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 cultural history.

Gong Pancasan is about one kilometre from Bogor Trade Mall (BTM) near the Bogor Botanical Gardens. Walking will take about fifteen minutes, quicker than navigating the traffic. Head down the hill past the Trade Mall and keep walking until you reach an intersection with a massive banyan tree and turn right. Walk for another 500 metres across two rivers and Gong Pancasan is on your right. If you visit Gunung Halimun Salak National Park, you’ll pass the workshop on the way back and it’s feasible to jump off your transport then continue walking back to the city.

Gong Pancasan
Jalan Pancasan No.17, Bogor

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Location map for Gong Pancasan

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