Friday, January 7, 2011

Gambus - The Malay Tradisional music Instrument


Gambus - The Malay tradisional Music Instruments

History

A gambus or qanbūs(Arabic: القنبوس‎ ) is a short-necked lute that originated in Yemen and spread throughout the Arabian peninsula. Sachs considered that it derived its name from the Turkic komuz, but it is more comparable to the oud.[1] It has twelve nylon strings that are plucked with a plastic plectrum to generate sound, much like a guitar. However, unlike a guitar, the gambus has no frets. Its popularity declined during the early 20th century reign of Imam Yahya; by the beginning of the 21st century, the oud had replaced the qanbūs as the instrument of choice for Middle-Eastern lutenists.
Yemeni migration saw the instrument spread to different parts of the Indian Ocean. In Muslim Southeast Asia (especially Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei), called the gambus, it sparked a whole musical genre of its own. Today it is played in Johor, South Malaysia, in the traditional dance Zapin. In the Comoros it is known as gabusi, and in Zanzibar as gabbus.


Various Malay Gambus
Three categories of Gambus coexist Malaysia :
- Gambus Hijaz, a monoxyle, long necked lute , mostly according summary informations . Also known there
   as Gambus Melayu, Panting (Benjmarsin, south Kalimantan) , Gita Nangka(Singapore), Gambus Seludang Gambus Perahu, Gambus Biawak, Gambus Palembang The instrument is now rare and hardly survives
reportedly in Johor state, Sarawak (near Kuching), Sabah (Semporna, Papar, Bongawan), Kalimantan
(panting music in Benjmarsin) and various districts of Sumatra districts : Bengkalis, Penyengat, Jambi, &
Medan.
- Gambus Hadramawt, a oud-like lute. The instrument features the conventional glued ribs, or « arched
back » technics, as HILARIAN use to name it. This is famous in peninsular Malaysia as the « Gambus
Johor », as this is appreciated there still when performing local avatars of the Ghazal musical performance.
This can be found still in Johor state, Brunei, Sabah, Java , Sumatra, Madura, Sulu. The instrument is still
much appreciated in Brunei, where this was presumately introduced there much later than the Gambus
Hijaz. It seems this is revived there, and still constructed according egyptian design pattern,mostly for Zapin
and Qasida accompaniement.
- Bruneian monoxyle Gambus Seludang is a local crossover design family in Brunei and Sabah. This name
« Seludang » is reported by HILARIAN as a former vernacular nickname of the Gambus Hijaz , but the
bruneian making technics and organology – obvious specific feature is a 100% wooden soundboard -
differentiates it apart both existing Gambus Hijaz and Gambus Hadramawt families. The author claims the
name « Seludang » to root from the shape of a local palm sheath, and this may differentiate it in the local
vernacular vocabulary of Sabah, as Gambus Hijaz was basically nicknamed Gambus Biawak in this far
territory, as HILARIAN says. Actually, the confusing « Seludang » name presumately suggests this
endemic monoxyle construction may have originated in latter evolutions of local technics, after the oud to
have been reintroduced in Brunei. The local cause of this change may be the outstanding profusion of
abunding huge jack trees and teack trees in Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah. Recent rise of this Gambus
construction in Papar and Bongawan, let us focus upon the wide range of so-made lutes :
- Saludang Mayang are narrow boxed instruments, much similar as the Gambus Hijaz - i.e. shape
and size- , but the soundbard is made of wood indeed.
- Saludang Buntal are wider shaped lutes, whose soundox width varies from the Mayang’s one
(about 25 cm) up tu a conventional oud’s one. In this category both monoxyle construction and 0.80
down-scaled conventional oud lutes, as the « «arched back » construction technics survives in Brunei
and Papar, Sabah. Organology speaking, Gambusu lutes from Sunda and Sulawezi are globally very,
very similar. Some feature 4 choirs, some feature 5.
- Gambus Kecil are the smallest monoxyle gambus in Brunei, much shorter than Saludang
Mayang. As large as a ukulele.
These bruneian monoxyle lutes are being revived in the area of Papar, where they are in use for a Zapin
music annual festival.. According to Larry Francis HILARIAN, this is very same as the Gambusu design in
Sulawesi.
This document summarizes endemic construction techniques , mostly for Gambus Seludang of Malaysia , and
shows off th three types influence each otherr in construction.

