I made this widget at MyFlashFetish.com.

Sabah Traditional Music & Musical Instruments

Traditional Tradition

To the Greeks music is the food of love. In Sabah, music is a vital part of nearly every social event at the village level. It symbolises the traditional harmony that exists among its inhabitants across the years. It is played during wedding celebrations, engagement parties, harvest festivals, first birthday of children, animistic religious ceremonies and other associated events of importance to the community.
Each ethnic group has its own distinct musical forms although several of the major instruments are common to all. Each piece of instrument is usually lovingly crafted, cut, shaped and tested. Distinction are often found in different combinations of instruments, varying dance styles, tempos and tunings. There are also certain instruments found only within the limits of an individual community and not shared with other communities.
Local instrumental music is often associated with dance. It also functions as background music during certain celebrations. Some instruments are commonly used by individuals for personal relaxation.

Oral Tradition

There is no traditional system for notating Sabah's traditional music, nor are the words for songs written down. All the music and songs are passed down by tradition from generation to generation. Both men and women perform, but certain instruments are traditionally associated with each sex. For instance, men generally play the large knobbed gongs and drums, while women play the kulintangan and the flat gongs.

Types of instruments

Most Sabah musical instruments are made from natural products. For example the tongLungon, turali, suling (or flute), sompoton and togunggak are made of bamboo. Others like the gambus, kompang and gendang are made of goat skin. The gongs and kulintangan are made of brass. The sundatang is made from a soft light wood and resembles an elongated guitar with three giman strings.The musical instruments in Sabah are classed according to chordophones (tonghungon, garnbus, sundatang or gagayan), aerophone (suling - flute, turali or tunhi - nose-flute, bunglau Jew's harp sompoton - mouth organ), idiophones (togunggak, gongs, kulintangan) and membranophone (kompang, gendang or tontog).

Source : Sabah's Heritage:A Brief Introduction to Sabah's History & History, Sabah Museum, Kota Kinabalu, 1992.

BUNGKAU (Free Aerophone)

This jaw's harp is made from the outer skin of a palm known as polod among the Dusun/Kadazan. A skilful hand is needed to fashion a good one. They are commonly made throughout Dusunic areas.
The lamella in the centre is made to vibrate by striking the end of the instrument with the thumb. The vibrating strip makes very little sound by itself, but if held before the opened mouth, the player can gently magnify the sound by resonance. A wide range of frequencies can be obtained by varying the shape of the mouth and the position of the tongue.
When not in use, it is usually encased in and attached to a bamboo tube to keep it clean and free from damage.


This mouth organ is the most fascinating of the Sabah native musical instruments. It is constructed from a dried gourd and eight bamboo pipes arranged in a doublelayered raft. One of the pipes has no sound, but merely balances the bundle. By blowing or sucking the gourd's mouth, the player can produced a soft sweet harmonious sound. A small lamella of polod palm (like tiny bungkau) is inserted in the side of each sounding pipe near its base. The pipes are fitted into a hole on one side of the gourd and sealed with bees wax. The lamellae lie inside the gourd and provide the sound of the completed instrument. The pipes are bound with thin strands of rattan.
While playing a sompoton, the player covers and uncovers the ends of three of the four shortest pipes with three fingers of his right hand and three small openings cut in the base of the front shortest pipe and front and back pipes of the longer raft with fingers of the left hand.
The sompoton can be played as a solo instrument for personal entertainment or in groups to accompany dancing. It is popular among the Dusun/Kadazan.

TOGUNGGAK' (Idiofon)

Known as tagunggak amongst the Murut, togunggak amongst lhe Dusun/Kadazan or 'togunggu' in Penampang, these struck bamboo idiophones are played in groups to accompany dancing or processions at festive occasions. One set comprises from six (togunggu') to thirty (tagunggak) pieces, depending on the ethnic group. The music resembles that of the set of gongs of the particular group, with each idiophone tuned according to the corresponding gong part it plays.

GONG (Idiofon)

Gongs form the backbone of most musical ensembles and are used for nearly every social event. The number of instruments played together varies from community to community. During a gong beating session, one or two drums are also played to accentuate the main rhythms.
The gongs are found in all parts of the state and are highly valued. They are also used as bridewealth, for animistic religious ceremonies, signaling and during harvest festivals.
Gongs are also recently made locally in Kudat by Rungus people. These have a shallow rim and small boss. Such gongs are made from galvanized iron sheets which are also purchased locally. The more popular gong with its thick walls, deep rim and large boss, is imported from the Philippines, Indonesia or Brunei.

This was first introduced into west Sabah by the Bruneis but it is also traditionally used by the Bajaus and some Dusun/Kadazan people. It is usually played on festive occasions, such as weddings and religious ceremonies, where it is often accompanied by other traditional gongs.
The instrument consists of a set of about eight to nine small brass kettle gongs. Each sounds a different pitch when struck. The gongs are arranged horizontally in a row on a low wooden bed-like frame. The player sits down on the floor in front of the gongs and beats them with two small wooden mallets.

Source : An Introduction to The Traditional Musical Instruments of Sabah, Sabah State Muzium, Kota Kinabalu.1992.


Anonymous said...

how each instrument get its name??

Post a Comment