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Gamelan of Java I was lucky enough to be introduced to this

fascinating, yet neglected, cultural center on

VOL. V: Cirebon Tradition in America my first trip to Java in 1976, and it has been
Founded in 1369, the ancient Javanese my passion ever since. Ihave studied Cire-
kingdom of Cirebon is an important cultural bon music with master musicians in the
area located on the Pasisic or north coast of city'sroyal courts, as well as in the rustic
the island of Java in the modern-day Indo- villages surrounding the city-the real
nesian province of West Java. In the 1400's a strongholds of this ancient tradition.
string of a dozen or so kingdoms was estab- In both the court and village these
l~shedalong the Pasisir by the Wali Sanga, nine teachers opened their homes and their
Sufi saints who are credited with introducing hearts to share their cultural treasures with
the Islamic faith to Java-in part through a student from California. Some of the
teaching and performing the traditional arts of music they entrusted me with has now
gamelan, wayang (puppet theater) and topeng become rare or even extinct in Cirebon,
(masked dancing), which they imbued with and my lesson tapes have become valuable
mystical symbolism and philosophy. To this day source material for a younger generation of
these traditions are regarded as a sacred in- Cirebon artists. It is to the young generation
heritance from these spiritual teachers, and of Cirebon gamelan players that this record-
many Cirebon artists trace their lineage directly ing is dedicated.
to the the Wali Sanga. The pieces included on this CD were
Cirebon is the last of these Javanese Pasisir performed in Seattle and Santa Barbara
kingdoms still in existence today. Its palaces are between 1992 and 2009 by primarily
inhabited by the descendants of their first American gamelan musicians. All five
Sultan, Sunan Gunung Jati. For thls reason classical Cirebon genres are represented;
Cirebon is sometimes referred to as the the three ancient bossiblv me-Islamic)
"Grandfather of Java's royal houses."Cirebon ensembles gong rentengidenggungand
was an im~ortantearlv influence on the devel- aona sekati, as well as the two forms of
opment of ~avaneseak-including gamelan- 'gakelan proper," gamelan prawa and
throughout the island, but its arts are little gamelan pelog, which are thought to
known in modern Indonesia. have developed into their present form
in the seventeenth century. TRACK 4 Sekaten (gong sekat,)
Gong sekati is the most sacred form of music
TRACK 1 Jipang Walik (gamelan prawa) in Cirebon and is played in the royal palace
is played to formally open a concert of the only three times a year to celebrate the
five-tone gamelan prawa in Cirebon. It is Islamic holidays ldul Adha and ldul Fitri, and
preceded by three strokes of the large drum, Muludan. The original instruments were
leading up to the powerful sound of the large brought to Cirebon from the north coast
gong. The shifting tempos and lively melodies kingdom of Demak in 1521, and exude an
serve as a warm-up for the musicians, and are atmosphere of delicate but impressive spiritual
said to shower blessinas on the audience. Dower. (A related but distinct form, qamelan
iekaten, is played in the south central Java-
nese courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta).
is traditionally the first piece played in a
GameIan Sinar performsthe gong
performance of the seven-tone gameIan pel09 sekati music with special permissionfrom
in Cirebon. "Bayem" is a meandering vine,
the Cirebon royal
and the melody of Bayeman winds through
several patut or musical modes within the TRACK 5 Bale Bandung
pelog scale. The music slows down into a (gong renteng) Gong renteng (literally
free-form kebonan section, before transi- "gongs in a row") is a village ensemble for-
tioning into the boldly asymmetrical Bayem merly found all over West Java, and features
Tur ("Thorny Vines") melody. lively, syncopated melodies played in parale[
TRACK 3 Kaboran (gamelan prawa) is octaves by three musicians on a five-tone
a classical overture piece played for the ela- single-row bonang , accompanied by various
borate all night wayang kulit shadow puppet time-keeping instruments. Bale Bandung,
theater in Cirebon. Often played before the meaning "Return of the Honored Guest,"
audience arrlves, Kaboran is played for the is often played at the beginning of a gong
entertainment of the spirits-and for the renteng performance. This ancient style of
enjoyment of the gamelan musicians. This is music is rapidly disappearing and the
a very brief version-a complete rendition of tradition is in danger of being lost.
Kaboran can last more than 45 minutes.
TRACK 6 Denggung Wawa Bango
(denggung) Denggung is a ritual ensemble
TRACK 9 Monggang (gameIan pelog) is
a closing piece, played to evoke the style of
found in the three royal palaces of Cirebon, the archaic gamelan monggang. It IS played to
and may represent an ancient form of the bless the audience, and to accompany them as
well-known degung ensemble played in they exit the performance with the sound of
Sunda today. The palace instruments are gamelan music still gently drifting in the air.
considered t o be magically powerful and, RichardNorth, Santa Barbara, G4, 2010.
accompanied bv incense and saecial oravers.
are played in, times of droughfto bring k i n I am forever grateful to my late teacher
for the fields. DeWgung 1s now rarely Pangeran Haji Yusuf Dendabrata, who devoted
played. The two pieces performed here were his life to the preservation o f Cirebon arts
taught t o me at Kraton Kacirebonan in 1981 and culture. (rn)
by the late P. H. Yusuf Dendabrata.
Richard North has
TRACK 7 Rangsang (gamelan pelog) taught gamelan at UC
meaning "passionate attraction" is a rarely Santa Cruz, San Jose
heard old piece sometimes played to ac- State University,
company the refined dance of a noble Hawaii Loa College
character in the Cirebon wayang cepak rod and North Seattle
puppet theater, thought by most scholars Community College.
to be the ancestor of all other rod ouooet He was Guest Editor
forms found in Java and Sunda. he ielody of the December 1988
is long, calm and elegant issue of Balungan
TRACK 8 PacuI Goang (aarnelan orawa) / lournal devoted to the
meaning "the chipped rice hoe" is a ;harm- arts of Cirebon. He currently directs Gamelan
ing melody played near the end of the all- Sinar Surya, a Cirebon gamelan group in Santa
night shadow play as a gentle reminder for Barbara, and is working with gamelan mu-
the farmers in the audience to get ready for sicians in Cirebon to help revive lost pieces
a new day of work in the verdant rice fields from the classical repertoire.
that surround the city of Cirebon. Bio by Chad Bailey Nielson
www.CirebonArts.com Devoted to the arts
of Cirebon.
w GarnelanSB.com Gamelan Sinar
Surya's site.
w,gamelancirebon.org Illatrated list
of Cireoon gamelan instruments and
garnelan glossary.
Richard North. director
Deni ~ermawan,Indonesian guest artist
RECORDINGS: Masahiro Fukudome, Scott
McLeod and Jesse Snyder (Seattle), and
Camelan Sinar Suva
Chad Nielson, Scott Cazan and Constantijn seatt,egroup
Sanders (Santa Barbara).
Masahiro Fukudome, Julija Gelazis,
RE-MASTERING: John Noise Manis. D. Harper-Jones, Siobhan Harper-Jones,
Maggie McKelvy, Scott McLeod, Lee North,
Frank Roberto, Jesse Snyder.
5anfa Barbara gmup
Vantra Produdoar Magenta Arrunategui, Olga Broiles, Michelle
www.gamelan.to Bobadilla, Scott Cazan, Felicia Danon North,
john.nolse.manls@gamelan it Donn Howell, Edmundo Luna, Margarita
Rarnirez, Nayelhi Ramirez, Vickie Schlegel,
Joshua Smith.