Experience beauty of boat lutes at upcoming exhibition on June 22-26

The beauty of the endangered boat lute instruments. Photo credit: borneoboatlute.com

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KUCHING, 15 June: Borneo Jazz Festival-goers and members of the public will get to experience rare musical instruments and speak with the musical practitioners behind the uncommonly practised boat lutes at the upcoming Borneo Boat Lute Revival Exhibition.

The first ever exhibition of its kind, fans of the Sarawak sape will get to learn more about its lesser-known cousins from diverse communities such as the Sundatang (Dusun), Belikan (Iban), Tapi (Lun Bawang), as well as the predecessor to the sape as it is currently recognised, the two-string Sampe’ Bali (Kenyah).

The exhibit will also feature demonstrations by its practitioners, McFeddy Simon, Hayree Hashim, Rining Peter and Salomon Gau.


Initiated by Catama Borneo, Tuyang Initiative and CtrlD Studio, with commissioned illustrations by Zariq Hanif of KertasPapel, the Borneo Boat Lute Revival Project is a collaborative project comprising a collective of researchers, cultural practitioners and creatives telling the stories of boat lutes and its traditional custodians from across Borneo island, according to a media release today.

Used for celebrations, spirituality and cultural performances, these ancient instruments of Borneo can help to tell the stories of the various heritage of Borneo island communities, whilst also finding their place in contemporary music.

The exploration and reimagining of these instruments from local indigenous perspectives becomes a tool for dialogue on lost knowledge and ways of life, helping to trace paths between past, present, and future of some of these endangered instruments.

Borneo Jazz 2022 artistic director Evelyn Hii emphasised that the familiarity of Borneo indigenous oral traditions to that of jazz and blues is uncanny.

“Ways of expression which are so similar, for example, such as lamenting and celebration, just goes to show that our practices and music are truly universal.

“I commend this collaborative team for their passion on this project, having started the hard work on it since pre-pandemic, and then later for the curation of this exhibition, so more people can experience the beauty of the various boat lutes in person,” she said.

Exhibition curator Catriona Maddocks hopes that in the long-run, this exhibition will play a small role in reviving interest in these instruments and bringing them the global fame and recognition that the sape has received over the past 20 years.

“The exhibition is the culmination of research, field trips and skill-sharing carried out throughout Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan by our collaborators. It will be the first time some people will get to know about some of these endangered instruments.”

The Borneo Boat Lute Revival Exhibition opens from 11am till 7pm on June 25 and 26 at Coco Cabana as part of this year’s Borneo Jazz Festival in Miri, Sarawak.

Those interested to visit the exhibition are encouraged to book their time slots to avoid long wait times at https://borneoboatlute.com. — DayakDaily