kendhang ciblon

Also:       kendhang batangan       

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

Contextual Associations

The kendhang ciblon is a double-headed membranophone of the Javanese people of the island of Java, Indonesia. It is one of three hand drums (see first detail image; the kendhang ciblon is at the left) typically found in a modern Central Javanese gamelan set. The word ‘ciblon’ means ‘to playfully slap the surface of water with one’s open or cupped palms to produce a variety of timbres and rhythms.’ This pastime is often cited as the inspiration behind kendhangan ciblon (ciblon drumming style.) The kendhang ciblon 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 eight times resulting in a zigzag lacing pattern. Just before and after each of the eight 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). Several primary and secondary strokes--some produced on one head, others on both heads--make up the sound vocabulary of the drumming style for this instrument. For an extended video example of the kendhang ciblon being performed, follow this link. The rhythmic/timbral patterns performed on this drum are closely linked to traditional Javanese dance the movements of which are accentuated and enhanced by the drumming. The ciblon player not only ornaments dancers' movements, but also controls the tempo of the accompanying piece (gendhing) and leads any changes in tempo, all with the sounds produced on the ciblon. Acquiring a good sound, gaining a command of the patterns for dance movements and familiarity with choreographies, and becoming familiar with the repertoire to which this drumming is applied is a massive undertaking that only a very knowledgeable and experienced musician takes on. A kendhang ciblon player 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 one or more kendhang, but none include a ciblon. Today, the oldest extant non-ceremonial gamelans include the kendhang ciblon, but it most likely was a later addition rather than an origin component of these gamelans. It seems probable that the kendhang ciblon originated and developed first in association with a rural itinerant female dance tradition elements (including the drumming) of which eventually, probably in the 19th century, came to be imitated and refined by court artists. 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.

Soeharto, M. 1978. “Ciblon.” Jakarta: Penerbit PT Gramedia.

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


26 in. length 43 in. greatest circumference 10 in. diameter of larger rim 7.8 in. diameter of smaller rim

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
lacing - rawhide

Entry Author

Roger Vetter