonesian rock and punk rock, but not in pop Indonesia. In the period from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, the social protest that had vanished from dangdut re-emerged in the songs of ‘country’ singers, most notably Iwan Fals.

Both Islam and the various forms of Christianity in Indonesia have produced religious popular music, which is ‘popular’ in so far as it is marketed in the same media with the same techniques and performed in the same manner (often by the same performers) as secular popular music. Christian popular music, known as pop rohani (‘spiritual pop’), uses the idioms of pop Indonesia. The Islamic qasidah (qaṣīda) or qasidah moderen (Arps, 1996) is typically performed by a lead singer (usually female), a female chorus, and an orchestra of guitars, violins, keyboards, and percussion, including tambourines with jingles and the tablā-like bongos of dangdut. The instrumentation and the instrumental accompaniment combine features of gambus and dangdut. (Qasidah rebana, an earlier form of popular qasidah, used only frame drums to accompany the female singers.) The singing involves solo statements answered by a unison choral refrain. The lyrics typically affirm Islamic standards of morality and daily behaviour.

Hiburan daerah, the Old Order’s attempt to develop Western-model popular music in regional languages, died out when the New Order took over. Pop Indonesia and dangdut, on the other hand, disseminated without government sponsorship, inspired young people in every corner of Indonesia to write their own pop and dangdut songs using local languages, and audio-cassette technology (introduced at the beginning of the 1970s) made it possible for these songs to be recorded cheaply and sold to local consumers. As a result, there are many varieties of regional pop and regional dangdut all over the country. Most regional dangdut styles and some regional pop styles are basically imitative of the Jakarta models. Some regional pop styles, however, make use of local melodies (lagu daerah) cast in the Western popular idiom, typically accompanied by strummed guitar, with perhaps some traditional instruments added for local flavour. In Christianized areas, where techniques of harmony are familiar, at least to singers with experience in the church choirs, the lagu daerah are often arranged for vocal group (the English term is used) in three-or four-part harmony. Strummed guitar accompaniment is again typical.

There is also one instance of what may be called ‘traditional regional popular music’: this is jaipongan, from the Sundanese region of West Java. Jaipongan, like any popular music, is geared to and dependent upon media dissemination, but its idiom is that of Sundanese gamelan, uninfluenced by Western or any other foreign music. Aside from a transient flurry of national exposure in the early 1980s, jaipongan has been popular only among Sundanese; but apart from this regional or ethnic limitation it has followed the marketing and developmental patterns of dangdut, pop Indonesia, and other national popular musics.


and other resources

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  • P. Yampolsky: Lokananta: a Discography of the National Recording Company of Indonesia, 1957–1985 (Madison, WI, 1987)
  • Street Music of Java, Original Music OMCD 006 (1989) [kroncong, dangdut, langgam Jawa etc.]
  • M. Hatch: ‘Popular Music in Indonesia’, World Music, Politics and Social Change, ed. S. Frith (Manchester, 1989), 47–67
  • P. Yampolsky: ‘Hati Yang Luka, an Indonesian Hit’, Indonesia, no.47 (1989), 1–17
  • Music of Indonesia, 2: Indonesian Popular Music: Kroncong, Dangdut and Langgam Jawa, Smithsonian Folkways SF 40056 (1991)
  • Keadilan, perf. Nasida Ria, Piranha PIR 26-2 (n.d.) [qasidah modérèn]
  • B. Susanto: ‘Dangdut Sekatenan: penguasa, “agama”, dan musik rakyat di Yogyakarta’ [Dangdut at Sekaten: power, ‘religion’ and people’s music in Yogyakarta], Tantangan kemanusiaan universal: kenangan 70 tahun Dick Hartoko, ed. G. Moedjanto, B. Rahmanto and J. Sudarminta (Yogyakarta, 1992), 195–224
  • J. Tambajong: Ensiklopedi musik (Jakarta, 1992)
  • J. Hellwig: ‘Jaipongan: the Making of a New Tradition’, Performance in Java and Bali, ed. B. Arps (London, 1993), 47–58
  • Tan Sooi Beng: Bangsawan: a Social and Stylistic History of Popular Malay Opera (Singapore, 1993)
  • C. Capwell: ‘Contemporary Manifestations of Yemeni-Derived Song and Dance in Indonesia’, YTM, 27 (1995), 76–89
  • C. Pioquinto: ‘Dangdut at Sekaten: Female Representations in Live Performance’, Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 29 (1995), 59–89
  • B. Arps: ‘To Propagate Morals through Popular Music: the Indonesian Qasida Moderen’, Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa, 1, ed. S. Sperl and C. Shackle (Leiden, 1996), 389–409
  • G. Simatupang: The Development of Dangdut and its Meanings (thesis, Monash U., 1996)
  • T. Seebass: ‘Presence and Absence of Portuguese Musical Elements in Indonesia’, Portugal and the World, ed. S. El-Shawan Castelo-Branco (Lisbon, 1997), 227–51
  • C. Lockard: Dance of Life: Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia (Honolulu, 1998)

