Category archives: Music

Story of a Sape Maker – Matt Linggi

Dear friends, 

Sarawak is a beautiful land. As the son of the land, I am always proud to tell the others where I came from when I am being asked, which is from Kampung Pichin, Serian. Growing up in the south, surrounded by my fellow Bidayuh clansmen, I am not really exposed to the other peoples in terms of day-to-day interaction during the first 12 years of my life. As I grow older, I met more peoples from all around the world, which is an eye-opening experiences. Currently residing at the northern part of Sarawak, Miri, I have the best opportunity to get to know more about the people of the North, which is the Orang Ulu (literally upriver peoples).

Orang Ulu is the term used by Sarawakians to refer to the ethnically-diverse group in the north, including Kenyah, Kayan, Kelabit, Punan, Penan, Lahanan, Kiput,Kajaman – to name a few. Due to the vast history of these culturally-rich peoples, it deserves its own story in another post. Interestingly, the Kalimantan Indonesians that has the same historical and blood ties with the Sarawak’s Orang Ulu still call themselves Dayak. Dayak, in Bidayuh Biatah/Padawan dialect means “people”.  Orang Ulu is the term popularised by Orang Ulu National Association (OUNA) which was founded in 1969. In Sarawak, Dayak refers to either Land Dayak (Bidayuh) or Sea Dayak (Ibans), which was introduced during James Brooke time, making it easier for them to identify us. However, I have no knowledge of the separation of these Dayaks and Orang Ulu. Perhaps if there is any reader that has the knowledge can share it in comments below.

Anyway, there is one aspect of Orang Ulu that I want to touch today, which is their most famous musical instrument – Sape. Sape is originally three or four stringed instrument and is scaled in a way it is pentatonic, but modern variations has more strings and frets. Among the famous Sape players are the Sape Masters – Matthew Ngau Jau, the Sape master behind Lan E – Jerry Kamit and Kelabit beauty on a mission, Alena Murang.

My journey to find the more about this unique musical instrument leads me to the down-to-earth Sape maker of Miri, Matt Linggi from Iban tribe. He is actually an oil and gas professional, famously known as PLS – project liaison supervisor – at Central Luconia, but during his off-day, he dons his Sape maker outfit and grinds on.

Matt Linggi’s signature trademark
Close-up of Matt Linggi’s personal sape.
Sape and I.

Background:

He liked Sape music since his early childhood when it was played over the radio or cassette player. He have not seen any real sape instrument until he was in his 20s. His first sape was bought from a Kenyah Sape maker and also seasoned sape player, the late Usat Ulai from Tatau, Bintulu. The sape has a beautiful acoustic sound and authentic in design. He owns that sape for a couple of years before he gave it away to someone from Kuala Lumpur.

His inspiration of making sape came after I watched Jerry Kamit’s sape on his video clips album and in Youtube. He was amazed by its modern shape, handy and mobility. Since then he was trying to look for one of those kind but to no avail. He scouted around wherever he saw handicraft shops. He saw few sape but did not find them to be satisfactory to his expectation even though they are well- built Sape, well-designed and has various types of wood selection and range of prices.

His father has experience in crafting sape body for Orang Ulu tribe of Kayan from Belaga when he was young. Despite being experienced in crafting few sape, his father never learnt to install the strings and frets nor attempt to play any song whatsoever.

Entry Into Business:

His official entry into business started one day in early 21st century, sometime in 2005 when he asked his father to make one sape for him. His father did one for him, but then again, its shape and design was not up to his preferences. This sparks something – he was thinking maybe he can make one himself. With his father’s help, they managed to find the wood (Kayu Pulai/Pelaie) and he designed the shape and dimension to his preferences. His father made one and he also made one himself at the same time.

HIs first attempt of making sape was quite an experience for he have never seen and observed the real processes involved. His first Sape, visually is not so bad, acoustically was not impressive as he expected. The body construction was not ideal. Back then, he has no idea of how thick is thick or how thin is thin.

Since then, he is always thinking of making another, and better Sape but the ideas always come to a halt because he is always working abroad in oil and gas industry. When he works abroad, he is donning his coverall and focuses into HSSE aspect, but his heart and soul is always at the land of Hornbill and of course his Sape.

Reigniting the Flame:

In 2008, once again, he finally has a career based in Miri. That was where he began to materialise his dream. This time, he has better ideas after observing few sapes from different makers. His traditional ornament design was still very basic and simple. It is meant for his personal uses. He made Sape out of his hobby but then of few of friends showed strong interest in his Sape and asked him to make one for them. 

That was how he began to make more Sape whenever he is available and has free time to spare.

Way back in 2011, his friend Hezekiah Asim gave him one Sape made by William Balam, a Kelabit guy. The Sape’s shape was so unique and has a fascinating ornament design. Hezekiah asked him if he can make one sape for him with something similar in design. He said He cannot promise but will do the best in his ability. After a year or so he managed to produce one of his own version very much inspired by William Bala’s Sape design.

From then on his Sape design has been transformed from basic and simple to more complicated and fascinating ornament design.

Sape-Making Processes:

The following are the processes involved in making sape, in their sequence, from paper to the finished product.

Comparison between Sape, mini-Sape and an acoustic guitar.

Challenges:

As of now, he personally feel that we need more Sape maker to cope up with demand from the ever-rising players request. This mean not only massive in production but also in term of quality that also has to be ensured. Through the quality of the Sape, it will be the Sape makers’ signature and their ambassador though people may not have met us personally.  

