Tembang sunda, usually called seni mamaos cianjuran, or just cianjuran, is a form of sung poetry which arose in the colonial-era Kabupaten of Cianjur. It was first known as an aristocratic art; one cianjuran composer was R.A.A Kusumahningrat (Dalem Pancaniti), ruler of Cianjur (1834 - 1862). The instruments of Cianjuran are kacapi Indung, kacapi rincik and suling or bamboo flute, and rebab for salendro compositions. The lyrics are typically sung in free verse, but a more modern version, panambih, is metrical.
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The most popular and famous form of Indonesian music is gamelan, an ensemble of tuned percussion instruments that include metallophones, drums, gongs and spike fiddles along with bamboo flutes. Similar ensembles are prevalent throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, but gamelan is from Java, Bali and Lombok. There are rivalries between different regions' variations of gamelan, especially Java and Bali.
Central gamelan is intricate and meticulously laid out. The central melody is played on a metallophone in the center of the orchestra, while the front section plays elaboration and ornamentation on the melody, and, at the back, the gongs slowly punctuate the music. There are two tuning systems - the 5-tone slendro scale and the 7-tone pelog scale. Unlike Western music, there is no standard tuning system. Each Gamelan is tuned to itself, and the intervals between notes on the scale vary between ensembles.
The metallophones cover four octaves, and include types like the slenthem, demung, saron panerus and balungan. The soul of the gamelan is believed to reside in the large gong, or gong ageng. Other gongs are tuned to each note of the scale and include ketuk, kenong and kempul. The front section of the orchestra is diverse, and includes rebab, suling, siter, bonang and gambang. Male choruses (gerong) and female (pesindhen) solo vocalists are common.
Gamelan is rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism, though the island of Java is almost entirely Muslim today. Islam arrived in the 15th century, filtered through Hindustani Indians. With the arrival of the Dutch colonizers, a number system called kepatihan was developed to record the music. Music and dance at the time was divided into several styles based on the four main courts in the area -- Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Pakualaman and Mangkunagaran. It is a universal acknowledgment that gamelans are highly honoured.
Gamelan salendro is used primarily to accompany classical or more modern social dances, and is considered a low-class form. The 20th century saw a rise in the popularity and importance of female singers.
Gamelan from eastern Java is less well-known than central or western parts of the island. Perhaps most distinctive of the area is the extremely large gamyak drum.
The Osinger minority in Java are known for social music for weddings and other celebrations, called gandrung, as well as angklung, played by young amateur boys, which is very similar to Balinese gamelan..
Pop and folk music
Indonesian pop and folk is quite diverse, embracing rock, house, hip hop and other genres, as well as distinctly Indonesian forms. There are several kinds of "ethnic" pop music, generally grouped together as Pop Daerah (regional pop). These include Pop Sunda, Pop Minang, Pop Batak, and others. The regional pop musics mostly use local languages and a mix of western and regional style music and instruments.
Kroncong has been evolving since the arrival of the Portuguese, who brought with them European instruments. By the early 1900s, it was considered a low-class urban music. This changed in the 1930s, when the rising Indonesian film industry began incorporating kroncong, and then even more so in the mid- to late 1940s, when it became associated with the struggle for independence.
Perhaps the most famous song in the kroncong style is Bengawan Solo, written in 1940 by Gesang Martohartono, a Solonese musician. Written during the Japanese Imperial Army occupation of the island in World War II, the song (about the Bengawan Solo River, Java's longest and most important river) became widely popular among the Javanese, and then later nationally when recordings were broadcast over the local radio stations. The song also became quite popular with the Japanese soldiers, and when they returned to Japan at the end of the war re-recordings of it (by Japanese artists) became best-sellers. Over the years it has been re-released many times by notable artists, mainly within Asia but also beyond, and in some places it is seen as typifying Indonesian music.
Gesang himself remains the most renowned exponent of the style, which although it is seen now as a somewhat starchy and "dated" form is still popular among large segments of the population, particularly the older generation.
Similar in style is tembang jawa. Perhaps its greatest current star is Didi Kempot.
Dangdut is a form of dance music that has been popular since the mid-1970s. Dangdut is based around the singers, and stars include Rhoma Irama and Elvy Sukaesih (the King and Queen of Dangdut), along with Inul Daratista, Evie Tamala, Mansyur S, A. Rafiq, and Fahmy Shahab.
Jaipongan is a very complex rhythmic dance music from Sunda. The rhythm is liable to change seemingly randomly, making dancing difficult for most listeners. Its instruments are entirely from Sunda, completely without imported instruments from the West, China, Japan or elsewhere. It was invented by artists like Gugum Gumbira after Sukarno prohibited rock and roll and other western genres.
Gambus literally means oud, referring to a type of lute. It is used to denote a type of orchestra and the music it plays, believed to be introduced by Muslim settlers from Yemen. Though popular among Arabs in Indonesia, it has gained little popularity elsewhere.