Posted: 20 Mei 2011 in General
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The Lun Bawang bamboo flute and bass band or Yup Suling-Bas in Lun Bawang, It have six notes and become the “Suling” or flute used in a bamboo band of the Lun Bawang today. In order to create more harmonious sound, the bass instrument with three notes was also introduced as a back-up sound in the bamboo band.

Other instruments like “Tinor”, “Tubung” (drum), “Angk’long”, and “Res” are also added to produce back-up sounds.. From 1945 until 1965 a bass instrument produces only two notes, “Do” and “Sol”, by inserting a small bamboo into a bigger bamboo with two holes, that creates a unique feature and design.

By 1966, pastor Yohanes Sakai, a Lun Bawang from Indonesia modified the instrument by introducing a new sound so that all the bass instruments has three notes as it is today, for example the “Do” bass has the 1, 4, and 5 sounds; for Me bass, the 3, 4, and 5 sounds; and for Sol bass, the 5, 6, and 1 sounds. This new change was introduced in the state by a school teacher Jerry Samuel Daring in 1968 when he was teaching in a primary school at Long Semadoh. The set has been used until today.

Jerry started to play in a bamboo band since 1958 when he was in school until 1961. In 1964 he led and conducted for the SMK Limbang bamboo band. Today he plays, conducts, and teaches the art of bamboo band. He is in fact the person-in-charge responsible for the formation and development of the art in the Lun Bawang areas.

The beginning

The bamboo band introduced to the Lun Bawang in the state during the British rule was first practised by the Lun Bawang or Lun Dayeh among the missionary school students in Kalimantan Indonesia. The art was brought to the state as early as the 1942 by two Lun Bawang Christian pastors, namely, Labo Tai, in Long Beluyu and Riong Betung in Ba’Kelalan. In Long Beluyu, pastor Labo Tai used the bamboo flutes as teaching aids in his Bible school as well as playing the instrument as a pasttime for the local people.

The art continued to be developed and passed on to the younger generation in the Lun Bawang community through the theology and the goverment schools in the Lawas area during the 1940s until 1960s. In 1946 Paster Bonnel Pantulusang, a Bugis from Indonesia, replaced Paster Labo Tai and continued his work to promote the art of bamboo band among the Lun Bawang at Long Beluyu and Long Semadoh. George Yudan Daring from Long Semadoh introduced the bamboo band to the people in Long Tuma in 1957, Long Tukon ( 1958 ), and Ba’Kelalan (1960).

In 1963, George’s sister Alice Daring continued his works in Long Tuma. (Meanwhile, Paul Kohan introduced the bamboo band to the Kelabit at Pa’ Main, Bario, in 1946. Tadem Baru taught it in Long Lutok in 1960; Bonnel in Belaga in the 1950s; and Henry Semuel Sia in Long Luping (1969).) By 1968 a government school teacher Jerry Samuel Daring, George’s younger brother, already began teaching the modified six-hole flute which is used until today at Long Semadoh.

The Instruments

The suling or flute used in a bamboo band is made from a bamboo called “bulu sebiling”. A standard six-holes suling measures 42 centimeter in length and the small suling is about half of that length. The bass instruments are made from bigger type of bamboo called “bulu talang” preferably those from hilly areas which are of better quality and can last longer as compared to those from the riversides which are easily attacked by insects.

The bamboo used for suling and bass must be carefully selected so that they are not too thick or old as they will not produce good sound. To turn a bamboo into a bass instrument, it is first dried completely so that the sound it produces will not change as the bamboo shrinks if it is not well dried, he said. Once the bamboo are dried they are categorised according to their size which determines the bass sounds they are suitable for.

After their best bass sounds have been identified, the bamboo will be tuned. To make the “Do” bass, for instance, first, a small bamboo of the size of a suling is inserted to the selected bamboo for the bass, then we blow the sound “Do” so that it is the same as the “Do” sound of the suling. If the sound produced is not the same the bass bamboo is cut bit by bit until it produces the correct “Do” sound. Similar tuning process is done for other basses. The bass sound will be re-tuned from time to time until the sound is perfect.

The band

A bamboo band requires at least 25 players with a minimum of five flute players to form a band. There is no specific number of flute players required for a bamboo band. However, the more players the better is the band and the merrier the atmosphere. Two types of flute are played in a bamboo band, the big and the small ones. The latter produces high sounds. Their presence in a band are optional. They always come in two in a band.

There are nine basses: “Do” high, “Do” low, “Re”, “Me”, “Fa”, “Sol” high, “Sol” low, “la”, and Si” high. In a standard bamboo band, the bass “Do” low and “Sol” low can only have three players while the other basses can have more than three with a minimum of five players. A bamboo band can only play music or songs of major chords. Each bamboo band has only one key that is decided by the length of the suling and quality of the bamboo used.


Bamboo band is played by church choir during special occasions like Easter celebration and wedding ceremony, and it is a subject taught in the theology schools in the Lun Bawang area. The band is also played to the outside community since 1945 during auspicious occasions like the celebration of British victory over the Japanese rule; visit of VIPs like the head of state, chief ministers and ministers; Independence Day celebration; TYT birthday; Malaysia Festival 1990 in KL; and Hello Malaysia programme.

Future challenge

The traditional art of bamboo band today face its greatest challenge from the other sophisticated modern musical instrument like guitar and piano and organ which become very popular among the younger generation today. The younger people do not like to play the bamboo band as they find “no glamour” in doing so.

Not many of them show the same interest in learning the traditional art as they do for guitar and piano. In view of this lack of interest, the Lun Bawang Association has initiated bamboo band classes specially for Lun Bawang children attending the government schools in the Lawas area. Bamboo band teachers like Jerry volunteer to conduct such classes and parents are urged to encourage their children to attend such classes. (Presently Jerry is teaching the art to students at SMK Lawas on weekends.)

In churches in the Lun Bawang areas like Long Temarub, Trusan today we can seldom see bamboo band being played; they have been replaced by guitar and keyboards during church services and choirs as ” these modern instruments have become more popular among the younger generation,” commented Paster Jerry Baru of the church. The bamboo band are now rarely played even during Christmas time, he added.

The art was almost completely stopped in the 1980s where no bamboo band survived the stiff competition from the modern musical instruments, recalled Jerry who has been in charge of the bamboo band for the Sarawak Lun Bawang Association since 1993. It was revived by the Association in the late 1980s through its effort to help set up bamboo band at the different parts of Lawas and Limbang areas.

Today eight bamboo bands are formed. They are the bamboo band of Long Tuma, Long Semadoh, Lawas bandar, Pengalih, Long Luping, Ba’Kelalan, Perusia, and Long Sebangang. In the 1970s, the bamboo band became a contesting event in the Pesta Lun Bawang with the aim to preserve the art of bamboo band. The participation bands are judged in three aspects, playing, tuning and conducting. In the recent Pesta in Lawas, the bamboo bands of Long Tuma, Long Semadoh and Lawas Bandar contested in the bamboo bands competition. Long Semadoh bamboo band with 74 members won the contest for its melodious and harmonious sounds produced by the finely tuned instruments.

  1. Faren Daniel berkata:

    Some of the history behind the bamboo band is untrue.Even spellings and grammar are totally wrong.Please re-write the story and interview the the respected parties for a clear and genuine stories.

  2. Lemulun berkata:

    To Faren Daniel. If you know the true history and all that stuffs that u said wrong…why don’t you kindly make some corrections and add on…because this is the only way that you can help our people ‘Lun Bawang’. HELP….

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