Seven generations of gong beaters

Heating and beating the gong into shape. (photo: IO/Yoga)

IO – If you cross Pancasan Street, Pasir Jaya, West Bogor, Bogor City (now renamed “Aria Suryalaga Street”), you can see the “gong-making” workshop that stands firmly on an area of 150 square meters. This location was once famous for its “Pancasan Gong Workshop” which has now become a “Gong Factory”.

In the 200 years since it was first established, the Gong Factory still remain stands firm and never changes shape. It was founded by a man named Jakim during the Dutch colonial era.

Krisna Hidayat, 7th generation owner. (photo: IO/Yoga)

Until now, the craft of beating gongs has been passed down from generation to generation, and is today exemplified by Krisna Hidayat, a seventh-generation craftsman. In fact, Krisna has faced a heavy burden in maintaining his ancestral heritage in a digital era: in an age of modernity, traditional tools have begun to be discarded.

The Gong Factory gained its glory in the 1990s. At that time, the daily number of visitors would reach up to 100. Sales were also fantastic: 2 orders per day for complete gamelan sets. A monthly total of up to 60 shipments is common, to both domestic destinations and foreign countries.

Local orders for gongs and gamelan sets arrive from Sumatra, Sulawesi to West Nusa Tenggara (NTB); they deal with regular orders from foreign countries in Europe and America.

One set of Degung Sunda Gamelan customarily consists 14 pieces of “Bona”, 14 pieces of “Saron”, 6 pieces of “Jenglong”, 1 piece of “Gong Besar” (big gong), 1 piece of “Kempul”, and supporting instruments such as flutes and “Rampak” drums. One Degung Sunda Gamelan set can cost up to 80 million Rupiah. There are also small souvenir gongs (diameter of 20cm to 50cm) that can be purchased for 1.5 to 2.5 million Rupiah.

The craft of heating and beating metal to make gongs is carried out by a workforce of 13 employees, using white lead and red copper as a basic material. 1 kilogram of tin + 3 kilograms of red copper are melted and molded into shape, before being forged, according to size. Next is the stage of grinding or peeling away the outer layer of the gong, cleaning off residual crusts that attach when forging.

Then a specialist will tune a gong’s high and low notes, grinding or thinning to lower the sound; the customer may specify a certain kind of tone. To achieve a high resonance, craftsmen forge the piece from back to front. This loud “bong” is a signature sound of the Gong Factory.

The Gong Factory is open to visitors every day of the week except Fridays, from 9am to 3pm. (Yoga)