Keeping the sounds of kompang alive

Just beat it: Rosdin showing the extra large kompang at his backyard workshop in Jalan Mahmood, Parit Jawa, Muar.

MUAR: When you hear the beat of the kompang in a village or housing area, you know that a Malay wedding is under way.

The hand drum is often played during Malay weddings in Malaysia, with the tradition carried on through the ages.

The musical instrument is also played during events to welcome VIPs, during Malaysia Day parades or even at football matches.

The kompang is a traditional hand drum, usually played by a group of people using interlocking beat movements to produce various composite rhythms.

It can be played while sitting or standing and during a walking procession, with the musician using one hand to hold the kompang and the other to strike it.

The instrument of Middle Eastern origin was brought to the country during the days of the Malay Sultanate by Indian Muslim traders and through Java in the 13th century by Arab traders and missionaries.

In the early days, the kompang was known as rebana, which means drum in Arabic. The Malay word kompang is loosely translated to mean “to hit or beat”.

Kompang groups in Batu Pahat and Muar usually have the jidor or the Javanese drum in their ensemble due to the large number of ethnic Javanese residents in the two districts.

“As long as there are Malay weddings and other social events, there will be a demand for the kompang,’’ said Perusahaan Kompang Baki Abdullah proprietor Rosdin Baki, 54.

Rosdin started making kompang in the backyard of his kampung house in Jalan Mahmood, Parit Jawa near here in 1997 as he did not want the tradition to die out. He employs 12 people from the village.

Rosdin’s kompang-making trade is among the handful of the traditional businesses available in Johor.

Orders for the kompang come not only from across the country, but Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei as well.

Rosdin said making the kompang, which resembles the tambourine, is time-consuming as most of the instrument is done manually while a small part by machinery.

“Kompang making is slowly dying out as not many people are interested to create them,’’ he said.

Rosdin said the shallow kompang wooden frame is best made from the leban wood (vites pinnata). The skin where the kompang gets its sound from is made from goat hide. Some say the best skin comes from local goats called kambing kacang.

He said that cowhide is not suitable for the kompang as it is thicker and does not produce the desired sound when struck.

Rosdin said the standard size for the kompang are 30cm, 33cm and 36cm in diameter. Larger sizes can also be made upon request.

They are sold between RM75 and RM95 each.


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