Friday, June 5, 2009
Rebab is a two or three string musical instrument that is believed to have originated from the Middle East. It was introduced into the Indonesian archipelago by Moslem traders at about the 10th century CE or about the same time as Islam was introduced into the archipelago. Since then it has been adopted and adapted into the existing local musical ensamble of gamelan.
As you can see from the picture, the Sundanese (West Javanese) rebab - like that of Javanese - is shaped like a heart, has two strings, and two elongated tuning pegs at the top. The strings are usually made of copper. The heart-shaped body is made of wood and covered with a thin layer of membrane made of buffalo skin, intestine, or bladder. The elongated tuning pegs are significantly longer than its Asian siblings.
In a gamelan ensemble, rebab plays the role of the elaborating instrument that gives ornaments to the basic melody. As such, it can be played relatively freer from the scales that other instruments in the ensemble have to follow.