Four-stringed and six-stringed sape.

Sape has evolved as time change. He said we hardly keep up with the pure traditional cultures because we are brought up in different time and place. But we ought to make an effort to preserve the traditional value of this precious instrument by reflecting the place of origin.

According to him, we could have modern version sape which reflect the traditional assents. This is where the new generation need input from the Sape masters or experienced maker/player because believe it or not, a Master’s was once a beginner too. 

Also, due to severe deforestation, searching for the right and suitable wood also pose another concern. 

Future:

Personally, he foresees that Sape will soar further than it already was. There are many young enthusiast that is eager to bring it up to the next level be it in craft design or ways of playing. Just like the performances made by the Alena, or even Nick of Sada Borneo. Beside local peoples, there is also a huge demand from international level for sape instrument. For example, the lute collectors from European regions. There will be no limit to this future because different player might want to have different Sape from different maker just like other instrument, where there is a need to be unique. Unlike others, most, if not all, Sape maker/player that he knew are very generous in sharing ideas and tips. They always compliments each other and should there is any “competition”, it will be a healthy one. In this way, the Sape players community can ensure the growth of Sape music throughout the world.

Ordering:

Should any of you are interested to get Sape of your own, you may do so and contact Matt Linggi via his Facebook . However, due to high demand, one will have to bear a long waiting list, especially if your Sape of request is beautifully decorated.

Alena and her beautiful sape, handcrafted personally by Matt Linggi. (Snapshot from Alena’s Instagram). Follow her IG account to know about her latest updates.
One for the road. Matt Linggi plays a composition before I left.
(Leica M10 & Noctilux – wide-open)

© Claudius Weson Photograpy (2019), unless stated otherwise. Matt Linggi’s personal images are used with his permission.

Claudius Weson is a freelance “tukang rantek” (photographer in Bidayuh) based in Miri, with passion in immortalising memories.

Another Claudius' Story We Will Rock YouShell Annual Dinner

Last year’s theme was superheroes, where we can see a lot of Superman and Batman fanboys and girls at the stage, with occasional dose of anime. This year’s theme is ROCK & ROLL, in honour of the musicians that makes our life more entertaining. Coincidentally, Bohemian Rhapsody was released on 8th Nov, although I am able to watch is on 7th Nov. So, Freddie Mercury’s songs play in a single track in my mind. I feel like a champion, and with my camera, I will rock you.

Food presentation was done in a rock fashion. God of Rock enters the middle stage, with the leaders bringing the food tray and pass it to the nearest table. Then, the rock session continues by K.O.T.O Band. One of the memorable songt their sung was I Want To Break Free, by Queen. But the version that they performed was Dewa 19, which is a more heavy version.

KL Tan seems to be so happy.

Thong – God of Rock summoning cheers from the crowd.

As I went to the venue, I saw one unrecognisable guy, who turns out to be Thong. His wig really make him someone else. As usual, the emcees for the event is Wati and Jac. They really rock the night, with occasional dancing at the open dance floor, and I do join them too. It too fun to be missed.

Andy Ambik Berkat Shaun

Gaya Sang Juara

 

Among the styles from KOTO Band.

Manih ceh Kim? Pli bangut. haha

The ladies that made the night goes wild – Jac & Wati.

                

Mr Kunyah-Kunyah Cilipadi.

One of the thing that should not be forgotten is the Best Dress for men and woman. For the women, the winner is Latonia. Oh my, not only she has the attitude, but she also has the voice. For men’s category, the winner is Thong, the undisputed God of Rock. The crowd just go wild over him.

          

Wati won the frigde. Life’s Good.

With the final prize given away, KOTO Band took the stage once again while the crowd just dance along. I particularly like Jet’s song – Are You Gonna Be My Girl? That song rocks, one of the most memorable song of all time. Can be used to ask a girl out for a date. Please don’t go for wik wik wik business though.

 

The team behind this event’s success!

Hound Dog (Live) by MJ

p.s. Crazy little thing called love makes you feel alone even though you are with many peoples, where your mind is somewhere thinking about her. But the show must go on, and here it comes. Here I am singing It’s My Life By Bon Jovi. Thanks to Glenn for capturing the moment and to KOTO Band for music.

All images are copyrighted © Claudius Weson.
For information about reproduction rights and rates, for any of the images contained within this site, please contact Claudius Weson.

Another Claudius StoryThe Story of Mas-Suara BandWhen the best of monochrome meets the best of jazz band at Bar-thyme

A monochromatic evening with MasSuara Band. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you guys. For jazz aficionados, this band is certainly not to be missed. This performance is part of their promotional performance, for the upcoming Borneo Jazz Festival at Miri, 12-13 May 2017. Should you would like to see more of their performance, join Borneo Jazz Festival! Don’t be ja ja jaded – let’s get Jazzed up!

For your information, MasSuara is formed by few musical educators, namely Prostasindra Atin (Prosta), Faustinus Jilum (Tinus), Thia Sock Yiang (Thia), Grace Cindy and Dainel Lemen.

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Music: Food for the SoulFinding your motivation to play music

Dear friends,

I love music, it is the food for the soul and for Christians, MUSIC means Make Us Sing In Christ. Not only Christianity, but literally every other religions in the world has some musical elements in their worship style. At Malaysia, “azan” from mosques can be heard, to indicate their worship time, the Buddhists and Hindus with their chants and many more. But this post is not about religion, it is about music and hopefully, by reading this post, some of you (the readers) will be able to find your motivation to learn more about music or reignite the spark that was lost.

 

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