Javanese Gamelan

We have one Javanese gamelan set at Mekar Bhuana: a very old set that based on its organology, patina and ornamentation dates to the first half of the 19th century (circe 1820). Originally from Semarang, it was formerly commissioned by a wealthy Chinese-Indonesian family: the carvings on the wooden casings have distinctive Chinese motifs, including depictions of the mythological creature qilin that is believed to bring prosperity and good fortune.

Xilin Carving
Kenong Japan with missing Rack
Gambang (approx. 1.7 m long)
Bonang Panembung (with one pot still missing, here replaced with the ketuk)
Bonang Barung
Kendang Ageng (approx. 1.2 m long)

It is a pelog set that, based on its instrumentation and low tuning, has been categorized as a pakurmatan-style orchestra. The Chinese characters under the bonang pots revealed the words “Beyond Majestic”, which must refer to its honorific title.

‘Chong Yuan’ – Beyond Majestic

Uniquely, it has very large instrument sizes and includes archaic court instruments, such as a bonang panembung (with the largest pot being 42 cm in diameter!) and a kenong japan (that weighs 19.5 kg!).

Instrumentation: 1 x bonang panembung, 1 x bonang barung, 1 x bonang panerus, 1 x kenong japan, 1 x ketuk, 1 x kempyang, 2 x demung, 2 x saron, 1 x peking, 1 x gambang, 1 x gender barung, 1 x gender panerus, 1 x kendang ageng. Watch a video of some of the instruments here.

As this is a fairly recent purchase, due to the pandemic we have not begun to restore the set: it needs a lot of love and attention due to its age and to the fact that it has not been used for many decades. The tuning process alone would take many weeks and then there are the wooden casings, some of which are fairly damaged and will need specialist skills to rehabilitate.

The large gong ageng did not come with the instruments as the owner’s price was beyond our budget. In addition, there are some missing pots as well as wooden racks and stands for instruments:

The Large Gong Ageng – missing, but essential as the Heart of the Orchestra
The Bonang Panerus Pots with one missing number 2 Pot and No Rack to suspend them on
The Bonang Panembung Pots with a space for the missing number 7 Pot
One of the Gender – we need to add two more to the set as they are both in different Tunings

You can be part of this reconstruction and restoration project by helping us fund raise to purchase and restore the missing parts so that the set can be restored to its former majesty.

Once the set is complete, we plan to use it to expand the musical horizons of young Balinese musicians and Mekar Bhuana, who will not only learn classical Javanese music but also have a wonderful opportunity to  incorporate Javanese gamelan instruments and concepts into their contemporary compositions.

This is the kind of rare ancient ceremonial music that we would like our young musicians to study with a guru from Central Java:

Contact us today to find out how you donate to restore this set to its former glory.

Other Collections

Our Semara Patangian ensemble in New Zealand is unique because it is the only one of its kind outside of Bali with the old-fashioned key order and instrumentation.
Our first Semara Patangian (Pelegongan ) set is at Mekar Bhuana Centre in Bali. It is an antique, very complete ensemble that Vaughan Hatch acquired in 1999.
In 2019, we restored and reconstructed a very unusal Angklung set from Lombok we have called ‘Semara Kirang’ because of its tuning, where it has four sweet tones with the lowest one missing.
Purchased in 2015, our second Selonding set is based in New Zealand and is modelled on the Bugbug formation that has 48 keys. It is smaller than our more complete set in Bali and has a lower and different tuning. It is the only one of this type outside of Indonesia as all active sets overseas are based on the common Tenganan Pegringsingan model.
The Seven-tone Semara Pagulingan set in New Zealand also partly old but has a higher tuning than our one in Bali. The ensemble is both smaller in instrumentation as well as dimensions of the keys, pots and casings.
Our Six-tone Semara Pagulingan is not yet complete, as we still need to fundraise more to make the ornate wooden casings, the design of which we would like to base on the only other Six-tone Semara Pagulingan orchestra in the world.
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