South East Asia ATLAS of Plucked Instruments

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South East Asia

For the area of South East Asia we regard here the countries of Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines.

For Vietnam see Far East.

For Oceania (Hawaii and Tahiti) see North America.

Note that Australia does not have any special ethnic plucked instruments.

 

top Thailand
jakhay
example : bought from furniture shop in Utrecht, 1999
L=1350 B=280 H=200mm
scale 700mm
You Tube
fast solo
You Tube
classical music
jakhay

The jakhay is an instrument that is also used in other countries of South East Asia. In Cambodia it is called takhe, or charakhe or usually krapeu. In Burma it is called mi-gyaung. Originally it was carved to resemble a crocodile, now it is more a stylized panhandle. Alternative spellings are jakae or jakhae.

The jakhay is made from one huge piece of hardwood, carved in the right shape and the back/bottom hollowed out. The bottom (the soundboard) is made from a softer wood, and has (roughly drilled) soundholes in it. It has 3 rounded short legs screwed into the soundboard.

The 11 or 12 high frets are made of light coloured hardwood and fixed in a groove, carved in the top. There are 3 long rounded tuning pegs on both sides of the open peghead. The entire instrument (except the soundboard) is painted dark brown.
The bridge is made of brass, with a flat and rounded top, to make the 3 nylon strings (especially the lowest, wounded string) buzz, like on Indian instruments.

Playing is by resting the jakhay on the floor, with the player sitting cross-legged behind it. The right hand uses a pen-like plectrum with some decoration on the top, and the left hand presses down the strings behind the frets. The sound is not very pleasing to western ears.

For more information about Thai instruments see ThaiFolk.

top  
grajappi
example : bought via internet from Asean Shopping, Thailand 2007
L=1700 B=350 H=80mm
scale 820mm
You Tube
grajappi

In Thailand they use a similar long plucked instrument as the chapey dan veng in Cambodia : in Thailand it is called grajappi or krajappii or krachappi. There is an old and a new version.
The old style grajappi looks much like the chapey, so see Cambodia.
The new version grajappi is made a bit differently.

The body of the new style grajappi is made by hollowing out a round bit of (heavy) wood, and covering it with a thin wooden front. The round body shape is supposed to be a slice of the bodhi tree or of a pineapple. The soundboard has a large round soundhole (like a guitar), that is often covered with a decorated rosette; formerly made of ivory, now of white plastic.

The neck and long pegbox are made from one piece of wood and glued to the body wiith a dovel join. The pegbox extents in a very long (flat) curve to the back; this bit can be taken off, and is highly decorated with dark wood and white (ivory looking) plastic. The 13 frets (in a regular seven-to-an-octave scale) are pieces of white plastic, glued to the flat front of the neck.

The pegs (two on both sides of the open pegbox) are long and round, with decorated "handles" attached to them.
There are two courses of double nylon strings, which runs from a high decorated (plastic) nut over a rather large loose bridge to a string holder fixed to the bottom of the body. This stringholder is covered by a piece of decorated white plastic.

The strings are probably tuned : FF BB.

Playing the grajappi is with a plectrum, mainly to accompany singing.

top  
sueng
example : bought in 1992
L=780 B=210 H=50mm
scale 410mm
You Tube
sueng

The sueng (also spelled sung, or soung or serng or seung) is a plucked instrument that vaguely resembles the yueh qin ("moon guitar") from China.

The sueung is made from one piece of hardwood, including neck and pegbox. The body is hollowed out and covered with another (round) piece of hardwood, with a small soundhole in the middle.

The neck is rather square. It has high wooden frets attached (nailed) to it, in oriental scale (7 frets to an octave). The pegbox is open and a bit sickle-shaped. The four round friction pegs are two on each side. Modern versions have small guitar machines, with fake wooden tuners.

It has 2 double metal strings (the old ones often made of bicycle brake wire). They run over a loose wooden bridge to pins at the end of the body.

The body of the sueng is decorated with woodcarvings around the edges. A plectrum is fixed with a rope to the end of the body.

 

top  
sung lisu
example : bought via eBay, 2003
L=480 B=80 H=50mm
scale 330mm
You Tube
sung lisu / subu

This is a nice small folk instrument, based on the Chinese sanxien and the Thai sueng. It is made by the Lisu, one of the hilltribes in North Thailand. It is locally known as tseubeu, or subu or dsyböö. The Akha tribe calls it deuham, and the Lahu calll it sae mu. Internet shops usually call it sung lisu. It is made in several sizes, from around 300mm to about 750mm.

