More Sarawakian youth have used the many months of being at home during the pandemic as an opportunity to learn about and pick up traditional instruments.
Sarawak Arts Council chief executive officer Sharkawi Amit thinks that it’s “cool” that more Sarawakian youth have turned to online platforms to enhance their traditional music knowledge.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, youth have taken an interest in learning about traditional instruments to fill their time during the stay at home periods. We’ve seen an increase in online music lessons among the youth,” said Sharkawi in an email interview from Kuching.
Once Malaysia has attained herd immunity, SAC intends to further organise music events to promote the state’s arts and heritage. Sharkawi aims to bring Sarawak’s uniqueness to the world.
“Next year, we have lined up activities for those who are interested in traditional music. The first step is our Traditional Orchestra Negeri Sarawak campaign which is being introduced to the youth. Our objective is to attract more youth to learn more about different types of music from Borneo,” he says.
Here are five popular instruments from Sarawak.
Touted as the Sarawak’s most celebrated instrument, the sape is crafted from a bole of wood. The lute – which measures between 76.2cm and 121cm –is a traditionally performed by the Kenyah and Kayan tribes. This chordophone instrument has a few strings (some have three, four, six or even eight) where one string is always for melody, and the rest are for bass.
This carved drum is used among the Iban community during ceremonies like Hari Gawai, and other festivals.
This membranophone drum – with a 20cm diameter – is made of wood that is perforated lengthwise. The drum’s surface is fitted with goat hide (or deer and other livestock). The instrument is played using the palms of the hand and is often played in pairs.
This wooden xylophone comprises 10 or 11 kerutong (bars), tied on a rope and attached to a wooden block. Each kerutong is struck with a wooden mallet to produce a pleasant hollow sound. It is one of the most popular musical instruments from the Orang Ulu community.
Also known as keringot, this five-hole nose flute is one of the instruments of the Kayan community. The selingut is made from bamboo, and it is played by streaming air through it by the nose.
Made from bronze, the engkerumong comprises a set of small gongs arranged on a horizontal rack. This instrument is often played during Hari Gawai or other festivals by Iban womenfolk.