(by Tintin Wulia)

Wukir – I said at one point, after a very brief pause in our discussions – I think I wanna work with Odong-odong. Why Odong-odong? Wukir asked. I said, well, I kept thinking of your windmills and watermills and that made me think of cycles, roundabouts, circles and the like. Odong-odong is in principle tandem bikes, and every evening, these vehicles would go round and round Alun-alun Kidul, the southern square of Jogja.

Most importantly, though, I see the Odong-odong phenomenon as a fertile ground for copying and imitation. There’s a strong culture of copying and imitation in Indonesia, which allows preliminary amateur designs to be produced, individually modified, while at the same time publicly spread, improving and being refined in the process, always changing, always inspiring, though sometimes dying, giving way to the next trends. Odong-odong is a part of this strong phenomenon, and thus a fertile soil for experiment. I’m really bad at gardening, but I’m still curious enough to metaphorically plant a small seed in this fertile soil of experimentation, and see whether it does grow, in a climate of imitation. This is what I want to do by building an instrument for the Odong-odong.

Wukir responded in two ways. First, he took me to an Odong-odong maker, Pak Kelik. Pak Kelik told us that he has just sent off a few Odong-odong to Lombok. Export! That’s one keyword I’ve been keen about for a while now. Later I found that second-hand Odong-odongs are being shipped from Jogja to other cities in other islands, like Palu and Poso. Distribution! Imagine if the small seed we plant here in Jogja could survive – it would also spread to other islands.

Pak Kelik also told us that he repairs them – like he would repair Becak as well. But, he said, for the Becak, I wouldn’t  charge too much – these owners of Becak are usually very old, and the Becak is often their only means of survival. This opened up ways to get back to the basic thoughts – of working with wheels. Becak is on wheels as well, and they’re a modification of bicycles. So, should I work with Becak or Odong-odong? To answer this question was to focus more on the nature of the project – what do I want to do? Who do I want to reach? And why?

Wukir’s second response was to tell me about a new tradition of cyclists gatherings. You should go and experience the bicycle crowd, he said. The cyclists of Jogja regularly meet and they – thousands of them – would then cycle around the city. Imagine hectares of fertile soil, covering the whole city! Who wouldn’t want to do it?

When I pitched the idea for generating the music through the pedalling movement of the Odong-odong users, I was talking about a music-box-like system for the Odong-odong as an example. It turns out, though, that the music-box-like system might be the simplest to do.

To allow the possibility of copying and imitation, I thought we should make something very simple and easy to understand. Only then would we be able to stir the imitating tendency when we release it to public. The instrument might even have to be a sort of a plug-in, an add-on, a patch to the existing Odong-odong, to stimulate the copying tendency even further (the easiest modification is an add-on, because you wouldn’t have to change the existing object to follow the trend). What we’re doing is making a proposal, in the form of an object.

Although I’ve been telling Bagus about the idea of working with Odong-odong and a music-box-like system, he was out in Bandung to attend Asmujo’s exhibition when the distilling of ideas happened. In the end of the distillation I texted him, saying I’ve decided that the best option for me would be to work with Odong-odong, and I’d love him to be involved. Apparently he has since then think further of it, so when he eventually came back to Jogja, Bagus immediately told me how a music-box-like roll could work – it’ll look like the back “bumper” of the Odong-odong, he said.

In the meanwhile, I thought the simplest sound generator would be the Angklung, but as we have a fantastic gamelan maker in our group, I asked Bowo whether he’s interested to work on the idea. He sounded excited – he said he’s been thinking of new instruments but wouldn’t know who would play them, so having an Odong-odong run them would be perfect.

Perhaps not the last reason, and still a very important one, is that building a plug-in for Odong-odongs would open the possibility for everyone in the group to chip in with their own patches. As The Instrument Builders Project is as much about collaboration as it is about experimenting and making, the Odong-odong could become a common ‘canvas’ for all of us, as Joel later mentioned. The first time we talked about it as a group, it has stimulated countless ideas. More ideas flung here and there and back and forth during our endless chats – I’ll also write more about these next.

In the meanwhile, here’s a preliminary sketch of our Odong-odong Dangding!


And here are the details that Bagus and I came up with for the roll mechanism (Wukir came up with the idea of the clamp system for all the add-ons):


I’d also like the roll length, or at least the axle of the roll’s wheels to be adjustable length-wise, so that the system can really be attached to Odong-odong of any size. Let’s see what we come up with.