Sundanese Music: CDs

Sundanese Classical Music
Enah Sukaenah, Didin S. Badjuri, Nandang Barmaya, Achmed Suwandi, Komar Rukmana, Riskonda
King Record KICC 5131 (World Music Library), notes in Japanese & English, songtexts in japanese only.
Best of genre (***)
  1. Tembang: Sunda Mekar, Kuna Sari, Papatet, Mupu Kembang, Sumarambah 13:16 (215 kB 27s .au sound file)
  2. Kacapi Suling: Panyileukan, Banjaran 8:32 (172 kB 21s .au sound file)
  3. Tembang: Kinanti Tunggara, Kentar Cisaat, Jangji Asih 7:46
  4. Kacapi Suling: Sumorean, Layang Sari 9:34
  5. Tembang: Udan Mas, Udan Iris, Sekar Manis 7:55
  6. Tembang: Pangauban, Pakuan, Tepung Munggaran 8:44

The most famous form of Sundanese classical music is the tembang, a set of songs accompanied by two kacapis (zithers), suling (bamboo flute) and ocasionally a rebab (two-stringed violin). The poems are sometimes in free verse, sometimes in a rythmic arrangement, and highly ornamented, with the kacapis providing the bases of the melodic line, and the suling and rebab varying and commenting on it. Kacapi suling is a more recent form, consisting of the rythmic pieces of tembang with the song left out, creating a wonderfully flowing music, which is also very accessible to ears unaccustomed to Indonesian music. This CD contains very nice recordings of both types of music.

Java - Tembang Sunda. Sundanese sung poetry
Ensemble Linkungan Seni Malati Ida - Bandung: Ida Widawati, (vocals and cond.), Neneng Dinar (vocals), Rukruk Rukmana (kacapi indung), Iwan Mulyana (suling), Adjat Sudrajat (vocals and kacapi rincik)
Auvidis, W 260056 (1994), notes and translations of the song texts both in English & French.
First Pick (+)
  1. Bubuka, Tepang asih (239 kB 31s .au sound file)
  2. Papatet, Rajamantri, Mupu Kembang, Panambih: Toropongan
  3. Jemplang Panganten, Jemplang Pamirig, Panambih: Mega Beureum
  4. Asmarandana degung
  5. Putri Kingkin, Udan iris, Panambih: Kingkilaban
  6. Ceurik Rahawana, Panambih: Jangji Asih
  7. Kapati-pati, Eros, Panambih: Gandrung Gunung

This is not a collection of tembang Sunda &emdash; this is the recording of a concert by Ida Widawati. Her forceful interpretations are very convincing, even though the extreme ornamentation and singing technique are completely different from Western music. Accompanied by top-class kacapi & suling players, and at times other singers, she delivers a powerful performance of the classical repertoire, at times rough, but always bridging the gap to the audience.

The best sound of Kecapi Suling
Akhmad Efendi, Ade S. (one each), rest unnamed
Maharani, no number
Best of genre (***)
  1. Bubuka 2:30
  2. Renggong Manis 6:45
  3. Sangkuriang (Uking Sakit) 4:35
  4. Pacul Goang 4:10
  5. Dengleung 4:10
  6. Paksi Tuwung 5:10
  7. Nimang 1:30
  8. Karang Nunggal 4:40
  9. Kamarembing 6:00
  10. Gawil 3:15
  11. Pasisian 5:15 (150 kB 20s .au sound file)
  12. Layung Sari Naek Kulu-kulu 9:30

Kacapi Suling is based on the rythmic pieces of Tembang Sunda (see above). Two or three kacapis (lying zithers like the Chinese pipa or the Japanese koto) form a background of base notes and patterns above, on top of which the suling (bamboo recorder) hovers freely. In spite of the bootleg look & feel the pieces on this CD are well-performed by their mainly anonymous musicians. The flute playing is highly ornamented, and the accompaniment more lively than on some performances, forming a sensitive whole. The sound quality is very good and a huge improvement over my tape collection, although the balance and clarity are a touch below the very high standard set by the world music library.

