Sekaten Repertoire and Performance Practice

[This page is currently being developed.]

The primary focus of this Appendix is the repertoire played on the gamelan sekati for Sekaten in Yogyakarta at the present time. Both the contents of this repertoire, in terms of what musical pieces are included, and how this repertoire is treated stylistically, will be explored. While the primary focus will be on the here-and-now of Sekaten practice, a degree of historical perspective will be introduced along the way to illustrate that this repertoire has been anything but static.

The repertoire performed for Sekaten includes: racikan bonang (pathet-identifying preludes to gendhing); gendhing that are specific to this ceremony; gendhing that also exist in the present-day, common-practice gamelan repertoire but which, when performed for Sekaten, have special treatments; and gendhing that are directly borrowed from the common-practice repertoire. In all cases, the gendhing performed for Sekaten are realized in a distinctive style specific to this occasion so that even present-day gendhing take on a distinctive musical character. In the first part of this appendix we shall focus on the Sekaten repertoire itself; Sekaten performance practice and the distinctive sonic character with which it endows this repertoire will be explored in the second section.

Sekaten Repertoire

Our overview of the present-day Sekaten repertoire is centered on a published gendhing collection Gendhing-Gendhing Sekaten Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat (Susilamadya 2012), a written compilation of basic Sekaten musical knowledge for contemporary Kraton Yogyakarta musicians that takes into consideration the evolving and mostly orally-transmitted performance tradition of Sekaten that they have inherited from previous generations of court musicians. The publication is currently used extensively by Kridhamardawa musicians as a guide during their performances during Sekaten. I will also utilize earlier published and unpublished writings[1] as well as my own fieldwork observations made while attending Sekaten in 1982, 2007, 2016, and 2017[2] to situate the current repertoire, as laid out by Susilamadya, in a wider historic frame.

In the following chart, the contents of Susilamadya’s Sekaten repertoire collection is presented in a way that I feel reflects at least some of the programming constraints and possibilities within which the musicians–specifically, the players of the bonang sekati–who are making repertoire choices during Sekaten operate. Susilamadya’s collection of gendhing does not constitute the totality of today’s Yogyakarta Sekaten repertoire; it is one practicing musician’s effort to compile a resource that includes notations of all the gendhing that are today considered specific to Sekaten, as well as a sampling of borrowed gendhing from the general common-practice gamelan repertoire that have been, or could be, selected for use during Sekaten. Many more pieces fall potentially into this latter category.[3]

  Sekaten-Specific Sekaten-Specific Borrowed Borrowed
pathet   compulsory optional unmodified modified




Racikan Pathet Lima







Lung Gadhung Pel

Burung Putih/Sobah*




















Racikan Pathet Nem 

(or Racikan Rambon)















Dhéndhang Subinah



Lenggang Rambon





Rangsang Tuban

Megar Sari (v.1) 

Kalong Bali


Onang-Onang Manis

Kandhangan (brn)**



Megar Sari (v.2)

Gajah Bengok

Kebo Giro (brn)**




























Racikan Pathet Barang

(or Racikan Barang Miring)

































































Durma Prasaja

Kumandhang Barang

Jaka Lola


Sobrang Klikip


Megar Semu

Raja Pulang





Mares Godheg


Sedya Asih

[H]usar Mares***

Mares Weni

Mares Kingkin

Mares Marinir

Mares Kaptin

Mares Komis

[Mares Trasminil]****






Ngudya Weni

Wedhi Kengser



Mas Kumambang




Rina-Rina (brn)**

Bendrong (brn)**

Bindri (brn)**







* Burung Putih dhawah Sobah, while labeled in Susilamadya (2012) as a pathet lima gendhing, is categorized in other written sources (Wiraguna 1935, Toth 1970) and performed as (in the Kridhamardawa and Dinas Kebudayaan Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta recording project) a pathet nem gendhing. On the occasions that I heard it performed during Sekaten in 1982 and 2007, it was sometimes preceded by Racikan Pathet Lima, but on other occasions by Racikan Pathet Nem,
** brn = bubaran (or bibaran). The playing of a gendhing in this formal structure signals the end of an event, such as a day of Sekaten.
*** This repertoire item appears as “Busar Mares” in Susilamadya (2012), but I have found this gendhing as “Husar Mares“ in Wiraguna (1935 p.78) and as “Gati Usar” in Dinas Kebudayaan Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta (2014 p.81).
**** This repertoire item appears without a name in Susilamadya (2012), but I have found this gendhing with the name “Gati Trasminil“ in Wiraguna (1935 p.82) and Dinas Kebudayaan Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta (2014 p.78).