The body of a sung lisu is a small round piece of hardwood, like a bowl. The bottom is pierced with holes and has decoration around the edges. The front is covered with skin, like python or monitor lizard. The straight neck is carved from one piece of hardwood which extents to the pegbox. The pegbox bends back in a sharp curl.

There are two round friction pegs on the right side and one on the left side of the open pegbox. Three metal strings (of the same thickness) run over a small loose bridge to a wooden pin at the end of the neck, which goes right through the body.

A nice round plectrum is fixed to that pin with a rope.

 

top  
phin
example : bought via internet from Asean-shopping.net 2007
L=1000 B=240 H=40mm
scale 570mm
You Tube
phin

An apparently rather new type of instrument, used in modern Thai music groups, the phin is a guitar-like instrument, based on the Thai sueng.

The body, neck and tuning head is usually carved from one piece of wood, although some makers use a separate neck. The middle part of the body is cut out (leaving thin sides), and covered on both sides with thin wood. The back is flat. The body has either the shape of a teardrop or a spade or a leaf. On the front is a soundhole in a decorative shape. All edges of the body (in fact the thin wood on front and back) are grooved.

The end of the peghead has on the left side a (separately made) sideways extension (fixed with a screw or bolt to the peghead) in a curl, ending in a decorated carving of a dragon head. The open peghead has 3 modern tuning machines - one left, two on the right side. The instrument is often painted.

The fingerboard is almost flush with the front, and has guitar-like metal frets, which follow an irregular scale, using frets 1,2,3,5,7,8,10 and 12 for the first octave.
The 3 steel strings run over a loose wooden bridge to a small stringholder, fixed with two screws at the end of the soundboard.

The tuning most often used is : e a e'.

The phin is played with a plectrum and the sound is like a simple guitar (often amplified).

It is used in Molam type of music of North-East Thailand, which also uses the reed organ "kaen", a bowed string instrument "saw", a hand drum and a circular panpipe "wode". The phin plays repeated riffs.

phin
example : bought via eBay from Isan Instruments, 2013

L=950 B=230 H=40mm
scale 560mm

top  
phin pia
example : bought via eBay, 2013
L=880 B=140 H=240mm
scale 625mm
You Tube
phin pia

The phin pia (also written : phin phia) is a very old instrument, and is mainly used in North Thailand. Nowadays there is only a very limited number of people able to play it, although recently there is a kind of revival and it is still made.
In Cambodia it is called kse diev, has only one string, but there it is almost vanished.

The phin pia exists mainly of a straight and tapering round piece of wood, with on the thin end of this stick a bended bronze tool to fix the strings to. Usually this has the shape of an elephant head.

Halfway the stick half a gourd (or coconut shell) is fastened, with the open side away from the stick.
At the thick end of the stick 2 (or 4) rounded pegs are inserted to tune the strings.
The phin pia has 2 (or 4) metal strings, one of them is the melody string - the other(s) are used for drones.

When the phin pia is played the open side of the gourd is held against the players (bare) chest and by moving it up and down the timbre of the tone can be regulated. The thin end of the stick is hold by the right hand. Plucking the strings seems difficult, as you have to play harmonics and open strings with both hands.

The sound of the phin pia is (even for western ears) quite pleasing and sounds oriental. The music is quite simple due to the limitations of the instrument. It was used by young men for courting the girls, but is not often used anymore.

   
top Cambodia
chapey
example : bought via eBay 2004
L=1510 B=385 H=55mm
scale 885mm
You Tube
chapey

In Cambodia we can find two plucked string instruments : the chapey and the krapeu. The krapeu is very similar to the Thai jakhay, so see Thailand.

The chapey dan veng (also chapay veng) is a (very) long neck lute. It is the same instrument that is called grajappi in Thailand.

The body is made from a thick piece of wood, hollowed out, with a thin plank on top as soundboard. That body shape is supposed to be a slice of the bodhi tree or of a pineapple. There is no soundhole.

The neck and the long pegbox are made from one piece of wood and glued to the body. The pegbox extents in a very long (flat) curve to the back. The frets are pieces of hardwood glued with some black wax to the neck. The pegs, which are long and round, are on both sides of the open pegbox.

There are two courses of nylon strings, which can be single, or double or only one double. They run to a string holder which also serves as bridge. The strings are tuned F B. Playing is with a plectrum, mainly to accompany singing.

 

 

Some instruments are quite crummy made (like the example), but some are very delicately carved and with some bone (or ivory) inlay (see the grajappi from Thailand).

   
top Malaysia
gitar gambus
example : picture from website Alat Music Rebana
L=00 B=00 H=00mm
scale 000mm
You Tube
gambus hadramaut

(gitar) gambus

As in most Islamic countries, the Arabian oud is also played in Malaysia and Indonesia. This oud is quite similar to the oud used in the Middle East, as it came with Arab workers from Yemen (town of Hadramaut), who carried on their tradition of playing the oud.
This oud is here called gambus (or gambus Hadramaut, or gambus Hadramawt, or gambus johor, or gambus Arab, or - mainly in Indonesia : gitar gambus - see Indonesia). There is also a local oud-like instrument, which is called gambus Melayu (see under).

The oud-like gambus is often imported from the Middle East, but quite a few are locally made in Malaysia or Indonesia. Usually they try to imitate the general shape of the imported oud, but others have a few differences. Often the wood used for the front is not pine wood, and certainly not bookmatched.
Some rosettes seem to be made of paper and partly painted gold. On some gambus there is only one central rosette.
And although the neck is fretless (like the oud), the gambus sometimes has painted "frets" (but not on the right spots) for orientation.


picture from CD Smithsonian Folkway :
Music of Indonesia - 11

Although the number of strings may vary, the tuning and technique of playing the gambus is the same as for the oud (with a long plectrum), but here more to accompany arabic singing - often in "orkes gambus".

 

top  
gambus Melayu
example : bought via internet from Kadaiku, Sabah 2005
L=990 B=240 H=140mm
scale 620mm
You Tube
gambus melayu
You Tube
gambus with skin front
You Tube
panting

gambus Melayu

Besides the oud-like gambus (see above) in Malaysia (especially on Sabah), and in Brunei, and on some islands of Indonesia - like Lombok and Sumatra (see under) - there is a another gambus, which looks quite different. This gambus (gambus Hijaz or gambus Melayu or gambus seludang) is closely related to the old qanbus of Yemen and East Africa (see Africa). On Kalimantan it is called panting and played in Panting Banjar music.

This traditional gambus has a (narrow) body and neck carved from a single piece of (jackfruit) wood and a (goat) skin top. Nowadays the front is sometimes (mainly in Brunei and Sabah) made of thin wood (like on the oud-type gambus) - less breakable, and it gives a sharper sound. The body always has a long extention on the bottom.
The peg head is often flat, or sickle-shaped, or turned back to the front, with some tribal decoration. It usually has friction pegs on both sides of the open tuning head.
The gambus has four or five double strings of gut (or nylon) and no frets.
The strings run over a loose wooden bridge and are tied to a large pin-like extension of the body.

There is nowadays quite a cross-over between the two types of gambus, so the gambus Melayu may be also made from staves, and have 6 double strings and a large single rosette - or three. Also the tuninghead may be bent back, or with a decorated carving. It may even have tuning machines.

It is played with a long plectrum, and used for vocal accompaniment of Zapin music. It has a sound similar to the oud but with a more resonant, almost hollow sound.

For much more information about all these different types of gambus instruments see : Portfolio4.

 

 

 

left : from CD
right : from website

top  
sape
example :
bought from Borneo
via eBay 2003
L=1250 B=200 H=90mm
scale 860mm
You Tube
sape

The sape (or sapeh or sapeq or sapek) is one of the largest plucked stringed instruments in the world. It is mainly used on the island of Borneo (half of which is Malaysia : Sabah and Sarawak, and half is Indonesia : Kalimantan; plus the small independent state of Brunei).

The sape is probably made by shipbuilders as the body resembles very much a ship (however the hollowed out bit is on the back...). Maybe that is why this type of instrument is known as "boatlute".
The short neck and square pegbox is also from the same piece of wood. The front is decorated in black and red plakat paint, in traditional Borneo tribal patterns.

Some sape have carved decorations

The number of metal strings may vary from 3 to 5 and can be tuned with round wooden pegs from both sides of the peghead.

Each string is the same gauge and has its own small bamboo bridge, giving each a different string length. They run over a flat bamboo bridge and go through holes to the back of the instrument. Only the first string has (flat bamboo) frets in a diatonic scale.

Playing the sape is quite awkward, as your hand can not really grip the "neck", but more or less have to press on the front of the body. Only the first string is fingered, the others are used as drones (it feels a bit like playing upside-down dulcimer). Only the thumb is used for strumming.

