The Conceptualization and Sustainability of Rotenese Gong Music

Author: Listya, Agastya R,

Date: 2018

Publisher: University of Otago

Type: Thesis

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University of Otago


This dissertation presents an ethnomusicological study of Rotenese gong (meko), particularly in relation to the conceptualization and the sustainability of this musical instrument ensemble in Rote, Indondesia. Ethnographic research was conducted in the island of Rote in East Nusa Tenggara Province from January 2015 to February 2016 to answer two primary research questions: 1) How are Rotenese gong (meko) music and playing conceptualized by the Rotenese people; and 2) How are Rotenese gong music and playing sustained by the Rotenese people. Data was collected through participant-observation, in-depth interviews, personal communication, and video recording. Data was analyzed using a thematic approach. Differences in information given by research participants were compared and contrasted one to another, as well as with existing literature. The Rotenese dyadic and triadic concepts of James J. Fox, which underpin the Rotenese organization of their world, are drawn upon to study the meko. These concepts are applicable to understand how the Rotenese people conceptualize their meko, especially in relation to the arrangement and the playing of the gongs. Although the meko besik (iron gongs) and the meko lilok (brass gongs) were originally not from the island of Rote, they have become the symbol of Rotenese identity. In comparison to the sasandu, a Rotenese heterochord tube zither, meko has much significance in local culture for two main reasons: 1) the name “meko” refers to the primary function of this instrument, that is, “to call people to gather;” and 2) meko playing represents the collectivistic character of the Rotenese agricultural society. The use of interlocking techniques represents the “importance of debt as a determinant of social obligation;” and “the rice pounding rhythm” is clearly captured in the playing of the meko ana. The belief among the Rotenese people that meko playing in the eastern part of Rote differs from their counterpart in the western parts of Rote, is not proven. My research shows more similarities (e.g., the rhythms, the order of gongs played, and the tempo) rather than differences. If we notice differences between these four meko ensembles (i.e., Oenitas Village, Temas Village, Nusa Tua Meni Music and Dance Studio, and Eahun Kampong), it is primarily because of their different tunings. Musical geography between the eastern and the western parts of Rote is drawn to emphasize the geographical and socio-cultural boundaries between these two territories. The emergence of a new genre, known as Seni Kreasi Baru (SKB), can be perceived as an effort made by local musicians and artists to sustain the future of meko music and playing; as an attempt to make it more relevant to the modern world.

Subjects: Meko, Gong, Sasandu, Triads, Dyads, Rote, Conceptualization, Sustainability

Citation: ["Listya, A. R. (2018). The Conceptualization and Sustainability of Rotenese Gong Music (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from"]

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