There are two distinct kinds of repertoire items performed during Sekaten: rhythmically-free, pathet-identifying pieces called racikan bonang; and rhythmically-rigid pieces called gendhing. In the performance of both the player of the bonang sekati plays a central but somewhat different role. Racikan bonang are basically a string of rhythmically-free melodic formulas played on the bonang sekati, the final note of each being reinforced by the saron-type instruments. This series of melodic formulae is given a general formal shape by structural punctuations performed on the bedhug, kenong, and the gong ageng (however, two other available form-defining instruments—the kempyang and the kethuk bendhé—are not utilized). For gendhing, the bonang sekati player guides the rest of the ensemble through a piece’s core melody (balungan) two or four notes at a time. Each balungan is a prescribed series of pitches, sounded by the saron-type instruments, in a rhythmically predictable environment and a named, structurally-rigid formal framework realized collectively by all the punctuating instruments of the gamelan sekati (gong ageng, kenong, kempyang, kethuk bendhé, and bedhug).[4] Additionally, gendhing can be and usually are performed at more than one irama or tempo-level (this is not so with the racikan bonang) and the realization of several gendhing require some sort of melodic elaboration upon its balungan by the players of some of the saron-type instruments. More on all these distinctions and treatments in the section of this chapter dealing with Sekaten performance practice.

There are only three racikan bonang for Sekaten, one each for the three pathet (lima [or gangsal], nem, and barang) of laras pélog. Two of these have alternate names: Racikan Nem is also called Racikan Rambon; and Racikan Barang, Racikan Barang Miring. Although few in number, the racikan bonang hold a prominent place in Sekaten practice because every gendhing performed during the week is preceded by one of them. This prominence is reflected in the above chart by the three colored fields—whenever any of the gendhing situated in a given color-field is performed, it will be preceded by that field’s racikan bonang.

A recent recording project (c. 2015) by Kridhamardawa and Dinas Kebudayaan Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta [Cultural Department of DIY] presents what is considered today by the palace as the core Sekaten repertoire, consisting of sixteen gendhing each preceded by its associated racikan bonang. This group of gendhing matches the first sixteen gendhing found in a Kridhamardawa manuscript titled Pratelan Gendhing-Gendhing Sekati [List of Gamelan Sekati Pieces](Wiraguna l935) and will be referred to here as the “Sekaten-specific” repertoire (their names appear in the two columns under this heading in the above chart). All sixteen of these gendhing also appear in Susilsmadya’s collection, but he does not group them together as “Sekaten specific”. Instead, he places them at the head of their respective group of gendhing sharing the same pathet association. While the concordances between the above sources suggest the Sekaten-specific pieces might be thought of as fixed and unchanging, other available sources suggest another understanding. A comparison between the present-day core repertoire with those reported in Groneman (1895) and Toth (1970) reveals several discrepancies, suggesting that this repertoire has evolved over time as might be expected in an orally-transmitted tradition such as Sekaten.[5]

The sixteen present-day Sekaten-specific gendhing are listed below, their names serving as links to the above-mentioned recordings (found on YouTube):

gendhing RAMBU preceded by Racikan Pathet Lima (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing RANGKUNG preceded by Racikan Pathet Lima (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

gendhing ANDHONG-ANDHONG preceded by Racikan Pathet Lima (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing LUNG GADHUNG PÉL preceded by Racikan Pathet Lima (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

gendhing RÉNDÉNG preceded by Racikan Pathet Lima (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing YAHUMÉ preceded by Racikan Pathet Lima (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

gendhing BURUNG PUTIH dhawah SOBAH preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

gendhing GLÉYUNG preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing LENGGANG RAMBON preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

gendhing SALATUN preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

gendhing DHÉNDHANG SUBINAH preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing ATUR-ATUR preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

gendhing ORANG-ARING preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing NGAJATUN preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing BAYEMTUR preceded by Racikan Pathet Nem (performed on K.K. Gunturmadu)

gendhing SUPIYATUN preceded by Racikan Pathet Barang (performed on K.K. Nagawilaga)