2. New composition.

  • Franki Raden

The meeting of Indonesian and European cultural traditions in the 20th century led to the emergence of composers who developed their own personal and unique styles of expression.

Four composers pioneered the idea of a meeting between traditional musical cultures and Western art music, an idea that has persisted in new Indonesian music. R.M. Soewardi Suryaningrat (later known as Ki Hadjar Dewantara) and R.M. Soerjopoetro set out to ‘translate’ gamelan music into Western musical forms in the compositions Kinanthi Sandung (1916) for voice and piano and Rarjwo Sarojo (1916–17) for voice and violin, respectively. In these compositions the two composers maintained the freedom to improvise around a Central Javanese balungan (skeletal melody), representing gamelan pitches in terms of their Western near-equivalences.

R. Atmadarsana and R. Soehardjo also ‘translated’ gamelan music in works such as Wirangrong (1922) for two-part choir and Birvadda Warawidya (1924) for three-part choir. Soehardjo used traditional tembang (sung poetry) and gendhing (gamelan composition) melodies such as Pangkur, Tarupala, and Clunthang, while employing Western contrapuntal techniques and polyphonic textures.

On 28 October 1928, young Indonesians from a variety of cultural and political organizations adopted the pledge ‘Satu nusa, satu bangsa dan satu bahasa’ (‘one land, one nation, one language’). At that time, the song Indonesia Raya (‘Indonesia the Great’) by W.R. Supratman, with a Western diatonic melody, was adopted as a national anthem. After Indonesia gained independence in 1949, music quickly became the subject of heated debate between prominent musicians and intellectuals whose background was in Javanese gamelan, and non-Javanese musicians from a Western music background. Both sides were anxious to promote their own music culture as the official national musical language. From then on, contemporary Indonesian composition became a political phenomenon.

Musicians of the 1940s from Tapanuli (North Sumatra) and Gorontalo, working within a diatonic idiom and including Amir Pasaribu, Liberty Manik, and J.A. Dungga, not only believed that a national music should not be based on Javanese or any other ‘ethnic music’, but that it should be based on a ‘new Indonesian music’ that was best represented by the diatonic music of academic composers such as Cornel Simanjuntak and Pasaribu himself. This viewpoint was reinforced by the official adoption of Indonesia Raya as the national anthem and by the lifestyle of the Indonesian élite in the 1950s, which was orientated towards the West in its ideology of liberal democracy.

At the same time, Ki Hadjar Dewantara was Minister of Education and Culture in the first cabinet; Javanese intellectuals, among them many who held government posts, succeeded in ‘smuggling’ his concept of culture into the 1945 constitutional ordinances in the following form: ‘National culture consists of the peaks of regional cultures’. Dewantara’s ideas were similarly applied to the problem of national music at the Second Cultural Congress in Bandung in 1951, resulting in the declaration that ‘national music consists of the merging of peaks of regional musics’.

