Genggong, an almost extinct traditional music

Balinese traditional musical art, genggong or jaw harp, being at the verge of extinction, ultimately re-emerged to entertain Balinese spectators through the show by the Yoh Bongsri Jaw Harp Troupe from Pengotan village, Bangli. The jaw harp musical instrument made from palm frond or bamboo grew around the 1950s. This kind of traditional music came back and tried to pamper the homesickness of traditional music lovers in the Bali Art Center. The presence of music having disappeared for decades was quite exciting and livening up the entertainment at the Bali Arts Festival recently taking the central theme Kertamasa.

The jaw harp music sounded unique and interesting because it sounded like a squirrel tree frog. This musical instrument was played by blowing and pulling while exhaling that generated sound or the sound was controlled by throat. In the performance, the jaw harp troupe presented a number of musical compositions such as the Dauh Dangin, Ketog Siap (chicken lays eggs), Lasan Megat Toya (lizard crosses water), and the Jajar Pande presented by gong gede gamelan instrument and ended with the gamelan composition entitled Gilak Tabuh Gong Telu.

Coordinator of the jaw harp performance was Bandem Astawa and the music was directed by Ketut Salin. The Balinese jaw harp music was presented by 18 gamelan players and 6 musicians from teenagers to elderly. Some of them were Ketut Salin, Nyoman Gegera, Wayan Semadi, Wayan Mana and the youngest jaw harp music player was Wayan Paya Widata, a second grade student of SMAN 1 Bangli high school majoring in Accounting and the oldest player was Nengah Sinter aged 80 years. The performance was accompanied by five flutists, a gong player, two drummers, a klenang player, a pengecek player and a pletuk player.

For the performance, the troupe had made preparation for two months. The performance took place for 50 minutes and each song composition lasted for 10 minutes. One of the jaw harp players, I Ketut Salin, 51, from Yoh Bongsri hamlet, Pengotan village, Bangli, accompanied by his sister, Ni Made Ragi, after the staging said the jaw harp was a rare music having vanished. In the past, this kind of music first emerged in the 1950s commonly used to kill time. Meanwhile, in the 1970s this traditional music evolved but then disappeared and nothing was absolutely heard.

According to Salin, the emergence of music began in his childhood at the age of 5 years where he was very interested when seeing his uncle to play the instrument. He then learned from the master, namely his father, so that he could play the instrument well. “To play this jaw harp, I first learned from my father,” he said. According to him, the jaw harp first appeared around 1950s but it was experiencing a vacuum because of the difficulty of studying the music instrument. “Within a month, I have been able to play a guitar, but to play the jaw harp is probably not enough for me a year,” he said.

The Bangli Culture Agency came to him and brought along with a sample of the jaw harp made by a master of an antique in Batuan, Gianyar. Uniquely, the instrument maker could not play it. Based on the example of the jaw harp, Salin then tried to play it. Next, it was taken to a blacksmith to make an adjustment. By using a knife, the jaw harp was slightly rubbed to generate more proper sound so the tone was not too high or too low. Salin said it was made from palm frond and bamboo. However, the bamboo instrument was rather difficult to play. Sometimes, this musical instrument was played by way of blowing, pulling and rotating, made closer in the mouth, and it generated sound.

The sound could be generated by blowing and the breath was exhaled by discharging sound from the esophagus in order to get the desired sound and then drawn using a nylon rope. Tone adjustment highly depended on the thickness. A thicker blade would be more difficult to play. And the sound could only be heard from the distance of 10 meters. Musical rhythm of the jaw harp had dang, ding dong. “It has principal tone and sangsing for gamelan function,” he said. Sometimes, playing this jaw harp instrument could quickly cause soreness in the hand due to tightly held in order to make a sound.

As a result, people could rarely play the instrument as the difficulty of playing it. Due to its scarcity, the number of jaw harp player today could be counted on fingers (7 people). By and large, the jaw harp musical instrument was just play to kill time and gathered together with family. It was the first show played in the implementation of the BAF. “Hopefully, this music can continue to exist and remain sustainable,” he said. (wan)

source : Bali Travel News

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