Photo: Humble beginnings.

Gong Pancasan

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Amidst the din of traffic, about a kilometre southwest of Bogor Botanical Gardens, the tiny Pancasan gong workshop has been banging out traditional metal gamelan gongs for the past two centuries and this family business is now in its sixth generation.

As you enter the dingy soot-blackened interior you are blasted by a wall of heat and sound of hammering, and as your eyes adjust to the dim light, you’ll catch sight of wiry men pounding gongs into shape with large heavy mallets next to an open fire pit in conditions that would be illegal in many Western countries.

Hard yakka. Photo taken in or around Gong Pancasan, Bogor, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Hard yakka. Photo: Sally Arnold

Clad in grimy trousers and threadbare T-shirts with flip-flops and a thin scarf wrapped around their face for “protection”, the men work on an uneven dirt floor strewn with metal debris and red-hot tools—it seems extraordinary, given the conditions, that they can produce instruments of such acoustic beauty—the finished products are much desired by orchestras from around the world.

The men earn little for their daily toil and graciously accept small donations from the trickle of tourists who come to observe this old tradition (20,000 rupiah is a fair amount). While this is an interesting detour to see this archaic process and somewhat mesmerising to watch the sparks fly as the bronze is thwacked and formed, it doesn’t require much of your time—ten minutes will satisfy most.

Don’t try this at home. Photo taken in or around Gong Pancasan, Bogor, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Don’t try this at home. Photo: Sally Arnold

Gongs can be purchased, but they are rather pricey due to the amount of metal and skill required to produce them, however for collectors they represent a unique example of ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Gong Pancasan
Jalan Pancasan No.17, Bogor

Location map for Gong Pancasan

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