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Malay Culture



Kompang is a well-known traditional musical instrument among the Malay people. It is categorized as gendang (small drum) which one of its material products is parchment.

This musical instrument is originally from Arab, and is estimated had been brought by Muslim Indian traders to the Malay region in the era of Malacca sultanate, or by Arab traders through Java Island since the 13th century. However, it is estimated that kompang is originally from Persian used for enlivening the welcoming party of the Prophet Muhammad, and for suggesting the Muslim soldiers before going to the war. This kind of musical instrument was accepted pleasurably by the Malay ethnic, especially the Javanese. Kompang has many sizes that one different from others. The diameters of each kompang are about 22.5, 25, 27.5 or 35 centimetres.

The Way of Producing Kompang

  1. Choosing a high quality of wood.
  2. Cutting the wood by using lathe in order to shape one circle with a certain size.
  3. Polishing the wooden cut by candles, and drying it not in the sun- for three months.
  4. Placing the parchment on the surface of the circle of the dry wood.       
  5. Wrapping the circle by velvet.
  6. Sticking nail to strengthen the parchmen placed on the circle.

Kompang is persistently played in one group in which all players are sitting, standing or walking. If it is performed in barzanji (the recitation of praise about the biography of Prophet Muhammad), the players sit cross-legged or sit on the chairs. Yet if it is showed at wedding reception or at welcoming party of important guests, the kompang players walk behind the bride and groom or behind the important guests.

Kompang is played by using both hands, left and right. One hand holds kompang, and another beats it continuously. There are three rentak (stamps) in the kompang performance, namely rentak biasa, rentak kencet and rentak sepulih. The first category is the most categories played during the performance. Rentak kencet is the stamp (rentak) that occurs in the middle of beating the kompang until the sound suddenly as if stopped. While rentak sepulih is played in order to back to the stamp of the first song.

One group of kompang is divided into three small groups that each group has a specific task. The first group acts as `pembolong` that beats kompang with a specific sound harmoniuosly. Pembolong`s beating is known as a basic beating. The second group acts as `peningkah` or the master who control whole musical condence and tempo during the performance. And the last group acts as `penyilang` that completed the rentak (stamps) in the whole patterns of kompang sound.

This traditional music must be preserved carefully. Many Malay people believed that kompang should be put at a certain place to avoid one of stepping on or stepping over the kompang. If such prohibition is violated, one may lose his conciousness and trap in trance when he beats kompang. In such condition he may continue his uncontrollable beating that causes his hand seriously injured.
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