BANDUNG (indo.com): Way back in the early 30s, in the
beautifully inspiring land of Parahiyangan - which means
land of Gods and Goddess - a five year old boy became overwhelmed
by the sound of angklung, a Sundanese traditional musical
instrument made of bamboo. As the child sensed, the angklung
was his good friend not only for him but also for the rest
of the villagers that he lived with. The harmony, the uniqueness
of various melodic sounds and the joy that it created had
escorted every child to his circumcision, adults to their
marriages, and even celebrations at harvest time. Angklung
was the harbinger of happiness.
As the boy grew up, he didn't want his memories of angklung
magic to fade. He wanted the children of the next generation
to experience the same angklung joy he had once felt. But
it was not until the year of 1955 that the boy was mature
enough to begin learning angklung seriously directly from
the master of angklung itself, the late Daeng Soetigna,
the founder of angklung music in 1938. He was one of six
of Daeng's students, and subsequently gained the nickname
the crocodile of angklung because of his passionate
obsession for this cultural heritage.
Years later, in the 21st century of today, that little boy
has grown old with a long white beard, and still plays angklung
performances every evening with tens of children in his
1.5 acres wide saung (a thatch-roofed pavilion with
no walls, a bit like a wide open gazebo). Nowadays the Saung's
visitors number 1000 to 2000 a month, coming from many countries
in Europe, America, and Africa - as well as spell-bound
local audiences. The 73 year old Udjo Ngalagena has traveled
to many countries performing his hobby and has been given
many awards both nationally and internationally.
Udjo in Brief
Inspired by the late Mr. Daeng Sutigna, the master angklung
player, Saung Angklung Udjo was established in January
1967 by Mang Udjo (literally meaning 'uncle Udjo') and his
late wife Uum Sumiati. Situated on Jalan Padasuka 118, Saung
Angklung Udjo rapidly became an important tourism destination
in Indonesia and Bandung itself. The Saung also has
a display room selling hand-made craft souvenirs such as
the angklung itself, wayang golek (wooden
puppets), Sundanese blangkon - traditional hats made
of batik textiles - and other bamboo handicrafts made by
the artisans next to the saung. Recently, Saung
Udjo has improved the merchandise, and now also offers
recorded CD's and VCD's of their performances.
Daily programs are held from Monday to Sunday from 15.30
- 17.30 p.m. The performances begin with the Sundanese gamelan.
Next, the host of musical performances introduces a short
wayang golek demonstration. A real performance of
wayang golek (puppet show) last more than 7 hours
and sometimes takes one or even two nights to finish a story,
but here in Saung Udjo, the demonstration only introduces
how wayang dances, speaks, fights, and goes to war.
Following the wayang golek show is helaran,
a ritual play describing a situation when friends of a boy
to be circumcised are carrying him along in a procession
in order to give him happiness. After that, an arumba
(another form of angklung band) orchestra is presented.
The tari topeng (mask dance) is one part of this
musical performance medley which is usually played by a
single child. At the end of the performances, the audiences
can also experience how easy it is to play the angklung
together with children in songs like Rain & Tears, Sound
of Music, and Song of Joy.
The Root: Children's Happiness, Culture, and Education
Saung Angklung Udjo is now a famous center of Sundanese
traditional culture in addition to also being the chief
angklung school in West Java. It's not just the music that
makes it famous, but also the children who perform it with
so much love and joy. A small group of children (approximately
30-40) carry out their dynamic performances with natural
expressions of innocence.
For them angklung is not only an instrument of traditional
music. Most of all, it is an easy way of playing games with
their friends. So, don't look for expertise in their performances,
because there might be mistakes - often this makes visitors
laugh just as when we watch kids mispronounce words. "It's
not the quality, but the activity," Udjo says. So in order
to maintain the happiness of the children in learning angklung,
Udjo has one principal: be a child. For Udjo it's not hard
to do because he is indeed a lover of children. In fact,
he has ten adult children himself; they now work together
to keep the Saung heritable from one generation to
When you visit Saung Udjo, you may be surprised to
see a three year old boy performing joged (a traditional
Sundanese dance) and playing a traditional Indonesian drum
called kendang. The children present bamboo art performances,
from playing angklung to arumba musical orchestras,
tari topeng (mask dance), and many more.
tourist from Holland, Han Kortig (63) who is a music teacher,
was very excited after watching the performances that evening.
He said, "I'm amazed at what the children can do with this
instrument. How they can quickly develop the sense of music.
They play it so spontaneously and with so much joy. Unbelievable.
It's really fantastic, terrific!"
The children who play in the orchestra come from the surrounding
kampung (Sundanese name for a village) of their own accord
in order to meet their friends and play the angklung with
love and happiness. Most of them come to the Saung
every evening for just one or two hours of angklung
lessons. They don't need to spend money to participate in
the angklung course, rather they receive money. The
amount depends on how many visitors watch the performances
- usually a fairly small amount, but this is not important
for them in comparison to the happiness of playing angklung
music. Until now, there have been 250 to 300 students. The
first 'alumnii' are now is teaching angklung lessons
abroad, in countries such as in Argentina and Thailand.
This November Saung Angklung Udjo was invited to
perform on the anniversary of one famous children's tabloid.
Prior to that, the children of Saung Udjo received
the honor of playing a concert along with Sherina - a talented
little girl who is a very famous singer in Indonesia. But
for Udjo, the biggest satisfaction is seeing the happiness
of the children playing angklung and providing the
cultural education for the next generation. "I will make
everybody happy with my capability," he emphasizes, "not
only for the visitors, but most importantly for the future
of the children. That is why I built this Saung."