Something unusual happens at the ricefields at Wonosobo countryside, Central Java. While ducks are quacking around boisterously, a melody of gamelan is streaming from a bamboo dome, mingling with the breeze and trickles of water.
It looks like a giant dust pan, about a meter high. It is made of plaited bamboo bound with rubber from used tyres. Palm fibers are added to the roof with tied ends to form a warped horn.
Local residents call this dome a kowangan. Initially it served as a shelter for shepherds during a hot day or rain. To kill time, people played with the shelter and it turned out that the dome produced wonderful sounds.
Inside the dome, six ropes made of palm fibers are stretched horizontally. Three blades of bamboo are inserted below hence these materials create sounds. The kowangan then switch functions as a musical instrument. And it is called bundengan music.
No notes left on when it was found and who the founder is. Most probably it has been around since the early years of 20th century. A man named Barnawi is known once as the conservationist of bundengan. The musical instrument has faced several facelifts through his hands. Palm fibers as strings were replaced with racket strings to obtain high-pitched sounds. His skillful craft in creating tones has brought the bundengan to accompany Lengger dance performances in a number of events.
Unfortunately, Barnawi passed away last year, on September 30. Only two heirs were entrusted to proceed as bundengan successors. They are his daughter who is still in junior high school and Hengki Krisnawan (41). It is possible that Hengki is the only person at the moment who has the knack to introduce bundengan to a wider audience. He encouraged the youth in his village, Sruni, Jaruksari, Wonosobo, to form a lenggeran group. As an officer of the Cultural and Tourism Agency of Banjarnegara Regency administration, this enthusiast of cruise motorcycles often invites foreign tourists to watch the lengger dance with bundengan background. (WI/Sandipras)