K.K. Gunturlaut

Acquired: during the Reign of Sultan Hamengku Buwana I
Type of Gamelan: archaic–monggang
Tuning: 3-tone

The archaic gamelan monggang of the Kraton Yogyakarta, K.K. Gunturlaut.

In the Wédha Pradangga, a compilation of orally-transmitted stories about the history of the gamelan and its repertoire, Warsadiningrat credits Prabu Surya Wisésa with creating the first gamelan monggang (also spelled “munggang“) in 1223 CE.[1] Kraton Yogyakarta manuscripts and publications place the origins of the palace’s pusaka gamelan monggang, K.K. Gunturlaut (“thundering sea”), at about the same time, in the 14th century Majapahit Kingdom of East Java. While the veracity of these beliefs is unprovable, it is important nonetheless to be aware of them as part of the baggage and gravitas of this gamelan in the context of the Kraton Yogyakarta. This gamelan’s association with the Majapahit Kingdom serves to situate the present day kraton in the long history of Javanese kingship, and to validate the kraton as a royal institution.

Warsadiningrat states that the gamelan monggang of the Kraton Surakarta, K.K. Udan Arum (“fragrant rain”), is the gamelan monggang created by Prabu Surya Wisésa in the 13th century.[2] It was components of this gamelan that came to the newly established Kraton Yogyakarta in 1755 CE as a result of the Treaty of Giyanti. This agreement between warring factions at the time involved the sharing of royal heirlooms between the Surakarta Kingdom and its new equal, the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. The Surakarta gamelan monggang K.K. Udan Arum was one of these heirlooms, and it has been chronicled that half of its instruments were allotted to Yogyakarta. By 1757 CE these instruments had been augmented to become a complete gamelan monggang and given the name K.K. Gunturlaut. I have yet to encounter an inventory that lists exactly which of the instruments from K.K. Udan Arum came to Yogyakarta, and which of the instruments in K.K. Gunturlaut were mid-18th century additions. To members of the Kraton Yogyakarta, I sense it does not matter that such details have been lost to history. The bottom line is that to the members of this community this gamelan, along with a few others that came to Yogyakarta as part of the Treaty of Giyanti (see K.K. Maésaganggang and K.K. Gunturmadu), contributes significantly to how they situate the Kraton Yogyakarta in the centuries-old tradition of Javanese kingship.

It should not come as a surprise that in order to effectively index antiquity this gamelan needs to look and sound different from contemporary sets. Among the archaic instruments found in this gamelan are cymbals (rojéh), a pair of distinctively-shaped medium-size gongs with flat faces (penonthong), and four single-row gong chimes (bonang) with three large gongs each. These instruments, more so than the remaining instruments of this set, visually convey a sense of antiquity.

There is only one musical piece, gendhing Monggang, performed on this gamelan (Video 1). The gamelan’s melodic instruments are the four bonang, each tuned to a 3-tone scale (another name for this gamelan is gamelan patigan [from the root “tiga”, meaning “three”]; this name appears on the back of one of the set’s gong ageng). Gendhing Monggang is ostinato-like with a single four-note, three-pitch motif repeated over and over on the bonang setren and jaler instruments, which sound an octave apart. An underlying cyclical structure produced collectively by the kenong japan, penonthong, the two kendhang paneteg, and the gong ageng (one with a perceivably lower pitch than the other) creates a phrase structure that encompasses four iterations of the melodic motif played on the four bonang. But perhaps the most distinctive contribution to the aural personality of this gamelan arises from the indefinite-pitched rojéh, which contributes rhythmically to the underlying phrase structure of the piece.

