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                        The song called Pangkur

Lelabuhan kang kanggo ingaurip                  Tells the important things in life

Ala lan becik puniku                                      Both the bad and the good ones.

Prayoga kawruhana                                      Do keep in mind

Adat waton puniku dipun kadulu                   That customs and manners must be observed

Miwah ta ing tata krama                               As well as etiquette

Dèn kaèsthi siyang ratri.                                To be nurtured day and night.



Duduga lawan prayoga                                 Sound judgement

Myang watara riringa aywa lali                    And common sense you should not forget.

Iku parabot satuhu                                         These essential things

Tan kena tininggala                                       Cannot be neglected:

Tangi lungguh angadeg tuwin lumaku          To wake-up, sit-down, stand-up, and walk

Angucap meneng myang néndra                   To speak, be silent, and sleep.

Duga-duga aywa kari.                                   (But) do not forget your sound judgement.



Miwah ta sabarang karya                              In all kinds of activities

Ing prakara gedhé kalawan cilik                   On matters big or small

Papat iku datan kantun                                 Those four (?) things cannot be neglected

Kanggo sadina-dina                                       In everyday life

Rina wengi nèng Praja miwah ing dhusun    Day and night, in towns and villages

Kabèh kang padha ambegan                         All those who are breathing

Papat iku aja kari.                                         Should not forget those four (?) points.



Kalamun ana manungsa                               When there is a man

Tan anganggo ing duga lan prayogi             Who does not use good judgement

Iku wateké tan patut                                      That disposition of his is not appropriate

Awor lawan wong kathah                              Mingling with many people

Wong deksura daludur tan wruh ing ngedur A man haughty and rude does not know good manners

Aja sira pedhak-pedhak                                 Do not associate with him

Ora wurung niniwasi.                                     Or misfortune will be inevitable.




Mingkar mingkuring angkara (ukara)                      We set aside the needs of the self

Akarana karenan mardi siwi                                     For the pleasure of educating children

Sinawung resmining kidung                                      Through good songs

Sinuba sinukarta                                                        Worded beautifully and with care

Mrih k(r)etarta pakartining ngelmu luhung              So that children will learn the high knowledge

Kang tumrap neng tanah Jawa                                 Prevailing on the island of Java

Agama ageming aji.                                                  According to the religion of the Kings.



Jinejer neng Wedatama                                             It is taught in (the book of) Wedatama

Mrih tan kemba kembenganing pambudi                  To maintain the clarity of the mind.

Mangka nadyan tuwa pikun                                      Even old people

Yen tan mikani rasa                                                   If not aware of rasa

Yekti sepi asepa lir sepah samun                               They will be insipid as a chewed morsel

Samangsane pasamuan (pakumpulan)                     And when in social gatherings

Gonyak ganyuk nglelingsemi                                    Their behaviour and words will be embarassing.



Nggugu karsane priyanga                                         The one who follows only his own desires

Nora nganggo peparah(n) lamun angling                 Speaks without knowing where he is

Lumuh ingaran balilu                                                Does not want to be called stupid

Uger guru aleman                                                     And always loves to be praised and honoured.

Nanging janma ingkang wus waspadeng semu        While the one who is alert to subtleties

Sinamun ing (sinamuning) samudana                       And hides behind a friendly smile

Sesadon ingadu (sesadoning adu) manis.                  Is considered nicely by everybody.



Si pengung nora nglegewa                                        Mr Stupid does not realize

Sangsayarda denira cacariwis                                  That his mumblings get worse and worse

Ngandhar-andhar angendhukur                               He digresses chaotically

Kandhane nora kaprah                                             What he says is trite

Saya elok alongka-longkanganipun                          He is increasingly strange and far from reality.

Si wasis waskitha ngalah                                           Mr Smart is willing to give in

Ngalingi marang si penging.                                     Only to cover up the stupidity of Mr Dumb.




Text for Track 4




We lha kae papane pendhapane gedhe                      Oh, the court and the great pendopo.

Sirap payone kencar-kencar muncar pandome         The wooden tiled roof shines brightly

Dhasar padhang bulan akeh rowange                       Like the full moon. Many companions

Nyawiji lair terus batine.                                           Are united inwardly and outwardly.


Irama dados


Gandheng renteng runtung reruntungan                   All arm-in-arm in a row together

Tansah ngawe-awe mring para kanca rowange       They keep waving to their friends.

Yo ayo bareng mara kana wus siyaga                       Come-on all together! Already prepared

Karawitan sarta panganggone                                  There is gamelan and costumes

Nglelatih ambeksa mumpung wulan purnama          To rehearse a dance as long as the full moon

Akekencar kencar-kencar aneng latar                       Shines bright on the yard.

Keplok surak solahe anut keprak                              They clap and cheer to the rhythm of the keprak

Sinenggakan pranyata amemet prana.                      Joyfully yell joined in a shared emotion.


Irama dados (cakepan Salisir)


Parabe sang Smarabangun                                       The nickname of Smarabangun

Sepad domba kali oya                                               The great fish of the Oya river

Aja dolan lan wong priya                                          Do not play with a man

Geng remeh nora prasaja.                                        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