Malay gambus - Typology



















1. Gambus Melayu, Bengkalis ,           
2. Gambus Melayu, Sumatra
3. Gambus Melayu, Batu Pahat, Johor,
4. Gambus Melayu , Brunei
5. Gambus a.k.a. Saludang Buntal, Brunei & Sabah
6. Gambus Kecil, Brunei
(Data by Larry Francis HILARIAN)

GAMBUS HIJAZ - ORGANOLOGY – VERNACULAR NAMES (JOHOR, MALAYSIA)
Malay name of the components , drawing and data from Larry Francis HILARIAN


         
        
Malay name of the components , according to Larry Francis HILARIAN

 GAMBUS HADRAMAWT - ORGANOLOGY – VERNACULAR NAMES ( JOHOR, MALAYSIA)





BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL – OUTER CARVING



The instrument (body +neck + pegbox ) is carved out a huge block of nangka (jack tree) .
Maker Awang PESAR, Seri Serbang, Bongawan, Sabah.

BRUNEIAN GAMBUS BUNTAL - ZAPIN FESTIVAL IN PAPAR, SABAH



The festival of Papar used to highlight bruneians outsiders in Gambus Buntal playing. The rose is carved in the
soundboard itself. (Picture MySabah.com)
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL – ALTERNATE TECHNICS : ARCHED BACK
Maker Hasan BIN OTHMAN, Kampung Parit Hailam, Batu Pahat, (Johor), while training 3 young
followers , early 2000’s : Muhd Ridhuan Abdul ZATEH (26), Abdullah Muhd RIZAL (23) and Abdul
Rashid Iskandar Abdul RANI (21). (Syed Umar Rariff, Johorbuzz)
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL – ALTERNATE TECHNICS : ARCHED BACK
This technic is reminiscent with the conventional making of the Oud, but this is about 80 % downscaled
oud. Egyptian patterns were taught in Brunei. Maker Awang PESAR, Seri Serbang,
Bongawan, Sabah.
GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (ARCHED BACK) – BODY ASSEMBLYING
Conventional assembly of the soundbox of a arched back variant of Selundang Buntal lute: lutemakers are fixing the first
rib on the mould. Foreground : the related clamps.
Maker Mohamad Diah ARIFFIN, or “Pak Mat” in Batu Pahat, Johore state. (picture by Kratfung Malaysia)
GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (ARCHED BACK) – BODY ASSEMBLYING
Soundbox assembly of a arched back variant of Selundang Buntal lute: lutemakers are
clamping rib on the mould. Maker Mohamad Diah ARIFFIN, or “Pak Mat” in Batu Pahat,
Johore state. (picture by web source)
Soundbox assembly of a arched back variant -Selundang Buntal-. Mohamad Diah ARIFFIN, Batu
Pahat, Johore state. (picture by web source)
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (MONOXYLE) – BODY CARVING
The box is handcarved with gouge. Average final thickness is about 8 -10 mm .
Maker Awang PESAR, Seri Serbang, Bongawan, Sabah.
GAMBUS HADRAMAWT – ADJUSTING SOUNDBOARD
Carved body in Batu Pahat, Johore state. Notice the lateral groove carving , so that the
fingerboard to be inserted inside the body. Maker Hasan Bin OTHMAN , Kampung Parit
Hailam, Batu Pahat, Johore state.
GAMBUS HIJAZ – BODY CARVING
Carved body . According to HILARIAN, usual woods for this are nangka (jack tree),
Chempedak, and Cengal , as they notoriously don’t shrink when carved.
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (ARCHED BACK) – ORNAMENTATIONS
Back to the egyptian « arched back » technics : this 80 % scaled down oud soundbox is madeof glued , bowed
ribs. The maker masterizes this pattern and demonstrate his ability by alternate rib width and colors, that
suggests he shapes ribs with two complementary patterns. Wood incrustations in the rear part of the neck
demonstrates a similar skill. Accoustic speaking, bass rendering is unfortunately defective. The instrument
doesn t sound as loud as this should, as the soundbox may not be deep enough, I guess. Maker Awang
PESAR, Seri Serbang, Bongawan, Sabah.
GAMBUS HADRAMAWT – TOOLBOX FOR RIB BOWING (OUD –LIKE BODY)
1. Head patterns for shoulder 2. Rose-shaped outlet 3. Neck under preparation
4. Pear-shape pattern 5. Neck Pattern 6.Clamps 7. Axe
Toolbox of maker Hasan BIN OTHMAN, Batu Pahat, Johor State.
4.
5.
6.
1.
2.
3.
1.
1.
7.
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (MONOXYLE) – CARVING THE PEGBOX
The box is handcarved with gouge. Average final thickness is about 8 -10 mm . Original bruneian item held by
HILARIAN in Singapore (insert, left) shows off the original technics consisted in hollowing the neck as well, that is no
longer done in Papar, Sabah. Maker Awang PESAR, Seri Serbang, Bongawan, Sabah.
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL – PEGBOX PATTERN
According to HILARIAN’s pHD, rise of pegbox / head ornamentations is recent in Brunei and peninsular
Malaysia. This is rooted in the indonesian technics of the Ganmbus Hijaz. Maker Awang PESAR, Seri
Serbang, Bongawan, Sabah.
« The gambus Melayu peg-box head from Indonesia differs from head in east malaysia, peninsular Malaysia and Brunei, in which they
usually simple , undecorated peg-box head designs. The indonesian gambus melayu ‘s pegbox head often shows some symbolic
representation of birds, flowers or animal heads. These are important mythological representatios. Having the pegbox head decoratively carved
as animals, birds or flower seens to be a recent morphological developpment. The indonesian gambus melayu types seem to have a narrower
and longer neck or fingerboard tapering from the belly to the pegbox…» (Larry francis HILARIAN)
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (MONOXYLE) – ALTERNATE PEGBOX DESIGNS
Left : the arched back pegbox by Maker Awang PESAR , Bongawan, Sabah. The 10
stringed pegbox cover is upside down. Although this design is compatible with the
monoxyle carving process, setting pegs is uncomfortable as they are unseen.
Right : An avatar of the original oud pegbox design (here 8 stringed) and the neck is
not hollowed. The wooden bird is roughly glued on the head. As its soundboard is
unproperly strengthened, this is slightly bended inwards. Sounds great. Made by Awang
PESAR , Bongawan, Sabah.
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (MONOXYLE) – ALTERNATE PEGBOX DESIGNS
A sub-variant of arched back pegbox by Maker Awang PESAR , Bongawan, Sabah.
Pegbox cover is upside down but carved bird was added indeed. Here featured on 2
giant items for exhibition purpose in Tourism Exhibition Board, K.Kinabalu, Sabah.
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL – MORPHOLOGY BY SIZE AND CHOIRS
1. Narrow soundboard (30 cm max) 2. Wider Soundboard (30 to 40 cm)
4, up to 5 stringed choirs 5 stringed choirs
« open » pegbox « upside down » pegbox
1-2 rose outlet in central position 3 rose outlets
The width of the soundboard is a guideline for determining quantity of choirs and neck width. The « top-open »
pegbox design is the favourite for 4 stringed instruments, but fit for 5 choirs as well..
The « upside down» pegbox seems more appropriate with the narrow, 4-5 choirs lute, as wider Gambus
Selundang Buntal style automatically evoke middle eastern patterns ( 5 choirs, 3 roses) . Maker may seek for
homogeneousness in style, by associating them so.
1
1
2
2
2
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL (ARCHED BACK) – ALTERNATE PEGBOX DESIGNS
Here the open design of the monoxyle Seludang Buntal is applied on a « arched back » scaled down oud . The
shorter, straight pegbox differentiates this with middle-eastern ouds. Maker Awang PESAR, Seri Serbang,
Bongawan, Sabah.
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL – SHAPING SOUNDBOARD
Background center : Design pattern for outer shaping of the soundboard, here illustrated on the
machining track of the electric sew. Maker Awang PESAR, Seri Serbang, Bongawan, Sabah
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG (MONOXYLE) – ALTERNATE SOUNDBOARD STYLES
Left : A 5 stringed choirs Gambus Seludang Buntal. The roses are glued and this
mentions the capitals of the workshop name (KrafTanG) of Awang PESAR, Bongawan.
Right : In size and shape, this 4 stringed choirs Gambus Seludang is very near to the
Mayang size, despite his unexpected depth (150 mm). Tiny sound outlet is situated in
the low center. Ornamentations evoke tribal heritage of Sabah. Awg PESAR,
Bongawan
MAKER MOH’D DIAH ARIFFIN / BATU PAHAT, JOHOR
Maker Mohamad Diah ARIFFIN, or “Pak Mat” in Batu Pahat, Johore state. Finishing leading edge of a Gambus
Hadramawt soundboard (picture by unknown web source)
GAMBUS HIJAZ – SOUNDBOARD COVER
This huge soundboard is specific of a large size descent of loud Gambus Hijaz in Batu Pahat, Johor state,
where this has been played in Hamdolok religious performance until recently. This item by maker Hasan
BIN OTHMAN is held now by Larry Francis HILARIAN (courtesy of Larry Francis HILARIAN).
GAMBUS HIJAZ – ADJUSTING SOUNDBOARD WITH FINGERBOARD
Fingerboard is accommodated so that the thick goat skin cover to be glued properly . Gambus Hijaz
