Angklung Beleganjur Other Styles
"They are pretty amazing, very organic! If anybody gets a chance to go hear this group you should"

Gamelan angklung uses an orchestra of 4-key metallophones. The angklung orchestra tends to have lighter and more delicate sound than the gamelan gong, but can be just as complex in its interlocking patterns and interweaving melodies, and hypnotic, repeating loops. The gamelan angklung uses a 4-note slendro-derived scale.

The 4-tone instruments played by Gamelan Anak Swarasanti are tuned roughly to the western notes G, A, B, D. In keeping with the duality that runs thoughout much of Balinese culture, the instruments are paired, with male and female instruments of each type, the male tuned slightly higher, and the female slightly lower than the nominal pitch, which generates a beautiful shimmering or beating effect at the difference between the frequencies of the male and female instruments.

This photograph shows the angklung instruments played by Gamelan Anak Swarasanti. At the back are the three large gongs, with the smaller kempul gong in front of them. In front of the kempul are the two jegogan which carry the bass melody. Three different types of gangsa instruments are arranged in front of the jegogan - these represent a range of three octaves above the jegogan pitch, and are used to play the more complex interlocking melodies. These instruments may be physically arranged in different ways, depending on the performance situation. To the far right is the large reyong instrument, which is played by four players.

The instruments played by Gamelan Anak Swarasanti are described in more detail below. Gamelan instruments in general are considered sacred and are treated with the utmost respect. They must not be stepped over, and players must remove their shoes when sitting at the instruments.

The instrument cases are highly decorated in red and gold, and are made up of three main parts - the foot, the body, and the head. The foot (base) is the part that connects with the earth and is carved with plant symbols, roots, snails and flowers. The middle section or body contains the bamboo resonating tubes which are situated beneath each of the keys to amplify the sound. The body is also decorated with elaborate carvings, including the sacred bird Garuda at each corner, who protects the space occupied by the player and ensures that he or she is not influenced by evil forces while playing. The upper section, or head, of the instrument, again elaborately carved, arches up as if to the heavens.


Mid-range front row instruments - these carry the main melody, and often play an interlocking melody, or kotekan, in which the instruments play alternate notes, damping inbetween to create the effect of playing at twice the speed. Gamelan Anak Swarasanti uses four pemades.


The kantilan are one octave higher than the pemades. These instruments are often placed in the second row, and carry the same melody as the pemades, or an embellishment of this melody. Gamelan Anak Swarasanti uses four kantilan.


The kuwir are one octave higher than the kantilan and add further tonal enrichment to the main section. Gamelan Anak Swarasanti uses two kuwir.


The jegogan are tuned one octave below the pemades - the two jegogan carry the root melody or bass line of the piece. The jegogan are typically placed behind the other 4-keyed instruments, and in front of the gongs. Gamelan Anak Swarasanti uses two jegogan.

The 4-keyed instruments described above are collectively known as the gangsa. The following instruments complete the ensemble:


The reyong or reong is a long instrument consisting of a wooden frame on which 8 bronze pots are mounted on leather strapping. The 8 pots provide two octaves of the 4-note scale, matching the range of the pemade and kantilan instruments. It takes four players to play the reyong, each player taking two pots. The reyong is one of the more difficult instruments to master, as it requires a high degree of precision and coordination with the other players. However, the reyong is capable of creating some of the more spectacular effects of the ensemble and is a key instrument.


At least one gong - the small kempul or kempur - shown above, is required for a gamelan angklung.

Gamelan Anak Swarasanti also uses a pair of larger gongs, which are used particularly when accompanying dance pieces. The gongs are considered the spiritual heart of the gamelan, providing the foundation pulses that anchor the rest of the ensemble and the markers that denote the end of one major cycle and the next - this has been compared with the cycle of death and rebirth. The gongs always receive special offerings at performances and are considered to be highly spiritually charged.


The kajar is a time-keeping instrument, similar to one of the reyong pots, but played by a single player beating out a constant rhythm. This beat serves as a reference grid for the rest of the ensemble to help keep the precision split-second accurate. A second, higher-pitched time-keeping instrument called a klenang is also sometimes used.


Pronounced "cheng-cheng", the ceng-ceng consists of a set of four small cymbals mounted inverted on a wooden frame, which are struck with a pair of small cymbals held by the fingers to create crashing and shimmering punctuation along with the drummer - the ceng-ceng player is often the drummer's apprentice. The ceng-ceng is a deceptively difficult instrument to play well.


The suling - a bamboo flute - is the only wind instrument in the ensemble. It generally plays and embellishes the root melody as laid out by the jegogan. In Bali, suling players use circular breathing - breathing into the lungs through the nose and out through the mouth, allowing them to play continuously without pausing for breath.


The drums, or kendang are played by the leader of the gamelan and signal time changes, transitions, and other punctuations in the piece. There may be one or two drummers. Gamelan Anak Swarasanti uses two sets of drums in its angklung orchestra - a small pair for "sitting pieces", and a larger pair for accompanying dancers. As with the metallophones, the drums also come as a male/female pair. The drums are often played in an interlocked fashion, and are the most difficult of all the instruments to master.

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