All About Bedug

June 11, 2018 | Administrator


The Eid Al-Fitr has finally come. The day of victory celebrated by Moslems in the archipelago. In Indonesia, the festivities and merriment of Eid Al-Fitr are often symbolized by a number of icons, such as masjid (mosque), ketupat (a compressed rice cooked to a solid in a diamond-shaped container of plaited coconut or young palm leaves) and beduk (a single-headed drum made of a hollowed log covered at one end by stretched cowhide or goatskin). These three icons often present to embellish greeting cards, billboard and digital social media posters on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.


Beduk as One of the Icons of Eid Al-Fitr

Beduk’s frame is made out of a big tree or of enau (sugar palm) tree log approximately 1 meter or more in length. The log is shaped like a big hollow tube that is closed at one end with animal leather, as drum membrane or skin. When struck, beduk creates a heavy, distinctive, low tone, but it can be heard a considerable distance away.

According to Mudzakir Dwi Cahyono, an Archeologist from State University of Malang, the reason beduk is one of the icons of Eid Al-Fitr in Indonesia is related to its presence and function in the Moslem’s place of worship and for time signals to Islamic rituals.



The Origin of Beduk

Beduk, in different names and shapes, has a long history of existence. Dwi Cahyono explains that in a number of old mosques, various shapes and sizes of membranophone waditra (musical instrument) or beduk, and xylophone waditra or kentongan (a slit-bamboo tube) are beaten to signal time for prayer.

Kentongan is strike first followed by striking the beduk in a different way: “thong, thong, thong… duk, duk, dug”. In minarets of old mosques, such as Menara Kudus (the Kudus Minaret), a suspended small-size beduk is accompanied by kentongan. The sound of beduk, to signal prayer-time in Islamic rituals, has been used since the late 16th century in the old Islamic kingdom of Banten.

However, the origin of beduk can be traced back to the 15th century when tegteg, a music instrument similar to large beduk, is mentioned in Kidung Malat (ballad of story from old manuscripts) of the 15th century. Dwi Cahyono also mentioned in his article “Wadistra Beduk dalam Tradisi Jawa (1)” published by Kompas, 24 September 2008 that kentongan and kulkul (wooden slit-drum) have existed at the same time or even older than the tegteg.

Another opinion says that beduk may have come from India and China. It is based on a legend of China’s Admiral Zheng He or Cheng Ho arrival in Semarang. He was welcomed by a Javanese king. Before his departure, the Admiral would like to give a present to the king of Semarang and the king said all he wanted was to hear the sound of beduk from mosques. Since that day, beduk has become part of mosque, as it is in China, Korea and Japan, where a barrel drum is placed in temples as a means of communication in religious rituals. In Indonesia, beduk is sounded as the call to prayer.

The presence of beduk later related to the rapid spread of Islam by Wali Songo (the nine guardians) around 15th and 16th century. To invite the faithful Moslems, the call to perform the five times salah (prayer) is sounded from the beduk drum placed in mosques. As written by Kees van Dijk (“Perubahan Kontur Masjid”) in Peter J.M. Nas and Martien de Vletter, Masa Lalu dalam Masa Kini: Arsitektur di Indonesia, before the 20th century, the mosques in Southeast Asia has no minarets to resonate adhan (recitation of call to prayer by a muezzin). Instead, the mosques were provided with a big drum (beduk) sounded before the adhan.


The Making of Beduk

 Beduk has two main components, the leather and the log.

The leather. First thing to do is to soak the rawhide in detergent water between 5 – 10 minutes to prevent it from wrecking. Then dry it flat under the sun to prevent it from shrinking.

They are a few of opinions on selecting the leather for the beduk. The common rawhide choices are goat, cow, water buffalo, or bull. For the choice of cowhide, white cow produces a better leather quality than the brown cow. The white cow has thicker skin than the brown, which creates a different sound. As for the best water buffalo rawhide for beduk is the rawhide of young buffalo leather, either male or female. The sound will resonate clearly, different from those made of old buffalo rawhide.

The log. First thing to do is to cut and then shape it into a big hollow tube. Once the log is dry, spray it with termite insecticides. The log will then dry out, so we can polish and re-dry it to be painted. Measure its diameter and then proceed with processed leather installation to cover one end of the log using nails and ropes. The estimated time of making a bedug is between 5 – 6 days.


The Function of Beduk.

 Beduk as time marker.

The function of beduk as time marker (morning, noon and night) can be compared to “tabuh”, a term in old Javanese language, which refers to time marking. Related to the specific time marking, the word “beduk” is often used to mark noon time to 13.00 WIB – Western Indonesian Time.

Thomas Stamford Raffles, in 1817 wrote “The History of Jawa”, among others discusses about division of day time, which consists of: esok, teng’ang’I, beduk, lingsir kulon and ashar.

Beduk as a means of communication and time marker, such as in the time of war, natural disaster or other emergencies.

During Majapahit era (14th-16th century), the sound resonated from beaten beduk is a code for the Javanese community, interpreted as a sign to act or to gather in a particular location to get ready for battle. The sound of beduk is a sign of order or call to gather. Beduk as a sound signal, reconfirmed on Cornelis de Houtman’s report (end of 16th century) that says the sound is a means of warning people when there is a threat of danger, or a time marker sounded in the morning, noon or night. Its function as an alarm similar to the function of kentongan (kul-kul) when strike repeatedly at a fast tempo (titir).

The function of beduk as a means of warning people when there is a threat of danger in the villages. It is usually loudly strike – different from the number of stroke to signal the call to prayer – when house is on fire, or during an earthquake. The sound is an alarm when there is a threat of danger or a disaster occurs in the village.



Beduk is as sign of prayer times

During the month of Ramadhan and early month of Syawal, the striking sound of beduk is related to fasting ritual and Eid al-Fitr. One day before the fasting day and Eid-al Fitr, it is sounded to wake people up for sahur (pre-dawn meal), after tarawih prayer and after Eid prayer. Today, beduk is still utilize as the call to prayer in the archipelago.


Instruments Similar to Beduk

Mosques often have other means of communication to accompany beduk. Such as, kentongan, kohkol, kerentung or ketuk-ketuk – percussion instruments made from logs. These instruments, together with beduk, are sounded prior to each adhan.

Tags : Beduk, Mosques

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