from Penyengat isl, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia. (courtesy of Larry Francis HILARIAN)
GAMBUS HIJAZ – CARVED ROSE IN FINGERBOARD
The rose was carved by the craftsman down to the fingerboard (Geylang Museum, Singapore)
BRUNEIAN GAMBUS SELUDANG BUNTAL – DECORATING SOUNDBOARD & ROSES
This huge scraped soundboard shows off how wide are the largest Selundang Buntal types. The condition of
the pinewood board suggests this has been removed out of an existing instrument for substitution.
Astoundingly, this didn t feature any additional beams for strength below.
Background center : Design pattern for outer shaping of the soundboard, here illustrated on the machining
track of the electric sew. Maker Awang PESAR, Seri Serbang, Bongawan, Sabah.
GAMBUS HIJAZ – HOLDING STRINGS
Unorthodox stringholder from Medan , Sumatra (courtesy of Larry Francis HILARIAN)
GAMBUS HIJAZ – HOLDING STRINGS
In the Riau Archipealgo and Bengkalis,
Gambus Hijaz are stringed with iron strings.
According to HILARIAN, the usual tuning in
malaysia and Indonesia is
A3 (x1)–D4 (x2) - G4 (x2) - C5 (x2)
Unorthodox stringholder from Bengkalis, Riau province
(courtesy of Larry Francis HILARIAN)
GAMBUSU (SUNDA)
Gambusu from Sunda Isl, as now shown in musee Branly storeage, paris (Picture http://www.museebranly.fr/.)
GAMBUS HIJAZ - HOLLOWED LUTES
Gambus Hijaz from Johor and malay islands. Collection in Nanyang Technological University
(Picture courtesy of Larry Francis HILARIAN.)
MAKER MOH’D DIAH ARIFFIN / BATU PAHAT, JOHOR
Maker Mohamad Diah ARIFFIN, or “Pak Mat” in Batu Pahat, Johore state. His art of decoration seems refined and
much inspired from conventional flower patterns of sunni Islam. (picture by Kratfung Malaysia)
MAKER MOH’D DIAH ARIFFIN / BATU PAHAT, JOHOR
Exhibition of the Gambus lutes by Maker Mohamad Diah ARIFFIN, or “Pak Mat” in Batu Pahat, Johore state. (picture by
unknown websource)
MAKER HASAN BIN OTHMAN - NEAR BATU PAHAT, JOHOR
Hasan Bin Othman was held as the least vintage maker in activity, until his nephew and Pak Mat took over the job.
MAKER AWANG PESAR - SRI SERBANG, BONGAWAN, SABAH
Awang Pesar and his son are highly prolific since the 1990’s, and much in demand around.
FADZIL AHMAD / SRI MARANI, MUAR, JOHOR
Fadzil AHMAD , a major player / composer of malay Ghazal in Johor State until the late 1990’s
Fadzil AHMAD , a major player / composer of malay Ghazal in Johor State until the late 1990’s
MAKER MOH’D DIAH ARIFFIN / BATU PAHAT, JOHOR
Maker Mohamad Diah ARIFFIN, or “Pak Mat” in Batu Pahat, Johore state. In the foreground, the distinction
between Gambus Hadramawt (right) and the Gambus Seludang Buntal is obvious (left) (picture by Kratfung
Malaysia)
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Abdoun, Seifed-Din Shehadeh, « The oud, the king of arabic instruments », ISBN ???? , Arabila production Publ., 100 p.,
Washington DC(USA) / Irbid (Jordan), 1996. Introduction and playing course. ( i)
Ashari, Mohammad, interview, lutemaker. Firdowsi Bazaar, Bandar Qeshm , Hormuzgan, 2007
Hilarian, Larry Francis, « The Gambus lute of the malay World », pH D. , Nanyang Technical University of Singapore,
Singapore, 2004. (e)
Hilarian, Larry Francis, « The gambus (lutes) of the malay World : its origins and significance in Zapin Music », Nanyang
Technical University of Singapore, Singapore, 2005. A concise Synthesis about the Hypothetic Origins of the Instrument (p)
Hilarian, Larry Francis, « The migration of Lute type instruments to the Malay Muslim World » in Congrés des musiques
dans le monde l ‘Islam, Assilah, August 8-13, 2007. about importing Gambus to the muslim world ( p )
Hilarian, Larry Francis, « The folk lute (gambus) and its symbolic expression in malay muslim culture » in Folklore studies #
XXIII , Institute of lituanian literature and folklore, Vilnius, 2006. ( p )
Hilarian, Larry Francis, « Understanding malay music theory through the performance of the malay lute (gambus) » in
Music Journal # 4 , Malaysia, 2008. ( p)
Hilarian, Larry Francis, « The structure and development of the gambus (malay lute) » in the Galpin society Journal # LVIII
, Malaysia?, 2005. ( p)
Nariman, Mansur, « The method of Playing the Lute », Soroush Publ, ISBN 964-376-291-2, Tehran, 2005. Iran. ( g )

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