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Last Guardians of Javanese Gong Production

“In Indonesia, 70 percent of the population is Javanese. This is about 149 million people. They live with the arts and traditions of their Javanese ancestors. Karawitan music is such a case. One of the Javanese musical instruments used in Karawitan music is the gong. Traditional gongs are made of metal. In karawitan music, gongs are generally used as a sign of the beginning or end of a song.

The process for producing the karawitan gong begins by melting the raw materials, tin and copper. After the copper melts, the craftsman inserts the copper fluid into the gong mold in a dark room where only the flame of the melted copper can be seen. It is processed in a traditional way; there is no mechanical support.

Gong production is currently rare. But people in Wirun Village, Mojolaban, and Sukoharjo in Central Java still preserve this art. More than simply producing the gong, they are eager to save its cultural heritage.

Many craftsmen have stopped producing the gong since the cost of production is increasingly high. On the other hand, the younger generation prefer to use digital instruments and see the karawitan art coming to an end.

In actuality, however, the craftsmen not only produce the gong. They have to be able to distinguish notes that have become benchmarks for aligning the tone of the gong and other gamelan devices.

The gong craftsmen in Sukoharjo, Central Java, are the last guardians for preserving this part of Indonesian art and culture.”

About Ulet Ifansasti

About Ulet Ifansasti

Ulet Ifansasti is a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer, with interest in social, environmental and cultural issues. He is born in Papua and currently base in Yogyakarta-Indonesia.

Ulet joined international photo agency Getty Images in 2008 and has been a regular contributor and stringer since. As a freelance photographer Ulet covers a variety of assignments for editorial and commercial clients and remains committed to exploring personal projects.

His works have been published in many leading publications including GREENPEACE, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, STERN, The Guardian, TIME Magazine, USA Today, LIFE, National Geographic Traveler, etc.

Ulet Ifansasti Official Website