Traditional musical instruments need more exposure to be popular

Cultural treasure: A teacher from Jamalul Alam Secondary School plays the 'gulingtangan' in this file photo. Brunei's traditional musical instruments need to be promoted further if this cultural heritage is to be preserved. Picture: BT File Photo

Monday, December 31, 2007

LACK of exposure on Brunei's traditional instruments has been cited as a reason for the young people to be less or not interested at all in learning them, despite the fact that it is part of the country's cultural heritage that needs to be preserved.

A resident of Seria, Sofian Sulaiman, said that although gulingtangan, one of the traditional instruments, has been introduced in schools through clubs, not all schools have them, including his former school.

He said teenagers nowadays are not exposed to traditional music and instruments as much as modern music.

Modern music such as pop, R & B and rock can be accessed easily through television, radio and internet.

"There is not much traditional music that we can hear outside the school," he said.

Muhd Khadif Abd Mutalif also attributes the lack of interest to learn traditional instruments to the lack of exposure.

He said that learning to play a guitar or piano is much easier than learning to play traditional musical instruments, as there are a lot of instruction books on those instruments available in the stores.

"Because it is easy to find, people can just learn the modern instruments by themselves without proper coaching, which is different from the traditional music, where they need to learn from special teachers or from the older generation," Muhd Khadif said.

Relevant authorities, however, have been taking various efforts to preserve this national heritage, among which include through organising competitions and setting up clubs at schools.

The principal of Dato Basir Primary School, Sarimah Hj Awg Bakir, spoke of the significant value of hadrah, one of the traditional instruments, as an art which should be preserved.

The hadrah is a shallow framed drum, played in interlocking beats, usually performed during wedding ceremonies or to welcome guests during official functions.

Speaking during a Primary School-Level National Hadrah Competition in early November this year, Sarimah said that playing the hadrah requires discipline and has Islamic elements especially in the songs' lyrics and the beats which has become a part and parcel of Brunei's heritage..

Hj Hassan Hj Jerudin, the acting Penghulu of Mukim Serasa said competitions could help in preserving this valuable heritage and to promote it among the young generation.

"We need to act now if we want the younger generation to develop an appreciation for hadrah and one way we can do this is by holding a competition," he said, during the first hadrah competition held for mosque's youths.

Several teenagers met by The Brunei Times said that they are familiar with some of the traditional instruments, such as the hadrah, gulingtangan and gambus. These instruments are quite well known and popular among the local communities.

Nurul Hamizah Hj Zaini said that hadrah and gulingtangan are popular among teenagers, especially at her school.

"In my school, there is a gulingtangan club. They will perform when there is an event at the school," she said.

The 18-year-old said that gulingtangan is very unique. Apart from traditional music, they sometimes played modern songs or pop music with the instrument.

Another form of traditional music instrument which can be considered popular among Bruneians is the gambus, which looks like a guitar, but has a shape like a halved pear.

Gambus is usually played at functions, such as weddings, birthday celebrations or family gatherings.

However, nowadays gambus is no longer limited to just for traditional songs, but are also in the 'hit-list' modern songs.

"The sound of gambus is nice to listen to and it is enjoyable . The instrument is easily adaptable to modern songs," said Hardi Sabtu.

The Brunei Times