Gambir Sawit.

CD Release date: 17th December 2005.

Gambir Sawit. The former Majapahit empire which was Hindu/Buddihst was at last penetrated by the force of Islam.

Gambir Sawit is a tune which celebrates the Hindu/Buddhist peoples’ wish to be able to convert to Islam at the end of the Majapahit empire. In the year 1478 the Majapahit empire was declining, enabling Islam to enter into that kingdom.  As many people decided to convert to the Islamic faith Sunan Kalijaga celebrated the ease with which they could do so by composing the tune Gambir Sawit, which refers to this ease of the people’s entry into Islam in happiness and without force.

Gambir Sawit is one of the primary light classical pieces in the Central Javanese repertoire. It is one of the first pieces that a musician would learn after they have mastered all the Ladrangs and the fast pieces etc.

This piece is known by all gamelan musicians who play in the Solo/Jogyanese style. It is defined as light classical because it has a longer form and therefore in Jogya but especially in Solo the rebab, the gender and the persinden get to do more improvisation. There’s more space, which makes it light classical.

This CD is a Gambir Sawit suite. It is is prefaced by a bawa sekar  “flower” song form, an introductory song by a solo male voice in the form called Sekar Ageng or big song.

The name of the melody is Rara Turidha. This bawa song has four lines. The singer comes to the fourth line and there is a melody leading to the gong which in this case is gong five.

This CD contains many variations on the Gambir Sawit theme.  Over the years musicians have created new arrangements of Gambir Sawit. These variations on Gambir Sawit are usually based on different musical techniques.

Pare Anom it is the name of a variation added to the Gambir Sawit composition. Here the word kebar refers to a special drumming technique used for dance in the gambyong tradition. Gambyong is similar to joged bumbung in Bali; it’s a social dance and it’s a little complicated in that there is an aspect of classical forms involved as well. Pare Anom is the section which is very exciting and the sarons play very distinct melodies loudly. The drum plays suddenly and extremely loud and that’s the kebar.

Next follows the minggah ciblon Pancer Ana. Minggah means to “go up” and ana means ada  “there is”. Pancer is a musical technique where you intersperse an ostinato note in the balungan between every other melodic tone. The higher note is the pancer.

Interestingly enough that is sometimes called “pacar cina”, the Chinese girlfriend. The ciblon is the drum that plays the exciting music and it’s the name of the drum but its also the name of that treatment of the music where the gending “tune” has been expanded by pulling apart the balungan a little in time and making more space, therefore giving more improvisation opportunities to the gambang, the gender , the rebab and the persinden where they actually double up on their notes. This is called a change of irama or a change of time-space. Gambyong is a social dance or street dance where women get up and choose a partner by handing the slendang to the guests. So ciblon is also part of this gambyong dance tradition and the ciblon drumming style was the one that was taken into the palace and put into classical music. It didn’t exist before that in the palace repertoire. So the ciblon Pancer Ana would be that piece that would be played for the gambyong dance.

The next piece is malik which means to reverse. To flip over to another Gambir Sawit in slendro sanga. In Central Java the transposition of a piece from pelog to slendro is fairly common. This is a laras “scale” change from pelog nem to slendro sanga which is played for a while before the musicians malik to Gambir Sawit Jangga Lana. Jangga Lana is yet another traditional arrangement of Gambir Sawit and this time in pelog nem.

This is followed by a malik to Gambir Sawit Sembung Gilang which happens to be in slendro sangaSembung Gilang as well as Jangga Lana  have some kind of distinctive features. What is not distinct is the beginning section called the marong.  The marong is the beginning first section which is typically one of two gongans.  In this case it is four lines of sixteen beats so it’s a 64 beat composition and Gambir Sawit happens to be a one gongan marong. The marong will always be the same, more or less, and then when it moves into the added section it incorporates the Pancer Ana the Sembung Gilang etc.

Then they malik malih to Pare Anom.  The musicians have made a suite of most of the Gambir Sawits.

 

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