Also:       gendang      

Title: Music of Indonesia 11: Melayu Music of Sumatra and the Riau Islands--Hitam Manis; Ronggeng musicians based in Medan (field recording by Philip Yampolsky--see Bibliography). Label: Smithsonian Folkways. Format: CD. Catalogue#: SFW 40427. Track: 17.

Contextual Associations

The rebana is a single-head frame membranophone from the coastal region or the islands of Riau province, east central Sumatra, in the Indonesian archipelago. Such drums are part of the widespread Muslim Melayu culture of this area. Frame drums such as this large rebana are used to accompany ronggèng, dancing which in the past was associated with weddings, circumcisions, and other celebrations and included professional dancers with whom male celebrants could dance. Although ronggèng can still be found in these contexts, its music is now used to accompany formal demonstrations of Melayu dance. In the example of ronggèng heard here, two rebana (or gendang) are part of an ensemble that includes an accordion, a violin, and a female singer.


The shallow shell is made from a hardwood and is conical--i.e., the skin covered opening is of a noticeably wider diameter than the bottom, uncovered opening. Indirect lacing is used to attach the mammal skin to the shell. The membrane is first stretched over and attached to a rattan ring.  Another rattan ring is situated near the base of the shell and held in place by a groove carved into the shell itself.  A sturdy mammal hide lace is then threaded around the two hoops, alternating between the top one and the bottom one, in a ‘V’ pattern. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A seated musician rests the drum on his left thigh in a vertical position by stabilizing it with his left hand. He strikes the drum mostly with his right hand to produce a small vocabulary of timbres. One of these is a rim-shot like stroke on the edge of the drum head, which can be performed in alternation with a similar stroke in the left hand while it is stabilizing the drum.


Islam was introduced to Sumatra at the end of the 13th century and grew in cultural significance over the ensuing centuries, with Muslim kingdoms being established in the Malacca Straights region in the 1400s. It is most likely that frame drums such as the rebana were introduced to Sumatra during this period of Islamization of the Malay peoples. Wherever Islam has spread in the Indonesian archipelago one is almost certain to find some variant of the frame drum as part of religious and secular musical life.

Bibliographic Citations

Kartomi, Margaret. 1998. "Sumatra." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 4. Southeast Asia. ed. Terry E. Miller and Sean Williams. New York: Garland Publishing, pp. 598-629.

Yampolsky, Philip. 1996. Music of Indonesia 11: Melayu Music of Sumatra and the Riau Islands. CD and liner notes. Smithsonian Folkways SFW 40427.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: Southeast Asia

Nation: Indonesia

Formation: Achenese

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.311 membranophone--single-skin frame drum (the depth of the body does not exceed the radius of the membrane)

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - frame

Number and function of membranes: one, for sounding

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: framed membrane hoop connected, by lacing or tension rods, to counterhoop encircling shell

Membrane tension control: none, tension set at time of manufacture

Sounding for membranophone: striking directly with one hand

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


21.3 in. diameter of larger opening 17.5 in. diameter of smaller opening 5.8 in. depth of shell 19 in. diameter of active area of head

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin

Entry Author

Roger Vetter