Ali Idup Sembiring
Ali Idup Sembiring plays gendang anakna, second drum.
Ngemar Perangin-angin plays sarunei, an oboe type instrument.
Kilo Ginting plays gendang indungna, first drum.
Gendang sarunei of the Karo
[tracks 1 & 2]
The gendang music of the Karo, along with the gendang sarunei instrumental groups, corresponds to Toba gondang sarune music, from the point of view of both social status and symbolic significance, with the one noticeable difference that the Karo people have more completely preserved their ancestral religious traditions than the Toba. Even today, gendang music accompanies dances invoking spirits and possession dances, adat dances which respect the code of behaviour of the kinship groups and guests of honour, dances for entertainment which take place after the official program of feast-days, dances for young people of marriageable age during the ceremony for young people (guru-gugu aron) or the annual ceremonies before and after the harvest (kerja tahun). Except for dances of spirit possession, which occupy a ritual function, these dances are above all meant as expressions of beauty. We owe to the German geographer Wilhelm Volz, who travelled around in the Karo region between 1904 and 1906, a description of these dances:
"When everything was ready, the penghulu (the village headman) rose with a courteous gesture to us; the music started and the dance began. Some 8 or 10 men had taken their places on the narrow open space; the penghulu was the leader of the dance and all the others followed him, repeating his movements. With feet parallel and knees slightly bent, they all turned from one side to the other, moving up and down in time with the strokes of the gong and bending the knees sideways at every stroke of the gong. At the same time, the arms were extended sideways with upturned hands, mostly one extended upwards and the other down low. Simultaneously, the same circular movements as with the upper part of the body were then made with the arms and with the hands too. This was the slow, solemn rhythm and at every stroke everyone bent to the right and to the left as if every stoke of the gong was hitting the dances on the head" (Volz 1909 : 109).
A complete group consists of five musicians, the "five musicians who travel along the road together" (penggual lima sedalanen): the sarunei, or oboe, player, two drummers and two gong players. The construction of the musical instruments reveals to what extent this music esthetically seeks acoustic contrasts. The oboe, which is quite small, is very high-pit-ched. The double reed, made of a coconut palm leaf, is approximately 1/10 to 3/10 inche wide and 3 inches long. The conical body of the instrument has six very small upper finger-holes, a hole at the back and an eighth hole, which is not used.