"Gloves? We don't wear them. It's too dangerous."
In the gloom, four men stripped to the waist stand around a glowing pink curl of hot alloy. Sparks sear the blackness and the temperature rises.
In this one-room workshop in Bogor, West Java, tin and copper are hand mixed, beaten and filed into traditional bronze gongs. The ratio of tin to copper is critical: four kilos of tin to nine kilos of copper. "Too much tin and the surface of the gong will tear," explains gong-smith Ujang. "Too much copper and the gong will crack."
Man 5 removes the glowing orange bronze, now curled like a shell, and the four strikers resume their melodic wielding, working the diameter of the gong slowly wider. Their bodies are thin and muscular; torsos licked with sweat.
He sucks on a cigarette, then takes the 8-kilo mallet and strikes at the gong for 15 seconds. He then resumes the cigarette: "We can't work fast because we get dry throats and pains in our livers." The air whirls with dust and metal particles. "I don't have a cough though, Alhamdulillah," he adds.
Ujang says he earns Rp 35,000 ($3.50) a day, but nothing if he takes a sick day. He surreptiously slides a dish containing a blue Rp 50,000 note into view. "We have many foreign visitors. They're very welcome."