A gong is actually not just a round metal object that hangs in a frame and makes a sound when you hit it. There are in fact different categories of gongs in Bali which can be made of bronze, iron or bamboo. I’m going to categorize the gongs we see in Bali as follows:
1. Hanging gongs with bosses
These are the most common type, are made from bronze or iron, and Balinese refer to them as a gong, kempur or kemong / kelentong, depending on their size: gongs range from 85 to 70 centimeters, kempur from 65 to 35 cm centimeters, and kemong from 25 – 20 centimeters in diameter. Any gongs smaller than this have different names. They all have a central raised nipple known as a ‘boss’ and are hit with a large padded mallet that weighs almost a kilogram. Gongs are used in a variety of gamelan ensembles, such as gong gede, gong kebyar, balegangjur, gong luang, and semarandhana.
2. Hanging gongs with sunken bosses
These have a sunken central boss and are fairly rare. Known as bende, as I mentioned in my previous article, they are the oldest recorded type of gong in Bali. Bende are hit with a mallet that lots like a pestle but made from a soft wood.
3. Hanging gongs without bosses
Known as gong bheri, these are categorically of Chinese origin, make a harsh rather than booming sound and are thought also to be very ancient. Only two villages in Bali (in Semawang and Renon) use these gongs are part of an ensemble called ‘Gong Bheri’. They are hit with a small padded mallet.
4. Upright, pot gongs, lap gongs
There is quite a large variety of these: terompong, bonang, riong, kajar, kelenang, kenong, ponggang, kempyung and kempli. These types of gongs are hit with sticks (either one or two) and can serve either a melodic or rhythmic function. The rarest of the pot gongs are the kenong (extinct), ponggang (extremely rare) and kempyung (on the verge of extinction). A kajar is like a mini version of the bende but played on the lap mimicking the drum strokes.
5. Slab gongs
There are two types: iron with two bars that are tuned slightly out from either other and hung over a resonating chamber – found primarily in the joged and genggong ensembles; and bamboo which vibrate over a resonator to create a low but softer sound and only played in the arja ensemble.
© Vaughan Hatch 2018