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This post was written by sumiardika on April 8, 2013
Posted Under: Tulisan

Gamelan Gong Kebyar

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The gamelan gong kebyar is the most prevalent type of bronze orchestra in Bali, requiring about 25 musicians. It takes its name from the dynamic kebyarstyle which was born in the early twentieth century-a time of tumultuous political and social change, reflected in music of contrasting moods, and powerful, virtuosic character. 

The name gong kebyar also identifies the most fundamental instrument, the large gong, which marks the end of every phrase. Over the past century the gamelan gong kebyar has developed a wide-ranging repertoire of instrumental and dance music, incorporarting styles and techniques from other gamelan types.

The gamelan gong kebyar is by far the most common type of gamelan in Bali today. It is heard in the temple, playing ceremonial music; in gamelan competitions, played in complex and showy style before thousands of passionately devoted fans; and in concert and civic settings. As early as the 1930s, it was called the “modern orchestra par excellence,” (anthropologist Miguel Covarubias.) Like most gamelan orchestras, and not dissimilar to a Western symphony orchestra, the gamelan gong kebyar is composed of instrumental families that are further subdivided according to the instrument’s range, function, timbre, and performance technique. The eight or ten gangsa or highest-pitched, ten-keyed metallophones play the main melodic material, often in rapid interlocking patterns. The calung or jublag, five-keyed midrange metallophones, play the pokok or core melody. The lowest jegogan, also five-keyed, reinforce the pokok by regularly stressing certain tones-for example, every fourth jublag tone. The reong is a row of tuned gong chimes played by four musicians, adding another layer of figuration or melodic doubling, parallel to the gangsa; at other moments it joins the drums in non-pitched rhythmic accents. Various small gongs are used to punctuate the phrases in regular fashion. The kajar, for example, keeps the beat, a difficult task in this syncopated and rhythmically complex style. The medium-sized gongs called kempur, kemong and kempli punctuate the phrases at important junctures, while the largest gong is reserved to mark the phrase endings-the period at the end of the sentence.

Last but certainly not least, a pair of drummers (accompanied by the cymbal or cengceng player) directs the entire group in accents, dynamics, and changes in tempo. In Balinese dance performance, the drums are the link between the dancers and other musicians. The lead drummer provides signals to other musicians that translate the detailed cues of the dancer’s movements into musical gestures. A lead drummer’s intimate knowledge of dance and music is critical to a good dance performance.

The repertoire of the gong kebyar is enormous. It includes classical instrumental works, lelambatan, heard in the middle courtyard of the Balinese temple as the ceremonies take place; a large repertoire of tari lepas-free standing, through-composed, and fully choreographed dance works such as Taruna Jaya or Oleg Tamulilingan that are a common feature of concert programs; various sacred dances, such as the gentle rejang for women or ritual Baris “warrior” dance for rows of men; many short forms to accompany masked dance, topeng; and the highly intricate new works known as tabuh kreasi baru (“new creations”).


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