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The Rare Ketungan Musical Instrument  

by on Tuesday, 27 November 2007No Comment | 1,371 views

When a grand ceremony such as Ngenteg Lingih (held once every 30 years) or deification of ancestor soul (nyekah) is held both Balinese and visitors will have a chance to see the rare Ketungan and hear its unique rhythmic sound. Ketungan, as a matter of fact is not a musical instrument but a long wooden mortar made of tree trunk complete with some long wooden pestles which is used to thrash the rice in order to detach the grain from the husk. When the rice is thrashed using the mortar, the long trough of the mortar is filled with rice and then the rice is pounded using the tall wooden pestles.


The ketungan is sounded by pounding the wooden pestles continuously into the ketungan. The collision of wooden pestles against the wooden mortar will produce deep continuous sounds which can cover surprisingly long distance. Ketungan is usually sounded by 6 or more women; each of them hold a long wooden pestle and pound the mortar with a specific rhythm. The different rhythms of the pounding will produce a complex interlocking pattern of polyrhythm. Sometimes the outer side of the wooden mortar is also pounded with a wooden hammer or two, adding new rhythms to the complex rhythm of the wooden pestles.


In some areas in Bali, when a grand ceremony is held in a temple,sounding the Ketungan is a requirement for entering the inner courtyard of the temple so when someone want to enter the inner courtyard of the temple he must sound the ketungan which is placed in front of the gate of inner courtyard first before entering the inner courtyard of the temple.


The presence of ketungan is obligatory in a grand ceremony; Balinese believe that the sound of ketungan will lure the gods to come to the venue of ceremony.

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