Gambang Semarang is a traditional art belongs to Semarang society that is recently being thought to develop by the people. This art consists of music, vocal, dance, and comedy, which its origin is simple but potential to develop. Many scientific discussions have been done to maintain, to revitalise, and to develop this art, that is hoped to be able to be an identity of Semarang city in the field of art. However, the results achieved in the forums above have not satisfied, so it is necessary to do a research in order that the historical and cultural roots can be known and be the foundations of its development.
The purpose of the writing is to achieve the historical, functional, and the aesthetic aspects of Gambang Semarang and to inventory the elements of Semarang art and culture which can be used as the supports of the development of Gambang Semarang art. To look into the several aspects investigated, this research uses historical method, oral historical method, and anthropological method by applying the technique of observation, interview, and library research.
Gambang Semarang is an art which has a strong historical root in Semarang city. Although there is a fact saying that Gambang Semarang is derived from Gambang Kromong, in Semarang city there has been existing the forms of art similar to Gambang Kromong such as pat-iem, yan kim, and may be the gambang orchestra that is supported by the Chinese society. Thus, the effort to create a unique art of Semarang by importing a set of Gambang Kromong instruments, trainers, and organizing a art group is not without reason, but may be based on a historical consideration. The historical root of Gambang Semarang is strengthen by the fact that in the historical development, the art is supported by Semarang society, not only from Chinese community but also from native community.
By looking into its historical development, Gambang Semarang has the functions as entertainment and performance. As an entertainment, Gambang Semarang is expressed by someone for the interest of the fulfilment of the private satisfaction; and as a performance, the art is a communal supported performing art. Besides the both functions, in Gambang Semarang there is a social function as the medium of the social integration between the Chinese ethnic and the natives.
Although Gambang Semarang is derived from Gambang Kromong, this art has the aesthetic concepts and the certain order of performance which are different to the other arts, and also become its characteristics.
In the beginning Gambang Semarang has the same musical characteristics with Gambang Kromong, but in the development the characteristics are wither by showing the particular songs of Gambang Semarang, the folksongs from Central Java, the songs of Keroncong, and the Javanese popular songs. If in the beginning of its development in Gambang Semarang there are Betawian and Chinese nuances, and Javanese-Mandarin nuances, nowadays Gambang Semarang performs its Javanese nuances more and more.
The dance of Gambang Semarang has three variations of gestures such as ngondhek, ngeyek, and genjot, and all of the gestures are focused on the hip. The hand gesture (lembeyan) accompanied all of the gesture above is a gesture focused on the wrist with the medium gesture from navel up to eyesight. Meanwhile, the comedy of Gambang Semarang has three comical forms such as verbal comedy, non-verbal comedy, and musical comedy.
Based on the research of folklore, the elements of Semarang art and culture which can be used as the supports of the development of Gambang Semarang are (1) The Javanese dialect of Semarang, (2) the legends of Semarang, (3) the play songs and macapat of Semarang, (4) the traditional clothes of Semarang, and (5) the karawitan music of Semarang.
Gambang Semarang, as an art having a strong historical root, aesthetic concepts, and a certain order of performance which are different to the other arts, is necessary to maintain and to develop; and even it can be an identity of Semarang city in the field of art. In order to make them all come true, it will not be exaggerated if the art of Gambang Semarang needs a good handling and creating a composition model of Gambang Semarang as a cultural identity of Semarang.
Author: Siswo Harsono, a lecturer in English Department Diponegoro University, Central Java, Indonesia. He teaches Creative Writing, Cross Cultural Understanding, Translation, Theory of Literature, Literary Criticism, Cultural Criticism, Sociology of Literature, Psychology of Literature, and Method of Literary Research. Beyond his accademic activities, he also active in several art and culture communities. He recently launch his blog lakonet.com, a javanese plays on the net.