Saturday, August 15

Traditional music: Keeping it authentic


THERE has been a great deal of thought on traditional musical instruments, especially on whether they should be allowed to evolve into something more modern with finer tunes as opposed to the past. There have been arguments on the instruments construction and it’s playing techniques.

The Sompoton is one such instrument that has caught on the evolution of music.

This instrument is actually a mouth organ and can be found simply anywhere if one wished to look. It has a gourd wind chamber from which eight bamboo reed-pipes extend from.

The sompoton has been modified by some innovative individuals who are more interested in the sounds and tunes rather than the make.

A Sompotonist from Bundu Tuhan Ranau, Donius Bulangou, 49, is adamant that the old ways of playing the tune is best.

“In the olden days, it only had eight reeds on it. It was fine looking and treasured among the people. It gave out that perfect sound that reminds us of nature and life,” he shared.

Living among traditionalists, he insists that they used the Sompoton all the time, especially during celebrations.

“They would play the sompoton during events like engagements or weddings. They would also play it during social gatherings,” said Donius.

“In those times the youth, because of lack of entertainment, pride themselves in knowing how to play this instrument, but it seemed the interest is now fading away,” he laments.

He also expressed his disgust at the way players are playing songs that do not adhere to the old tunes. The old tunes are usually repetitive harmony that can indeed remind one of nature in its every aspect.

“I learned to play from my elders, by listening to them and emulating their moves. I love this instrument as it has given me so much pleasure artistically,” he shared.

Donius is now in the process of writing about his experiences in life and his opinions on the evolution of life as he knows it. He is also compiling Dusun Poems and riddles.

“I write in Dusun, my mother tongue so that I can help in perpetuating our language which is our identity,” he continued.

He will not cut quarters on traditional music and language, so he always advised young people to speak the mother tongue while learning other languages.

The Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) honorary secretary Dr Benedict Toppin concurs with Donius, saying that one of the association’s interests is to preserve the people’s culture and traditions.

“These are identified through our language, stories, music and arts among others,” he said adding that the people should heed the need to preserve these so that it can be perpetuated.

According to him, there are now several books and literature in Kadazandusun and more will be published by the association in future.

He said the youth played a very important role in perpetuating culture and traditions as well as language.

“Those who write lyrics for songs should ensure that they write the words properly and not mix them up with other languages,” said Benedict adding that humorous songs are exceptional but it should not be self-deprecating.

“I know we are humble people, and we always downgrade ourselves when praised, but we should not fail to show pride in our language and identity,” he stressed.

Benedict lauded those who have contributed to the coffer of Kadazandusun songs and music through the years and expressed hope that they will continue to add on to the library, which would ensure perpetuity of such heritage.