The conflict between these two entrenched views of music at this period was made explicit in the establishment of Konservatori Karawitan Indonesia (KOKAR) in Surakarta for the teaching of karawitan and Sekolah Musik Indonesia (SMI) in Yogyakarta for the teaching of Western art music. At KOKAR the government, which sided with Dewantara’s views, put in place an agenda for the creation of a new Indonesian music that had its roots in regional musics.

This conflict was complicated by the emergence of the artists’ groups Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat (LEKRA, ‘People’s Cultural League’), affiliated to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), and the Lembaga Kebudayaan Nasional (LKN, ‘National Cultural League’) affiliated to the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI). The LKN was endorsed by Sukarno, the first President of Indonesia, to put in place a people’s ideology as a basis for their project of nationalism in the field of the arts. The emergence of a new generation of composers who accepted this ideology caused the world of Indonesian contemporary music to go through a new phase of transformation at the beginning of the 1960s.

In the world of contemporary gamelan music this new phase was marked by the emergence of pieces with lyrics that referred to the political ideologies of the Sukarno regime. One of these gamelan composers was Ki Wasitodipuro (see Wasitodiningrat [Tjokrowasito, Wasitodipuro, Wasitolodoro, Notoprojo], Kanjeng Raden Tumenggung), a pupil of Soeryopoetro. In these pieces Wasitodipuro used titles and lyrics that referred to the political wisdom of Sukarno’s inclination to the left, for example Nekolim (ex.24 ), USDEK, and Modernisasi desa (‘village modernization’).

Ex.24 Nekolimby Ki Wasitodipuro

While the position of contemporary diatonic music became stronger, there also emerged a new generation of composers connected with LEKRA who wrote vocal music with political lyrics. Sometimes these lyrics were taken from the poems of writers connected with LEKRA. Outstanding among the composers were Subronto K. Atmodjo and Sudharnoto. Various works by these two were published by LEKRA, for example Asia Afrika Bersatu (‘The unity of Asia and Africa’ 1962) by Sudharnoto (ex.25 ).

Ex.25 Asia Africa Bersatu by Sudharnoto, 1961

The emergence of a new ideology pushed diatonic musicians with liberal ideas to criticize their ‘comrades’. This conflict became sharper when a group of liberal artists produced the ‘Manifes Kebudayaan’ (MANIKEBU, ‘cultural manifesto’). Binsar Sitompul, a diatonic composer of the 1940s, became a prime mover in this group, which stressed the value of universal humanism and followed the political opinions of LEKRA and LKN. The climax of this conflict came with the coup on 30 September 1965 that brought about the fall of the Sukarno regime and ended the whole drama in the artistic realm. LEKRA composers such as Subronto K. Atmodjo and Sudharnoto were imprisoned for a number of years.

With the end of the conflict between left-wing and liberal composers and between pentatonic and diatonic composers, along with the de-politicization of the arts under the Suharto government, from 1966 the world of contemporary Indonesian music entered a new phase, which stressed freedom of expression separated from ideological ties. One problem still remaining for composers was how to express Indonesian national identity within the context of the worldwide integration of contemporary music. This was a greater burden for composers using a diatonic musical language derived from Western music.

The issue, in fact, had already become noticeable in the works of Amir Pasaribu and Cornel Simanjuntak in the 1940s. In his efforts to find a special Indonesian idiom, Pasaribu tried to make use of pentatonic scales from gamelan music as melodic material in his compositions, while Simanjuntak, who composed mainly vocal music, used the characteristic elements of the rhythm of the Indonesian language to create a basic theory of melody. Composers of the 1950s and after who built on the approach of Amir Pasaribu include Trisutji Kamal, Jaya Suprana and Yazeed Djamin.