Of these sixteen core gendhing, four are considered particularly central to the identity of Sekaten: Rambu, Rangkung, Andhong-Andhong, and Lung Gadung Pél. As a group, these four pieces will be referred to here (and in the above chart) as “compulsory” Sekaten-specific pieces, in large part because they are performed at the beginning of each day of Sekaten in a prescribed order.[FN: [6]] The other twelve Sekaten-specific gendhing–Réndéng, Yahumé, Burung Putih dhawah Sobah, Dhéndhang Subinah, Orang-Aring, Ngajatun, Lenggang Rambon, Salatun, Atur-Atur, Gléyung, Bayemtur, and Supiyatun—will be referred to collectively as “optional” Sekaten-specific gendhing because they are not required to be sounded at a specific time or, indeed, at all, during the Sekaten week. Whether they are sounded or not during Sekaten in any given year is entirely dependent on the bonang sekati players making repertoire choices.

In addition to the sixteen Sekaten-specific gendhing, dozens of other pieces borrowed from the large repertoire of the common-practice gamelan (“Borrowed from General Repertoire” in the chart) will be selected by the bonang sekati musicians during the course of a Sekaten week. Susilamadya provides a sampling of forty-seven such pieces that have been or could be selected by the bonang sekati players for Sekaten (see the final two columns of the figure above). I have heard many of these pieces performed during the four Sekaten I have attended, plus nineteen further gendhing.[7] This part of the Sekaten repertoire is open-ended, allowing bonang sekati players the possibility of introducing common-practice gendhing into the Sekaten context if they so choose. The pieces that they choose to borrow can be associated with either laras pélog or laras sléndro in the common-practice repertoire, and although the majority of borrowed common-practice pieces are in the 32-beat ladrang or the 16-beat bubaran forms, sections of larger common-practice gendhing with 128-beat gong phrases have also been borrowed.[8] In the above Sekaten Repertoire chart, I have distributed the borrowed common-practice gendhing found in Susilamadya between two columns: “unmodifiedgendhing are those that are found in the common-practice repertoire as laras pélog pieces in the ladrang or bubaran forms, therefore necessitating minimal transformation for use in Sekaten; and “modifiedgendhing are either laras sléndro pieces in the common-practice repertoire or sections of laras pélog pieces in forms other than ladrang and bubaran, therefor necessitating a more significant degree of editing to Sekaten-ize them.

One further repertoire matter needs to be mentioned: the place in Sekaten of a group of pieces called “mares” (also “mars”, “gendhing gati”, and “gendhing sabrangan”), of which nine are found in Susilamadya (2012). In the common-practice repertoire, mares are laras pélog ladrang with a specific drumming pattern (kendhangan sabrangan) performed in the loud style (soran) in irama satu/seseg (the first of four levels of temporal/melodic/structural expansion). As a group there are all told sixty mares found in various gendhing collections.[9] This group of gendhing is viewed as originating in the Kraton Yogyakarta, even if it is unclear exactly when and by whom they were created.[10] They have a narrow range of application in the artistic life of the palace, used for the regal entry and exit of bedhaya and srimpi court dancers when the choreography accompaniment is in laras pélog.[11] Recordings of two mares–Kumencar and Main-Main–performed in this capacity can be heard on this website (scroll down to third audio clip “Lampah bedhayan: Muncar”; Kumencar begins at 2:06, Main-Main at 38:23) as part of the accompaniment for the srimpi Muncar choreography. When resources are available, the balungan of these gendhing mares are doubled by Western brass, woodwind and, occasionally, string instruments, and multiple Western side drums (tanbur) provide an additional form-defining rhythmic layer to that of the standard kendhangan.[12] It is therefore somewhat mysterious why the only pieces found in the Kridhamardawa Sekaten manuscript (Wiraguna 1935) beyond the three racikan bonang and the sixteen Sekaten-specific pieces listed above are fifty-three gendhing mares. I find it highly unlikely that this group of pieces ever had a prominent place in Sekaten performance practice, and speculate that their inclusion in the Sekaten manuscript might have been an effort on the part of its compiler (Wiraguna) to introduce these pieces to Sekaten practice as further options bonang sekati players could draw upon when making repertoire choices. Since across my thirty-five year period of occasional attendances at Sekaten (1982-2017) I have heard only one mares played,[13] it is evident that, by the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, gendhing mares are rarely selected for Sekaten. It will be interesting to see if, going forward, gendhing mares are more regularly selected for performance during Sekaten due to the presence of nine of them in the Susilamadya collection.


Sekaten Performance Practice