Sri Rejeki is a selection of classical Central Javanese music played in the style of gamelan gadhon, featuring the softer instruments of the ensemble with an emphasis on the singing of poetry. Repertoires like the Sri Rejeki are part of a larger body of Javanese ritual and cultural practices that embody the linkages between people and the natural and spirit worlds, and such compositions are significant to Indonesia’s cultural heritage.
Rejeki can be translated as sustenance, provision, or blessings. In this piece, the gerongan (male choir) imitates the croaking of frogs during periods of rain. For millennia in Southeast Asia, frogs have been associated with water, which is the source of life and fertility, and understood to bring rain; images of frogs are also found on bronze-age ritual musical instruments. Sri has multiple meanings, but it is also the name of the goddess of rice and fertility, Dewi Sri.
This performance by Singa Nglaras Gamelan Ensemble features the musical compositions that accompany the sacred bedhaya dances of the royal courts, containing powerful mystical knowledge, and characterised by the singing of texts in a slow, archaic style. Before the main piece, the performance begins with Wilujeng (Wellbeing), a tradition that bestows blessings at the beginning of a special occasion.
Sacredness of the gamelan
An ensemble of predominantly percussive instruments (gongs, metallophones, xylophones, drums, etc.), the Javanese gamelan is often played for pleasure and entertainment. However, it has always retained a sacred aura.
Metallurgy has had a long history in Southeast Asia and the transformation of metal ores by fire has been associated with alchemy and religion. It is no surprise then that the forging of bronze or brass instruments for the gamelan requires special rituals. On these instruments, there is often decoration that features auspicious symbols of life force and fertility. Furthermore, all gamelan instruments are treated with respect—some bear respectful personal names, some are given offerings.
Gamelan instruments and music are pusaka (heirlooms), so treating these instruments (and its music) with deference is akin to respecting the ancestors from whom they were inherited. The aura of sacredness surrounding gamelan music is also derivative of its associations with the auspicious occasions on which it is played, such as wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), sacred dances, ceremonies in the royal palaces, or village cleansing.