Diatonic composers also felt a large discrepancy between their world and that of traditional musics. Frans Haryadi was the composer most concerned with this problem in the 1960s, particularly as he was both a composer and an ethnomusicologist. In 1974 he began to experiment with gamelan players to produce a new approach to creating compositions that included gamelan and other traditional instruments. From this collaboration came the dance piece Kenangan (‘Remembrance of times past’). In this work, Haryadi planned the structure of the composition as a single major line, while the gamelan players were given the opportunity to improvise according to traditional principles. Consequently, although the work was written by a composer with a background in academic music, it upheld traditional musical idioms.

Frans Haryadi’s desire to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary musics in the ‘New Order’ period (Suharto regime) was taken a stage further in 1979 with the foundation of the Pekan Komponis Muda (‘young composers group’) by the Dewan Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Arts Council), which gave birth to a new generation of composers from backgrounds of Sudanese, Javanese, Balinese, and Minang (West Sumatra) traditional musics. These composers started to write pieces with the aim of using traditional instruments as sound-sources. With this goal, these composers freed themselves from the idioms and rules of the traditional musics that formed their backgrounds. As a substitute they centred their music on experiments with form, frequently very theatrical in nature, and experiments with timbre, exploiting all the possibilities for producing sound from traditional instruments using new techniques. Some of them also created new instruments or further developed the mechanical aspects of traditional instruments.

Another distinguishing feature of these composers, especially apparent in the works that emerged during the 1990s, is a tendency to borrow traditional musical idioms from beyond their own ethnic group. Consequently (though unintentionally perhaps) the musical language to which Ki Hadjar Dewantara aspired has eventually become a national musical language but with a more multicultural basis. Composers of the 1970s and later, from a traditional musical background, include Al(oysius) Suwardi, Wayan Sadra, Djaduk Ferianto, Dedy Satya Hadianda, and M. Halim, from Surakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta, West Java, and Padang Panjang (West Sumatra) respectively.

Beginning in the mid-1970s a number of composers have emerged in the field of diatonic music who have written works exploring traditional musical idioms and instruments. Outstanding among these have been Sapto Raharjo, Inisisri, Tony Prabowo, and Ben (M.) Pasaribu, from Yogyakarta, Jakarta, Jakarta, and Medan (North Sumatra) respectively. A number of composers who have been interested in the problem of choosing modes have composed by collaborating with traditional musicians to the extent that their works have become a meeting ground for traditional and contemporary music (ex.26 ).

Ex.26 Music for Soprano, Four Gambuh (Balinese Flute) and Percussion by T. Prabowo, 1994

The presence of composers such as Sutanto and Harry Roesli has created an increasingly dynamic situation. Starting from the environs of the village of Mendut in Central Java, Sutanto, a composer with an academic background, creates work in cooperation with the villagers, producing complex and unusual texts. The work of Harry Roesli is important not only because his works can bridge the world of contemporary music with Indonesian pop music, but also because he also uses music as a medium for comment on the social and political problems that have emerged during the New Order, especially concerning the political wisdom of the Suharto regime. More than three decades after the establishment of the New Order, the world of Indonesian contemporary music is returning to the area of politics, with all the risks that this entails.


and other resources

  • J.A. Dungga and L. Manik: Musik di Indonesia dan beberapa persoalannya [Music in Indonesia and several issues] (Jakarta, 1952)
  • J. Becker: Traditional Music in Modern Java: Gamelan in a Changing Society (Honolulu, 1980)
  • S. Hardjana, ed.: Enam tahun Pekan Komponis Muda (1979–1985) [Six years of the Young Composers Festival] (Jakarta, 1986)
  • Asmat Dream: New Music Indonesia, 1, Lyrichord LYRCD 7415 (c1992) [compositions by H. Roesli and others]
  • Mana 689: New Music Indonesia, 2, Lyrichord LYRCD 7420 (c1992) [compositions by I Wayan Sadra and others]
  • Karya: New Music Indonesia, 3, Lyrichord LYRCD 7421 (c1993) [compositions by I Wayan Sadra]
Galpin Society Journal
Studies in Music [Australia]
Yearbook for Traditional Music
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Journal of Musicological Research
International Musicological Society: Congress Report [1930-]
Asian Music
The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music
Journal of Music Theory