By Ginastera “Boo-boo” Sianturi
Gamelan Selonding is regarded as one of the oldest sets of gamelan that ever existed in Bali, even predating Gamelan Gambuh. This particular Selonding originates from Tenganan Pegringsingan Village of Karangasem, Eastern Bali, known as Bali Aga, indigenous Balinese (pre-Hindu Villages). The local belief states that Selonding may have been brought down to the village from the sky after a thunderous sound of lightning, giving birth to 3 selonding plates which are now stored in Petemu Kelod (north of the village). The arrivals of Selonding were considered a gift from God and known as Selonding Bhatara Bagus. Even though gamelan enthusiasts and scholars still arguably question this phenomena, the spiritual concept and practice that are living in Tenganan, are important sources of their everyday life and should be explored in greater depth.
The etymology of “Selonding” is generally known to have two meanings. The first is divided into “Salon” = Tempat (Place), and “Ning” = Suci (Sacred), so it means Sacred Place. The second one, however, has served its functional meaning; “Salo” = “Suara” and “Nding” = ringing sound or note as a result of hitting the instrument. Tenganan Villagers themselves prefer to use the first one, although the second version is also accepted and was never rejected.
Our dear friend from Tenganan Pegringsingan Village, Bli Putu Suardana, a local instrument maker and musician, shows us a few different variations on the 7 tone Pelog scale that is used in Selonding, as well as an excerpt from the beautiful and popular Gending (tune) called ‘Sekar Gadung’ at his workshop called Pondok Gamelan Selonding.
Sekar Gadung – Tenganan Pegringsingan Village | A live field recording under the guidance of almarhum Bapak Partha Gunawan, supervised by Sacred Bridge Foundation (2012). Music team: Aryo Adhianto, Mas Ono, Pattraditya Pangestu, and Syahwin Bajumi.
Bli Putu continues the legacy of his father, Pak Partha Gunawan; Juru
Gambel (gamelan player whose techniques have reached its spiritual peak)
whom also taught gamelan at ISI Bali. Even though his father started making
the instruments since the 1980’s, Bli Putu only began to show interest in this
field later in 2001.
The piece has become well known outside of the Village, because of its
compatibility in terms of its notes and tuning with other forms of Gamelan.
Gamelan musicians outside of Tenganan often perform this piece in the style
of Semar Pegulingan.
Bli Putu states that many of the original Gendings (tunes) from Tenganan
which left the village have not all survived in their original forms, either having
been re-arranged or missing certain notes and cycles. This phenomenon has
shown that as time passes, traditions often evolve when external influences
come in contact; responding to the local roots based on the cultural contexts
and corresponding relevance of the present time. So, popularity is not always
a bad thing when observed as a process of intergenerational value, but it
does not mean that young people should stop seeking a deeper
understanding into their ancestors’ roots and hidden knowledge that is hidden
inside their collective subconscious.
Author: Ginastera “Booboo” Sianturi
Chairman of Sacred Bridge Foundation