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Home » Padang » Talempong: the harmonic melody of West Sumatra

Talempong: the harmonic melody of West Sumatra

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While the majestic view of the Sianok Gorge in the highlands of Bukittinggi may indulge the sight, and the distinct taste of Padang cuisine certainly defines the taste of the Minangkabau ethnic group , so the harmony of West Sumatra can only be felt through the melodic sounds of the Talempong.

Talempong is a musical instrument consisting of several small kettle gongs that resemble the Javanese Bonang in the Gamelan ensemble. Aside from the instrument, the name also refers to the ensemble of four or five Talempongs accompanied by other musical instruments such as other gongs, accordion, and a gendang percussion. The most notable of this is when a distinct traditional Minangkabau flute called Saluang is featured in the ensemble. The vibrant sounds of the Talempong accompanied by the soothing low pitched tune of the Saluang truly produce uniquely beautiful harmony, which is distinctly Minangkabau. The term Talempong also refers to the genre played by the ensemble.

A Talempong is mostly made of Brass, however there also ones that are made of wood or stone. The kettle gong of the Talempong measures 15 to 17.5 centimeters in diameter and  is hollowed at  the bottom. The top center of the gong has a bulge on which the stick strikes. The different sizes of the Talempong are what produce the different notes. The note-scale of the Talempong itself is unique, since compared to the regular musical scale it begins with doh and ends in si.

There two ways to play the Talempong:  the Talempong Duduak and Talempong Pacik. The Talempong Duduak is played sitting down where five to nine Talempong kettle gongs are arranged on a single board (playing a full scale of notes), while Talempong Pacik is played standing with each player holding 2 or 3 units of Talempong gongs.

The vibrant and unique melodies of the Talempong ensemble usually accompany the performance of West Sumatra’s traditional dances such as the Tari Piring (The Plate Dance), Tari Pasambahan, and Tari Gelombang.

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Talempong:  the harmonic melody of West Sumatra

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