Given the distinctive visual and sonic character of this gamelan and the cultural associations it carries as discussed above, it should come as no surprise that K.K. Gunturlaut is strategically inserted into the ceremonial life of the Kraton Yogyakarta. Over the more than 250-year history of the kraton the occasions for which this set is employed have varied, but in general it is sounded in association with the sultan himself or for certain members of his family, or for events sponsored by the palace and which by custom are credited to the sultan. The current list of appropriate occasions for the sounding of this set is: during the ceremony to enthrone a new sultan; to accompany during ceremonies the movement of the sultan from the palace to Sitihinggil; for the send-off of the gunungan (“rice mountain” offerings, considered gifts from the sultan to his subjects) from the palace to the mosque (where they are received by the public) during the thrice-yearly grebeg celebrations; when a son is born to the sultan by his primary wife (garwa padmi); during the circumcision ceremony of sons of the sultan by his garwa padmi; as the body of a sultan leaves the palace for the royal cemetery at Imogiri; and for the arrival at the palace of highly honored guests.

K.K. Gunturlaut is painted a rich dark red (abrit sepuh) with silver/gold highlights (prior to 2016 the highlight color had, in my encounters with this set, always been gold; when I saw the set in 2016 the gold highlight had been covered over with silver paint). This set’s carving motif–a horse (possibly a sembrani, a mythological flying horse) framed by wings (mirong)–in no way makes reference to either the name or the type of this gamelan (one possible translation of “monggang” is “strong tiger”, but the creature represented on the casings of this gamelan is clearly not a tiger). The current casings for this gamelan are quite new, having been made in 2006-2007 to replace the earlier (though certainly not original) casings that were damaged during an earthquake that struck Yogyakarta on May 27, 2006. At the time, K.K. Gunturlaut was on display in the Trajumas pavilion, which partially collapsed. The rubble damaged many of the gamelan’s casings and destroyed one of its gong ageng.

In a 2007 conversation with G.B.P.H. Yudhaningrat, the head of the palace’s performing arts office (Kridhamardawa), he said he had requested a gongsmith to melt down the destroyed gong and forge a replacement from the salvaged bronze. The smith did not feel he would be able to do that, perhaps concerned about the spiritual ramifications of the task. Yudhaningrat informed me that instead the palace bought a replacement gong ageng. This replacement can be seen in the video footage of the gamelan monggang being played as part of the Grebeg Maulud celebration in 2007. Interestingly, the gong player was not using it–normally, the two gong ageng are sounded in alternation with one another, but only the older of the two was being used on this occasion.

Over the years I have sought out present and past Kraton Yogyakarta gamelans both inside and outside the palace. One pair of former palace gamelans in particular provided me a surprise in the form of a connection between it and the gamelan monggang K.K. Gunturlaut. In 1999 my attempts to hunt down the pair of palace gamelans once housed at Kapatihan, the residence of the sultan’s Prime Minister, met with success at the Gudung Pusat on the University of Gajah Mada (UGM) campus in Yogyakarta. There I found the gamelan sléndro K.K. Mangunsih and the gamelan pélog K.K. Mangunkung. Both were given to UGM in 1949 by the Ninth Sultan. The two sets share a pair of gong ageng, one named “Kyahi Keboganggang” and the other “Kyahi Lokananta”. “Lokananta” is yet another name for the gamelan monggang, so it is very likely that at some time in the past this gong was a part of K.K. Gunturlaut. How and when it ended up with these now former palace sets I do not know.

Regardless of the temporal, political, and geological challenges that this set of instruments has experienced over the centuries, members of the palace community still view K.K. Gunturlaut as an inheritance from medieval Javanese kings. It represents a valued continuity with the past and is therefore afforded the greatest respect–even though the paint from its most recent repairs has barely dried.

gong ageng (2)
penonthong (2)
kenong japan (1)
rojéh (1)
bonang monggang (4; 2 setren, 2 jaler)
kendhang paneteg ageng (1)
kendhang paneteg alit (1)

Audio and Video Clips:

Video 1 [Gamelan monggang K.K. Gunturlaut being performed at Sitihinggil as part of Grebeg Mulud, March 31, 2007]

The archaic gamelan monggang of the Kraton Yogyakarta, K.K. Gunturlaut.