Dieny & Yusuf

Sundanese Music

Posted on: March 3, 2007

To the uninitiated, Sundanese music sounds very much like Javanese music in that it tends to be exotically melodious, floating, and somehow mind soothing. It encompasses a very wide range of styles. Some are extremely lively in rhythm while others are very slow and relaxed. Different form Javanese music, there is usually a clear melody in foreground. Much Sundanese music features the gamelan, consisting of e a set of bronze percussion instruments melodically led by either the suling (bamboo flute) or the rebab (a small two-stringed fiddle). If led by the suling, the whole ensemble is called gamelan degung; if led by the rebab, it is called gamelan salendro. Nowadays, there are many such groups, often accompanying singers, and live gamelan can be found in the lobbies of some major Bandung hotels. An instrument unique to Sundanese music is the zither-like kacapi. One kind of kacapi is a simple, flat rectangular box meant to accompany a singer. This instrument is a favorite of street singers, many of whom are blind. The more classical form of kacapi is boat-shaped with a distinct bow and stern. Two of these, one large and one small, combine with a suling to create what’s simply called kacapi suling music, another variety of live entertainment often found in hotels.  The best shop to buy cassettes of traditional music is Tropic, on Jl. Dalem Kaum, near the Alun-alun.

            The most strikingly Sundanese music variety, however, is angklung. The angklung is percussion instrument consisting of bamboo pipes of different size and pitch fixed on small frame which is shaken to produce a tremolo. Angklung music, as a rule catchy and popular, is performed at Pak Ujo’s angklung school in Bandung on Jl. Padasuka No. 118 (off Jl. Penghulu Mustapha). Typically, Pak Ujo first demonstrates with a large group of children how angklung music is played and then invites his audience to join in playing some moderns, mostly Western tunes. Pak Ujo’s delightfully organized performances for tourists are to be heard (and seen!0 every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30. Additional performances may take place on other days (inquiries 022-771714). Admission is $5. sets of angklung instruments are on sale for a few dollars in bandung souvenir shops (see “Bandung Practicalities”) and at major tourist spots such as the car park on Mt. Tangkuban Perahu.

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