It is a gamelan of the standard type associated (since at least a century) with the central region of Java, especially around the cities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, well known for their palaces and keratons. It is in the pèlog scale system.
The gamelan belongs to the Indonesian Permanent Mission to the U. N. in Geneva. It's sounding metal elements were forged in 1955 by Ki Rama Jayèng Kedung, a craftsman of the palace of Yogyakarta Hadiningrat. They were then mounted by the late Ki Suprapto in the Swastigita workshop, situated in Ngadinegaran, Yogyakarta. The gong ageng could be older than the other metal elements : was it forged as early as in the mid-nineteenth century ?
In the early 1980s, the gamelan was brought to Geneva by the Indonesian ambassador at that time. On 27 May 1999 the mission, the Ethnography Museum and the Ethnomusicology Workshops signed an agreement formally establishing a framework of cooperation among the three parties. The gamelan was placed in the museum. On 4 February 2000 it was inaugurated in presence of the ambassador and guests with a traditional Javanese ceremony performed by the musician Suhardi Djojoprasetjo. At this moment the gamelan was given the name Kyai Gandrung. The name has been chosen through a consultation with the family of the artist who assembled the gamelan. Kyai Gandrung reflects a good mental condition filled with happiness, just like a man who is very cheerful because he is so in love that he can dance and sing happily. The event was also the inauguration of a new section of the museum's exhibition : the MUSIQUES space. From that time, the gamelan was in it's owm exhibition room, and workshops were also performed there.
On 5 and 6 February, the first training course was organized, led by the musician who named the gamelan in the inauguration.
The wood part of the instruments is teak. The carvings are well executed but the artistic inspiration of the sculptural style is low. However they are covered with a silvery golden painting on a deep red-orange background that can give out a mysterious soothing ambience, like a gong ageng sound. At least, it is sure the carving won't disturb this ambience. The bamboos are fake and made of zinc(?) sheeting. They are painted beige as if to imitate young bamboo. The celempung's strings are metal.
The sound of the ensemble isn't extraordinary. But we do appreciate the sound of the gong ageng, of the two gendér panarus and of one of the saron barung. The slentem gives a weak sound, making this instrument more relevant in 'indoors music' (gending gadon) than in 'outdoors music' (gending soran). The gambang keys give only a moderate sound, although a different pair of mallets could perhaps improve it. Like the slentem, it is best designed for gending gadon. The horizontal gongs (bonang, kenong, kempyang) are not generous in sound. With their opaque and hardly sonorous timbre, they seem awkward in producing gamelan music. It is the same problem with the vertical medium-sized gongs (kempul). They demand a great effort in trying to get a good sound from them while stopping their swaying. The kempul of note lu is specially unsatisfactory. It's tone, very low compared to the other kempul, is almost the same as the gong siyem's. The gong siyem itself serves more in adding confusion in the lot than giving a well delimited sound.
The four gendér are a delight. Playing them without the other instruments is already music in its entirety. They suffice by themselves.
One of the two saron barung does have an unexpectedly good timbre. The difference is clear when one compares both of them. Each of its keys gives a bright sound, with the usual vibration of the note but with also an additional delightful vibration. If all the instruments were to ring with that special vibration, it would be a top-of-the-range gamelan. But the present ensemble is of middle range quality.
The uninspired carving, the fake bamboos, the inferior sound quality, the absence of cymbals, all these characteristics reflect a decadent tendency that has stained the modern gamelan tradition from the central region of Java. But if the rest of the gamelan is used as a complement to the gendér section, the ensemble produces a most beautiful music. When played gadon, the sound of this gamelan is worthwhile.
The rebab, the three suling and the celempung haven't been tested.
Apart from the gamelan's inherent sound quality, the retuning of a few keys and gongs would be useful.
The four gendér start on nem, the gambang starts on må. The ketuk is of note ro. (See ranges of the instruments in the diagram below.)