Collections of themed recordings curated by John Noise Manis

Gamelan of Central Java – XII. PANGKUR ONE


Commentary by Sumarsam

Born in East Java, Bapak Sumarsam received formal gamelan education and grew up as musician in Surakarta (Central Java). He is Adjunct Professor and former Chair of the Music Department at Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn) and an internationally renowned gamelan musician. He conducts workshops and concerts throughout the world. He has written “Gamelan – Cultural Interaction and Musical Development in Central Java”, University of Chicago Press, 1995.


Composing gendhing (gamelan composition) is a complex and heterogeneous process, involving multiple systems and consideration of musical idioms of different parts of the ensemble. The complexity is compounded by the different ways a composition is made according to its genre: gendhing bonang, gendhing rebab, gendhing sekar, and so on. Regardless of their genres, these compositions have one aspect in common: the embodiment of the vocal element in them. This concept is most clearly revealed in a group of works that are composed on the basis of sung-poetry of a vocal genre called måcåpat. A composition of this type is made through a process of restructuring pre-existing melodies of sung-poetry.

The producer’s presentation in the inlay card of this CD well remarks the extraordinary  position that PANGKUR has in the Javanese classical repertoire. Indeed PANGKUR is one of the rare pieces whose treatments can be remarkably fluids, varied, unpredictable, and very interesting. It is one of the characteristics of gamelan that a single piece can be rendered in many different ways, evoking different moods. In this regard, PANGKUR is one of the pieces (if not the piece) that most embodies that special quality. Different moods are evoked not only in various versions of one PANGKUR, but even each section with different irama within a single PANGKUR can bring about contrasting moods.Moreover, the creative process of composing PANGKUR as a gamelan piece from a sung-poem PANGKUR is very intricate. I use PANGKUR as a prime example of my analysis of macapat-based gamelan works in the last chapter of my book entitled Gamelan: Cultural Interaction and Musical Develoment (Sumarsam 1995).

There are four versions of ladrang PANGKUR in this CD, whose differences lay on the tuning system, pathet (mode) and garap (treatments). The musicians are members of faculty at the Institute of the Arts (Institut Seni Indonesia, ISI) in Surakarta, except on Track 2, where the players are a professional gamelan group in the city of Yogyakarta, often performing in the pendhapa of the late Pak Cokrowasito, an empu (outstanding master) musician and composer, internationally known in the field of gamelan (he was a teacher at California Institute of the Arts, among other things).

Ladrang PANGKUR consists of two sections, the first section (A) performed in irama tanggung and dadi, and the second section (B) in irama wilet and rangkep. (Irama is a musical practice involving both the change of tempo of the piece and the change in density level of elaborating instruments. From tanggung to rangkep the music moves from fast to slow tempo and from low to high density.)
During the B section, commonly musicians add another section to the piece called ngelik. This is a section whose melody starts in the high register (hence the term ngelik). Approaching the end of ngelik, the melody returns back to the last section of B. I should mention that, in order to help listeners to identify the sections, the commentary of each track includes the indication of the time reference where a section starts and ends.


Track 1: Ladrang PANGKUR slendro manyura

The piece is performed in sléndro manyurå on a complete ensemble, in a typical garap that involves the application of different iråmå, andhegan, and senggakan (see below). Introduced by bonang, section A begins in irama tanggung. The drum begins with a simple rhythmic configuration (0:00-0:50), proceeding to lead the ensemble to a lively garap with an animated drumming style called ciblon; the gérong (male singers) sing senggakan (0:50-6:50). At a certain point after the gong, the drum brings the ensemble to a complete stop; a brief interlude by the pesindhèn singer leads the ensemble to resume. This practice is called andhegan, and it happens a couple of times.
A mention should be made about rujak-rujakan sung by the pesindhen. This is a playful song in which the singer uses a rhyme (also poetic riddle) with rujak (spicy salad) as a theme (see the PANGKUR TWO cd for an example of rujak-rujakan text). The purpose of this garap is to intensify the lively mood as section A is performed in iråmå tanggung or dadi.

The drummer then leads the ensemble to section B. This section is performed once in irama wilet, followed by the ngelik section before the piece approaches the gong (6:50-8:46). Approaching the kenong, the drummer leads the ensemble to irama rangkep. The drummer leads the ensemble in a series of andhegan (8:46-11:47). Proceeding to section B after the ngelik, the irama is still in rangkep (11:47-16:28). A series of andhegan are applied at the beginning of each kenongan. In the andhegan, a male singer sings  interludes, instead of the female singer (this is a rather unusual practice). The drummer is switching irama a couple of times, and finally settles back in irama wilet.

