50 sape players to strum into Malaysia Book of Records

File photo of members of the Warisan Sape Telang Usan at last year’s Rainforest World Music Festival.

KUCHING, Feb 12: A team of about 50 sape players, including the internationally acclaimed sape maestro Mathew Ngau Jau, will be attempting a record-breaking feat live on RTM beginning this Friday.

They will play the traditional lute for 50 hours non-stop at the RTM Auditorium in Miri from 9.30am on Feb 15 to 11.30am on Feb 17 to etch a name for themselves in the Malaysia Book of Records.

Sarawak Energy Berhad is behind this Longest Non-stop Sape Performance initiative in partnership with RTM, and among the participants will be those from the Warisan Sape Telang Usan programme.

The state’s power utility corporation initiated the programme in 2016 to teach the art and skill of playing the Orang Ulu traditional lute or sape. It was done in partnership with the Village Development and Safety Committee of Long San in Baram and supported by two schools in the area — SMK Dato Temenggong Lawai Jau and SK St Pius.

The first batch of 20 trainees from Telang Usan enrolled for the 18-month training programme in 2016 and successfully completed the programme in 2017. They have played at various cultural events, including at the Rainforest World Music Festivals in 2017 and 2018, and recorded a soon-to-be-released album Warisan Sape Telang Usan Recording in 2018.

The Longest Non-stop Sape Performance is also partly to showcase the programme’s success and the skill of the players under the programme.

The musicians from Warisan Sape Telang Usan will be joined by musicians from Baram and Belaga to make up a team of about 50 musicians for the record-breaking feat. They will play individually or in groups in a non-stop musical relay for 50 hours.

The event will be aired live over several RTM channels to showcase different traditional and new tunes or melodies by both veteran and young players.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Energy’s general manager (CSR and Sustainability) Jiwari Abdullah called on the public to support the effort to preserve and promote traditional music and musical instruments.

“The veteran players are getting old, and we need the young players to learn from them through various ways, including events like this,” said Jiwari.

There will also be stalls offering a wide range of local handicrafts, which includes sape with traditional designs, and food items to enrich visitors’ experience at the event. — DayakDaily