The last angklung maker


Tumian at his home in Kampung Sepakat Baru in Johor Baru. The 63-year-old says as long as he is healthy, he will continue making and playing the angklung. — ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG/The Star

Tumian at his home in Kampung Sepakat Baru in Johor Baru. The 63-year-old says as long as he is healthy, he will continue making and playing the angklung. — ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG/The Star

TUMIAN Muridan may well be the last angklung maker in the country, and he is determined to preserve the traditional musical instrument for as long as he can.

The 63-year-old craftsman from Johor Baru said the art of making and playing angklung appeared to have a very bleak future since the younger generation has no interest in acquiring knowledge about it. Even his own children are not keen to learn the craft.

Angklung is a musical instrument originally from Indonesia and consists of a series of bamboo tubes suspended in a frame, bound by rattan cords.

The tubes are carefully carved and cut to produce a resonant pitch and tuned to octaves. When the bamboo frame is shaken or tapped, each angklung would then produce a single note or chord. But when played in an ensemble, complete melodies can be produced.

“It’s hard to find people who are interested because people nowadays do not like to get their hands dirty or have the patience to produce even a piece.

“The hardest part of making an angklung is not the equipment, but the note that each bamboo tube will produce,” said Tumian, adding that he spent more than half of his life perfecting his craft.

The Batu Pahat-born musician pointed out that angklung was a must-have musical instrument in the past, especially during its heyday in the 1970s.

“People would come from different districts just to see an angklung performance, and I used to play and perform with my schoolmates and even won the state championship.

“It was so different back then, and now all my friends are no longer around,” he said, hoping that this tradition would not die with him.

Tumian, who is a second-generation angklung maker, said as long as he was healthy, he would continue to make the musical instrument.

Working from his home in Kampung Sepakat Baru, Tumian said it would usually take him two months to produce one set of angklung.

“The mini set comprises eight frames, then there’s the normal one with a set of 28 frames. The largest is the orchestra set comprising 37 frames made with large bamboo wood.

“Each set is priced differently depending on the type of bamboo used. For example, a normal price for one set of angklung ‘buluh hitam’ costs around RM2,400 while ‘buluh minyak’, ‘buluh semantan’ and ‘buluh manis’ would cost around RM2,000,” he said.

He added that some of the things that complicated the production was the supply of bamboo and the time that it takes to dry them, a process that usually takes more than five months.

It is a time- and labour-consuming process, and it is no wonder that Tumian is currently the sole supplier of the angklung instrument statewide.

“My only hope is that the Education Ministry and the government agencies in charge of heritage and craft can teach the next generation about this beautiful instrument.

“It is a sad thing to see a lifelong tradition coming to a close, and depend on one man to keep it going,” he said.