bonang barung

Title: demo: Javanese bonang barung. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The bonang barung is a metal gongchime idiophone of the Javanese people of Java, Indonesia. It is an elaboration instrument that is part of the Javanese gamelan (the iron gamelan to which the instrument pictured on this page belongs has two bonang barung). The two forms of horizontal resting gongs brought together on the bonang barung--brunjung and dhempok--carry gendered associations: brunjung gongs are seen as jaler (male) and dhempok ones as setrèn (female). The Javanese view the unification of male and female characteristics in a single entity as a positive quality. Although Javanese forged bronze gongs in general are remarkable products of highly skilled and admired craftsmen (see goöng), gongs made from iron are not accorded the same level of admiration. Nonetheless, it takes a team of specialized craftsmen to construct iron gongs such as those of the bonang barung pictured and described here, and when well constructed they can produce a musically satisfying alternative to their far more costly counterparts in bronze gamelans.


Each of the twelve gongs that together constitute this instrument is constructed from three interlocking pieces of sheet iron, one a disc and the other two fan-shaped strips. The strips are connected end-to-end with rivets to form a truncated cone, the gong's rim (bau). The circumference of the disc piece is attached to the larger opening of the bau by folding (accomplished with much cold hammering) to create an integral vessel. Two basic shapes of gongs differentiated by the contour of their face are found on this instrument. Both shapes have a central knob/boss (pencu), but differ in details of the rai (flat surface) and recep (slope) areas that surround it. Brunjung gongs (the row of gongs closest to the viewer in the photo on this page) have a higher profile with a narrower rai and steeper recep than do the lower profile dhempok gongs (the row furthest from the viewer). Such contouring of the face is essential to achieving a gong with definite pitch and a set of gongs of similar size that cover a wide range (on this instrument the brunjung gongs are tuned an octave higher than the dhempok ones). The pencu is reinforced with a brass cap that is riveted to the iron knob. The gongs rest horizontally in two parallel rows on ropes running the length of the instrument's rectangular wooden rack. The performer uses two wooden stick beaters (tabuh) padded with tightly wound cord to strike the pencu of gongs.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A single player, seated on the floor (in the photo, on the far side of the instrument facing the camera) performs the instrument by striking its knobs/bosses with the two tabuh, one held in each hand. See Gamelan Besi (Iron) from Central Java for tuning and register information for the bonang barung in this gamelan. For an extended video example of the bonang barung (left side of screen) and bonang panerus (right side) being performed, follow this link. Any competent gamelan musician should be able to play the instrument, however a strong command of the repertoire of pieces (gendhing) is necessary. The sound of each gong has a definite pitch with a sharp attack and moderately long decay, which often requires a damping technique. It can be performed at loud and soft dynamic levels.


Many of the oldest extant archaic/ceremonial gamelans in Java include one or more single-row bonang each performed by multiple musicians. It is unclear how much earlier than the 18th century non-ceremonial gamelans included double-row bonang played by a single musician (even the double-row bonang of the gamelan sekati is performed by two musicians, one playing the brunjung row as a melodic instrument, another performing on the dhempok row as a punctuating instrument). 

Bibliographic Citations

“Bonang.” 1984. NGDMI v.1: 249.

Kunst, Jaap. 1973. Music in Java. 3rd ed. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Pickvance, Richard. 2005. A Gamelan Manual. London: Jaman Mas Books.

Sumunar Javanese Gamelan Instructional Videos website, accessed 16 May 2019:

Vetter, Roger. 2001. "More than Meets the Eye and Ear: Gamelans and Their Meaning in a Javanese Palace," Asian Music 32/2: 41-92.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: Southeast Asia

Nation: Indonesia

Formation: Javanese

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.241.21 idiophone--set of percussion vessel bossed, flat (with flange), and intermediate types of gongs

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: plate - contoured with folded-over rim

Sound objects per instrument: multiple sounded discretely

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - partially padded stick/s

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: definite pitch

Sound modification: none


63.5 in. length (of case) 8.3 in. diameter (smallest gong) 6.3 in. height (smallest gong) 9 in. diameter (largest gong) 5.1 in. height (largest gong)

Primary Materials



Raden Riya Mangkuasmara

Entry Author

Roger Vetter