The sound is not very loud. The repertoire is about 35 different tunes.

left: me trying out a sape in the Sarawak Cultural Village, 2008

 


The instrument seems still quite popular and some are even made electric. Also combinations like sapetar (guitar) and sapelele (ukulele) are made.

top  
sundatang
example :
seen in Sabah Museum, 2008
L=~1200 B=0 H=0mm
scale 0mm
You Tube
sundatang

This long necked strummed lute is quite rare, and found amongst the Dusunic people of Sabah (the north part of the island Borneo).

The sundatang is mainly made of jackfruit wood, with two or 3 brass strings. The body seems to be either rather square or oval-shaped. It is probably made from one large piece of wood, hollowed out from the back and covered with a separate wooden "lid". The instrument looks very similar to the kudyapi boat-lutes of the Palawan from the (nearby) Philippines (see under). There are just a few (about 5) high frets on the long neck, near the body (like on the Vietnamese Dan Day).

The sundatang of the KadazanDusun tribe from Penampang district, the Lotud-Dusun tribe (who call it “gagayan”) and those of the Rungus tribe are more widely played than the one of the KadazanDusuns of Tambunan district. This Tambunan sundatang has a small body and a neck over a meter long.

The sundatang can be played for personal entertainment or as a dance accompaniment (in the Tambunan district - the Magarang) and is sometimes played in pairs, as in Tuaran district.

pictures from website Malaysiana

   
top Indonesia
 

Note that in Indonesia you may also find instruments described under Malaysia - like the gitar gambus (the oud), the gambus Melayu (most regions have developed their own typical model) and the sape (on Borneo).


hasapi (modern)
example :
bought via Tokobagus
2013
L=700 B=100 H=65mm
scale 470mm
You Tube
hasapi

The hasapi (or kecapi) Batak is a small boat lute from the Toba Bataks (Samosir island in Lake Toba), in North Sumatra. They used to be made mainly as woodcarving souvenirs for tourists. Nowadays they are getting popular again, but in a modern version.

The traditional hasapi is made from one single piece of wood, in a slender boat-shape. The body is hollowed from the front, with a small open slit on the back. The front is covered with a thin piece of wood on which a small raised left-over square bit of wood is the bridge.

There are 2 metal strings, which can be tuned by round wooden friction pegs on both sides of the open pegbox. The bridge is a raised square bit of wood left in the middle of the body, to which the strings are fastened.

Usually the top of the pegbox, and the end of the body (which raises high up) are nicely decorated with woodcarvings. If the front is left plain it may be a playable instrument; if it is over-decorated with woodcarvings it is really hard to play.

A modern (playable) hasapi will have only simple decorations, while the neck often has an inlay of a piece of mirror as fretboard. It may have tuning pegs, or modern tuning machines.

Playing is with a plectrum, mainly to accompany singing or flute music.

hasapi (traditional)
example :
bought on Sumatra 1987

L=840 B=100 H=90mm
scale 280mm

The example of a traditional instrument is painted in some dark brown colour, probably with shoe polish.

On my latest visit to Sumatra in 1987 the hasapi seemed not very popular with players, as I found only one boy able to play it, and I could not find any cassettes with pure hasapi music on it.
However recently searching on YouTube and the internet, it seems nowadays young players have taken up the instrument again, but have modernised it first.

top  
kulcapi
example :
bought via Ethnic-INA, Indonesia 2013
L=840 B=90 H=110mm
scale 480mm
You Tube
kulcapi karo

The kulcapi is a small boat lute from the Karo Batak people of North Sumatra.

The kulcapi is made from one single piece of wood, in a slender diamond-shape, and much deeper than the hasapi. The body is hollowed out with on the back a diamond-shape soundhole.

The front is covered with a thin piece of wood, with the square bridge left as a block when the front was thinned. The neck has a number (about 7) of metal frets, inlaid in the front in a diatonic scale. Usually the top of the pegbox, and the end of the body (which bends back, not up like the hasapi) are decorated with stylised woodcarvings.
The entire instrument is painted black.

The 2 metal strings can be tuned by round wooden friction pegs on both sides of the pegbox, but modern instruments may have tuning machines (one on each side). The strings are fastened to holes in the raised bridge.

Playing the kulcapi is with a plectrum (often fixed with a rope), mainly to accompany singing.

 

 

top  

gambus selodang
example :
bought from website Bedelau.com, 2012

L=1060 B=250 H=120mm
scale 540 mm
You Tube

gambus selodang

This is the gambus melayu (or gambus seludang) used in the province of Riau, on the northeast coast of Sumatra (near Singapore), which has the local name : gambus selodang. It is quite similar to the instruments of Malaysia (see above), but here it always has a skin front.

