Sundanese Celempung – Music of West Java

When I bought this 33 1/3rpm vinyl on the street in Jakarta, it had no sleeve or jacket. It’s badly scratched up. Nonetheless, the music is absolutely haunting. It’s called celempung music and comes from the Sunda region of west Java. Basically a form of gamelan, it’s played on the anhemitonic scale, that is five note scale with no semitones. The songs end in a four beat syncopated pattern that gives the fish his tail, so to speak.

You can hear more celempung and learn more about it in the Dust-to-Digital box-set, Longing for the Past, the 78rpm Era in Southeast Asia, which I wrote about in detail for my recent ‘Opium Traces’ column at popmatters.com.

The song titles on my record are in Sundanese dialect and are difficult to translate into English. The record is titled “Tjaha Sumirat,” which is a person’s name (“tjaha” means “light”). The main singer is Titim Fatimah. The band is called the “Sunda ‘United in Diversity’ Art Ensemble,” under the direction of Inen Saputra. “United in Diversity” is the national slogan of Indonesia.

My record has no date but the information on the stickers is as follows:

Tjahja Sumirat
Titim Fatimah
diiringi Seni Sunda “Bhineka Tunggal Ika”
pp. Inen Saputra

1. Tjahja Sumirat
2. Surung Dajung Kombinasi

1. Awi Ngarambat
2. Santren
3. Kulu-Kulu Karawang

Here is a youtube link to the entire album:

And here is the song “Surung Dajung Kombinasi” as a downloadable WAV file.

IMG_6696

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