kenong (Sundanese)

Title: demo: Sundanese kenong. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The kenong a metal gong idiophone of the Sundanese people of Java, Indonesia. It is the largest horizontally-mounted gong in the Sundanese gamelan salendro (see Gamelan Prunggu (Bronze) from West Java for tuning and register information for the instruments in the Grinnell set). Sundanese gamelan instruments in general are remarkable products of highly skilled craftsmen. The transformation, with the aid of fire, of raw materials from the earth into physical objects of sound production is seen by many Sundanese to be fraught with supernatural dangers. Gongsmiths were viewed as possessing priestly like powers and would take on the names of mythological characters as forms of protection in their craft.


Each of the bronze gongs in this pair was forged by a team of hammer-wielding smiths who gradually transformed a disc of bronze into the shape seen in the picture. This involved numerous cycles of heating the bronze until white-hot followed by a few minutes of hammering. The finished product is an integral vessel with a turned-in flange and a raised central boss/knob. The contouring of the face of the gong is essential to achieving a definite pitch. Kenongs rest horizontally on ropes in a wooden rack. A thinly padded wooden stick beater is used to strike the bosses of the gongs.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A single player performs the instrument by striking its knobs/bosses with the beater; any competent gamelan musician can play the instrument. It is a punctuating instrument that contributes to the articulation of the underlying cyclical formal structure of a piece by being sounded at the end of each repetition of that structure. A high, penetrating sound with a sharp attack and moderately long decay is produced. The sound has a definite pitch. It is played at a single dynamic level.


It is very likely that tuned gongs and the technology to produce them were developed first outside of Indonesia. When and by whom they were introduced to Java is not known. Historical information on the kenong in Sundanese gamelans is scant, so it is difficult to place a date on the introduction of this instrument with confidence.

Bibliographic Citations

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

Spiller, Henry. 2004. Gamelan: The Traditional Sounds of Indonesia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: Southeast Asia

Nation: Indonesia

Formation: Sundanese

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


12.5 in. diameter at widest point (smaller gong) 7.8 in. height (smaller gong) 12.8 in. diameter at widest point (larger gong) 8 in. height (larger gong)

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter