The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Sundanese music

Karawitan, Ketuk Tilu, Jaipongan, Gamelan Degung, Death Metal and similar

Brief notes towards taxonomy and pointers to real ethnomusicological references on Sundanese music. For music from my own residency in Bandung specifically, see hiteklotek, or the lotekno blog.


Genres you need to know


Ancient religious instrumental trance music. Check out this neat hybrid: Indian vocals meet Tarawangsa and Jentreng at Padjadjaran University

Shruthi Vishwanath
Teguh Permana
Wisnu Ridwana

More traditional….

Gamelan Degung

What you (for almost any value of you) think of when you hear about Indonesian music is gamelan. Gamelan Degung is an especially Sundanese variant.

Todo: write down scale.

Jaipong and ketuk tilu

Jaipongan: 1970s hybrid between Brazilian pop music and traditional ketuk tilu styles. Queerly subterranean. Sounds like music from ancient outer space, but claimed to be the child of a government vehicle bureaucrat.

I really want to remix Tati Saleh.


Western instruments twisted into playing descendant of traditional trance music.

This one is by Yoyo Yogasmana, the spokesperson of Cipta Gelar

Pop Sunda/Popdut

Wikipedia, cover for me won’t you?.

Detty Kurnia. Darso.

(Death/Black/other) metal

Ujung Berung and the black metal-versus-traditional-religious music deserves a whole book of its own; indeed, there are whole books on this, and also journal articles, and I will post links here soon.


Trance and weirdness in Ujung Berung; See Palmer Keen on Reak


Punks and zines and vegan tempeh-based diets.

Kacapi Suling/Tembang Sunda

19th century Cianjur courtly music, e.g..


I don’t even know, but people seem to be excitedly making documentaries about it.

Or to get the full flavour, check out an hour of ronggeng and ketuk tilu.

Various friends assure me that the traditional version is much more salacious than I will see on Youtube, but I cannot speak to that assertion from personal experience.



Alat Musik Jentreng di situs Dinas pariwisata dan kebudayaan Jawa Barat.


Bamboo mouth harp.


Tuned bamboo percussion.


Drums you play with your hands and feet.


Local zither-equivalent.


The fancy Tarawangsa is the Arabian-influenced rebab.


Gamelan is obsessively studied elsewhere, so I won’t discuss it here.


Pelog, degung, slendro, madenda…

Interesting regions

Things to read/listen to

Websites and such

  • Palmer Keen auralarchipelago has some interesting content about Sundanese music.

  • Pusaka Sunda is a source of contemporary gamelan Degung recordings and info by expat Sundanese. (if the main site is down, see Pusaka Sunda archived)

    In Indonesia, the word “pusaka” means “heirloom”; a pusaka object serves its owner as a concrete symbol of authority, legitimacy, lineage, and succession. “Sunda” is the historical placename for the highlands of the western part of the island of Java in Indonesia, the homeland of the Sundanese people. The Sundanese are patriotic Indonesians, but also look back to the medieval kingdom of Sunda and the Pajajaran Empire to define their identity.

  • Data Sunda’s tuning resource lists some tunings. I should just sonify them one rainy afternoon.

Insane music stores

DU68 in the mix.


There’s lot s of interesting stuff written by, about, or for the music os Sunda; not all is great. Some of this is colonial in flavour, and might irritate. Some is not. But everything below-mentioned is interesting. Some is about broader Indonesian music, or related styles.

Apropos that, see ethnomusicology.

