On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 684

Slit gongs, hollow percussion instruments with a central resonating chamber whose only opening is a narrow slit the edges of which are struck to produce drum-like sounds, occur in a variety of forms in Island Southeast Asia. Smaller types, made from wood or bamboo, are frequently played as part of musical ensembles. By contrast, larger slit gongs, often made in pairs, such as these imposing examples from the Island of Madura, were predominantly used as signaling devices. Set up under a shelter in the village, they were sounded with wood beaters to announce important events. While some large slit gongs were suspended from lugs at the top, the pair seen here were probably freestanding. On Madura, large slit gongs were used to warn the community of natural disasters, crime, and other significant incidents. They were also reportedly rung, like Western church bells, to mark the passage of time. During the night the large gongs were sounded hourly and certain households would beat smaller slit gongs in response as part of a rotating system that kept watch over the village.

Like many Indonesian instruments, slit gongs are often ornately carved. These exampes depict naga, supernatural creatures that combine the features of dragons and snakes, together with floral and other motifs. Each of the nagas clasps a dog-like animal in its constricting coils, perhaps illustrating an episode from a local oral tradition or simply emphasizing the dangerous nature of these snake-like beings.

This instrument is part of a pair along with accession number 2009.431.

Gulgul, wood, Madurese

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.