Still in section B, the drummer changes to irama rangkep again, but after the gong the piece detours to a form called PANGKUR PALARAN (19:02). This form features a solo pesindhèn singing a version of måcåpat PANGKUR, accompanied only by a few soft-sounding instruments, with kenong, kempul, and gong providing a form of srepegan (a piece for dance drama). The palaran style ends on the third kenongan (22:03) where the original ladrang PANGKUR resumes. This palaran accounts for a long duration of PANGKUR in this track. In the next B section (starting at 22:41) the drummer brings the piece to its end by speeding up with a simple rhythmic configuration on the large drum.


Track 2: Ladrang PANGKUR slendro manyura (Yogya performance)

As with Track 1, the piece is performed in sléndro manyurå on a complete ensemble, but without rebab. This is rather unusual, although it does not violate the spirit of PANGKUR as a macapat-based piece. The gendèr introduces the piece. Like Track 1, section A (0:00-4:06) begins in iråmå tanggung, but without andhegan and senggakan. What is distinctive in this track is that the drummer brings the ensemble to iråmå wilet using a rhythmically-simple drumming style of kendhang kalih (the same drumming style as at the beginning of the piece) (4:06-5:57). He switches to ciblon drumming when the piece approaches the kempul (5:57) before the gong. Like Track 1, ngelik and section B thereafter (6:11-13.16) are performed in irama rangkep with a series of andhegan and senggakan. The piece ends in irama wilet in section B.


Track 3: Ladrang PANGKUR slendro sanga

The piece is performed in sléndro sångå on a complete ensemble, minus peking. Bonang introduces the piece. Section A (000-3:46)  in irama tanggung and dadi, with a series of andhegan but no senggakan; the pesindhèn sings a theme of rujak-rujakan throughout irama tanggung and andhegan. After one gongan of iråmå dadi, the drum brings the piece to section B and ngelik in iråmå wilet and rangkep (3:46-5:40). Like Tracks 1 and 2, the ngelik section in iråmå rangkep is to follow (5:40-9:21). The piece returns to section B in the same iråmå only one kenongan before resuming to iråmå wilet (10:06) where the piece ends.


Track 4: Ladrang PANGKUR pelog barang

Section A (0:00-4:35) is performed similarly to the garap in iråmå tanggung and dadi in Tracks 1, 2, and 3. However, a newly composed vocal part sung by a mixed chorus is added to the garap of these two iråmå. I have no information about who composed this new vocal part; it is another way of expressing the playfulness of this section, instead of using the rujak-rujakan theme. The garap of section B (4:35-11:56) includes andhegan in ngelik, especially in iråmå rangkep, but section B thereafter resumes to iråmå wilet. The piece returns back to iråmå tanggung (11:56-14:40) in an animated kébar style, with the singers singing the new vocal part, as at the beginning of the piece. The piece ends in iråmå tanggung, with a postlude (pathetan) played by rebab, gender, gambang, and suling.



Here is the text and translation of the macapat sung in this CD. The translation into English was the responsibility of Rosella Balossino, with the help of Adi Deswijaya and counsel from Bapak Hardja Susilo.

