Alternative title


Physical description

The kendhang is a two-headed, barrel shaped, asymmetrical drum with heads that are stretched with leather hoops laced in a “Y” pattern.

Although not always present, there is another kind of drum called bedhug. It is a large, symmetrical, barrel-shaped drum with two nailed heads of the same diameter. The bedhug is hung on a stand or placed on a wooden frame. It is played with a mallet. It is exclusively played for loud pieces or for accompanying dance.

Musical, Cultural, and Social Contexts

The kendhang is one of the leading instruments in the gamelan ensemble. It supervises the articulation of temporal flow and density of the music (this is a concept called irama). There are four kinds of kendhang: kendhang ageng, wayangan, ciblon, and ketipung. The size and function of each drum in the ensemble differentiate one drum from the other. The style of playing and the emotive content of a gendhing (or a section of it) determine which kendhang and drumming style the drummer must employ. Kendhang ageng, the largest drum, is used for majestic gendhing (or a section of it), usually in an expansive formal structure (gongan). In combination with ketipung, kendhang ageng is used for pieces with a shorter gongan structure. Kendhang wayangan, the medium size drum, is used to accompany wayang performance. And kendhang ciblon is a more animated drumming style, playing rhythmic patterns associated with dance movements. The interplay and interaction between the playing style of kendhang and the emotive content and playing style of a gendhing is one of the important elements of the ensemble’s performance.

Historical background

It is most likely that the drums existed long before they were part of the present expansive gamelan ensemble. We find drawings of different shapes and sizes of drums on the walls of old monuments and temples, such as the 9th century Borobudur Buddhist monument in Central Java and the 14th century Panataran temple in East Java. Among the variety of drums, the asymmetrical barrel shaped drum became a regular part of the gamelan ensemble. Other kinds of drums, such as conical shaped drum, are reserved for special ensembles (i.e., Monggang, Kodhok Ngorek, and Cara Balen).

Playing technique

Held horizontally on the stand, kendhang is played with bare hands (part of the palm and/or fingers). Commonly, the large head is played with the right hand, the small head with the left hand.


Java, Indonesia


211.252.12 (membranophone) Individual double-skin conical drums, both heads played


Javanese gamelan


Sumarsam (2004)



“Kendhang,” Wesleyan University Virtual Instrument Museum 2.0, accessed May 30, 2024,