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Home Ensemble Category Acknowledgment

Terengganu Gamelan



Presently, there are two types of gamelan ensembles in Malaysia, the Terengganu gamelan and Java gamelan. The Terengganu gamelan  which was brought from the courts of Riau-Lingga, firstly being performed in 1819 in Pekan, Pahang during the Royal marriage of Tengku Hussain, the son of Sultan Abdul Rahman of Lingga, to Wan esah, the sister of Bendahara Ali of Pahang. Gamelan and the "Joget gamelan" music flourished in Pahang up until the 19th century before the death of Sultan Ahmad of Pahang. The wife of Sultan Ahmad, Cik Zubedah moved to live with her daughter, Ampuan Mariam who married Tengku Sulaiman, the second son of Sultan Terengganu. When Tengku Sulaiman became the Sultan of Terengganu (Sultan Sulaiman), he patron the gamelan music and even change the name of gamelan dance from "Joget Pahang" to "Joget Gamelan Terengganu". Cik Zubedah and Ampuan Mariam coaches the younger generation in Terengganu in dancing and playing to gamelan music. In 1920, there was an enormous effort to bring the ex-dancers in Pahang, Yang Khoja and Cik Meriam to coach the dancers in Terengganu led by Ampuan Mariam.

Meanwhile, the ex-musician of Pahang, En. Wan Mohd, En. Wan Ahmad and  En. Ahin coaches the youngs Terengganu in playing the instruments led by Sultan Sulaiman. Up until 1936, the Sultan and the Sultanah have their own set of gamelan. Many pieces of songs and dances were created such as songs like lambang sari, geliung, ketam renjong, togok, gagak seteru, lancang kuning and others. 77 pieces are to be reported by Pak Mat Nobat (musicians of the original Terengganu gamelan court ensemble) consisting of songs which has synonymous names to the dances they accompany. However only 65 names are known today and out of these 65 pieces, only 11 are usually played, namely: Ayak-ayak, Lonang, Ketawang, Perang, Perang Manggung, Selang Arak, Taman Sari, Timang Burung, Timang Inu, Togok and Topeng. Tengku Ampuan Mariam even wrote a manuscript about the gamelan dances (Joget).

However the Terengganu gamelan faces its downfall when the Japanese attack the Malaya in 1914 and Sultan Sulaiman died the next year. Tengku Ampuan Mariam return to Pahang bringing together the gamelan ensembles together with her dancers. In 1973, after a tensed bargain between the two states of Pahang and Terengganu, the gamelan set remain in Pahang in the keeping of Pahang Muzeum in Pekan for exposition.

The Malay Gamelan is distinctly different from the Javanese or Balinese Gamelan, not so much in the instruments used but rather in the music played.  Malay gamelan music is very simplistic in that nearly all instruments play the melody, unlike the intricately locked parts of the Javanese gamelan.

There is currently a revival of interest in Terengganu gamelan music, led by Ariff Ahmad of Universiti Malaya, with many new pieces being written out for the ensemble. Cipher notation, common to Javanese gamelan and Chinese music, is used. Malay or the Terengganu gamelan music is usually played during royal and formal occassions and that performers are specially trained in royal palaces. Ariff Ahmad would like to see gamelan music being performed more frequently for all occassions and has expended much effort in promoting and writing music for the University Malaya gamelan troupe which performs regularly for various occassions. Besides University Malaya, various other local insitutions of higher learning have set up their own gamelan troupes, the most prominent of these being the Universiti Sains Malaysia group in Penang which in 1995 performed the Concerto for Piano and Gamelan by Lou Harrison.

Instruments used in the ensembles include:

1.0    bonang  or keromong (sets of small kettle gongs)

2.0    saron (a metallophone)

3.0    gambang (a wooden xylophone)

4.0    kenong (larger kettle gongs)

5.0    gong

6.0    gendang (drums)