Angklung; a Music Instrument

9 September 2016

The Music Instrument of ‘Angklung’ In general, traditional performing arts have three main genres. First are the music or songs or melodies and its musical instruments. Second is dancing or a variety of body movements or gestures and the third is theatre; a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place and the performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance.

In this context, I choose the first genre that is music particularly one of a unique musical instrument called ‘Angklung. ’ In some ways, angklung has been used as a source of arts explorations by a number of contemporary performing arts practitioners in Southeast Asian regions such as Indonesia and even Malaysia. Today, angklung is renowned across the globe for its features and regarded as one of the classical or traditional music instrument both in Indonesia and Malaysia. It has been performed in many occasions until this present. The angklung is a musical instrument made of two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame.

The tubes are carved to have a resonant pitch when struck and are tuned to octaves. The base of the frame is held in one hand, whilst the other hand strikes the instrument. This causes a repeating note to sound. Each of three or more performers in an angklung ensemble play just one note or more, but altogether complete melodies are produced. The angklung originated in today’s Indonesia and has been played by the Sundanese for many centuries. The word “angklung” was originated from Sundanese “angkleung-angkleungan”, that means the movement of angklung player and the sound “klung” that comes from the instrument.

Another theory suggested that the word “angklung” was formed from two Balinese words – angka and lung. Angka means “tone”, and lung means “broken” or “lost”. Angklung, thus means an “incomplete tone. ” According to Dr. Groneman, angklung had already been a favourite musical instrument of the entire archipelago even before the Hindu era. According to Jaap Kunst in Music in Java, besides West Java, angklung also exists in South Sumatra and Kalimantan. Lampung, East Java and Central Java are also familiar with the instrument.

In the Hindu period and the time of the Kingdom of Sunda (located in western Java from 669 to around 1579), the angklung played an important role in ceremonies such as ngaseuk pare, nginebkeun pare, ngampihkeun pare, seren taun, heleran, etc. These ceremonies were inherent to Sundanese communities; in courtly and everyday living. The angklung was played to honor Dewi Sri, the goddess of fertility, so she would bless their land and lives. The angklung also signalled the time for prayers, and was said to have been played since the 7th century in Kingdom of Sunda.

In the Kingdom of Sunda, it provided martial music during the Battle of Bubat, as told in the Kidung Sunda. The angklung functioned to build community spirit and because of this, the playing of the angklung was forbid during the Dutch occupation of Indonesia. Since then, the popularity of the instrument decreased and it came to be played only by children. The oldest surviving angklung is 400 years old Angklung Gubrag. It was made in the 17th century in Jasinga, Bogor. Other antique angklung are stored in the Sri Baduga Museum, Bandung.

The oldest angklung tradition is called “Angklung Buhun” (Sundanese: “Ancient Angklung”) from Lebak Regency, Banten. Angklung buhun is an ancient type of angklung played by Baduy people of inland Banten province during Seren Taun harvest ceremony. Strains sound of angklung in Malaysia began to be heard since the arrival of Reog Ponorogo society, where the accompanying gamelan set is comprised of 2 angklung, drums, a saron, trumpet, kempul and gong. They are immigrants who were brought to Malaya in the 1930s and worked at rubber or oil palm fields.

Apart from that there are also among those who later came by their own or perhaps earlier, had come to open new grounds. So for the purposes of irrigation, they also made in Bahasa Malaysia or known as the Parit. More and more new Parit were opened to irrigate their fields. As a tribute to the leaders or elders in a particular group, the immigrants agreed to name the occupied settlements by taking their names preserved as Parit Kromo, Parit Wongso, Parit Bingan, Parit Warijo or the name of their home areas such as Parit Semarang, Parit Kudus and Kampung Jawa.

Reog society is an association for immigrants’ Javanese origin of Ponorogo to show talents in the arts. At first only as a means for the purposes of gathering or celebration performances for Javanese, but then the Indonesian community residing in Malaysia such as Bugis, Banjar, Bawean even the Malays themselves are also interested in watching or inviting to this talent show. In Malaysia, the show is more commonly known as Barongan performances.

From the sound of the angklung, the art is becoming known by Malaysian society, because this tool is one of the musical accompaniments for the show of Reog and Kuda braid. On another occasion a show on horse shows also often invited to enliven the occasion. This happens because at the horse shows drunk is part of the long-awaited by the audience, where the players are not aware of horse shows to showcase its action as, eating glass, peeling coconut fibres using the gear, climbing trees and so forth.

In 1938, Daeng Soetigna, from Bandung, created an angklung that is based on the diatonic scale instead of the traditional pelog or slendro scales. Since then, the angklung has returned to popularity and is used for education and entertainment, and may even accompany western instruments in an orchestra. One of the first performances of angklung in an orchestra was in 1955 during the Bandung Conference. In 1966 Udjo Ngalagena, a student of Daeng Soetigna, opened his “Saung Angklung” (House of Angklung) as a centre for its preservation and development.

UNESCO designated the angklung a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on November 18, 2010. Since then, angklung has evolved to meet the modern apparel. One new invention is called ‘Interactive Angklung. ’ It is an activity where a conductor invited a lot of people, mostly laymen, to play angklung abuzz (ensemble). This activity can be done in the event tourism or hospitality purposes. It will be distributed to the participants and all angklung is already number in the tune.

Then, the conductor will lead, usually by means of the conductor opened the big screen in a note that read track number, then invited the participants play the angklung the right to appoint the tone on the screen, or the conductor teach hand signals for certain tones in the audience, and then lead a song by giving the right cues in order to follow the participants. One particular example of such activity is during the Festival Indonesia with the theme “Celebrating Multiculturalism” where people who participated in this world record attempt were not only Indonesians but also Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai etc.

In a way, Indonesians must to be proud because foreigners got to know at least a part of their culture and heritage. Angklung has united them in harmony, peace and togetherness. It was a new world record qualified for the Guinness Book of World Records; the largest angklung orchestra performance and verified of 5185 participants in Washington Monument, July 9th, 2011. The practice song called “Home on the Range” and the actual record-breaking song was “We Are the World” which required them to play for at least 5 minutes was magnificence. There was a backing of rock bands and professional singers as well.

All these were conducted and directed by an angklung maestro, Tuan Daeng Udjo from Bandung, Indonesia. Today, contemporary performing arts practitioners use angklung as art explorations in their performances. One of the art explorations made by these artists is a fusion of modern music by solo performance with a unit of angklung where the angklung minor melody, consisting of 31 angklung and angklung major melody, also called bass-party, consisting of 11 angklung played with modern musical instruments such as keyboards, drums and guitars.

Plus, the song played that fuses with angklung melodies is in fact a modern or western song. A Malaysian performer named Toi (Akademi Fantasia 6, 2008) or now ‘Toy Angklung’ played a song calls ‘Umbrella’ (a song by Rihanna) using these unit of angklung for Anugerah Era in the year 2007. This fusion between traditional and modern music instruments gives a new perspective in the music industry; to display how traditional music instrument such as angklung can be conserved and elevated its values to the audiences of different ethnicity.

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