Sekar Pangkur kang winarna
Lelabuhan kang kanggo ingaurip
Ala lan becik puniku
Prayoga kawruhana
Adat waton puniku dipun kadulu
Miwah ta ing tata krama
Dèn kaèsthi siyang ratri.
The song called Pangkur
Tells the important things in life
Both the bad and the good ones.
Do keep in mind
That customs and manners must be observed
As well as etiquette
To be nurtured day and night.
Duduga lawan prayoga
Myang watara riringa aywa lali
Iku parabot satuhu
Tan kena tininggala
Tangi lungguh angadeg tuwin lumaku
Angucap meneng myang néndra
Duga-duga aywa kari.
Sound judgement
And common sense you should not forget.
These essential things
Cannot be neglected:
To wake-up, sit-down, stand-up, and walk
To speak, be silent, and sleep.
(But) do not forget your sound judgement.
Miwah ta sabarang karya
Ing prakara gedhé kalawan cilik
Papat iku datan kantun
Kanggo sadina-dina
Rina wengi nèng Praja miwah ing dhusun
Kabèh kang padha ambegan
Papat iku aja kari.
In all kinds of activities
On matters big or small
Those four (?) things cannot be neglected
In everyday life
Day and night, in towns and villages
All those who are breathing
Should not forget those four (?) points.
Kalamun ana manungsa
Tan anganggo ing duga lan prayogi
Iku wateké tan patut
Awor lawan wong kathah
Wong deksura daludur tan wruh ing ngedur
Aja sira pedhak-pedhak
Ora wurung niniwasi.
When there is a man
Who does not use good judgement
That disposition of his is not appropriate
Mingling with many people
A man haughty and rude does not know good manners
Do not associate with him
Or misfortune will be inevitable.
Mingkar mingkuring angkara (ukara)
Akarana karenan mardi siwi
Sinawung resmining kidung
Sinuba sinukarta
Mrih k(r)etarta pakartining ngelmu luhung
Kang tumrap neng tanah Jawa
Agama ageming aji.
We set aside the needs of the self
For the pleasure of educating children
Through good songs
Worded beautifully and with care
So that children will learn the high knowledge
Prevailing on the island of Java
According to the religion of the Kings.
Jinejer neng Wedatama
Mrih tan kemba kembenganing pambudi
Mangka nadyan tuwa pikun
Yen tan mikani rasa
Yekti sepi asepa lir sepah samun
Samangsane pasamuan (pakumpulan)
Gonyak ganyuk nglelingsemi
It is taught in (the book of) Wedatama
To maintain the clarity of the mind.
Even old people
If not aware of rasa
They will be insipid as a chewed morsel
And when in social gatherings
Their behaviour and words will be embarassing.
Nggugu karsane priyanga
Nora nganggo peparah(n) lamun angling
Lumuh ingaran balilu
Uger guru aleman
Nanging janma ingkang wus waspadeng semu
Sinamun ing (sinamuning) samudana
Sesadon ingadu (sesadoning adu) manis.
The one who follows only his own desires
Speaks without knowing where he is
Does not want to be called stupid
And always loves to be praised and honoured.
While the one who is alert to subtleties
And hides behind a friendly smile
Is considered nicely by everybody.
Si pengung nora nglegewa
Sangsayarda denira cacariwis
Ngandhar-andhar angendhukur
Kandhane nora kaprah
Saya elok alongka-longkanganipun
Si wasis waskitha ngalah
Ngalingi marang si penging.
Mr Stupid does not realize
That his mumblings get worse and worse
He digresses chaotically
What he says is trite
He is increasingly strange and far from reality.
Mr Smart is willing to give in
Only to cover up the stupidity of Mr Dumb.



Text for Track 4


We lha kae papane pendhapane gedhe
Sirap payone kencar-kencar muncar pandome
Dhasar padhang bulan akeh rowange
Nyawiji lair terus batine.
Oh, the court and the great pendopo.
The wooden tiled roof shines brightly
Like the full moon. Many companions
Are united inwardly and outwardly.
Irama dados  
Gandheng renteng runtung reruntungan
Tansah ngawe-awe mring para kanca rowange
Yo ayo bareng mara kana wus siyaga
Karawitan sarta panganggone
Nglelatih ambeksa mumpung wulan purnama
Akekencar kencar-kencar aneng latar
Keplok surak solahe anut keprak
Sinenggakan pranyata amemet prana
All arm-in-arm in a row together
They keep waving to their friends.
Come-on all together! Already prepared
There is gamelan and costumes
To rehearse a dance as long as the full moon
Shines bright on the yard.
They clap and cheer to the rhythm of the keprak
Joyfully yell joined in a shared emotion.
Irama dados (cakepan Salisir)  
Parabe sang Smarabangun
Sepad domba kali oya
Aja dolan lan wong priya
Geng remeh nora prasaja.
The nickname of Smarabangun
The great fish of the Oya river
Do not play with a man
Whose honesty is questionable.


Track 1 – Ladrang PANGKUR  slendro manyura, pesindhen Yayuk Sri Rahayu, ensemble and gerong ISI, gamelan Kyai Gedhong Gedhe – 25:03

Track 2 – Ladrang PANGKUR  slendro manyura, Pak Cokro’s pendopo in Yogyakarta, pesindhen Mugini, ensemble Karawitan Raras Raos Irama, gamelan Kyai Sekar Tunjung – 15:27

Track 3 – Ladrang PANGKUR  slendro sanga, Cendani’s pendopo in Solo, pesindhen Cendaniraras, ensemble ISI, gamelan Kyai Sekar Delima – 11:54

Track 4 – Ladrang PANGKUR  pelog barang, pesindhen Yayuk Sri Rahayu, ensemble and gerong ISI, gamelan Kyai Gedhong Gedhe – 15:48


Gerong ISI Surakarta: Darsono, Rustopo, Waridi

Ensemble ISI Surakarta:  Al Suwardi, Darno, Joko Purwanto, Mujiono, Nurwanto, Nyoman Sukerna, Prasadiyanto, Sigih, Slamet Riyadi, Sriharta, Sri Joko Raharjo, Sukamso, Supardi, Suraji, Suyadi, Wakijo


Tracks 1 and 4 recorded at ISI Surakarta Studio September 22, 2008

Track 2 recorded in Yogyakarta (Pak Cokro’s pendopo) September 28, 2008

Track 3 recorded in Solo October 6, 2008


Musical design, mastering, and photos: John Noise Manis


Yantra Productions