Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

Home | Performing Arts
Performing Arts

Gejok Lesung


Gejok Lesung from Kulonprogo, Yogyakarta
From Sri Hastanto's Collection

There is only one instrument involved in this music, the lesung (rice mortar)which is hit by 8-10 players using special mallets called alu (rice stamper). All of the players are women who act as rhythm keepers in many different pitches. The rhythms are linked together becoming a complicated joint rhythm called Gejok Lesung.

Reasons for selection

Gejok Lesung is a music form which is happening during paddy harvest. After the paddy has been dried the next process will be milling the paddy seed to get rice. The paddy is placed in a lesung (rice mortar)and hit by alu (rice stamper). During this process the music is played by the farmers while they are working. This kind of music is found all over Indonesia with many different local names.

Area where performed

Most parts of Indonesia

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Social events

Detailed explanation

Farmers all over Indonesia traditionally distribute their own tasks among man and woman. To prepare the paddy field before planting season is done by men, planting the paddy is done by women. During the harvest, they, men and women work together. The process of milling paddy skin to get white rice is called nutu and is done by several women. First, the paddy is placed in paddy mortar ( lesung )and is hit using paddy stampers ( alu ). This stage is done by all members of the work group. The second stage is to separate the rice from its skin. This stage is done by two or three people only. The others, while they are waiting, make the music ( Gejok lesung ).

One of them (usually the oldest woman)act as the leader. She stands in the middle beside the lesung and strikes the lesung side in form of a certain rhythm. This particular rhythm is understood by the others as a sign of a certain piece to be played together. There are many different pieces that can be recognized by the kind of rhythm interlocking.

The leader is called gawe. The second players (two persons)who play on beat rhythm are called dhundhung. The third (also two persons)who play offbeat rhythm are called apit, and finally one person who plays the final note at the end of every melodic sentence is called gendhong or amblung.

The music is also played for celebrating wedding ceremony preparation as well as celebrating ceremonies that are connected to baby and child.

Publication and textual documentation

already available

Audio documentation

very limited (for example purposes only)

Visual documentation

very limited (for example purposes only)

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Directorate for the Arts, Directorate General for Culture, Department of National Education of Indonesia.

Data provider

Dr. Sri Hastanto
Director for the Arts
Directorate for the Arts, Directorate General for Culture, Department of National Education
Address: Gedung E Lantai-9 Komplek Depdikbud, Jalan Jenderal Sudirman, Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia