Collections of themed recordings curated by John Noise Manis

Gamelan of Central Java – 25  KOMBANG MARA


Track 1 – 18:03 – Gendhing Kombang Mara

pelog lima
Nyi Cendaniraras – pesindhen

Track 2 – 23:00 – Gendhing Kombang Mara,  rev. Suraji

pelog lima
Nyi Sri Suparsih, Nyi Cendaniraras – pesindhen

Musicians of  ISI Surakarta  – Joko Purwanto music coordinator
Recordings made on May 6-7, 2004 at ISI Surakarta
Mixdown, mastering, and photos:  John Noise Manis


by Sumarsam

This presentation of Kombang Mara is quite interesting.  In reconstructing the process of composing Kombang Mara, I find a complex mind of the composer in creating this piece. The merong part, the first section of the piece, is composed based on the process of contracting or expanding phrases of a song of the puppeteer (dhalang), the sulukan Pelog Lima Wantah. The contraction and expansion were necessary so that the uneven line of the song could be fitted into the symmetrical 64-beats gongan cyclic structure subdivided in quarters by the kenong strokes.  In essence, Kombang Mara is the result of recompositioning of a song of the dhalang whose melodies should be made to fit the symmetrical structure of the gamelan piece.  This is one of the best examples of the embodiment of vocal idiom in gamelan pieces.

Kombang Mara in this album also shows an intimate relationship between vocal music and this piece, but it is presented in an explicit and experimental way.  The piece is literally made to connect with Mas Kumambang, Kinanthi, Asmaradana, and Mijil. These are unaccompanied songs from the the song genre macapat.  I said literally because these songs are sung in a variety of ways on top of the pieces itself.  At times, two songs are sung together with a slight delay from one another.  This is done by selecting certain phrases to be juxtaposed with particular phrases of the piece.  In the transitional phrases to and the beginning of inggah (the second section of the piece), the singing stops; some elaborating instruments, sometimes rebab alternating with celempung, sometimes bonang, are featured.  This happens only in the first gongan section. The singing joins again in the second gongan section in the style described above.

It would be useful to hear the musicians’ comments on the process of creating this experiment and its result, as well as the motivation of the producer for this interesting project. To me the experiment demonstrates the intimate relationship between vocal idiom and gamelan pieces, such as Kombang Mara.