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    Reconstruction of Semambang Jawa

    Our semar pegulingan group is currently reconstructing one of the longest semar pegulingan pieces known: Semambang Jawa. Now extinct in the village where this version originates (Pagan Kelod), the piece was recorded on cassette tape by Professor Pande Made Sukerta in 1977. A big “matursuksma” goes out to Professor Sukerta for providing us access to this recording. We hope that, once the Pagan Kelod musicians who are members of Mekar Bhuana have learnt this piece, they will pass their knowledge on to their village where the music can be brought to life once more.

    Semambang Jawa reveals modulation in and out of three modes: lebeng, selisir and sunaren, which makes it fascinating to both play and listen to. It is also very long and a real challenge to memorise, consisting of two 256-beat pengawak and two 64-beat pengecet. One of the musicians claimed that it could take two years just to remember the pengawak sections, which are are the equivalent four pengawak legong. It is probably the length of these compositions as well as their meditative-like tempo that contributed to their decline in popularity as Bali edged towards modernism and “everything fast and instant”.

    Once the reconstruction is complete and funding is secured, our group plans to record this piece as well as several others for a second Mekar Bhuana court music album. Then this music will be documented and accessible to future generations to appreciate and study. Please give us all the support you can!

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