THE FOLK LUTE (GAMBUS), AND ITS SYMBOLIC EXPRESSION IN MALAY MUSLIM CULTURE - PDF

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STUDIA INSTRUMENTORUM MUSICAE POPULARIS XVI Tarptautinės tradicinės muzikos tarybos Liaudies muzikos instrumentų tyrimų grupės XVI tarptautinės konferencijos straipsniai / ICTM Study Group on Folk Musical
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STUDIA INSTRUMENTORUM MUSICAE POPULARIS XVI Tarptautinės tradicinės muzikos tarybos Liaudies muzikos instrumentų tyrimų grupės XVI tarptautinės konferencijos straipsniai / ICTM Study Group on Folk Musical Instruments Proceedings from the 16 th International Meeting ISSN Tautosakos darbai XXXII 2006 THE FOLK LUTE (GAMBUS), AND ITS SYMBOLIC EXPRESSION IN MALAY MUSLIM CULTURE LARRY FRANCIS HILARIAN Nanyang Technological University / National Institute of Education, Singapore S u b j e c t: The development of the gambus as Malay folk instruments and an exploration of the complex relationship between music and Islam in Malaysia. P u r p o s e o f s t u d y: To evaluate the ambiguous role of music in Malay Muslim society and the significance of the gambus as a symbolic representation of Islamic identity of the Malay world. M e t h o d s: Organology and ethno-historical perspective. K e y w o r d s: gambus Melayu, gambus Hadhramaut, ud, pegbox, hadith, Melayuness, suras, Qu ran, Alam Melayu and taksim. The aim of this study is to: (1) identify the gambus as Malay folk instruments and (2) its association with Islamic cultures, traditions and philosophies within Malaysia. This paper will discuss the structural development of the gambus, found in Malaysia and also in other parts of Alam Melayu (the Malay world) 1. What seems to be most confusing and unclear is that there are two distinct types of folk lute, but both are commonly referred to as the gambus 2. I will then examine some controversies surrounding the instruments and make a clear distinction between the two types of gambus which can be classified as gambus Hadhramaut and the gambus Melayu 3. The Malay world is predominantly Muslim and the status of music is unclear and not always straightforward. What complicates this issue regarding music within the Islamic jurisprudence in Malaysia is the question of acceptance and rejection of music. Most contentious of all with regards to musical instruments is the problematic association of string instruments in medieval Islamic theological principles. In spite of its strong symbolic representation in the Malay world, the gambus at times conflicts with exegesis of Islam. The transmission of these instruments and their role and identity as icons of Islam are constantly challenged by Islamic purists. 50 As in the case of Malaysia, Islam is an official religion but it is not an Islamic country. It can be argued that these lute instruments today are represented as artifacts of historical products and are expressed as a local cultural statement of their folk identity. In deliberation, it could be concluded that today the gambus is considered as the national instrument, strongly identified with the Malay Muslim musical tradition of Malaysia. Introduction Two kinds of plucked-lutes are found in the Malay Archipelago. Both types of lutes are known simply as, the gambus to the Melayu people 4. The gambus that looks like the classical Arabian ud can be referred to as gambus Hadhramaut, sometimes as gambus Arab or ud. The other form of the instrument that appears similar to the Yemeni qanbus (sometimes called qabus, turbi, or tarab in Yemen) is referred to as the gambus Melayu 5. In Malaysia, the gambus Melayu is also currently known by five other names: seludang, perahu, biawak, Hijaz and gambus Palembang. These five alternative names for gambus Melayu have interesting metaphorical meanings. The gambus today is associated with the national instruments of Malaysia. Although it may not be of Malay origin the gambus can now be considered part of Alam Melayu. It is very important to realize that in the context of Alam Melayu this instrument has taken a variety of forms, differing in terms of shape, size, the number of strings, performance techniques, construction and repertory. In this respect, the gambus Melayu contrasts with the gambus Hadhramaut, which shows much less diversity. As for the gambus Melayu, there are many different shapes and sizes found throughout Alam Melayu, although the ones found in Peninsular Malaysia are quite uniform. Picken mentioned the name gambus from Indonesia, and gabbus [gambusi] (Zanzibar), applied to structurally related lutes resembling rebab from North-West Africa. These lutes are all variants of kobuz (an old Turkish word for lute) as described by Sachs. Picken concludes by pointing out the structural similarity between these forms and their joint similarities to the Chinese hu-qin of the Tang Period 6. The Gambus Hadhramaut The gambus Hadhramaut has an arched-back body with a fretless fingerboard and a relatively short neck, and probably originates from the southern Arabian Peninsula 7. The gambus Hadhramaut has an almost sickle-shaped reverse