Flute & Gamelan of West Java
Various, flute player Sulaeman
First Pick (+) (first half)
  • Mupu Kembang (Collecting flowers) 5:06
  • Catrik 4:55
  • Sinyur 4:50
  • Marintin 4:34 (211 kB 28s .au sound file)
  • Srimpi Jaborin (Girl dances of the court) 6:09
  • Bendrong (River crab) 5:31
  • Jipang 3:06
  • Putri (Princess) 6:07
  • Renggong Buyat 1:56 (161 kB 20s .au sound file)
  • This is a very nice re-issue of an old recording by the great master of the bamboo flute (suling), Salaeman. (In fact, it is the record that my mother used to play for me as a child.)

    The first four tracks are wonderful kacapi-suling pieces, which made a lasting impression on me. The melodies and the beautifully executed variations on it evoke pictures of soaring birds, the tranquility of a forest hermitage, flowers. They echo in the mind long after the music has finished. In my experience this music is highly appreciated also by people who have never heard any Indonesian music before.

    The other tracks are Cirebon gamelan pieces, mainly dance tracks (without the dancers unfortunately) in the slendro pentatonic scale, which do not quite make the impression the first side of the record makes. They do give a rare glimpse into the world of Cirebon Javanese gamelan, a style distinct from the more well-known Central Java tradition, and closer to the Sunda way of playing, with a rippling multi-layer melody on the metallophones (the fastest one played by two interlocking instruments) accompanied by very nice drumming. In my humble opinion a better recording than the World Music Library one.

    Kacapi Suling, Vol 1 "Cinta"
    L.S. Gelik, led by Ades
    Keraton CDK 014, short notes in Indonesian and English
    1. Cinta
    2. Kalangkang
    3. Es Lilin
    4. Sorban Palid
    5. Mangle
    6. Aduh Manis
    7. Jeruk Manis
    8. Bandung
    9. Bajing Luncat
    10. Sasalimpetan
    On this CD a selection of popular songs in kacapi-suling version. The pieces are played briskly, at times lacking some subtlety, especially in the kacapi accompaniment. A nice collection of easy-to-hum tunes, this recording shows off the popular side of kacapi-suling. (and yes, the 'Cinta' is the same as the hit by Hetty Koes Endang.)
    Kacapi Suling, Vol 2 "Tokecang"
    Gentra Pasundan, led by Ujang Suryana
    Keraton CDK 023, short notes in Indonesian and English
    1. Kanyaah Manggaran 7:16
    2. Karembong Karas 7:33
    3. Renggong Buyut 7:00
    4. Hariring Abdi 7:27
    5. Anggrek Bulan 7:24
    6. Tokecang 7:17
    7. Kulu-kulu 7:15
    8. Nimang 7:04
    This recording comes in a series planning to cover all regional music styles of Indonesia. Although quite enjoyable in its own right, the performances lack the subtle sensitivity of the other CDs reviewed above - the suling does not soar as freely, and the kacapis tend to a more mechanical rythm.
    Indonesia: Music from West Java
    Anthology of Traditional Musics, Auvidis/UNESCO D 8041, notes in English & French
    1. Kacapi Suling: Semarang, Banjaran (Uking Sukri, Ono Sukarno, Iim Ibrahim) 8:58
    2. Bandjar malati (mad.) (RRI Bandung Gamelan led by Oman Suganda) 9:06 (135 kB 18s .au sound file)
    3. Tari Topeng (Bakti Bidaya Gamelan, led by Pak Utar) 7:54
    4. Gonjang Sapuratina (sl.) (RRI Bandung Gamelan led by Oman Suganda) 12:46 (84 kB 11s .au sound file)
    5. Ujung Laut (the Shore), Sangkur Ratu (the King's Sword) (RRI Degung, led by A. Ab. Syar) 9:47 (99 kB 13s .au sound file)
    6. Wayang Golek: scene from the Ramayana (Bakti Bidaya Gamelan, led by Pak Utar) 4:41
    A collection of all kinds of music here. First some rather nice kacapi-suling (see above for more of this), next verse recitation with a small gamelan accompanying in soft style, mainly gambang (xylophone) and rebab (2-snare violin), in a style close to Javanese. This refinement is offset by a vigorous topeng (mask) dance, where unfortunately most of the gamelan is heard accentuateing invisible dance movements. The following piece is a very rare examples of Sunda non-degung style gamelan, again for a rather small ensemble. Degung is very old, and very popular these days, with its prominent suling (bamboo fulte) and peculiar flowing rythm; the main melody is here also run on two interlocking sarons (metallophones). The collection is rounded off with a gamelan accompanying the wayang golek (wooden puppet play), the dalam (puppetteer) reciting and singing, the gamelan setting the mood and indicating the action.

    This CD covers an amazing variety of styles, some very hard to find, but is not always easy to follow without context.

    The Best Music by Nano S. - Kalangkang
    BAS record, no number; available at the AGI
    First Pick (+)
    1. Kalngkang
    2. Cinta
    3. Anjeun
    4. Potret manehna
    5. Lembur kakasih
    6. Tibelat
    7. Kapanggih modal
    8. Kangen
    9. Rayungan
    10. Elekeseng
    11. Dua saati
    (Samples to follow soon)
    Degung is a very popular form of gamelan music, with a solid beat, catchy phrases and melodious bamboo flute. Nano S. obviously is one of the best artists in this genre. Each of the pieces on this CD surprises by the sheer musical joy expressed. The compositions, often on traditional melodies, are interesting, and played very well. Some very good jokes are thrown in as well, such as parodies of western and chinese music within the degung framework, and the use of some very unlikely and untraditional instruments, which nonetheless fit in remarkably well. A very enjoyable CD indeed!
    Degung - Sabilulungan, Sundanese Music of West Java 2
    Suara Parahiangan
    Sounds of the World 90156
    1. Sabilulungan 5:36
    2. Karedok Leunca 5:55
    3. Colenak 6:16
    4. Dikantun 6:06
    5. Ayun Ambing 5:36
    6. Ngantosan 6:17
    7. Karatangan Pahlawan 6:16
    8. Bandung 5:51
    9. Pemuda Indonesia 5:45
    10. Mojang Desa 5:38
    In spite of the first impression of this cheap CD - a Balinese dancer on the front - it contains a reasonable selection of solid degung music - simple, melodious, with a steady beat and a soaring flute. Nothing to get excited about, either, though. Highly recommended for Indonesian restaurant owners and anybody else who enjoys lively, easy-listening music.
    Idjah Hadidjah: Tonggeret
    Elektra/Nonesuch Explorer Series 979173-2
    1. Tonggeret (Kliningan) 4:39 (140 kB 18s .au sound file)
    2. Bayu-bayu (Jaipongan) 3:44
    3. Mahoni (Jaipongan) 6:32
    4. Hiji Catetan (Kliningan) 8:09
    5. Arum Bandung (Celempungan) 7:11
    6. Daun Pulus Keser Bojong (Jaipongan) 10:25 (103 kB 14s .au sound file)
    7. Serat Salira (Jaipongan) 11:30
    This CD features modern traditional-based music from Sunda. In an effort to counter the invasion of Rock & Roll, the composer and bisnismen Gugum Gumbira Tirasondjaja invented "jaipongan" in the early '70s, using traditional Sundanese instruments and forms &emdash; among them the ancient and ever-popular dancing woman. For more than ten years this raucous music dominated the Sunda and Jakarta dance scene. This CD features some of the fiery drumming and sensuously raw singing of this style, next to some related non-dance styles. If you thought popular music is the same the world over, take a dive into this 70s nightclub atmosphere &emdash; Sunda style.
    Indonésie. Le Groupe Angklung
    Arion ARN 64183 (1976)
    1. Tatabeuhan Sungut
    2. Mak Inang
    3. Ronda Malam
    4. Hallo-hallo Bandung
    5. Hela-hela Rotan
    6. Sepur Mendem
    7. Laila Manja
    8. Angklung
    9. Orak Arik

    The sound of shaken bamboo in popular tunes from all over the archipelago.

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    Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, 24 june 1996