Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Wandergraphy: The Crafting of Sape, Borneo’s Traditional Lute

Ever since we were in semester one of our diploma studies, both of us along with a few of our friends had always talked about visiting Sarawak’s very own living museum, The Sarawak Culture Village.

It wasn’t until just recently – mind you, we are now in our fourth semester – that we finally, yes finally, we got to visit Sarawak Culture Village during one of our weekends.

Sarawak Cultural Village is known as Sarawak’s living museum because the place is a blend of history, tradition, culture, and lifestyle of the many ethnic living in Sarawak.

There is a total of seven traditional houses within Sarawak Cultural Village and each house belongs to one of the ethnic in Sarawak.

And so in a group of about 8 people, we went around visiting the traditional houses and even watched the cultural show.

Here’s where it suddenly got interesting, as we were walking towards the Orang Ulu longhouse, our ears suddenly picked up the sound of a beautiful melody that came from a string instrument that definitely sound a lot different than your average guitar.

However after a while, the melody suddenly stopped. We then climbed up the stairs of the Orang Ulu Longhouse to find the source of the music.

Sure enough, we found a man, literally half naked and dressed in a kelambi, a loincloth worn on the bottom by the man of the Orang Ulu tribe, sitting at the far end of the long house while doing some woodworking.

Curious, we went to him and sat down to question him about what he was making.

He introduced himself to us as Francis Kujen, who has been working with Sarawak Cultural Village for a long time now.

And apart from that, he is also a professional sape player who has travelled around the globe, promoting the traditional Orang Ulu musical instrument and its beautiful music to everyone.

He is a local but unlike the musical instrument he plays, which belongs to the Orang Ulu, he is in fact from the Bidayuh tribe in Serian.

We asked him about what he was making even though it was kind of obvious that he was crafting a new sape.

Lining up beside him against the wall were the sapes that were already crafted finish by him and his own bare hands.