There are ten gamelan orchestras at Mekar Bhuana: seven-tone semar pegulingan, pelegongan, two sets of gender wayang, selonding, baleganjur, pejogedan, rindik, genggong, and gong suling.
Originally known as Semara Patangian, this court gamelan is used to accompany legong and Calonarang dances. It may also be modified by use of a large drum to accompany barong, sandaran and jauk dances. The set also features a terompong which may be used for playing the ethereal court melodies. When we purchased the antique Pelegongan, it was in poor condition and in need of restoration. After five years of love and care, it now sounds better and better at every performance. The order of the keys is in the old style with the smallest key, ndang, on the left, rather than the usual order starting with the low nding. The set also includes rare instruments such as a gentorag (bell tree) as well as a pair of gumanak (bronze tubes hit with sticks). Our group plays the repertoire of I Wayan Lotring of Kuta and other anonymous composers from Denpasar. The majority of this repertoire dates back to the early twentieth century. In 2004, engaging guru I Wayan Mandra and senior advisor I Ketut Nagi (deceased), our group revived some of the near-forgotten instrumental pieces once known in Sanur. These originated in Kelandis and were taught to the Singgi musicians in the 1950s by I Kecug from Pagan Kelod. We never recorded however, and it has not been until the death of Nagi in 2010 that we started to work seriously on documenting the style via recording – this is one of our ongoing projects. Pelegongan dance music heralds from an earlier time when the courts were still active and most courts supported groups of nandir, leko or legong dancers.
You can take pelegongan lessons with us at the conservatory: enquire now.
Watch a video of our pelegongan set:
Seven-tone Semar Pegulingan
In mediaeval Bali (circa 1700-1906) gamelan semar pegulingan was an important part of the Balinese courts. Accompanying court rituals and pendet dances at temple ceremonies, Semar pegulingan also served to lull the royal family to sleep when it played in the late evenings in the inner sanctum of the palace. There are very few of these gamelan left in Bali. This orchestra is used primarily for instrumental pieces, as the dance repertoire is long since forgotten. The orchestra at Mekar Bhuana is antique and complete. It includes four saron jongkok, a gentorag bell-tree, gumanak tube chimes and a kempyung–all features of court gamelan. Our group is learning the repertoire of the Denpasar Palace, known only by a couple of musicians from Br. Pagan Kelod in Denpasar. So far we have learnt and released two pieces from this style on our recently released audio recording. This year, we have succeeded in reconstructing some of the original court dances which were once accompanied by this ancient gamelan.
Watch a video of our semar pegulingan:
The most intimate of all gamelan ensembles, Gender Wayang are usually played in a pair or a quartet with the musicians facing each other. This gamelan is soft-sounding and is used to accompany puppet shows, as well as wedding, tooth filing, and cremation ceremonies. This is considered to be the most technically demanding of all Balinese music. Our group plays several styles including Teges Kanginan, Sanur, Tabanan and Pacung, Gianyar. We have focussed, however, on preserving the Teges and Sanur repertoires. In 2008, our conservation of the Teges style was supported by an invitation to perform at the first world music festival in China, as part of Shanghai Expo 2010. Photos of our trip to Shanghai are on our Gallery page.
Watch a video of our gender wayang quartet:
Selonding is classified as an archaic type of Balinese gamelan orchestra dating as far back as the 10th century. Deeply shrouded in myth and legend, selonding is said to have a divine origin, producing music of a heavenly quality.
Most selonding are made from iron but there are a few sets which are bronze and consist of metallophones, varying in size. Deceptive in their cumbersome and primitive appearance, the instruments produce a hauntingly beautiful sound, somewhere in between large droplets of water and low, resonant bells.
The selonding ‘heart’ of Bali is now in Karangasem where you can find sets in traditional (Bali Aga) villages: Asak, Bungaya, Bugbug, Ngis, Selat, Kayubihi, Tenganan and others. There are, however, still active traditions in Bangli, Singaraja, Gianyar and Tabanan.
Once sanctified, since some musicians from Tenganan popularised selonding and made duplicate instruments, replica sets are now played outside of the religious context. Although a number of sacred selonding pieces may not be recorded, you can now purchase recordings of selonding music but only Tenganan style.
The most popular style outside of the sacred, ritual context is Tenganan style.
Watch video of our selonding set, which is a duplicate of the one at Besakih Temple:
Genggong is Balinese Jaw’s Harp made of bamboo. Soft-sounding to mimic the chirps of frogs in the rice fields in the monsoon season, genggong are still played in a number of villagers across the island to accompany a secular frog dance.
Watch video of our genggong group:
Rindik, also known as tingklik or grantang, are xylophones with bamboo keys and wooden casings. Normally play in pairs, a complete set has four rindik instruments: two mid-range and two high-range. Often a high-pitched suling flute is included in the ensemble to add to the melodic line. Rindik instruments can be augmented with other drums, gongs and flutes to become a pejogedan ensemble that accompanies the flirtatious joged dance, once performed by young boys, but now more commonly by pretty young girls.
Watch video of our rindik trio: