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Keys to emotions


by Rosella Balossino

Poetry and music in Java are strictly connected. Poems, in fact, are not recited but sung with melodies appropriate to the metre of the verse. These vocal compositions, called tembang in ‘ngoko Javanese’ and sekar in ‘krama Javanese’, are divided in three main groups according to their metrical scheme.
Tembang gedhé are influenced by Indian poetry. Each stanza has four lines, each line has the same number of syllables, the punctuation is in a fixed position, and the melody is rich in ornamentation.
Tembang tengahan is considered a transition style between tembang gedhé and tembang macapat. Its  poetic structure is more flexible but it is still sung in a decorated style.
Tembang macapat or tembang cilik may have more than four lines in a stanza and the lines may have a different number of syllables and a different rhyming scheme. Therefore in tembang macapat stanzas may have different patterns, each identified by a particular name. For instance a stanza with five lines, respectively of  7, 10, 12, 8, and 8 syllables, with a rhyming scheme u,u,i,u,o, is calledTembang Macapat Gambuh and is represented synthetically as follows: Gambuh 7u, 10u, 12i, 8u, 8o.
Tembang macapat are sung in a free rhythm and almost without ornamentation.

There are different theories about the origin of the word “macapat” and of “tembang macapat”.
One hypothesis about the meaning of the word macapat is given by Sri Hastanto:

“The celebrated Javanese pujangga (master of letters) Ranggawarsita referred of an earlier source consisting of four volumes (or possibly chapters) concerning tembang. [….] According to Ranggawarsita, the first two volumes described the way of singing tembang gédhé, the third dealt with the way of singing tembang tengahan and the fourth discussed tembang macapat. The volumes were called in order Maca sa lagu, Maca ro lagu, Maca tri lagu, Maca pat lagu. Maca literally means “reading”, but in this context it implies a written explanation of verse-forms. It also implies an explanation of the way in which verse-forms govern the singer’s performance of the melody. Lagu means “melody” and sa, ro, tri, pat mean “first”, “second”, “third”, “fourth”. The title of the fourth volume which Ranggawarsita described, therefore, can be roughly translated as “Verse forms and how to sing them – Volume 4”. Eventually, the types of verse-form and the singing style dealt with in Volume 4 became known simply as “macapat” [maca=read, pat=four].
(Sri Hastanto p.120)

On the same subject T. Pigeaud in “Literature of Java”, Vol. I p. 20, writes:
“Macapat and mancapat, meaning  “four fellows”, are expressions referring to a group of closely related units, located on the corners of a square, in accordance with cosmic order. To the Javanese mind the word mancapat suggests safety and the well-known order of the home district.”

For Sulaiman Gitosaprodjo macapat means “from village to village”, connotating macapat as songs of the common people (Gitosaprodjo, p. 207).

As the two last hypotheses suggest, macapat are popular poetry developed out of the courts and may have a very ancient origin. According to J. Kunst and Sri Hastanto they may have developed “even before Hinduism became a major influence in Java” (Sri Hastanto, p.118). However at that time macapat belonged to the popular oral tradition and we have no records since authors wrote down only poems connected with Indian religion and court life. The first written macapat  appear in Central Java at the beginning of the Islamic period. (But according to Pigeaud written macapat are found in East Javanese and Balinese pre-Islamic historical literature; Pigeaud, p. 18.)
According to Darsono (see following commentary by him) macapat were invented with the purpose of spreading Islamic religion.

At the beginning of the 18th century, during the “Javanese Renaissance”, in Surakarta some court musicians started polishing and refining the macapat songs and fixed the prosody of about fifteen of them, calling them tembang cilik, “small songs”, to distinguish them from the Indian verses of the old Javanese court poems which were called tembang gedhé, “great songs”.
This kind of literature had a second blooming at the end of the 19th century, during the “Second Javanese Renaissance” when many poets, such as Ranggawarsita “the last pujangga” and princes such as  Mangku  Nagara IV, wrote poetic stanzas in macapat metres.

According to Sri Hastanto, until the end of the 19th century macapat were used for didactic, religious, mystic purposes and also for writing letters that were sung to the recipient without musical accompaniment.

“It was commonly believed – and frequently still is – that Friday is the day of evil spirits. According to traditional ideas, the spirits start their activities very early. Thus it was necessary to remain awake all night on Thursday in order to avoid being attacked by them. To ward off sleepiness, people  sometimes sat together and sang tembang macapat in turns until dawn. The  texts  which were used were usually prayers to ask God’s blessing. Macapat were sung in much the same way at other religious ceremonies concerning marriage and birth.” (Sri Hastanto, p. 112-127.)

The singers, not being accompanied by any instrument, could add ornamentations and even introduce changes in tempo according to their taste, giving different renditions of the same tembang macapat in a way that sometimes made the original melodic line difficult to recognize. Jaap Kunst reports another particular use of tembang macapat:
“A peculiar and rare form of macapat singing should be mentioned here: this is called tembang pendhapa or tembang pringgitan. Every evening in the Solonese kraton, an official, belonging to the prajurit corps of the Tamtama, places himself at the foot of, and with his back to, the large central pendhapa, turns his face in the direction of the large door behind which in olden times, the Susuhunans were wont to sleep, and proceeds to sing, all night long, various macapat songs. The style of rendering this performance, however, is such that only a perfectly trained ear is able to discern that it is indeed macapat melodies that are being sung, the execution being extremely surcharged with variations and fiorituri prescribed by tradition”.
(J. Kunst, p.126.)

Each form of macapat  metre has a title and is defined by the number of lines per stanza, the number of syllables for each line and the vowel of the last syllable. The number of the macapat forms is not defined but depending on the authors goes from 10  (Gitosaprodjo)  to 20 (T. Pigeaud).
Nowadays the musicians consider 11 forms:

Megatruh (Duduk Wuluh)
6 lines, 10i, 6o, 10é, 10i, 6i, 6u
4 lines, 12i, 6a, 8i, 8a
6 lines,8u, 8i, 8a, 8i, 8a, 8i
9 lines, 8a, 8i ,8a, 8i, 7i, 8u, 7a, 8i, 12a
7 lines, 12a, 7i, 6a, 7a, 8i, 5a, 7i
7 lines, 8i, 8a, 8é(o), 8a, 7a, 8u, 8a
5 lines, 7u, 10u, 12i, 8u, 8o
10 lines, 10i, 10a, 8é (o), 7u, 9i, 7a, 6u, 8a, 12i, 7a
7 lines, 8a,11i, 8u, 7a, 12u, 8a, 8i
5 lines, 12u, 8i, 8u, 8i, 8o
4 lines, 12u, 6a, 8i, 12a

In this CD all of them are recorded both in slendro and in pelog versions. In addition also a tembang tengahan, ‘Wirangrong’, has been recorded:

Wirangrong 6 lines, 8i, 8o, 10u, 6i, 7a, 8a

The origin of the titles of the macapat is mainly unknown, but supposedly these names are preceding the formalization of the written forms. Some of them have a meaning, but have no connection with the subject of any given macapat. The only one that recalls its subject is Asmaradana, where asmara means “passionate love”.

Pigeaud suggests that some names were connected with ceremonies of the pre-Islamic period or with people in charge of those ceremonies or with some poet or poem. Dhandhanggula is synonym of Dhandhan Gendhis, 13th century king of Kedhiri, who ruled over Java as Sri Gentayu, after fighting his rebellious brother Sandhang Garba. Asmaradana or Asmara Dana recalls the kakawin Smara Dahana  in which Siwa, angry at Kama Jaya, the god of sensual love, who keeps intruding in his ascetic life, burns him with a glance of his third eye. Pangkur might be connected with the “officials of certain exorcist rites in Java whose incantations became secularised in the course of time” (Pigeaud). Maskumambang may recall the shamanic experience of floating. Gambuh means experienced or expert, and is connected with dances of ancient communal festivals in Java. Sinom (nom means “young”) may be connected with sinoman, a hosting activity carried out by groups of boys during community meals (wilujengan).

Each macapat metre has its own melody, which is considered to convey a particular mood. The subject of the stanza has to be in accordance with that mood. Each melody, which in its plain version is called wantah (simple), may be modified in various ways. Such modifications, indicated in the title with an appropriate word, may also modify the mood of the melody but without completely changing it. So it is possible to listen to Pangkur (Wantah) and also to Pangkur Ngrenas, Pangkur Paripurna, etc., depending on the elaboration of the melody. In the anthology “Macapat I, II, III” by Gunawan Sri Hastjarjo, we can find three wantah versions of Dhandhanggula – slendro sanga, pelog nem, pelog barang – and 26 other versions such as Dhandhanggula Buminatan, Dhandhanggula Natakusuman, Dhandhanggula  Sukasih, and so on.


  • Gitosaprodjo S. – Sekar translated by Judith Becker in Karawitan – Source Readings in Javanese Gamelan and Vocal Music Vol. 2 – 1987 – Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia.
  • Sri Hastanto – Tembang macapat in Central Java -1983 – Journal of the Royal Musical Association Vol 110  pp. 118-127.
  • Sri Hastjarjo – Macapat I, II, III.
  • Kunst J. –  Music in Java Vol. I  – 1973 – Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.
  • Pigeaud T. – Literature of Java Vol. I, Vol. III – 1967 – Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.



by Darsono, S. Kar., M. Hum.

The word tembang literally means flower but can be explained as a series of words or sentences which are arranged in such a way as to resemble an arrangement of colourful flowers, which look so beautiful and smell so fragrant that they attract the attention of anyone who sees them. This series of sentences is sung by a vocalist who uses the sléndro or pélog scale of the Javanese gamelan.

The singing style depends largely on the text. When the text comes from ancient Javanese sources dating 1000-1500 AD in the ancient Javanese language (kakawin), the singing style is ornamented (tembang gedhé). When the literary text dates from the middle period between1500 and 1800 AD and the language is in a transition phase, the singing style is called tembang tengahan. The texts in modern Javanese from around the year 1800 are sung with little ornamentation and are called tembang macapat or just macapat.

The appearance of tembang macapat was influenced by the oral tradition in which information was passed on by word of mouth, largely due to the fact that only a few people could read and write. Therefore, in order to convey words of religious or moral advice, or information about history, education, and so on, books were written in the form of tembang macapat, and performed on a variety of different occasions in the Javanese community. These books include Srikandhi Meguru Manah, Dewa Ruci, Centhini, Wulangreh, and Wedatama. Tembang macapat also spread to West Java and Bali, while in Central Java several different styles developed, including Surakarta style, Semarang style, and Banyumas style.

Based on the “Purwakanthi” chronicle by M. Ng. Mangunwijaya (1922), the “Titi Asri” chronicle by Supardal Hardosukarto (1925), and the “Pathokaning nyekar” chronicle by R. Harjowirogo (1925), it is stated that tembang macapat was first invented by religious leaders for the purpose of spreading the Islamic religion. For example, Tembang Durma was written by Sunan Bonang, Pocung by Sunan Muryapada, Mijil by Sunan Geseng, Kinanthi by Sunan Pajang, Dhandhanggula by Sunan Kalijogo, and so on.

Each of the eleven tembang macapat, that are widely known and also contained in the “Menak Rare” chronicle, has its own structural differences, including the number of syllables (guru wilajang) on each line, the vowels (guru lagu) used at the end of each line, and the number of gatra or lines in each tembang.

Some tembang macapat have a completely different character from each other while others are quite similar. The following is a list of the characters which are usually said to be found in each tembang macapat:

Dhandhanggula has an attractive, sympathetic, and very proper character, for which reason it is suitable for describing a variety of different feelings.
Sinom has a shrewd, romantic character and as such it is suitable for describing or portraying a person in love.
Kinanthi has a bright, happy, romantic character.
Asmaradana has a sad, anxious character.
Pangkur has a calm, powerful character.
Mijil has a sad, romantic character.
Pocung has a light-hearted character.
Durma has an angry, stern character.
Maskumambang has a sad, troubled character.
Megatruh/Duduk Wuluh has a sad, piteous character.
Gambuh has a familiar, tolerant character.

In the Javanese culture, each of these eleven tembang macapat exist in both sléndro and pélog tuning. The terms sléndro and pélog here imply the various opposites that exist in the universe, such as night and day, man and woman, happy and sad, dead and alive, and so on. Javanese people like to make connections between different events, thus the names of these tembang macapat are also related to different phases of the human life cycle, from birth to death. The order and a brief description of these human life events is as follows:

Mijil. The word mijil in Javanese means to come out or be born. After carrying a baby in the womb for 9 months and 10 days, a woman finally gives birth to a child. The birth of a baby is symbolized by tembang Mijil.

Maskumambang. A newborn baby is like a piece of clean, white paper, untainted by sin, and is also as valuable as gold. A baby is also said to be like an object floating (kumambang) on the surface of water which is blown in all directions by the wind. Therefore, it is important to bring up a child carefully to ensure that s/he will be valuable and useful for the rest of society. The existence of a baby aged around 10 months is symbolized by tembang Maskumambang.

Kinanthi. This word means accompanied by or led by the hand. When a child of around one year starts to learn to walk, the parents will hold the child’s hands carefully to make sure s/he does not fall. A child of this age is symbolized by tembang Kinanthi.

Sinom. When children grow-up they tend to be strong-willed and will go to all means to get what they want without taking into account right and wrong. This stage of life is symbolized by tembang Sinom.

Durma. Teenagers usually have no fear of anyone or anything, and are always filled with courage and conviction. This is like the character of a brave lion that never gives up. This age is symbolized by tembang Durma.

Asmaradana. This word means infatuated or in love. After finishing high school, or while at university, people are old enough to start experiencing the beauty of love and begin to become attracted by members of the opposite sex. This age of falling in love and dating is symbolized by tembang Asmaradana.

Gambuh. The word gambuh in Javanese means suitable or matching. While dating, young people weigh up each other’s characters, as well as find out about each other’s parents and families. If they feel they are well-suited in all these respects, and if they have finished studying and found a job, the next step is to get married.

Dhandhanggula. The word dhandhang means crow or raven, and gula means sugar. In this life, the peak of happiness is when people get married. To remember this happy day, people often celebrate their silver wedding anniversary after 25 years, and their golden wedding anniversary after 50 years. The peak of a person’s happiness or the occasion of a wedding is symbolized by tembang Dhandhanggula.

Pangkur. The second syllable of this word, kur, is short for the word mungkur, which means to leave behind all that is worldly oriented. When people are married with children, they wish for their family’s happiness. They leave behind their bad habits and extravagant way of life and instead do what is right for their family’s happiness. At this time of life, when people are described as being old, it is time for them to start thinking about the hereafter and doing good deeds before their life is over. This period of life is symbolized by tembang Pangkur.

Megatruh/Duduk Wuluh. Megat means apart or separate, and ruh means soul or spirit, so the meaning of megatruh is death. All of God’s creatures, including human beings, will eventually pass away. This time of death is symbolized by tembang Megatruh.

Pocung. The word pocung, or pocong, means a dead body wrapped in a shroud. A time after death.

In relation to the characters of tembang macapat outlined earlier, and the fact that Pocung has a lively, happy, joyful character, even though the word  is related to death, I have been asked to comment on this apparent incongruence.
In my opinion, people should spend their lives doing good or behaving honourably in accordance with God’s command, and not do anything that is shameful or forbidden by God. In this way, we will be rewarded justly and blessed for our good deeds. This in turn will bring happiness in this life and the next. And after we die, we will be rewarded for our actions on earth and be happier and more comfortable in the hereafter. Some people are afraid to die because they cannot comprehend the idea of life after death and because during their life on earth they have failed to gain God’s grace as they have performed many bad deeds and have not lived according to His command.

I have also been asked what differential character and meaning I feel in singing or listening to a macapat in slendro versus the same in pelog.
The difference in character between macapat in slendro and in pelog is of a general nature.
Slendro and pelog are like an inseparable couple, or husband and wife. Slendro is like a man and pelog is like a woman.
In all his actions and behaviour, a man is calm, assured, simple, and undemanding, while a woman, on the contrary, is fickle, likes to make herself beautiful, and is often demanding.  [Sic. Ed]
In connection with this, I should explain here that songs or tembang in slendro are usually of a very simple or unadorned nature, while songs in pelog are more varied and use more variations of cengkok, luk (melodic variations which move by step), wiled, and gregel (short melodic ornaments).  [It will be noted that Pak Darsono sings all macapat in slendro, while macapat in pelog are assigned to the pesindhen. Ed]

As a final comment, I should say that the texts used in this CD have no connection between one tembang and another, as numerous sources were chosen spontaneously for the texts in this recording. Priority is given to the melody rather than the text. The texts follow no particular order and there is no particular grouping of characters that are suitable for each tembang.


Translation of the Javanese texts into English was the responsibility of Rosella Balossino with the collaboration of Adi Deswijaya and Janet Purwanto.

1 – Mijil  slendro sanga

Lamun sira madeg Narapati
Yayi wekas ingong
Apan ana ing Prabu ugerré
Sastra cetha ulatana yayi
Omahna dèn pasthi
Wulang ing sastréku
When you’ll become a king
My brother asking me
Whether there is someone who can advise the king
Look for clear writings, my brother,
Keep in your heart
The teachings of my books.

2 – Mijil  pelog barang

Miwah lamun aprang ndhedhingini
Sru polah lok alok
Ing batiné angempèk kuwanèn
Iya dudu duwèké pribadi
Kang mangkana yayi
Prenahna dèn gupuh
And whenever you foresee a quarrel
Do shout loud and run
Within your heart will emerge a hint:
Although this may not belong to your character
It is the one that in such a case, young brother,
You shall use without hesitation.

3 – Maskumambang  slendro sanga miring

Ana uga étang etangané kaki
Lelima sinembah
Dunungé sawijiwiji
Sembah lelima punika
There are also the elucubrations of an old man
Greeted with a sembah by a group of five persons
About how many would be, counted one by one,
Those who greet him in the group of five.

4 – Maskumambang  pelog nem

Iku pantes sira tiruwa ta kaki
Miwah bapa biyung
Amuruk watekkan becik
Iku kaki èstokena
It is appropriate that you emulate your grandfather
And both your parents
They teach you the correct behaviour
Be in accordance with your elders.

5 – Kinanthi  slendro sanga

Dhuh Déwa dhuh Jawata gung
Tingalana solah mami
Sèwu lara sèwu brangta
Tan ana timbangé mami
Yèn ta ulun tan panggiha
Kalawan pangéran mami
Oh God, oh great Gods
Look at my condition
One thousand people in pain one thousand in love
There is no one comparable to me
When I don’t meet
My prince.

6 – Kinanthi  pelog barang

Narpati Rama lingnya rum
Konen sesuci reresik
Anjarag sedya sujana
Kusuma ari Mantili
Tetéla setya sumetya
Yekti sarat areresik
Oh King Rama with fragrant words
Do order to be bathed and washed
Yes, to intentionally become a shrewd human being
Noble brother Mantili
Clearly, to be faithfully loyal
Is the actual necessary condition to do the cleansing.

7 – Sinom Malatsih  slendro sanga

Sigra manjing jroning pura
Anoman ing pukul siji
Katanggel wetuning wulan
Anoman minggah ing wukir
Wukir sajroning puri
Samadyaning setusetu
Ngayuh Anoman minggah
Wengkoning praja kaèksi
Akè katon gedhong gedhong jroning pura
At once enters the palace
Anuman at one o’clock
At the rising of the moon
Anuman climbs the mountain
Mountain inside the palace walls
In the centre of the terraces
Anuman reaches higher
Looks at the palace area
Many stone buildings are visible.

8 – Sinom  pelog nem

Nulada laku utama
Tumrapé wong tanah Jawi
Wong Agung ing Ngèksiganda
Panembahan Sénapati
Kapati amarsudi
Sudaning hawa lan nebsu
Pinesu tapa brata
Tanapi ing siyang ratri
Amemangun karyènak tyasing sasama
An example of good behaviour
For the people of Java
Is the great man of Ngesiganda (Mataram)
The venerable Senopati
To intensely attain
The diminishing of passions
By pursuing it through meditation
Day and night
Creating the conditions of one’s own well-being.

9 – Durma Ransang  slendro sanga

Wus sinamber sang putri Mantilidirja
Ring sang kaga Narpati
Janthayu gya mesat
Ndedel ngayuh gegana
Ginéndhong sang rajaputri
Munggèng ngawiyat
Dasamuka sira glis
Princess Mantilidirja was seized
By the Bird King
Janthayu immediately takes off
Rising high to the great sky
Carrying on his back the daughter of the king
Promptly aims to the sky

10 – Durma  pelog barang

Mituturi Sang putri Mantilidirja
Yèn Ramabadra mangkin
Myarsa jrih dosanya
Dènira numpes ditya
Ing balané Sri Bupati
Mila tan nedya
Ngupaya garwaneki
Princess Mantilidirja tells that
Rambadra now
Is afraid that his sin be known,
Having exterminated the giants
The army of the King,
Because then they will not
Search for his wife.

11 – Asmaradana  slendro sanga

Paduka manjinga puri
Prakawis praptaning mengsah
Wanara ampuh yudané
Kathah bupati kang pejah
Tumpes sawadyanira
Prajangga Pragangsa lampus
Mintrakna lan Wirupaksa
Your excellency should enter the palace
Because of the arrival of the enemies
The monkeys have supernatural powers in battle
There are many kings who died
Exterminated with their soldiers
Prajangga Pragangsa died
As well as Mintrakna and Wirupaksa.

12 – Asmaradana  pelog barang

Ujar waluyaning dadi
Raharja ajur kéwala
Kalulun kèlu alané
Kang sami amrih raharja
Tetepé sinéwaka
Kawangsul kang amrih hayu
Kolu kang amrih dursila
It is told that the well-being of a prosperous existence
May be badly damaged simply
By being carried along by wrongdoing.
Everybody hopes, in order to be happy and safe,
To get a steady service at the court.
The one who wants to be safe will refuse it
The one who likes it is willing to do wrong.

13 – Gambuh  slendro manyura

Déné katelu iku
Si kidang suka ing patinipun
Pan si gajah aléna patinirèki
Si ula ing patinipun
Ngandelken upasé mandos
In that third period (of the calendar)
The happy roe-deer died
Then the elephant not caring of danger died
And the snake found its death
Because it relied on its potent poison.

14 – Gambuh  pelog nem

Sekar Gambuh ping catur
Kang cinatur polah kang kalantur
Tanpa tutur katula tula katali
Kadalu warsa katutuh
Kapatuh pan dadi awon
The fourth is Sekar Gambuh
Telling about bad behaviour
Without guidance will make one’s world tangled-up
If you learn too late you’ll be disdained
Getting habits that produce bad results.

15 – Dhandhanggula  slendro sanga

Pamedharé wasitaning ati
Cumanthaka aniru pujangga
Dahat mudha ing batiné
Nangingkedah ginunggung
Datan wruh yèn akèh ngèsemi
Ameksa angrumpaka
Basa kang kalantur
Tutur kang katulatula
Tinalatèn rinuruh kalawan ririh
Mrih padhang ing sasmita
Pronouncing words of wisdom
I (the author) dare to pretend to be a poet.
My inner self is young
But I wish to reveal my thoughts.
I don’t know if many people will deride (my work)
I forced myself to write a poem
In copious language
My words tell of difficulties
Patiently and carefully proceeding
To reveal clearly my inner message.

16 – Dhandhanggula  pelog nem

Pakolihé kaduwe sang Aji
Ambumboni karahayoningrat
Lawan ta yayi malihé
Ambecikana lurung
Myangmarga ring jaban kithèki
Rèhen pedhakna toya
Sumber sendhang sètu
Pancur pancuran telaga
Urut marga wehana balé sayekti
Wèh santosèng lumampah
Things to be achieved by a king:
To create well-being in the world
That is, my brother, you shall
Repair the narrow streets
And the roads outside this town
Plan them close to water
Like wells, springs, dams,
Fountains, ponds.
Erect with much care a house along the road
That give cantonment to those who walk by.

17 – Pangkur  slendro sanga

Suka Sri Ramawijaya
Mulat sagung wré prawira wus prapti
Lir gora gambira catur
Yayah basmèng Ngalengka
Dékangbala wanara samya gulagul
Samoha maha saktiman
Gumregut anggegirissi
Rama the Victorious is exultant
Seeing the courageous monkeys already there
Producing a frightfully gay chatter
As when Ngalenka was burned.
The troops of the monkeys are horrifying
All have strong magical powers
Forceful and frightening.

18 – Pangkur Kasmaran  pelog nem

Ature Prabu Sugriwa
Luhira dres Ragutama Narpati
Sang harya Wibisana nglud
Myangtaruna Leksmana
Ngingseg ingseg sadaya wré kang andulu
Wré tan bisa anangisi
Kabèh tinon kadi tulis
King Sugriwa reports that
King Ragutama’s tears flow
While the noble Wibisana pursues
Young Laksmana.
All the monkeys, seeing that, cry uncontrollably
But monkeys cannot cry
They all look petrified.

19 – Dudukwuluh  slendro sanga

Nora kena sinelak selak pineluk
Mringkang ngadhangadhang sisip
Yèn loro anggep irèku
Temah kèthèr maring ngening
Adoh kaelettan adoh
Do not permit hastily to be embraced
By one who waits for his mistakes to be forgotten
If those two think that I
Will neglect to make clear
Things that are remote in the past.

20 – Megatruh  pelog barang

Sira Prabu Gunawan manembah nuhun
Wong Agung ngandika malih
Yayi yèn ingsun tan ayun
Kang sawenèh ana angling
Mbesuk ing palastraning ngong
King Gunawan, I am grateful to your Highness
For I speak once again to the great man.
My brother, what I do not desire
Is that there be someone who speaks
In the future at the time of my death.

21 – Pucung  slendro sanga

Ngelmu iku kalakoné kanthi laku
Lekasse lawan kas
Tegesé kas nyantosani
Setya budya pangekesé dur angkara
That knowledge which is obtained through experience
Starts with a steady will
To seriously strengthen
A loyal character that overcomes passions and greed.

22 – Pucung  pelog barang

Abot ènthèng wong duwé sanak sadulur
Enthèngé yen pisah
Pikiré tan dadi siji
Abotipun yèn sabiyantu ing karsa
A man has heavy and light relatives
They are easy when on their own
But this is not the only point of view
They become difficult when one needs their help.

23 – Wirangrong  pelog nem

Dèn samya marsudeng budi
Weweka dipun waspaos
Aja dumèh dumèh bisa muwus
Yèn tan pantes ugi
Sanadyan mung sakecap
Yèn tan pantes prenahira
Concentrate your efforts to train your mind
Be always on guard and alert
Do not speak, just because you can,
If it is not also appropriate
Not even a single word
When the place is not suitable.


A NOTE by Sukamso

The programme for this recording contains vocal music (macapat), genderan (solo music for gender), and sulingan (solo music for suling, the Javanese bamboo flute). The pieces for gender which I play in this recording use various techniques, such as grambyangan, pathetan, ada-ada, gender introduction (buka), and melody (lagu), each having different characteristics. John Noise Manis conceived the inclusion of the instrumental pieces among the vocal music as a ‘comment’ and a reflection of the mood of the preceding macapat. This makes the result not monotonous and should provide the listener with an interesting musical challenge.

Note on Track 38 – Genderan duo on Ladrang Pangkur

The performance on this track of the gender part for Ladrang Pangkur pélog barang may be divided in three sections. I play the first section (0:00 to 2:43), beginning in irama wiled ciblon, then in the second gatra of the first kenong, the irama changes to rangkep. The variations in the gender part, known as wiledan, are of an individual nature, and vary from one player to another. In the world of karawitan, differences in wiledan, and sometimes even cengkok, are not a problem. In this performance, the wiledan performed by me are the result of an accumulation of my own experience and creativity as a gender specialist.
The second section (from 2:43) of the gender part for Ladrang Pangkur pélog barang begins in irama wiled ciblon, and is performed by Ibu Kris Sukardi, the best female gender player at this time. The wiledan played by Ibu Kris are shaped by her vast experience as a gender player who often accompanies shadow puppet theatre (wayang kulit). Some of her cengkok and wiledan are different from those of other (female) gender players. She tends to play with fast rhythms and her wiledan are full of ornaments which makes her gender playing bright and melodious.
On the approach to the gong at the end of the first gong cycle, the irama changes to rangkep. After the (virtual) gong (at 4:31), the second gender player, myself, joins in, playing in laras sléndro, while Ibu Kris continues to play in laras pélog. This combination of the sléndro and pélog tuning with different wiledan creates, in my opinion, an intense, powerful, and highly attractive performance.