Arjo, I. D.(1989) Women’s Dance among the Sundanese of West Java, Indonesia. Asian Theatre Journal, 6(2), 168. DOI.
Arps, B. (n.d.) The Lettuce Song and Its Trajectory.
Balasubramanian, A. (2010) Music and Regional Identity in Indonesia: Tembang Sunda of West Java. . Emory University
Barendregt, B. (Ed.). (2014) Sonic Modernities in the Malay World. . Brill
Becker, J. O.(1980) Traditional music in modern Java : gamelan in a changing society. . Honolulu : University Press of Hawaii
Becker, J. O.(1984) Karawitan : source readings in Javanese gamelan and vocal music. (Vol. 23). Ann Arbor, Mich. : University of Michigan, Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies
Beng, T. S.(2014) Modernizing Songs of the Forest: Indigenous Communities Negotiate Tensions of Change in Malaysia. In B. Barendregt (Ed.), Sonic Modernities in the Malay World (pp. 353–370). Brill
Browne, S. (2000) Gender Implications of Dangdut Kampungan: Indonesian Low-class Popular Music, The. Working Papers (Monash University. Centre of Southeast Asian Studies), vi.
Budi, D. S. U., Soedarsono, R. M., Haryono, T., & Narawati, T. (2014) Angklung Dogdog Lojor pada Upacara Seren Taun. RESITAL : JURNAL SENI PERTUNJUKAN, 15(2), 139–151.
Cahripin, C. (2010) Musik Ritual “TARAWANGSA” di Desa Rancakalong, Kabupaten Sumedang, Jawa barat. Kêtêg, 8(1).
Cook, P. R.(1997) Physically Informed Sonic Modeling (PhISM): Synthesis of Percussive Sounds. Computer Music Journal, 21(3), 38–49. DOI.
Cook, S. (1992) Guide to Sundanese music. Bandung: Simon Cook.
Cook, S. (1993) Parallel versions of tembang Sunda melodies in different tunings. Oideion: The Performing Arts World-Wide, 14, 55.
Cook, S. (2001) The song is the thing: Patokan, Alur Lagu and the impact of the female vocal soloists on Sundanese instrumental music. Contemporary Theatre Review, 11(1), 67–97. DOI.
David, B. (2014) Seductive Pleasures, Eluding Subjectivities: Some Thoughts on Dangdut’s Ambiguous Identity. In B. Barendregt (Ed.), Sonic Modernities in the Malay World (pp. 249–268). Brill
Frederick, W. H.(1982) Rhoma Irama and the Dangdut Style: Aspects of Contemporary Indonesian Popular Culture. Indonesia, (34), 103–130. DOI.
Fukuoka, S. (2003) Gamelan Degung: Traditional Music in Contemporary West Java. Globalization in Southeast Asia: Local, National, and Transnational Perspectives, 1, 95.
Gramich, R. (1995) Einführung in die mitteljavanische Gamelanmusik : mit Notenbeispielen. . München : Akademischer Verlag
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Hah, K., & Ressing, T. D.(1982) Musical and acoustical features of the gamelan angklung. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 71(S1), S64–S64. DOI.
Harrell, M. L.(1974) The music of the gamelan degung of West Java. . University of California, Los Angeles
Hellwig, J. (1993) Jaipongan: The Making of a New Tradition. Performance in Java and Bali: Studies of Narrative, Theatre, Music, and Dance, 47–58.
Hood, M. (1980) The evolution of Javanese gamelan. (Vol. 62–64). Wilhelmshaven : Heinrichshofen
I Wayan, S., & Hendra, S. (1994) Kendang Sunda. Mudra (JURNAL SENI BUDAYA), 2, 1–1.
Java, W. (2002) Gamelan Degung: Traditional Music in Contemporary. Globalization in Southeast Asia: Local, National, and Transnational Perspectives, 1, 95.
Kunst, J. (1973) Music in Java : its history, its theory and its technique. . The Hague : Nijhoff
Kuswanto, H. (2011) Comparison Study of Saron Ricik Instruments’ Sound Color (Timbre) on the Gamelans of Nagawilaga and Gunturmadu from. International Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences.
Kuswanto, H. (2012) Saron demung’s timbre and sonogram of gamelans gunturmadu from Keraton Ngayogyakarta. Jurnal Pendidikan Fisika Indonesia, 8(1).
Kuswanto, H., Sumarna, Purwanto, A., & Cipto Budy Handoyo. (2012) Saron demung instruments timbre spectrum comparison study on the gamelans sekati from Karaton Ngayogyakarta. International Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences.
Lakatos, S. (2000) A common perceptual space for harmonic and percussive timbres. Perception & Psychophysics, 62(7), 1426–1439. DOI.
