kendhang gendhing

Also:       kendhang ageng      kendhang gedhé       

Title: demo: Javanese kendhang gendhing. Format: DAT.

Title: Javanese kendhang kalih. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The kendhang gendhing is a double-headed membranophone of the Javanese people of the island of Java, Indonesia. It is the largest of three hand drums typically found in a modern Central Javanese gamelan set. This instrument itself is not viewed as possessing extra-musical significance. However, some gamelans that include it are considered spiritually charged heirlooms (pusaka).


The asymmetrical, bulging-conical shaped body/shell (ploncon) of this drum is made by shaping and hollowing out a block of jackfruit wood (nångkå). Each of the two differently-sized heads (tébokan) are made from tanned buffalo hide stretched tightly over rattan hoop frames (blengker or wengku) the diameters of which are slightly greater than those of the openings in the shell (rau = rims) they will cover. The heads are held in place by a long rawhide lace (janget) that is threaded around the blengker of one head before running the length of the drum to be threaded around the blengker of the other head; this is repeated ten times resulting in a zigzag lacing pattern. Just before and after each of the ten passes around the blengker of the smaller head the lace is threaded through a pair of small rawhide rings (suh). The suh can be slid up and down the length of the shell, resulting in a Y-pattern indirect lacing system with which the performer regulates the general tension of the drum's heads (see second detail image). A brass and rawhide handle is attached to the shell, and the drum rests horizontally on a wooden stand (tlapakan).

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The performer (pengendhang) sits on the floor facing the drum and produces sounds on both heads using both hands (one for each head). Only a few primary and secondary strokes make up the sound vocabulary of the drumming style for this instrument (first audio clip; for an extended video example of the kendhang gendhing being performed, follow this link). It is generally performed in conjunction with the kendhang ketipung; in one configuration each of the drums is played by individual musicians, in another a single musician plays the two drums as a unified pair (see first detail image, the pair at the right; this pairing, called kendhang kalih [lit., two drums] is heard in the second audio clip; for an extended video example of the kendhang kalih being performed, follow this link). In both arrangements, the patterns performed on this drum are closely linked to the phrase structure (bentuk) of the piece (gendhing) being played. The pengendhang controls the tempo of a piece in performance and leads any changes in tempo, all with the sounds produced on the drums. Although the technique needed to perform the kendhang gendhing is not difficult to master, only a very knowledgeable musician deeply familiar with the gamelan repertoire and performance practice would perform it. A pengendhang can therefore be considered a specialist among gamelan musicians in general.


Although double-headed hand drums have been in use in Java since ancient times as illustrated on the bas reliefs of the 9th century Borobudur temple, they differ morphologically from the modern day kendhang family. Many of the oldest extant ceremonial gamelans (excluding the gamelan sekati) include a kendhang gendhing, and from this evidence alone it seems likely that the instrument has existed at least as far back as the Mataram Kingdom (late 16th to mid 18th centuries). The oldest extant non-ceremonial gamelans include the kendhang gendhing as well. Beyond these general observations, it is not possible to pinpoint even a general date for the origin of this instrument.

Bibliographic Citations

Kartomi, Margaret, et al. 1984. “Kendang,” NGDMI v.2: 374.

Kunst, Jaap. 1968. Hindu-Javanese Musical Instruments. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

 ________. 1973. Music in Java. 3rd ed. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

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

Sumarsam. 1976. Kendangan Gaya Solo. Surakarta, Indonesia: Akademi Seni Karawitan Indonesia.

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


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: Southeast Asia

Nation: Indonesia

Formation: Javanese

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.252.12 membranophone--individual double-skin conical drum, both heads played

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - bulging-conical

Number and function of membranes: two, both for sounding

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: framed membrane hoop connected by lacing to framed membrane hoop

Membrane tension control: sliding rings joining adjacent laces

Sounding for membranophone: striking directly with both hands

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


29.5 in. length 52 in. greatest circumference 13.3 in. diameter of larger rim 11.5 in. diameter of smaller rim

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
lacing - rawhide

Entry Author

Roger Vetter