This traditional gambus has an (often rather wide) body, with the body, neck and head carved from a single piece of jackfruit wood, including the extention at the bottom. The top half of the hollowed out front is covered with a thin piece of wood (often ending straight - and sometimes in half circles, depending on the maker). It usually has some kind of decorative soundhole. The lower half is covered with a (goat) skin, glued to the edge of the body.

The neck is fretless. The peg head is turned back to the front, with some carved tribal decoration. It usually has seven large friction pegs (3 right and 4 left) on the sides of the open tuning head. The example has pegs carved in the shape of star fruit.

This gambus selodang has seven metal (guitar)strings in 4 courses (the bass string is single).
The strings run over a loose wooden bridge and are fixed to a small metal stringholder, fixed with a bolt to the extention at the end of the body.

It is played with a plectrum, to accompany singing - usually together with two small drums (called "maruas").

For much more information about all the different types of gambus instruments see : Portfolio4.

top  

dambus
example :
bought from website Kusukeni.com,
Bangka 2013

L=900 B=220 H=120mm
scale 470 mm
You Tube

dambus

The dambus is a type of gambus melayu that is used on the island of Bangka, off the northeast coast of Sumatra. It is quite similar to the instruments of Malaysia (see above), but the dambus always has a tuning head carved like the head of a deer.

This traditional dambus has the body, neck and tuninghead carved from a single piece of soft wood (sengon), including the extention at the bottom. The front of the hollowed out body and neck is covered with a thin piece of wood. The soundholes are often in a decorative pattern. Some makers like decorating the front and neck with abstract paintings. Sometimes a strip of fabric is nailed around the edge of the body.

The neck is fretless. The peg head slants to the back, with the end curling to the front with a nicely carved head of a deer. The antlers are usually separately made.
It usually has seven friction pegs (4 on the right and 3 on the left) on the sides of the half open tuning head.

The dambus has seven nylon (guitar)strings in 4 courses (the bass string is single). The strings run over a large loose wooden bridge, and are fixed to a round hole in the extention at the end of the body. Tuning could be f cc gg d'd' .

It is played with a plectrum, to accompany singing.

 

For much more information about all the different types of gambus instruments see : Portfolio4.

top  
gitar gambus
example :
bought via Ethnic-INA, Indonesia 2014
L=890 B=400 H=210mm
scale 540mm
You Tube
gambus (mandolin-style)
You Tube
gambus (oud-style)

(gitar) gambus

As in most Islamic countries, the Arabian oud is also played in Indonesia and Malaysia (see also above). This oud is quite similar to the oud used in the Middle East, as it came with Arab workers from Yemen (town of Hadramaut), who carried on their tradition of playing the oud. In Indonesia this oud is often called : gitar gambus.

Often this is an oud imported from the Middle East, or locally made in the style of the Middle Eastern ouds. Although the general shape of those is similar to the imported oud (maybe a bit wider), there are often a few differences. Usually the wood used for the front is not pine wood, and certainly not bookmatched. The rosettes are often less complicated.

Another style gambus which is also made locally is more like a mandolin : with a raised fretboard, a loose bridge with a metal stringholder, and 3 quite simple soundholes.




picture from CD Smithsonian Folkway :Music of Indonesia - 11

Although the neck is always fretless (like the oud), sometimes the gitar gambus has painted "frets" - although they are really not even on the right places of frets.
The tuninghead usually bends back (like on the arabic ouds), but sometimes they are more straight (guitar-like). Also the friction pegs may be replaced by machine tuners.

The tuning and technique of playing the gitar gambus is the same as for the oud (with a long plectrum), but here more to accompany arabic singing - often in "orkes gambus".

top  

kecapi dayak
example : bought from TaBubuEthnicMusicShop, Indonesia 2013

L=1010 B=130 H=60mm
scale 630 mm
You Tube

kecapi dayak

The island of Borneo is devided between Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) and Indonesia (Kalimantan); plus the small independent state of Brunei. In Kalimantan you can find the large sape (see Malaysia) but there is also a smaller plucked instrument in use : the kecapi dayak (or kecapi Borneo or kecapi Kalimantan or kecapi Kalteng), which resembles a sape but has a long fretless neck.

The body and first part of the neck of the kecapi dayak are carved from one piece of wood (or joined pieces of wood), with a long slender body (like a small sape). The back is round (like a half-cilinder). The body is hollowed out from the front, and covered with a thin piece of wood - which also covers the slightly hollowed neck. The end of the body is a bit smaller half circle and sticks out.

The fretless neck is straight and long, with the top half (with the tuning head) joined halfway with a V-join to the body. The head often has a (carved) decoration of a hornbill bird, or some tribal carving. Usually there are 3 strings, which can be tuned with friction pegs - or nowadays with tuning machines. The 3 nylon strings (all of the same thickness) run over a loose wooden bridge, and are fixed to small holes in the end of the body.

Many kecapi dayak are painted in bright colours, others are just varnished and have light hammered patterns on the front, with tribal decorations (similar to the sape).

The kecapi dayak is played with a plectrum, mainly to accompany singing.

 

An old kecapi dayak in Sarawak Museum

Note that some sape can be smaller than some large kecapi - the main difference is the long neck and the lack of frets on the kecapi !

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kecapi makassar
example : bought via eBay 2007
L=740mm B=65 H=70mm
scale 350mm
You Tube

kecapi makassar (Sulawesi)

This is a special boat lute from the island Sulawesi (formerly : Celebes). It is called kecapi [pronounced "kechapi"] makassar, but also : kecapi bugis, kacaping or katapi. A quite similar, but wider instrument is found on Sumba, called jungga (see under).

The kecapi makassar is made from one piece of wood, with a cavity on the back. This is covered with a separate wooden panel, with several round sound holes in it.

The peghead has usually a highly decorated panel, also carved from the same piece of wood. Nowadays on modern kecapi these panels are often left plain.

The kecapi has two metal strings, tuned by small round friction pegs. The strings are pressed down on a row of 5 or 6 high finger posts, carved integrally from the neck and soundboard. The bridge is a similar high post.

It is strummed with a long thin plectrum, for solo music or to accompany songs.



above :
A side view of a kecapi, with the five high fingerpost, the bridge pole (right) and the elaborate decorated panels on both ends, everything carved from one piece of wood.
(picture from eBay).

 

 

left :
Most information about this instrument (including this picture) comes from the CD South Sulawesi Strings, Smithsonian Folkways.

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jungga
example :
bought via eBay, 2013
L=690 B=160 H=70mm
scale 355mm
You Tube

jungga

This is the two-stringed jungga from the island of Sumba. It looks quite similar to the kacapi from Sulawesi, only not so narrow.
Note that there is also another (guitar-like) jungga (with 4 strings) - see under : bijol.

The body and neck (and all the rest) of this jungga is carved from one piece of wood. The body is wider than the kacapi from Sulawesi. The cavity on the back is closed (with glue and nails) with a separate piece of wood, with a few small soundholes in it.

Just like the kacapi from Sulawesi, it has 5 or 6 high (square) finger posts that serve as frets. The bridge is a high pole on the front, left during carving.


The two rope strings are in fact one string that goes around the bridge. They can be tuned with two friction pegs on both sides of the head. The tuning head ends in a simpel woodcarving of an animal.

The jungga is played with a plectrum (with one string as drone), mainly to accompany songs.
top
bijol
example : bought from Timor Treasures.com, 2013
L=710 B=170 H=70mm
scale 605mm
You Tube

bijol

On Timor island they use a four-stringed, locally made guitar. The general name is bijol, but it has also several different local names, like bijola, leku, leko boko, letes, pisu, kasi, raraun, sbo biol makosu, etc.

The bijol is completely carved from one piece of hard wood, with only the body hollowed out. The body can be oval shaped, or in the shape of a guitar.
Note that the body lacks the extention at the bottom of the body that is the hallmark of the gambus-type instruments.

The front is covered (glued and nailed) with a thin piece of similar hard wood. Often the bridge is part of that piece of wood - so not glued on it. Usually it has a small round soundhole on the front, with sometimes some additional small holes in the front and the sides. The neck is usually fretless.

The tuning head is flat, with four friction pegs from the back. The four nylon fishline strings (all of similar diametre) run to the bridge on the front and are tied to a small wood strip at the back of it. Some instruments may have a loose bridge and then the strings are fixed to a stringholder at the bottom of the body. The instrument is left unvarnished and has no decoration.

It is played with a plectrum and strummed to accompany singing, or played in combination with the local violin : heo.

