Angklung Beleganjur Other Styles
"If you've been looking for music historically associated with hypnotic mental states, this is the real stuff…"

The beleganjur (variously spelled baleganjur or belaganjur) or marching gamelan is a common sight in Bali and is often seen accompanying ritual processions related to cremation or other ceremonial events. It is also occasionally seen played as a sitting gamelan for odalan (temple cleansing) ceremonies and other temple ceremonies. The music is typically a hypnotic, trance-inducing series of percussive loops, punctuated by crashing cymbals, often in highly complex staccato rhythms. In fact, the chaotic energy created by the beleganjur is felt to create a virtual sonic force-field of protection around the ritual object being transported in the procession, as well as help throw participants into trance to enable them to carry often very heavy funeral platforms for many miles.

Beleganjur has its origins as a battle gamelan, played to accompany and inspire warriors going into battle, to induce the appropriate spiritual protection and to strike fear into the hearts of the enemy. Since the processions that beleganjur groups accompany can often go on for miles, the pieces played by beleganjur are often idiomatic in form, and of indefinite duration. Standard pattern sections are assembled to create long pieces. In Bali, a piece would typically start at a fast tempo, creating the valued "busy-ness" that drives away evil spirits before the procession starts off. The tempo then drops as the procession moves off, maintaining a protective force around the marchers. At crossroads, felt to be dangerous locations where dark spirits tend to lurk, the beleganjur might increase the tempo or play a more complex and high-energy segment. At the end of the procession, the beleganjur once again increases its tempo and brings the piece to a close.

The instrumentation consists of several sets of hand cymbals played in syncopation, a set of individual bronze reyong pots carried in the hand and struck with wooden pangguls in fast, highly interlocked rhythms, two large hand-drums, and a set of gongs slung from poles and carried between two people.


A complete beleganjur set consists of seven pairs of cymbals or ceng-cengs, which are played in a complex interlocked rhythm to create a heightened state of excitement, often building the overall sonic intensity to fever-pitch. A pair of ceng-cengs is seen in the photo above at left, tied to a red sash, and with decorative red pommels.


Four reyong pots, analogous to the pots of the angklung reyong, are struck with wooden beaters (pangguls) in mesmerizing continuous interlocked patterns designed to entrain the mind of the listener into a low-level trance and opening the way for the ceng-cengs to take the listener into an altered state. In Bali each reyong pot is typically played by a separate player, making the reyong fiendishly difficult to play well. Gamelan Anak Swarasanti plays the reyongs attached in pairs to a horizontal pole as shown in the above image - a bar-bell style also seen in some Balinese gamelans.


The ponggang consists of a pair of larger reyong pots, and is analogous to the jegogan of the angklung orchestra . It plays a slow repeating pattern, which together with the gongs, anchors the reyongs and ceng-cengs. The ponggang can be seen in the above photo behind the two reyong players.


The kajar or timekeeper plays a steady beat which serves as an aural grid that ensures that the rest of the beleganjur stays on beat. The role of the timekeeper is crucial to the group, especially when the procession is spread out in a long column, with a large distance between the front and rear of the column.


A large and a small gong are slung from two horizontal poles with a gong-carrier at front and rear of each. The gongs play a repeating cycle, which denote the main cycle as played by the ponggang.


The bebende is a smaller gong which is played with a wooden hammer, rather than the softer mallets used for the large gongs. It beats out a sychopated pattern which interlocks with the other parts.


Two large drums or kendang round out the ensemble. The kendang cue changes in the piece - switches to the next part, alterations of ceng-ceng patterns, and the final end of the piece, which can be indefinitely long.

Next page - Other Styles of Gamelan