A NOTE by Supardi

For the suling pieces that I play in this recording, I freely chose the cengkok (musical patterns), trying to match with the preceding male or female vocal part. There are a few cengkok which are directly influenced by the macapat melody. This connection is especially clear in track 6; the suling ending in track 14 copies the preceding vocal melody.



Track 01 – 1:09 –  macapat Mijil slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 02 – 0:29 – sulingan on Mijil slendro  –  Supardi
Track 03 – 1:22 – macapat Mijil pelog barang  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 04 – 0:54 – macapat Maskumambang slendro sanga miring  –  Darsono
Track 05 – 1:01 – macapat Maskumambang pelog nem  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 06 – 0:38 – sulingan on Maskumambang pelog  –  Supardi
Track 07 – 1:01 – macapat Kinanthi slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 08 – 1:08 – macapat Kinanthi pelog barang  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 09 – 2:24 – genderan grimingan pelog  –  Sukamso
Track 10 – 1:36 – macapat Sinom Malatsih slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 11 – 2:21 – genderan Sendhon Abi Many slendro sanga  –  Sukamso
Track 12 – 1:50 – macapat Sinom pelog nem  –  Yayuk Sri Rahayu
Track 13 – 1:13 – macapat Durma Ransang slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 14 – 0:50 – sulingan on Durma Ransang slendro  –  Supardi
Track 15 – 1:22 – macapat Durma pelog barang  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 16 – 1:04 – macapat Asmaradana slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 17 – 1:29 – genderan Emplek-Emplek Ketepu slendro sanga  –  Sukamso
Track 18 – 1:23 – macapat Asmaradana pelog barang  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 19 – 0:45 – sulingan on Asmaradana pelog  –  Supardi
Track 20 – 1:00 – macapat Gambuh slendro manyura  –  Darsono
Track 21 – 1:17 – macapat Gambuh pelog nem  –  Yayuk Sri Rahayu
Track 22 – 1:36 – genderan Ada-Ada pelog nem  –  Sukamso
Track 23 – 1:57 – macapat Dhandhanggula slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 24 – 1:46 – genderan pathetan slendro sanga  –  Sukamso
Track 25 – 1:55 – macapat Dhandhanggula pelog nem  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 26 – 1:24 – macapat Pangkur slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 27 – 1:44 – genderan Buka Gadhung Mlati slendro sanga  –  Sukamso
Track 28 – 1:28 – macapat Pangkur Kasmaran pelog nem  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 29 – 0:38 – sulingan on Pangkur Kasmaran pelog  –  Supardi
Track 30 – 1:02 – macapat Dudukwuluh slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 31 – 1:08 – macapat Megatruh pelog barang  –  Yayuk Sri Rahayu
Track 32 – 0:21 – sulingan on Megatruh pelog  –  Supardi
Track 33 – 0:37 – macapat Pucung slendro sanga  –  Darsono
Track 34 – 0:57 – macapat Pucung pelog barang  –  Sri Suparsih
Track 35 – 0:47 – sulingan on Pucung pelog  –  Supardi
Track 36 – 3:24 – genderan Jineman pelog nem  –  Sukamso
Track 37 – 1:27 – tembang tengahan Wirangrong pelog nem  –  Darsono
Track 38 – 6:51 – genderan duo on ldr. Pangkur  –  Sukamso (pelog), Ibu Pringgo (pelog), Ibu Pringgo/Sukamso (pelog/slendro)

Total Time  55:20
Note: some ‘paper noise’ may be heard on Tracks 4 and 7



Vocal: Darsono (Tracks 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 20, 23, 26, 30, 33, 37)
Sri Suparsih (Tracks 3, 5, 8, 15, 18, 25, 28, 34)
Yayuk Sri Rahayu (Tracks 12, 21, 31)

Gender: Sukamso (Tracks 9, 11, 17, 22, 24, 27, 36, 38)
Ibu Pringgo Hadiwiyono [Ibu Kris Sukardi]  (Track 38)

Suling: Supardi (Tracks 2, 6, 14, 19, 29, 32, 35)

Recording of macapat – ISI Surakarta, 23 September, 2008
Recording of gender and suling – ISI Surakarta, 3 July, 2010
Musical Design, Recording, Mastering, and Photos – John Noise Manis


YANTRA – Production and Digital Release