Alternate Name(s): Rabāb, rubāb, rubob, rebab, rabob, robāb, ribāb, rbab, rabāba
Geographic Region: Southeast Asia
Country of origin: Indonesia
Climatic type: Tropical
Time period: 9th to 10th centuries.
Definition: A two-stringed bowed lute found mainly in the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and North Africa.
SvH No.: 321.31
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Physical Description and Technique
The rebab is a two-stringed bowed lute with a heart-shaped body of wood covered with a membrane made of parchment from a cow bladder. Pierced through the body, a long spike made of wood or ivory, or a combination of both, supports the strings at the top and serves as a foot at the bottom. The brass strings are stretched up across the membrane from a point on the leg (just below the body) to the elongated pegs in the upper part of the spike. When the rebab is bowed, the strings must rest on top of a small wooden bridge (srenten). The bridge is positioned between the strings and the upper part of the membrane. The bow consists of horsehairs loosely attached to the bow's two ends. While playing the rebab, the player must pull the horsehairs to a particular tension in order to produce the desired volume and sound from the strings.
It is likely that the rebab is originated from the Middle East, arriving in Indonesia in the period of the expansion of Islam in Indonesia in the 16th century. The incorporation of the rebab into a larger ensemble occurred during the period of the development of the gamelan toward the formation of a large ensemble. This formation consisted of combining loud sounding and soft sounding instruments, and vocal repertoire into an integrated musical concept: Resulting in the development of a full size gamelan ensemble as it is commonly found today and its gendhing repertoire. The rebab became a leading instrument due to its vocally inspired melodic delivery. This is because to a large degree vocal music is inherently embodied in the gendhing in this new musical concept.
Role in the Gamelan ensemble
The rebab is one of the leading instruments in the ensemble, especially in the soft style of playing gendhing. It guides the melodic flow of the piece. This is especially significant, since the rebab is one of the only two instruments in the ensemble that has the widest register. Hence, it can properly express the melodies of a composition in their proper register - its melodic register can encompass the full melodic range of any composition. Secondly, the rebab plays the introduction (buka) of the piece, determining the piece, laras, and pathet that will be played by the ensemble. In some pieces, the rebab plays melodic cues to lead the ensemble to different sections of the piece.
Last Modified: 05-May-2005TOP