or backbent pegbox very similar to the classical Arabian ud. In its physical structure, the gambus Hadhramaut is similar to the Arabian lute called al-ud 8. When compared to the European lute, the gambus has a more obtuse-angled pegbox. The gambus Hadhramaut has between eleven and twelve lateral pegs. Usually only 11 strings (5 2+1) are used and the twelfth peg is redundant, probably displayed for decorative purposes. The gambus Hadhramaut, when compared to the 51 classical Arabian ud ( ), is different with regard to the use of wood, tuning system, playing techniques, musical styles, the type of strings, its musical repertory, and the use of modes in its performances 9. Measurements and Materials The gambus Hadhramaut is made up of four parts: the arched-back, the belly, the neck and the pegbox. The general length of the instrument from tail end to the pegbox is about 72 cm. At its greatest depth it is about 22 cm and its width is 38 cm. 10 The pegbox (kepala) is approximately 23 cm in length and 4 cm in width from its lower base and has a diminutive shape at its uppermost part, measuring 5 cm in thickness. Fig. 1 below shows the superimposed diagram of gambus Hadhramaut and gambus Melayu from Johor, Malaysia. The Leban (Vitex) or Seraya (Shorea curtisii) wood is commonly used for making the pegbox. The pegbox is tightly glued and nailed to the upper part of the neck of the instrument. Some makers use different kinds of wood for the tuning pegs, usually strong wood like Jati ( teak ) or Cengal (Neobalanocarpus heimii). Jati ( teak Tectona grandis) is used for the Fig. 1. The superimposed diagram of gambus Hadhramaut and gambus Melayu (Johor, Malaysia). belly of gambus Hadhramaut. For the strips of wood that make the vaulted-back of the gambus Hadhramaut, wood such as Seraya merah (Shorea), Merawan (Hopea related to Seraya, or a species of Meranti Dipterocarpaceae family) and Durian Belanda (Durio malaccensis) is used. The shape of the gambus body is sawn out and carved into a rounded mould. The body of the vaulted-back is made up of 15 to 21 thin strips of light-weight wood with an inner lining of between 0.6 cm and 0.8 cm. It is then covered with a separate flat wooden board, which forms the belly of the instrument, which is glued to the body. The arched-back, pegbox and neck are polished with a coat of varnish made from powdered glass and glue. The belly, however, is left unpolished but smoothly sandpapered. The soundholes are ornamented; one large central soundhole is found near the neck of the gambus and two smaller soundholes appear near the stringholder (bridge) on each side of the eleven strings. Plywood is used to design the ornamentation decorations that cover the three soundholes. These decorations are attached from the inside. The two small side soundholes are about 5 cm in diameter 52 on the opposite sides of the belly towards the stringholder of the instrument. One large soundhole about 12 cm in diameter is placed more towards the top of the centre of the belly upwards to the fingerboard. The ornamental design is Islamic but older versions of the gambus Hadhramaut had Malayan characteristics of the crescent moon and star designs on its belly. A piece of hide is placed near the stringholder covering the portion of the belly where the plectrum comes into contact between the strings and the hide. The neck (leher) forms the fingerboard of the gambus for which Leban wood is used. Ebony (from trees of the genus Diospyros), Jati (teak) or Pokok Pinang (betel palm, Areca catechu) is used for the fingerboard in more expensive gambus. The fingerboard is approximately 21 cm in length and 2 cm in thickness. The neck is slightly broader towards the end that joins the belly. The lower end of the neck measures about 5 cm in width, narrowing to about 4 cm towards the pegbox. The lower part of the neck is glued and tightly fixed to the shoulder (bahu) of the upper belly of the instrument. There is no evidence of gambus Hadhramaut of Alam Melayu ever having had frets. One can assume that the ud instruments that arrived here were unfretted 11. Tuning The tuning of the gambus Hadhramaut may vary from one locality to another, for instance in different provincial districts in Indonesia and Brunei, but the gambus tuning is quite uniform throughout Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. The tuning pegs of the gambus Hadhramaut are set in the sides of a hollowed out pegbox. Eleven nylon strings are now used in stringing the gambus Hadhramaut. Five double courses starting from the high strings followed by one low 5th single string (5x2+1). In recent times classical guitar strings have been used on the gambus to replace the previously used fishing line 12. The gambus Hadhramaut is tuned in 4ths. The lowest string of the gambus Hadhramaut is tuned to a B followed by E, then by the four double courses of a, d 1, g 1 and c 2 using Helmholtz notation 13. The higher strings usually play the melody, supported by a drone on the low strings. Fig. 2 shows the correct tuning of the gambus Hadhramaut, using western notation. Fig. 2. Tuning of gambus Hadhramaut (Written pitch sounds an octave lower). The technique required in playing the gambus demands strong articulation of melody and rhythm, which can only be possible with the use of a plectrum. Most of the Indonesian performers use buffalo horn or guitar plectra. The common form of 53 stringing the gambus Hadhramaut is fastening the string at one end to a peg within the right-angled pegbox, and attaching the other end of the string directly to a flat stringholder glued to the belly of the instrument. The horizontal holes in the stringholder enable the strings to be tied securely in a loop at one end and around the laterally placed pegs at the other end. The decorations in gambus Hadhramaut have been gradually changing to Islamic style arabesques, and more floral designs on the soundholes have appeared. This kind of design is closely aligned with the Arabian style of ud decoration, as there has been an increase in ud instruments coming into Malaysia from the Middle East and Turkey. Until the beginning of the 19th century the gambus Hadhramaut was not as commonly used as the gambus Melayu in Malaysia. The Gambus Melayu The gambus Melayu is extensively used in zapin music, although in Peninsular Malaysia itself, it is now only commonly used in the hamdolok dance drama performances in the State of Johor 14. When compared to the gambus Hadhramaut the gambus Melayu is slimmer, smaller and pear-shaped. This skin-bellied lute is found in Indonesia (Sumatra, the Riau islands, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi), Brunei, Singapore, Johor in Peninsular Malaysia and the coastal areas of Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia. Since the beginning of the 20th century the pear-shaped gambus Melayu has been slowly replaced by the arched-back, wood-face belly of gambus Hadhramaut. This development was most obvious in Peninsular Malaysia, less so in Brunei and Indonesia. Gambus performers explained that between both types of gambus, the reason for the fewer performers using gambus Melayu is the smaller number of strings on the gambus Melayu. This affects the repertory because of the limited range of the instrument. A second factor is that gambus Melayu has a softer voice (kurang bunyi). Malay sources also claim that both types of gambus are used, although traditionally only gambus Melayu was used in hamdolok 15. All gambus Melayu types found in the Malay Archipelago are fretless. There are usually seven lateral pegs attached to a C shaped pegbox. The shape of the pegbox head and the shape and designs of the belly of gambus Melayu also differ from one another, largely depending on locality and region. The gambus Melayu pegbox from Indonesia differs from those in East Malaysia, Peninsular Malaysia and Brunei, where they usually have simple, undecorated pegbox designs. The Indonesian gambus Melayu s pegbox often shows some symbolic representation of birds, flowers or animal heads. These are important mythological representations. Carving the pegbox decoratively into animals, birds or flower shapes seems to be a recent morphological development. The Indonesian gambus Melayu types seem to have a narrower and longer neck or fingerboard tapering from the belly to the pegbox. The fingerboard of the gambus Melayu from Peninsular Malaysia has a relatively short neck, tapering off to the pegbox upward at one end. The other end 54 broadens towards the belly and a protruding tailpiece. The hollowed fingerboard is covered with a separate piece of thin hard wood usually made of teak, keladang or ebony. Some gambus Melayu bellies have Islamic inscriptions written on the skin. Others have been completely painted all in one colour. Plate 1 shows the gambus Melayu with Islamic inscriptions in Arabic from the Holy Qu ran. Plate 1. The gambus Melayu with Islamic inscriptions. All gambus Melayu have a mounted tailpiece to which the strings are fastened at one end. The Malaysian gambus Melayu has a small hole of about 1 cm in diameter on the broader part of the fingerboard. There is also a soundhole at the lower vaulted back of the instrument. The Indonesian gambus Melayu also has three to five small soundholes, which are found on the lower face of the neck, with a minor soundhole at the back on the arch. Measurements and Materials The overall length of the gambus Melayu of Johor (Malaysia) is about 88 cm. At its greatest depth it is about 13 cm. Its width is 23.5 cm. The face of the neck is flat and the lower portion of the belly is covered with skin to the extent of 32 cm from where the edge of the belly meets the tail-piece downwards (see fig. 1). Most gambus Melayu are made from the Chempedak (Artocarpus integer), Cengal (Neobalanocarpus heimii) and Nangka or jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) tree. This wood is found abundantly in Malaysia. It is preferred since it is a soft wood, which allows one to easily carve out the whole body of the instrument from a single block of wood by hollowing out the interior of the piece of wood. Another factor is that the wood does not shrink when dried. The Sumatran gambus is also made