Keeping Traditional Music Alive in Brunei


Saturday, April 18, 2015

TRADITIONAL instruments such as guriding, tangkong and gandang sadaman have lost their appeal among the younger generation, but veteran musician Hj Nayan Apong has not given up on them.

The 86-year-old from Kampung Kulapis reminisces how the sound of these instruments used to resonate in paddy fields across the sultanate.

The Kadayan Malays used to play them while they tended to their farms, Hj Nayan says. It’s a forgotten art, but he still enjoys playing them and crafting them by hand.

“I learned by looking at other people and because I was interested, I tried and slowly learned (how to play the instruments) myself.”

One of the earliest instruments he learned to play was the guriding. “I began playing the guridingwhen I was very young, in my early teens,” Hj Nayan says.

It is small and thin, a flat piece of wood not more than 10 inches long. It is made from the frond of the Bengkala palm tree. To play the guriding, the instrument is held horizontally and pressed against the lips. To create sound, the musician blows against the part held closest to the lips and use the free hand to pluck the projecting end of the instrument.

“In the old days, the guriding is played to wind down after clearing an area of land for planting paddy … It is commonly played together with the gandang sadaman,” says Hj Nayan. The gandang sadaman is another traditional musical instrument commonly played by the Kadayan people. It resembles a xylophone.

“The gandang sadaman was played as a means of entertainment when people were tending to the paddy fields.”

Older versions of the gandang sadaman were not portable as it used to be made by arranging pieces of wood next to each other and pressing them to the ground.

The name sadaman, Hj Nayan explains, is taken from the name of the wood used to make the instrument which comes from the Sadaman tree.

Another instrument Hj Nayan fondly talks about is the tangkung. It is usually played on its own without accompaniment from other instruments, he says. It resembles a tube with strings that are meant to be plucked. Its strings are thin pieces of bamboo skin carved out from the same piece of bamboo used for thetangkung’s body.

This bamboo instrument is one of the traditional musical instruments that Hj Nayan is able to make by hand. Making one tangkung takes him about a day. It can be sold for $50. However, he only makes them upon request. Among his clients include the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Occasionally he also indulges in crafting a guriding. “You need to be very delicate when making a guriding because the instrument can be broken easily. It takes about one day to finish making one guriding,” Hj Nayan says.

These days, due to poor eyesight, he rarely makes them.

Unfortunately, there are not many people who know how to make traditional musical instruments such as the guriding and tangkung. The few that Hj Nayan knows of are his friends and some have already passed away.

Hj Nayan says he does not know anyone else in Kampung Kulapis, who knows how to make the traditional musical instruments that musicians used to create melodies across paddy fields in the sultanate.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times


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