On Sumba island is a similar looking guitar, called jungga (or djungga).


example right :
jungga from Folkways CD - Music of Indonesia 20

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cak
example :
handmade by YC2SNK-Aries Hendrayana, Indonesia , 2010
L=605 B=210 H=35mm
scale 375mm
cuk
example :
handmade by YC2SNK-Aries Hendrayana, Indonesia, 2010
L=580 B=210 H=55mm
scale 355mm
You Tube
Dutch keroncong
You Tube
cak and cuk
You Tube
cuk solo

keroncong guitar / cak / cuk

The keroncong guitar is a small ukulele-type guitar from Java island, Indonesia, mainly used in Keroncong music (pronounced "kron-chong"), which has some Portuguese influence (from the late 19th century).

Originally the keroncong guitar was a small slender guitar (probably much like a ukulele - and related to the Portuguese cavaquinho, or maybe the Spanish guitarrico). It was played in the Keroncong orchestra in combination with a small banjo.
However, these two instruments are now completely replaced by a set of two special kind of ukuleles : the cak and the cuk.

One instrument with 4 thin steel strings is called the cak (pronounced “chuck” - originally the small banjo). It has lots of tiny holes in the front as soundhole - either rounded or in a kind of square or triangle. The 3th course is double, and the tuning could be : d"d" g' b'.

The other instrument, called the cuk (pronounced “chook”), has 3 (thick) nylon strings and usually a normal single round soundhole.
Tuning could be quite low : g' b e'.

cak and cuk
example : handmade by Gitar-Media
Yohanes Supriyanto, Indonesia, 2010
cak : L=580 B=195 H=35 scale 380mm
cuk : L=585 B=220 H=60 scale 380mm
The cak and the cuk are the same size as a concert ukulele. Interestingly these instruments are not built like a small guitar, but the body is carved from one piece of mahogany wood. Sometimes only the sides of the body are carved, with a separate mahogany back. Other makers carve the entire instrument (!) from one block of mahogany. The body of the cak is much thinner, to give it a sharper sound.

Both instruments have a raised fingerboard with metal frets. The tuninghead is always flat, with machine tuners from behind. The strings run over a loose bridge to a mandolin-like stringholder. The body and neck are varnished in colour, the soundboard is varnished or painted (sun-burst).

The cak is played in 4-beat, with the off-beat strums accentuated; the cuk plays usually arpeggios. Together the cak and cuk form a set with interlocking strums, that gives Keroncong music its characteristic rhythmic sound.

The other instruments used in traditional Keroncong (or Kroncong or Krontjong) music are usually the gitar tunggal - (the guitar of local or of western manufacture), the violin, the flute and often a (plucked) cello and a (plucked) contra bass. However, Keroncong music can also be performed using modern instruments like electric guitars, electronic keyboards and a drumkit. This music is also very popular among the Indonesians living in Holland.

   
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banduria
example : Tañedo,
bought via eBay 2010
L=660 B=270 H=75mm
scale 315mm
You Tube
banduria

The laud, the banduria and the spanish guitar are the instruments used in Spanish Rondalla music, and as the Spanish ruled the Philippine islands for three centuries, this type of music became also popular on the Philippines - and even with Philippinos now living in the USA. See more information on the website of Jayars.

The Philippine instruments look quite similar to the Spanish banduria and laud (see Europe west), although the number of strings has increased. From 12 strings in 6x2 courses in Spain, to 14 strings in 6 courses in the Philippines : 6th single, 5th and 4th double, 3th, 2nd and 1st three double.

The banduria (sometimes spelt : bandurria, or called banduria guitar) is made like a flat back mandolin. The soundhole is usually round like on a guitar. The tuning head is made like a slotted guitar-head, or flat, with machines from behind - seven on each side. It has a raised fingerboard.

The 14 metal strings run over a loose narrow wooden bridge to a mandolin-like stringfastener at the edge of the body.

The tuning of this banduria would be in 5-5-5-5-5 :
f# bb e'e' a'a'a' d"d"d" g"g"g".

Playing is with a plectrum, often with a mandolin-like tremolo.

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laud
example : Bandilla, bought via eBay, 2010
L=830 B=295 H=85mm
scale 445mm
You Tube
laud

The Philippine instruments like the laud and the banduria used in the Rondella music look quite similar to the original Spanish banduria and laud (see Europe west).

The bodyshape of the laud of the Philippines resembles often the flat back Philippine banduria, but with a longer neck, and usually with f-holes instead of a round soundhole. It has a raised fingerboard.

The tuning of a laud would be one octave lower than of the banduria :
F# BB ee aaa d'd'd' g'g'g'.

Playing is with a plectrum, often with a mandolin-like tremolo.

body with f-holes
(picture from Taguig)
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octavina
example :
Zeny Bandilla, bought via internet from ReflectionsofAsia, 2003
L=880 B=280 H=75mm
scale 495mm
You Tube
octavina

The laud, the banduria and the spanish guitar are the instruments used in Philippine Rondalla music, with sometimes another instrument : the octavina.

The octavina is a special Philippine instrument : it is a guitar-shaped laud, so it has 14 metal strings in 6 courses : 6th single, 5th and 4th double, 3th, 2nd and 1st three double.
The tuning would be like the laud, so one octave lower than the banduria :
F# BB ee aaa d'd'd' g'g'g'

The octavina is a bit smaller than a guitar, but the construction is the same. The 14 strings run (like on the laud) over a loose wooden bridge to a mandolin-like stringfastener at the edge of the body.

Playing is with a plectrum, often with a mandolin-like tremolo.

 

It is not very clear where the name octavina arrived from - as the name is also used for a small spinet (plucked 17th century keyboard). However, in Spain used to be a small guitar-like banduria instrument with 6 double strings, called octavilla; very likely that is the origin of the name.

 



The black colour of the front of the example is just painted on; others were red or plain.

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hegalong
(T'boli tribe)
example :
bought via eBay 2007
L=900 B=100 H=50mm
scale 490mm
hegalung
example : bought from
Coyote's Paw Gallery, USA 2014
L=1310 B=175 H=70mm
scale 735mm
You Tube
hegelung
You Tube
kudlong
You Tube
kudyapi
kudlung / kudyapi / hagelung

On the Philippines the long boat-lute with two strings is still quite popular in some areas. It exists under many different names, although they all look quite similar : kudlung, fagelung, hegalong, hagelung, kudyapi, kutyapi, kusyapi, ketiyapi, etc. It is mainly called kudlung in the south and kudyapi in the north. For the kudyapi used by the Palawan tribe see under.

Like all other boat-lutes, the entire instrument (with all additions, except tuning pegs and frets) is carved from one piece of (soft)wood, with the resonator chamber carved from the back, and covered with a thin wooden board, sometimes with a soundhole in it. The sides of the body and neck form a long flowing bulge. The front and the back are flat. The length of the instrument can be from about 1 to even 2 meters. Some instruments are highly decorated and painted.

 

The two metal strings are tuned with two tuning pegs on both sides of the pegbox. The bridge (which is also the stringholder) is a raised block of wood on the front. The strings run through small holes to the tuning pegs.

The frets are pieces of wood, glued to the neck with black wax, in a pentatonic scale.

It is usually played with a small wooden pick, bound to the forefinger. Only the first string is fingered, the second string is only a drone. It is mainly played solo or to accompany singing or dancing.

For lots of information see Brandeis and Kipas.

kudlung
example :
from website Kipas
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kudyapi
(Palawan tribe)
example : bought from Almondehoeve Antiques, Holland 2011
L=1330 B=170 H=110mm
scale 850mm
You Tube
kudyapi

The kudyapi boat-lute used by the Palawan tribe looks very similar to the sundatang from Borneo (see Malaysia), but bigger.

Like all other boat-lutes, the entire body and neck is carved from one piece of (hard)wood, with the resonator chamber carved from the back, and covered with a separate thin wooden board (sometimes with some soundholes in it). The body shape is bulging on both sides, with a straight top and bottom. The front and back are flat. The length of the instrument can be from about 1 to far over 2 meters.

The bridge (which is also the stringholder) is a (carved) raised block of wood on the front. The two metal strings are tuned with two (carved) tuning pegs on each side of the pegbox. The tuning head ends in a flat half moon shape.

The frets are small round pieces of wood. They are glued to the neck with dots of black wax, and put in a kind of eastern scale. Notice that the frets are only on the high end of the neck (like the Vietnamese Dan Day), and that only the first string runs over the frets. The lowest fret is used as "nut" for the first string.

The kudyapi is usually played with a small wooden pick, bound to the forefinger. Only the first string is fingered, the second string is just a drone. It is mainly played solo or to accompany singing or dancing.

For lots of information about Philippine boat-lutes see Brandeis and Kipas.

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kitara
example : from book Philippines instruments
L=0 B=0 H=0mm
scale 0mm
kitara

Primitive guitar from the Philippines.

It is made like a normal guitar, with no (or just a few) frets and played like the player thinks it should be played.

 

   
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