Monday, May 26, 2008

Musical Instuments of Malaysia

Musical Instruments of Malaysia

Date of Issue: 1987-03-07
Denominations: 15 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 80 cents
Stamp Size: 27.94 mm x 44.45 mm
Paper: SPM watermarked, phosphor coated
Printing Process: Lithography
Printer: Security Printers (M) Sdn. Bhd. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Sheet Composition: 50 stamps
Designer: Ms. Kathy Wong

Stamps in the Series:

First Day Cover:

Musical instruments in Malaysia comprise of various types of traditional instruments and may be divided into various groups such as the wind and the stringed instruments. Some of these instruments form an integral part of a Malay ensemble. Some of the musical instruments in use today are derived from those of old and have been re-designed by adding modern decorative elements to consonise their contemporary needs. Some of the more common musical instruments are the rebab, serunai, sapih, sompotan, kompang, and the gendang. These instruments are played in many different styles according to their particular genre and performance practices.


The sapih is classified as a chordophonic instrument and is popular among the indigineous people of Sarawak mainly the Kayan, Kenyah and Kelabit. The four wire strings on the sapih are stretched horizontally across its body on top of the many low fret-like movable bridges which are placed on top of its neck or fingering board. The first of the four strings creates the melody while the remaining three strings produce the drone sounds. Earlier models of the Sapih used only two strings made out of finely split rotan. The Sapih can be played as a solo instrument or in a duet to accompany a warrior like dance called Ngaja, and the Datun Julud which is performed by ladies.

The sompotan is an aerophonic traditional musical instrument popular among the Dusun people of Sabah. This instrument consists of bamboo pipes with single reed tongues fitted vertically into the empty shell of a small dried gourd which functions as a wind bellow. The pitch on the sompotan is controlled by the ability of the player in the usage of his fingers on the finger holes and the pipe ends. The sompotan produces a sweet tone and is capable of producing drone bass sounds together with harmony. The sompotan can provide entertainment as a solo instrument as well as in an ensemble.


Serunai is the only aerophonic Malay traditional musical instrument present in the Wayang Kulit Kelantan, Menora and Silat ensemble. The serunai is used as accompaniment in the court dances known as Tari Asyik and Inai. The serunai has quadruple reeds made from the palmyra palm and is the principal melodic instrument in an ensemble. This instrument is made of a conical tube of hardwood which has seven finger holes in the front and one at the back. The instrument is usually ornamented with carvings at the upper and lower ends of its body. Melody is produced by means of a circular breathing technique in which the flow of air through the reeds is never stopped.


The rebab is a three-stringed chordophonic Malay traditional musical instrument. The instrument has an elongated triangular-shaped body carved from hardwood, usually the wood of the jack-fruit tree. The front face of the body is covered with a layer of the cow’s inner stomach, and a small lump of bee’s wax is attached to the upper left side of the stretched skin. The rebab commonly referred to as the spiked fiddle is played with an intricately carved bow. The rebab is the melodic instrument in the Mak Yong and the Main Petri ensemble. In the Tarik Selampit tradition the rebab appears as a solo instrument played by Tok Selampit himself.

No comments: