Sambasunda – The Sunda Music

From Bandung, SambaSunda are like nothing else in Sunda (west Java) or the rest of Indonesia. At the root of their sound is Sundanese traditional music played on bamboo instruments to which they have added latin rhythms, other western music or combined it with Balinese gamelan, which they then have combined with their local jaipong music. SambaSunda is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Ismet Ruchimat, who is also musical director for the Jugula Orchestra, based at Bandung’s famous Jugula studios, owned by arranger, choreographer and creator of jaipongan, Gugum Gumbira.

All sixteen or so members of SambaSunda are well versed in traditional Sundanese music and are adept at playing all the traditional instruments from the various percussion, to suling (flute) kecapi (zither) and violin. Some, including Ismet, were part of the Jugula All Stars who collaborated with Sabah Habas Mustapha on the albums Jalan Kopo and So La Li (both on the Kartini label).

This album is a compilation from their five albums released so far on the GNP label in Indonesia. On the first album released in 1998, they called themselves CMBW Music Group and Sambasunda was the title track. This album included elements of gamelan degung, and other Indonesian styles including Balinese kebyar and the Jakarta based gambang kromong with samba rhythms. The following Gebyar Bali Jaipong mixed Balinese gamelan and the local dance and music Jaipong with elements of Sundanese gamelan music. Jaipong being a largely vocal music, this album features more vocal tracks than any other SambaSunda album.

Sundanese gamelan and Balinese gamelan were mixed again on Sunda Bali. The lilting tones of Sundanese gamelan is steeped in a rich history that can be traced back several centuries and has a tradition as being created for the common people. The more dynamic Balinese gamelan however is performed for the gods. SambaSunda are the only group to have merged these contrasting styles. Takbir and Shalawat features various membranophone percussion instruments including the Arabic darbucca. The music also has a Middle Eastern feel and celebrates ‘Hari Raya’ the end of the Muslim fasting period. The latest studio album Salsa and Salse mixes the words of the Latin dance and music salsa with salse, Sundanese for taking it easy. Containing elements of salsa and latin music and played on bamboo gamelan the album is one of their most intoxicating.

SambaSunda create a pulsating wall of sound that shakes the foundations of their tradition to the core, to emerge with a spellbinding, at times wistful, and highly original blend of music both vocal and instrumental. A new type of gamelan music rooted in the past, mingled with the urban energy of the present. The new Sound of Sunda.

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