from jackfruit wood with a goat skin belly 16. This confirms the type of wood used in making gambus Melayu 17. The gambus of the Melayu type is found in East Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah, formally British North Borneo). In these states the word gambus refers only to the instrument that has a similar physical structure to the Melayu type lute and not to the arched-back gambus Hadhramaut 18. Sometimes the word biawak is used instead of gambus Melayu. The gambus Melayu is also extensively used in the Indonesian part of Borneo in Kalimantan and Sulawesi. In Sulawesi it is also known as gambusu. The Sulawesi gambusu is slightly different as it has a wooden belly quite like the Arabian ud, although its structural shape is like the gambus Melayu. 55 A specimen of a Sulawesi gambus or gambusu was brought to my attention during my research trip to the Musée de l Homme in France 19. The gambus from Sulawesi at the Musée de the l Homme also has a reasonably large soundhole of about 7 cm in diameter, almost like that of a classical guitar. Another unusual feature is that the body tapers off to the neck with a longer and broader fingerboard when compared to the other gambus Melayu from Indonesia. The head of the pegbox is not as elaborate as the ones from Sumatra. The gambus Melayu specimen found in the Riau islands of Indonesia also differs from the ones found in other parts of Indonesia. The gambus from some parts of the Riau islands, especially Pekanbaru, Siak and Bengkalis have been known to favor wire strings as opposed to the ones from all the other areas, which nowadays use nylon. Unlike the Malaysian gambus Melayu, the pegbox head from Indonesia is usually elaborately carved with symbolic representations attached to it. In the Horniman Museum Store I found three very interesting gambus instruments of a Javanese provenance 20. The first specimen of gambus (Melayu) from Java has almost a round belly with a much longer neck, although the pegboxes were quite closely related to the plain and simple Malaysian model. Another unusual observation is that the tailpiece of the gambus is much shorter and semi-circular, which looks very similar to the qanbus from Yemen 21. The second specimen from Java has a diamond-shaped belly with a much larger tailpiece, also in the shape of a diamond. However, the pegbox head is similar to the Malaysian version 22. The third specimen of the gambus Melayu from Java has an unusual C shaped pegbox. This gambus Melayu has a small belly but a much longer neck attached to its body. This particular model has a rather medieval European structure to its shape and also has a rosette design on the lower part of its neck. This design has a striking resemblance to medieval European designs found in rebab and mandola instruments although these influences are speculative 23. Tuning The tuning of the gambus Melayu is also in perfect 4ths 24. In Malaysia and most of Indonesia the gambus Melayu is tuned to: A 3 -D 4 -G 4 -C 5 (3x2+1). In the Riau islands the gambus Melayu, which uses wire strings is tuned to: G 3 -D 4 -G 4 -C However, the nylon-stringed gambus Melayu is tuned to the Malaysian accordature. The three double-course strings of the Brunei gambus Melayu are tuned to E 3 -A 3 -D The other common tuning of the Brunei gambus is similar to the Malaysian tuning of D, G and C double strung. The Eastern Sumatran gambus Melayu is tuned approximately to G as the lowest string, then a double course tuned to A, another string tuned to B, followed by three courses tuned to D, A, and E. The double course strings are tuned in unison. The tuning of the double courses, as argued by the practitioners of the tradition, is to strengthen the melodic line relative to the drone. Fig. 3 shows the tuning of the gambus Melayu using western notation. 56 Fig. 3. Tuning of the gambus Melayu. The gambus found in Malay Muslim communities of the coastal area of Sabah sometimes use iguana skin instead of goat s skin. They have three pairs (3x2) of gut or brass strings played with plectra or a plectrum made from the claw of an armadillo 27. There are two sizes of gambus Melayu found in Brunei. The standard size is 100 cm. Its belly is covered with skin for about 32 cm. The smaller size gambus Melayu Kecil (small) is 62 cm. It has a wooden belly with a soundhole towards the stringholder, with a diameter of 4 cm. It also has 3 courses of strings 28. The standard gambus Melayu from Brunei has a belly made of deer, monitor lizard, snake or goat s skin. Symbolism, Contradictions and Ambuiguities in Malay Muslim Music Trade, commerce, conquest and intermarriages brought about the movements of people by definition involving the exchange of ideas, economic system, social structure, political empowerment and above all the sharing of cultural and artistic traditions. It can be argued that historically, Malaysia is one country that played a central role in the diffusion of Islam since the 15th century, as well as the gambustype instruments throughout the Malay Archipelago. Music and Islam stil
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