Lakatos, S., Cook, P. C., & Scavone, G. P.(2000) Selective attention to the parameters of a physically informed sonic model. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 107(5), L31–L36. DOI.
Li, G. (2006) The effect of inharmonic and harmonic spectra in Javanese gamelan tuning (1): a theory of the sléndro. In Proceedings of the 7th WSEAS International Conference on Acoustics & Music: Theory & Applications (pp. 65–71). World Scientific and Engineering Academy and Society (WSEAS)
Lindsay, J. (1979) Javanese gamelan : traditional orchestra of Indonesia. . Kuala Lumpur : Oxford University Press
Lüderwaldt, A., & Internationales Gamelan Musik Festival Bremen. (2007) Contemporary gamelan music : 25 Jahre Arum Sih. TenDenZen, 14 (2006), 216 S.
Luvaas, B. (2006) Re-producing pop The aesthetics of ambivalence in a contemporary dance music. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(2), 167–187. DOI.
Luvaas, B. (2009) Dislocating sounds: the deterritorialization of Indonesian indie pop. Cultural Anthropology, 24(2), 246–279. DOI.
Luvaas, B. (2010) Designer Vandalism: Indonesian Indie Fashion and the Cultural Practice of Cut “n” Paste. Visual Anthropology Review, 26(1), 1–16. DOI.
Luvaas, B. (2013a) Indonesian Fashion Blogs: On the Promotional Subject of Personal Style. Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 17(1), 55–76. DOI.
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Lysloff, R. T.(1982) The gong-chime bonang barung in the Central Javanese gamelan: aspects of musical function and idiom in contemporary practice. . American Gamelan Institute
Manuel, P., & Baier, R. (1986) Jaipongan: indigenous popular music of West Java. Asian Music, 91–110.
Marshall, W. (2014) Treble Culture. The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, 2, 43.
Martin-Iverson, S., Rodrigues, U. M., & Smaill, B. (2008) “C’mon commodify us!”: Commodity fetishism and resistant practice in the Bandung DIY hardcore scene’. Youth, Media and Culture in the Asia Pacific Region, 177–94.
Merthayasa, I. G. N., & Pratomo, B. (2008) The Temporal and Spectral characteristics of Gamelan Sunda Music. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 123(5), 3198–3198. DOI.
Mulyadi, T. (2013) Bentuk Pertunjukan Jaipongan Dalam Budaya Populer. Greget, 12(1).
North, R. (1982) Degung: My Search for the Ancient Gamelan of Sunda. Unpublished Manuscript.——. 1982b. Letter from R. North to Michael Wright.
Nuraini, F. (2013) Pelestarian Nilai Budaya Dalam Seni Tari Tarawangsa Di Kabupaten Sumedang: Suatu Studi Pada Sekolah Sebagai Pusat Budaya. . Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia
Nurkholillah, N. S.(2013) Apresiasi Tari Badaya Dalam Seni Tarawangsa Pada Siswa Paud Ananda Putra Bungur Sumedang. . Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia
Pemberton, J. (1987) Musical politics in central Java (or how not to listen to a Javanese gamelan). Indonesia, 17–29.
Perlman, M. (2004) Unplayed melodies : Javanese gamelan and the genesis of music theory. . Berkeley : University of California Press
Pickles, J. (2007) Punk, pop and protest: The birth and decline of political punk in Bandung. RIMA: Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 41(2), 223.
Pickvance, R. (2005) A gamelan manual : a player’s guide to the central Javanese gamelan. . London : Jaman Mas Books
Pioquinto, C. (1968) Dangdut at Sekaten. Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 29(19945), 59–90.
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Rosidi, A. (1973) My Experiences in Recording “Pantun Sunda”. Indonesia, 16, 105. DOI.
Schiemer, G., Alves, B., Taylor, S. J., & Havryliv, M. (2003) Pocket gamelan: developing the instrumentarium for an extended harmonic universe.
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Sethares, W. A.(1998b) Tuning, Timbre, Spectrum, Scale. . Springer London
Sethares, W. A.(2007) Rhythm and transforms. . Berlin ; London: Springer
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